Colorful Arrivals

April 1, 2020 by Team Journey North

April is here and good weather is bringing many new colorful arrivals such as Summer Tanagers, Indigo Buntings, and Wilson's Warblers.

The Summer Tanager is the only bird in North America that is entirely red. It specializes in eating bees and wasps, and can catch them in mid air! It migrates from its wintering grounds in Mexico, Central America and South America. Photo: Becky Matsubara (CC BY 2.0)

Dear Journey North Readers,

It finally happened…several days of sunny weather! Much of the past week has been sunny and warm, which means good conditions for migration. Even with restricted movement orders in place, there were a lot of sightings this week as birders are still getting out and seeing what is in their yards and neighborhoods. 

Birders in Louisiana reported lots of Hooded Warblers and Worm-eating Warblers, along with the first Kentucky Warbler and Orchard Oriole. The first Red-eyed Vireo and Great Crested Flycatcher were seen in Mississippi, and the first Wood Thrushes, Eastern Kingbirds, Indigo Buntings, and Summer Tanagers were seen in Georgia. Here in Chattanooga, I heard my first White-eyed Vireo and Blue-headed Vireo, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers are abundant. The southerly winds helped push species pretty far north, with several species of swallows arriving in Pennsylvania, Louisiana Waterthrushes and Common Yellowthroats arriving in New York, and Northern Parulas being seen in Missouri.

While much of the eastern US had good weather, a couple of days of rain slowed migration out west. Over the past couple of days, however, the weather has improved. Most of the reports I received were from southern California, where quite a few new species were seen: Black-headed Grosbeak, Summer Tanager, Wilson’s Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Violet-green Swallow, and Warbling Vireo.

Let us look at the weather map and see what the coming week looks like.

In the eastern US, all good things must come to an end. The string of nice days is being interrupted by rain as a cold front approaches. Unlike more recent fronts, this one is not going to stall and will move past in a day or two. Behind the front, there are clear skies, but pretty strong north winds (temperatures in the south will go from the 70’s and 80’s down to the 50’s and 60’s). Migratory species will be grounded for a couple of days until the winds shift to the south again.

This front might bring the first fallout to the Gulf coast. Birds coming up from the Tropics often cross the Gulf of Mexico, an 18 hour non-stop flight. As you might imagine, migrating birds are already tired and the headwinds add extra fatigue. When they finally reach the coast, they quickly land in big numbers – seeming to fall out of the sky – hence the name of the phenomenon.

Fallouts are spectacular to see, and many birders head to the coast when they occur. Out west, the front has passed and the winds have already shifted to the south. Flying weather is good and I expect there will be a lot of sightings from many places over the next few days.

Migration will really pick up in the next few weeks, so get out as best as you can and enjoy it! Take care.

David Aborn

Chuck Henrikson’s Birding Report From UW-Madison Arboretum 

“April, May and June bring in many new migrating species. This is an exciting time for the birds.” Read Chuck’s birding report from the Arboretum.

Report Your Sightings

Did you know that you can submit your sightings for American Loons, Barn Swallows, Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles, and Red-winged Blackbirds? Go to the Journey North sightings page and under the ‘Select Species or Event‘ dropdown menu, select ’Barn Swallow’, ‘Loon’, Oriole’ or ‘Red-Winged Blackbird’. If you are seeing other songbirds or species not listed, select ‘All Other Signs of Spring’ under the dropdown menu.

From Toronto, ON: Janet observed a, “Song Sparrow, singing!” (03/26/2020)

From York, PA: Lisa said, “two loon families sighted, one with five and one with four loons.” (03/29/2020)

From Boerne, TX: Patricia noted, “This isn’t the first Barn Swallow sighting here but I wanted to post this photo because I watched this little one rummaging through the sticks on the curbside and selecting sticks for building a nest. This was the first stick chosen and later it chose a bigger stick. Cute to watch. There are several Barn Swallows in this area.” (03/29/2020)

From St. Paul, MN: Yale said, “male [Baltimore Oriole] flew past me while on my deck. 2-3 weeks earlier than I’ve seen. Putting out oranges and grape jelly.” (03/30/2020)

From Sherman, IL: Jarod shared, “First female Red-wing Blackbird in my yard. First female I have seen all season let alone first time at my feeder, usually a 1st spring male has been here.” (03/30/2020)

Looking For Fun Activities To Do At Home?

Look no further! Journey North has many resources for anyone with a curious mind. This week we feature resources related to Baltimore and Bullock’s Orioles and Red-winged Blackbirds. Let’s all explore together.