Weather and Songbird Migration: April 30, 2014
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Your Sightings!
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Dear Journey North,

As you might imagine, the story of the week has been the terrible storms that have been hitting a large part of the country. I mentioned the strong cold front last week and how it would pick up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and bring a lot of rain to the Southeast. Well, that is what it did, but the front slowed down, bringing LOTS of rain and bad storms for several days. I was expecting to see reports of fallouts throughout the Southeast; however, numbers were not that impressive because we are at the tail end of spring migration in the southern half of the US. That doesn’t mean birds weren’t forced to land because of the weather, but rather that the numbers and diversity weren’t as high as the fallouts a couple of weeks ago. Some of the later season migrants have been plentiful along the Gulf Coast, especially Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Tennessee Warblers, and Blackpoll Warblers. Birders in North Carolina also reported many Gray Catbirds present after the storms passed.

In the East and Midwest
Prior to the arrival of the front, there were strong southerly winds, which allowed many birds to make good progress northward before the bad weather hit. I led a bird walk on Saturday (4/26) at the Chattanooga Nature Center, and we saw the first Tennessee Warblers, Worm-eating Warblers, and Cape May Warblers of the spring. Appropriately, Tennessee Warblers were very abundant (although ironically they don’t breed anywhere close to Tennessee!). On Monday (4/28) at my study site, I banded the first Northern Waterthrush and Blue Grosbeak, and saw or heard the first American Redstarts, Indigo Buntings,  and Eastern Wood-Pewees.

Those southerly winds helped push Rose-breasted Grosbeaks up into Connecticut, while Veerys, Ovenbirds, Northern Waterthrushes, and Great Crested Flycatchers into New York. In the Midwest and Great Plains, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Least Flycatchers, and Baltimore Orioles were seen in Oklahoma, Nashville Warblers, Blue-winged Warblers, and Northern Waterthrushes arrived in Illinois, and Gray Catbirds and Baltimore Orioles made it all the way to Wisconsin and Minnesota!

In the West
In the West, the cold front had moved far enough to bring southerly winds, which meant a good movement of birds. Western Tanagers and Black-headed Grosbeaks were particularly numerous in California, along with the arrival of the first Swainson’s Thrushes there. If you were a birder in the Dakotas, you were not disappointed, as good tailwinds pushed Purple Martins, Broad-winged Hawks, Orange-crowned Warblers, Rose-breasted and Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Swanson’s Thrushes your way! Even birders up in Alaska got in on the action, with the arrival of their first migrants: Tree Swallows, Violet-green Swallows, and Orange-crowned Warblers!

Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Photo: David Aborn
Dr. David Aborn
Blackpoll Warbler
Photo: Laura Erickson
Blackpoll Warbler
American Redstart
Photo: Laura Erickson
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Photo: Laura Erickson
Cape May Warbler

Weather Map: This Week's Outlook
By now, YOU should be able to tell ME what migration looks like for the coming week. Take a look at the weather map and what do you see? The answer: Not much!
Weather map for Feb. 25, 2014
  • The cold front that has been causing so many problems is slowly moving eastward and will be off the Atlantic coast by the end of the week. The rain ahead of it and the strong north winds behind it will keep all those birds I mentioned grounded for a while, which means good birding for the next few days.

  • By the weekend, the high pressure area will have moved far enough east that the winds will shift to the south for the central part of the country, and the same will happen in the east by the start of next week. That will allow migrants to resume their journey, so people in the northern part of the US can expect a lot of new arrivals.
  • You can see that in the West, winds are already coming from the south, so migrants are already being pushed up into the Pacific Northwest and Northern Rockies. There are no fronts on the horizon, so flying conditions look good into the middle of next week.

Happy birding!

Take care,

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN

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FINAL Update for this spring: May 7, 2014