March 5, 2008
Dr. David Aborn

Dear Students:

Well, as predicted, when that low pressure area moved east last week, the southerly winds brought in new birds.

Birding Firsts This Week
The first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds of the year were seen in Louisiana and Alabama, and Barn Swallows made a big appearance. They were reported in Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, and in 21 counties in Texas. Here in Tennessee, the first Rough-winged Swallow was seen. Some of the early season warblers also showed up, with a Golden-cheeked Warbler in Texas, and Northern Parulas in Florida and Louisiana.
The south winds also allowed birds that had been around to complete another leg of migration, as Tree Swallows were seen in North Carolina and Ohio. I have not had any reports of migrants showing up in the western US, but I am sure that will change soon.

Cold Front Affects Migration
The good weather did not last very long. A very powerful cold front has been moving across the country, bringing heavy rain, snow, and north winds. That will keep birds grounded for a few days. If this sort of system happens in a few weeks, we could see what are known as fallouts, especially along the Gulf coast. It takes birds 18 hours of nonstop flying to make across the Gulf of Mexico. Many are so exhausted that if they encounter strong headwinds, they land very quickly, like they are falling out of they sky. It is very impressive to see, with birds numbering in the hundreds or even thousands in a given area. We are too early in the season to see something like that, but it is coming!

What to Expect This Week
So what does this week look like? There is another front forming out west. While not as strong as today's front, it is nonetheless expected to bring rain and north winds, which will keep birds grounded another few days. By the weekend, however, winds should shift around to the south, allowing grounded birds to head north again, and allowing another wave of migrants to arrive.

I will be taking my ornithology class to the South Carolina coast during that time, so it could be very interesting. I will let you know!

Take Care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN