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Weather and Songbird Migration

Dr. David Aborn

May 3, 2006

Dear Students:

It has been another active week. The rain that was over the eastern US forced many birds to land, and kept those that were already there grounded. Like last week, the mid-Atlantic region saw the greatest diversity. People in Pennsylvania saw 22 species of warblers, 5 species of vireos, Scarlet Tanagers, Wood Thrushes, Veerys, and orioles. Birders in the Washington, DC area were also treated to some good birds. They included both Yellow-billed and Black-billed Cuckoos, Acadian Flycatchers, Least Flycatchers, Warbling Vireos, Cape May Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers, and 35 Yellow-breasted Chats. I grew up in the DC area, and it is nice to hear the places where I got started birding are still going strong!

Out west, the winds were from the south, which allowed new migrants to arrive and migrants already here to make their way northward. In New Mexico, there was a good assortment of flycatchers (Dusky and Gray), vireos (Bell's, Hutton's, and Cassin's) and warblers (Grace's, Black-and-white, Ovenbird, and Northern Waterthrush)--plus Scott's Orioles, Gray Catbirds, and Swainson's Thrushes. California also did well, with Olive-sided Flycatchers, Western Kingbirds, Cassin's Vireos, Warbling Vireos, Nashville Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, Bullock's Orioles and Western Tanagers all seen in good numbers. Migration is even reaching some of the northernmost states. Fargo, North Dakota reported Black-and-white Warblers, Northern Waterthrushes, Yellow Warblers, Barn Swallows, and Swainson's Thrushes, and Alaska reported its first Yellow-rumped Warblers of the year.

I mentioned last week that a second cold front was moving into the eastern half of the US from Canada. The front reached the Gulf coast states by the end of last week, and again, Louisiana was the big winner. Dr. Paul Leberg from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette was taking his ornithology class on a weekend field trip on April 29. The storms hit around mid-day, and when they reached Peveto Woods (a good place along the coast for fallouts) in the late afternoon Dr. Leberg said "the trees were full of birds." Chestnut-sided Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, and Gray Catbirds were the most abundant species. All tolled, the class saw 22 warbler species, 5 vireos species, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, Eastern Wood-pewees, Acadian Flycatchers, Orchard Orioles, Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, Summer Tanagers, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in just 2 hours!

A couple of days later, the front had moved into the southeast. We had rain here over the weekend, and that forced a lot of birds to land. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have been very common across the state the past few days, along with Nashville Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, Prairie Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, and Eastern Wood-pewees. At my study site, I have banded 4 Tennessee Warblers, 3 Common Yellowthroats, 2 Gray Catbirds, 2 Yellow-breasted Chats, a Swainson's Thrush, a Gray-cheeked Thrush. I also saw or heard Chestnut-sided Warblers, Blackpoll Warblers, Ovenbirds, Black-and-white Warblers, and Wood Thrushes.

This Week’s Weather and Migration Outlook
This coming week could be another good one. You should all be experts at
this by now!
  • Yet another front is moving across the country. The front is expected to bring showers and north winds to the West and heavier rain to the Midwest and plains over the next day or two. That means another potential fallout for those regions.
  • As the front moves eastward, the same can be expected for the Gulf coast and Southeast by the end of the week.

Migration will be winding down soon for the southern half of the country, but we are still at the tail-end of the peak, so don't put your binoculars away yet! For the middle of the country, the peak of migration is starting, and for the north, things are just getting going. Spring migration still has something for everyone!

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN

The FINAL Weather and Migration Update will Be Posted on May 10, 2006.

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