March 18, 2009
Dr. David Aborn

Dear Students:
Both the migrants and I are saying "rain, rain, go away." The front I mentioned last week took its time moving across the country, and much of the southern US had several days of rain. Numbers of individual migrants were not high, but a good diversity of different species showed up in many places. Black-and-white Warblers, Northern Parulas, Yellow-throated Warblers, and 4 species of vireos (red-eyed, white-eyed, blue-headed, and yellow-throated) were all seen in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida. Other new arrivals along the Gulf Coast included Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Louisiana Waterthrushes, Hooded Warblers, and Orchard Orioles.

Those birds were confined to the Gulf Coast with all the rain, although a few species managed to move north. Here in Chattanooga, we had our first Northern Rough-winged Swallows, and Chimney Swifts were reported elsewhere. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Blue-headed Vireos arrived in the Carolinas, and some Tree Swallows made it as far as New Jersey.

While most migrants were grounded in the east, they had good weather out west, and birders were rewarded for it. There were reports of the first Western Kingbirds, Scott's Orioles, and Vermillion Flycatchers in New Mexico, while birders in Tucson, Arizona saw Yellow, Lucy's, Black-throated-gray, and Orange-crowned Warblers. California also did well, with birders from San Diego to Sacramento seeing Western Kingbirds, Black-throated-gray Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, and lots of Bullock's Orioles.

What to Expect This Week
So will birders in the eastern US do better this week? You should all be getting good at this by now! Here's the weather map:

  • With that cold front gone, there will be another day or two of north winds. That will keep birds grounded a little bit longer.
  • By mid-week, however, winds will shift around from the south, allowing all those birds to head north. The second part of the week should be good for birdwatching in the Midwest and East, but not for long.
  • Another cold front is moving in from the Rockies, and that will bring more rain and north winds by the end of the week or weekend. That will ground birds again.
  • In the West right now, a high-pressure area is bringing north winds to west Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. That will slow migrants arriving from the tropics. In another day or two, that system will have moved east, allowing more birds to come in, and letting birds already there to head farther north.

It looks like migration is well underway, with lots more to come. Get out there and enjoy it!

Take Care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN