March 9, 2011
Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Dr. David Aborn

Dear Students:

Migrants keep trickling in, and hopefully it won’t be long before we start seeing some bigger movements. Tree Swallows and Purple Martins continue to arrive here in Tennessee, and southerly winds over the last couple of days have helped push Tree Swallows up into New York and Purple Martins into New Jersey. New Jersey also reported their first Cliff Swallows. A migratory bird of prey, the Osprey, has been reported throughout much of the Washington, DC area, and just yesterday I saw an Osprey in Chattanooga carrying a stick to add to its nest!

What to Expect This Week
Other than those reports, migration has been pretty slow across the country. Looking at the weather map it looks like it will stay slow for a few more days:

  • You can see that much of the eastern US is covered by rain and snow as a large area of low pressure and cold front moves across the country. A bird would really have to be brave (or crazy!) to try flying in that kind of weather!
  • Behind the cold front you can see a series of high pressure areas. These will be bringing clear skies but north winds, which will continue to make it difficult for migrants to make much progress.
  • Once the front passes and the high-pressure area behind it moves east, winds will shift to the south, allowing birds to resume their migration.
  • For the western US, the high pressure will have moved far enough east that the winds will shift around to the south in a day or two, which would be more favorable for birds arriving from the tropics.
  • By the end of the week, conditions should improve along the Gulf coast and Midwest, and the eastern US should see migration weather by the weekend. In addition to more swallows and martins, some of the early warblers and vireos should start arriving, along with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds.

Next Week: Pumped for a Spectacle!
Next week I will be in Nebraska at the joint meeting of the North American Crane Working Group (NACWG) and The Waterbird Society. During the winter, when there is no songbird migration going on, I study a population of Sandhill Cranes at the Hiwassee Wildlife Refuge. Because of my involvement with cranes, I was asked to help organize this year’s meeting of the NACWG. It is being held in Grand Island, Nebraska. The Platte River in Nebraska is "crane central," with 500,000 cranes passing through each spring, along with thousands of ducks and shorebirds. I have heard a lot about this spectacle all my life, but this will be my first time out there. Needless to say, I AM PUMPED!!!

I will try to find time to submit a migration and weather report while I am in Nebraska, but in case I can’t, here is a link to a “Crane Cam” at the Rowe Sanctuary in nearby Kearny, Nebraska. That way you can enjoy seeing all the cranes for yourself, and maybe take a trip sometime to see them in person!

Take Care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN