March 23, 2011
Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Dr. David Aborn

Dear Students:

I apologize for not being able to submit a report last week. As I mentioned in my March 9th report, I was at the joint meeting of the North American Crane Working Group (NACWG) and The Waterbird Society in Nebraska. I was an excellent meeting, with some of the leading and up-and-coming researchers in crane and waterbird biology presenting findings from their studies. At one point, Jane Goodall stopped by! While she is known for her work on chimpanzees, she enjoys the spectacle of seeing the multitudes of cranes that migrate through the Platte River Valley, and just happened to be in the area during the conference. It was definitely an honor to meet her! The birding was spectacular. Click on these images to see them enlarged, with captions:

Cranes on Nebraska's Platte River during migration. Snow Geese on Nebraska's Platte River during migration.
Nebraska's Platte River during spring migration: click to enlarge and see caption

It is a beautiful area, and I hope some of you will make it out there someday to see the awesome display for yourselves. If you already live in Nebraska, then get out there and see what is in your own back yard!!!

A BIG Week for Migration
So what has been happening with songbird migration the past couple of weeks? In a word, LOTS! In my last report, I mentioned that there would be southerly winds for a while, which would allow a lot of birds to arrive. Well, lots of birds have been arriving! Along the Gulf Coast, from Texas to Alabama there are reports of the first Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Louisiana Waterthrushes, Nashville Warblers, Black-and-white Warblers, Hooded Warblers, Yellow-throated Warblers, Red-eyed Vireos, and Yellow-throated Vireos. Whew! Here in Tennessee we have had our first waterthrushes, Black-and-white Warblers, Black-throated-green Warblers, Blue-headed Vireos, and Cliff Swallows. The southerly winds have allowed some of the earlier migrants to make quite a bit of progress, with Purple Martins arriving in Kansas and Tree Swallows and Barn Swallows getting as far as New Hampshire.
People out west haven’t seen as much diversity, but birds are arriving. Black-chinned Hummingbirds are showing up in Arizona and New Mexico, Northern Rough-winged Swallows in California, and a Lucy’s Warbler in Nevada. Don’t worry, I promise it will get better!

How Does This Week Look?

  • A stalled front extends from Iowa to Virginia. Winds below the front are from the south; winds above it are northerly. This means birds will have good flying weather until they get to that line, and then they will have to land. People in the southeastern US should have another day or two of fine birding.
  • They had better enjoy it, however, because there is a front approaching from the middle of the country. While it is not a strong one, it will probably bring some rain and north winds which will stop the progress of many migrants. We might even see small fallout along the Gulf coast.
  • A much stronger front is coming down from Canada and will have a bigger effect. Over the weekend, temperatures here are expected to go from the 80’s down to the 60’s. That kind of weather is sure to keep migrants grounded.
  • The western US looks better. High pressure will be bringing southerly winds to much of the western US, which should allow migrants to arrive from the tropics. Be on the lookout!

Migration is just getting warmed up, so be prepared for better things to come!

Take Care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN