Weather and Songbird Migration: February 24, 2016
By Dr. David Aborn

As we watch for spring migrants to arrive, Dr. Aborn begins the season with a weather and migration primer.

Eastern bluebird pair  
Eastern bluebird
Tree swallow

Tree Swallow

Dear Journey North,
Today I begin my reports about spring songbird migration, especially since the groundhog predicted an early spring for a change (at least that's what our local groundhog, Chattanooga Chuck, said)! It has been a very variable winter thus far, with a very warm December, but a cold January and an up-and-down February. Nonetheless, there are already signs of spring.

Signs of Spring
Robins have been singing here for about a month now, and I am starting to hear the first Song Sparrows testing their voices. The bluebirds are pairing up and are busily checking out nest sites. Best of all, it won't be long before migrants start arriving from their wintering grounds in the tropics. In fact, the earliest migrants that arrive here, Tree Swallows, just arrived in South Carolina, and it won't be long before they start showing up elsewhere! Before you know it, the country will be overrun with warblers, vireos, tanagers, thrushes, and other migrants coming up from their tropical wintering grounds. But first, we have some work to do, so let's get started!

Weather and Migration
Songbird migration is very dependent on weather conditions, so in order to understand when and where songbird migration may occur, you need to know how to read a weather map. Each week, I will be showing you the map for that week's weather, and helping you predict who might see lots of birds arriving. Then the next week, I will report on bird sightings from all over the country and see if the predictions were correct. Let's get started with my primer on how to read a weather map and how weather affects bird migration!

Flag of Cuba  
Flag of Cuba

This Week's Outlook
Now that you have learned a little about weather and migration, I would normally talk about the features of this week's map and help you understand what it might mean for bird migration. However, this week I am going to visit the bird migrants in one of the places they winter -- the island of Cuba! It is a unique opportunity, and one I am really looking forward to. When I return, I will let you know what I saw, and help you understand the next week's weather map. In the mean time, try practicing weather forecasting on your own. I will try to send some migrants your way while I am in Cuba!

Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist  

Take care,

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN

Next Update: March 2, 2016