May 5, 2010
Dr. David Aborn

Dear Students:

While the weather this past week has been terrible for people because of all the damage it created, it has made for another good week of birding. That storm system moved very slowly, making for several days of poor flying in many places. After the rains cleared along the Texas coast on Saturday (May 1), a researcher at the Gulf Coast Bird Observatory reported "Tennessee Warblers in plague proportions" and "oodles of orioles, buntings, and warblers." The next day birders at Dauphin Island, Alabama, reported "hundreds of American Redstarts and Chestnut sided Warblers."

BioBlitz News
In last week's report I mentioned that I was going to be participating in a BioBlitz at the Chattanooga Nature Center. The rains held off, and we had a pretty good tally. My team of dedicated birders saw or heard 75 bird species. While our numbers were not as high as those reported along the coast, many of the more numerous species we saw were the same—such as American Redstarts and Yellow Warblers. There were a lot of Blackpoll Warblers around as well. I also heard a Connecticut Warbler, a species that is not common in the area, but usually passes through in early May, so he was right on time! We saw our first Swainson'sThrush of the year, and I banded my first Veery of the year. I banded about a dozen different species during the BioBlitz, which wasn't too bad. Here are some photos:

Migrants Streaming Northward
The storm system was mostly a rain system; there wasn't much in the way of northerly winds. That meant that once the front passed, winds became favorable for flying pretty quickly, and many migrants have been streaming northward. People in Annapolis, Maryland reported 12 species of warblers, along with their first Blue grosbeaks, Indigo Buntings, and Orchard Orioles. At Cape May, New Jersey, they saw 20 warbler species, especially Canada Warblers and Bay-breasted Warblers, and there were a lot of Gray Catbirds too. Birders in New Hampshire have been treated to their first Baltimore Orioles, Bobolinks, Indigo Buntings and Eastern Kingbirds.

Out West, migrants have also been able to make a lot of progress. Birders in central and northern California saw their first Western Tanager, and reported lots of Orange-crowned Warblers. Nevada seemed to have the greatest diversity, with Blue Grosbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, Bullock's Orioles, Nashville Warblers, Yellow Warblers, and Many Yellow-rumped Warblers being seen. Orange-crowns and yellow-rumps have made it as far north as Washington. The first migrants have even made it up to Alaska (!!!), with the first Violet green Swallows and Rufus Hummingbirds being seen up there. Talk about a journey north!

What Does This Week’s Weather Mean for Migration?
So what does this week look like? By this point, you should be telling me!

  • Another front is moving across the country. This one does not have much rain with it, but there are northerly winds behind it. (Here in Tennessee, we will be near 90 degrees this week, but back in the 70's by the weekend). That will force birds to land, and while migration has just peaked along the Gulf Coast, there are still a couple of weeks left so a decent fallout is still possible.
  • Places farther inland, such as the Midwest, could also see birds landing in good numbers by the end of the week.

International Migratory Bird Day
This weekend is International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD), and celebrations are happening all across the country. To see what is happening in your area, click here and then click on the balloons. IMBD is a great way to learn more about migratory birds, or even to share what you have learned with others!

Why the Concern About Migratory Birds?
There is a lot of concern about migratory birds because many bird populations are declining as a result of habitat loss, exotic species, pollution, and other threats.

One big concern right now is the major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Many migrants rely on those coastal habitats to rest and refuel after making the 18-hour non-stop crossing in the spring, and before doing crossing again in the fall. The potential damage to those ecosystems is tremendous. If your class or school would like to help out, the American Birding Association has set up a donation page where people can make contributions to help with the clean-up if/when the oil reaches the coastline. Any contribution will help, and you can feel good knowing you have helped protect such magnificent animals.

Farewell for Now
I hope you have enjoyed my reports this season, and I look forward to teaching you more next year. If you have any questions about bird migration you would like to ask me, feel free to contact me.

Take care.
David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN

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