Weather and Songbird Migration: March 2, 2016
By Dr. David Aborn

Northern parula  
Northern Parula
Palm warbler
Palm warbler
Dear Journey North,

Spring migration 2016 is underway! The first Tree Swallows and Purple Martins have arrived here in Tennessee, and a Northern Parula was seen in Louisiana. I got a sneak peak at what's coming in the next few weeks, and there are lots more migrants headed our way!

The Best is Yet to Come
Last week I had the opportunity to visit the island of Cuba, which is a major wintering area for many migrants, as well as a resting place for migrants that winter elsewhere in the Caribbean. I saw 96 species of birds while I was there (350 can be found in Cuba, so I guess I will have to go back and see the rest!), and about 6 or 7 of them were migrants.

By far the most numerous migrant down there was the Palm Warbler; they were everywhere! The second most numerous was American Redstart. I probably saw around 100 of them, and all but one of them was male. Why not more females? Well, in many species, males arrive on the breeding grounds first so they can establish a territory and be ready when the females arrive. Other migrant species I saw were Common Yellowthroat, Black-and-white Warbler, Prairie Warbler, Black-throated-blue Warbler, and Blackpoll Warbler. See, the best is yet to come!

Weather Map  


This Week's Outlook
Last week I taught you how to read a weather map and use it to try to predict where people might see lots of birds. Well, let's see how much you learned by looking at this week's map:
  • There is a pretty strong cold front moving across the country right now, bringing heavy rain to the Midwest and southern U.S. Any migrants that are trying to head north won't get very far and will have to land. Once the rain clears out, the birds still won't be able to do much for a couple of days, because the high pressure behind the front will be bringing strong north winds which will keep them grounded for a couple of days (we were near 80 here yesterday, but are going to be in the 40's tomorrow!).
  • The situation is much different in the western U.S. The front has already cleared and the high pressure has moved far enough east that the winds are from the south. With clear skies and south winds, there should be an influx of birds coming from the tropics.

  • Those conditions will arrive in the eastern U.S. by the end of the week. It is too early to expect large numbers of birds, but I would expect to see many first sightings across the country over the next week.

    The birds are coming, so get ready!
Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist  

Take care,

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN

Next Update: March 9, 2016