April 25, 2007
Dr. David Aborn

Dear Students:

Things are really getting cranked up! The front I mentioned last week, while its effects did not last long, did produce some fallouts. After it passed, there was a predominantly south wind, which has allowed migrants to really make progress.

Good Timing for Last Week's Front
The front arrived along the Alabama coast and Florida panhandle at just the right time; when migrants were arriving from their Gulf crossing. That meant the birds were pretty tired, and hitting the rain and north winds was too much for them, forcing them to land. Birders in Fort Morgan, Alabama and Gulf Breeze, Florida reported a good diversity of migrants (27 species) on April 19th. At Fort Morgan, there were lots of Summer and Scarlet Tanagers, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles, Wood, Swainson's, and Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Indigo Buntings, Eastern Wood-Pewees, Acadian Flycatchers, Gray Catbirds, and 18 species of Warblers! Folks in Gulf Breeze saw much the same, but adding Yellow-billed Cuckoos and Blue Grosbeaks to the mix.

Shifting Winds and First Arrivals
After a day or two, the winds shifted to the south, allowing birds to head north again. Many places saw a noticeable increase in some migrants. Georgia and South Carolina reported their first Great-crested Flycatchers and Gray Catbirds, as well as Eastern Wood-Pewees and Blue-winged Warblers. Places in the Midwest, such as Iowa and Missouri, had Kentucky Warblers, Worm-eating Warblers, Warbling Vireos, Eastern Kingbirds, and Orchard Orioles. Even some of the northern states are starting to get in on the action (finally!). Birders in Michigan reported Hooded Warblers, Ovenbirds, Common Yellowthroats, Warbling Vireos, and a Least Flycatcher. Minnesota is seeing swallows, and even a Worm-eating Warbler showed up on the 23rd.

A Good Week in the West
People out west have had a good week as well. The southerly winds brought Cassin's Vireos, Nashville Warblers, Lucy's Warblers, and Black-throated-gray Warblers to both New Mexico and California, and many birds even made it up to Oregon. Birders reported Black-throated-gray Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Western Kingbirds, and Black-headed Grosbeaks.

Bioblitz Report
Last week I mentioned that I was going to participate in a BioBlitz at the Chattanooga Nature Center on the 21st. We had great weather for it, and all the different groups did well. A total of 700 species were found on the 400 acre property. The bird group racked up 81 species. The best bird we saw was Cerulean Warbler. We saw 2, one of which was in the same tree as a Blue-winged Warbler; quite a nice sight. Cerulean Warblers have been declining seriously across the country because of habitat loss. At the current rate of decline, there might not be any Cerulean Warblers in another 30 years. Many of the flycatchers were conspicuously absent (no Great-crested Flycatchers, Eastern Wood-Pewees, or Acadian Flycatchers; Least and Yellow-bellied Flycatchers are also possible during migration), and numbers of some other species seemed low. While some people were searching for birds with their binoculars, I had nets set out to capture and mark birds. The best catch was a gorgeous male Blue-winged Warbler. I also caught the only Kentucky Warbler of the day, a Yellow-breasted Chat, an Ovenbird, and 3 Wood Thrushes, as well as an assortment of cardinals, thrashers, and sparrows.

Cold Weather Slow-down?
I think the cold weather has really slowed things down. At my study site at the North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy, I saw my first Indigo Buntings today (6 of them), as well as the first chats, a Gray Catbird, and an Eastern Kingbird. The buntings and catbird are about 1-2 weeks late. I have yet to see or hear any Common Yellowthroats, and those are usually common out there. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the season shapes up.

What's the Birdwatching Outlook Ahead?
This week looks like another good one for fallouts, and at the right time too.

  • Spring migration is peaking along the Gulf coast, and a cold front is bringing storms to that area. Like last week's front, the north winds won't last long, but it will bring heavy rains and storms from Texas to Florida over the next couple of days. Much of the south will have good birding the next few days.
  • By the weekend, the front should be off the east coast, and winds will shift to the south. That means the rest of the country will see more migrants coming through.

There is still a lot of migration left, so don't miss out on it!

Take care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN