Dr. David Aborn

May 6 , 2009

Dear Students:
The word of the day is RAIN! The storm systems I talked about last week moved slowly, bringing lots of rain to the eastern half of the US for much of the week, with only a couple short breaks in between.

That means, you guessed it, some more fallouts, but with an interesting twist. Winds have had a strong easterly component. In other words, they have been coming from the northeast or southeast, not just straight north or south. This has pushed a lot of the migrants that winter in the Caribbean much farther west than usual. Normally, most of these species are seen along the Eastern US from Florida to New England, but this week Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama have been seeing large numbers of them. Thus, in addition to the typical late-season migrants that winter in Central and South America, such as Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, Swainson's Thrushes, and Olive-sided Flycatchers, the Gulf coast states have been awash with Blackpoll Warblers, Cape May Warblers, and especially Bobolinks. A bird count done this weekend at the Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge in northern Alabama tallied 1,300 Bobolinks! While not nearly that numerous, Bobolinks have been showing up all over Tennessee, as have Blackpoll Warblers and Cape May Warblers. In fact, I banded my first Tennessee Blackpoll Warbler yesterday, as shown below.

Blackpoll Warbler
Photo David Aborn


The Midwest
There have been a few days where the weather has cleared, which allowed migrants to creep their way north. In the Washington, DC area, there was an influx of Hooded Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Magnolia Warblers, Wood Thrushes, Orchard Orioles, Baltimore Orioles, and over 40 Bobolinks. The Ohio Valley had a nice fallout the other day, with Swainson's Thrushes, Gray-cheeked Thrushes, Tennessee Warblers, American Redstarts, Yellow Warblers, and Eastern Kingbirds. Migration continued to pick up farther north, with Minnesota and Michigan birders reporting the first Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Tennessee Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers, Swainson's Thrushes, Indigo Buntings, and Least Flycatchers. New England also did well, With Massachusetts reporting Catbirds, Orioles, and Buntings, while people in Maine had Veerys, Blackburnian Warblers, Black-throated-green Warblers, and Least Flycatchers.

Out West
Out west, migration was a little more active than the past couple of weeks. With southerly winds, people in Arizona saw a pulse of Scott's Orioles, Bullock's Orioles, Warbling Vireos, and 5 species of warblers. Birders in southern and central California saw Nashville Warblers, Orange-crowned Warblers, Wilson's Warblers, Bell's vireos, Western Tanagers, and Olive-sided Flycatchers. Like in the east, birds have been steadily getting farther and farther north. Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Wilson's Warblers have made it to Washington, while the first Black-chinned Hummingbirds, Rufus Hummingbirds, and Bullock's Orioles have shown up in Idaho. Our Canadian friends are now starting to get in on the action, with Common Yellowthroats, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows showing up in Saskatchewan, and all the way up in Alaska Violet-green Swallows, Cliff Swallows, and Yellow-rumped Warblers are telling people spring is here.

What to Expect This Week
So what about this week? Well, it looks like part of it will be the same as last week. There is a front that is stalled over much of the eastern US, and another front moving in from the west. That will mean more rain for another few days, which will keep many birds grounded. By the weekend or early next week, everything will have cleared out. With south winds and clear skies, birds will finally be able to take off and head north. Take a look at the weather map:

Keep Your Eyes and Ears Peeled!
While spring migration is winding down in the southern part of the country, as you read in my report, migration is just getting started farther north. Even with migration coming to a close, you can still enjoy looking at and listening to the great variety of birds around, as they attract a mate, build their nests, and raise their young. One good way to keep learning about migrants and how to protect them is to participate in International Migratory Bird Day, which is this Saturday (May 9th). There are all sorts of activities going on all across the country; including bird walks, banding demonstrations, lectures, and games. To find out what is going on near you, visit http://www.birdday.org/. I hope you have enjoyed my reports and have learned to look at the weather and see how it might affect the birds.

Have a great summer everyone!

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN