Better Weather For Migrating Birds

May 15, 2019 by By David Aborn

Finally, the migration story is changing!

“I saw flickers of yellow…grabbed my camera and began snapping…I just knew it was a warbler of some kind and could barely contain my excitement…sure enough it was a Nashville Warbler!” Photo by: Pat (Warren, MI; 05/08/2019)

Dear Journey North Followers,

Finally, the migration story is changing! The weather front that was stalled for the past couple of weeks is slowly making its way east and is about to head out to sea.

Up until now, the weather has been good for migration in the eastern U.S. Migrating birds have been taking advantage of the more favorable weather pattern. Birders in New York have reported 20 different warblers and 5 species of vireos, along with Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, and Olive-sided Flycatchers, Similarly, Massachusetts tallied 13 different warblers. In Maine, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Ovenbirds, Baltimore Orioles. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have arrived also. At my study site in Tennessee, Swainson’s Thrushes, Gray-cheeked Thrushes, American Redstarts, and Tennessee Warblers all made their first appearances.

As the front moved east over the weekend, migration was shut down again. In mid-western states, the weather was good for migrating birds. Birders in Missouri saw 18 different warblers, along with Gray-cheeked Thrushes.

In Ohio, the Black Swamp Bird Observatory celebrated “The Biggest Week in American Birding,” an event that routinely brings birders from all over the world. This year, birders were not disappointed! They saw 18 species of warblers, along with lots of Gray Catbirds.

The good weather helped push Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, Blue-winged Warblers, and Golden-winged Warblers into Minnesota.

Once the front cleared, migration was also very active in western U.S. California saw a fresh influx of Lazuli Buntings, Black-headed Grosbeaks, Western Tanagers, Wilson’s Warblers, and Yellow Warblers, while Swainson’s Thrushes and Western Tanagers arrived in Washington. Migration even picked up in Alaska, with the arrival of Tree Swallows and Wilson’s Warblers.

So how does the coming week look?

Well, you can see that the front is still slowly making its way over the east, bringing rain and northerly winds. There will not be much activity for the next couple of days. West of the Mississippi River, however, things are looking good. There is a stationary front over the middle of the country, but there is not much rain associated with it, so skies are mostly clear and winds are southerly, which means birders should see many migrating birds for most of the week. It looks like another system is trying to develop off the Pacific coast, but it is too early to tell how it might affect migration.

Even though migration is winding down, there is still lots to see!

Take care.

David Aborn