Weather and Songbird Migration: May 3, 2017
By Dr. David Aborn

It Happened Again. . . Another Fallout!

Blackburnian warbler
Blackburnian warbler Paul Hurtado (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Black-throated blue warbler

Black-throated blue warbler
OSU (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Blackpoll warbler
Blackpoll warbler
Cephas (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Weather Map

Weather Map

International Migratory Bird Day  
International Migratory Bird Day  
Ornithologist Dr. David Aborn  



Dear Journey North,

Well, it happened again. . .another fallout! In my report last week I mentioned there was another storm system moving across the country, and that since there were so many birds around from the previous week there could be another fallout, and that’s just what happened over the weekend. Numbers didn’t seem to be quite as spectacular as the previous week’s fallout, but there were still lots of birds.

Grand Sightings on the Gulf Coast
At Grand Isle, Louisiana, one birder counted over 50 Scarlet Tanagers, 50 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and 12 species of warblers. On the Alabama coast, Indigo Buntings, Blue Grosbeaks, and Cape May Warblers were described as being “plentiful”.

Farther east, before the system arrived, skies were clear and winds were from the south, so there were a lot of birds that were able to head north before the bad weather arrived. I saw my first Yellow-breasted Chat and Blackpoll Warbler over the weekend, and others reported the first Bay-breasted Warblers in other parts of Tennessee. Black-throated-green Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers (one of my favorites), Chestnut-sided Warblers, Indigo Buntings, and Baltimore Orioles all made their first appearances in New Hampshire, while Gray Catbirds, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Black-throated-blue Warblers made it as far as Maine!

Holding Steady Out West
Things were quieter out west. Good flying weather kept a steady stream of migrants moving through, but no large numbers or new species were reported. Black-headed Grosbeaks, Lazuli Buntings, Western Kingbirds, and Vaux’s Swifts all continued their march northward, and were seen throughout California, Oregon, Washington, and the Rocky Mountain states, while the first Tree Swallows made it up to Alaska!

Ending on a High Note with Another Fallout?
This is my last weather report of this season, so let’s see if we can’t end thing things on a high note! There is yet another front developing out in the Rockies. This one looks like it will not only bring heavy rain, but strong north winds behind it (we are going to be in the 80’s here tomorrow, but only the 50’s on Friday!). That could mean the third fallout in a row is possible! Even though migration is winding down in the southern U.S., there are still plenty of late-season migrants that have yet to arrive, such as Connecticut Warblers, Swainson’s Thrushes, Veerys, and Gray-cheeked Warblers. All those migrants I mentioned still making their way north will also be forced to land for several days, so there should be lots of sightings in the Midwest, mid-Atlantic, and New England. The west should continue the steady influx of migrants, as flying conditions are still good out that way.

Helping Birds Along the Way
International Migratory Bird Day is coming up. There is a theme to the celebrations every year, and this year is highlighting the importance of stopover sites. Birds don’t just say abracadabra and magically disappear from the tropics and show up in North America; they have to stop along the way to rest and refuel, as well as to take shelter from bad weather, and the places they stop are called stopover sites. As the past couple of fallouts have shown, many migrants wouldn’t survive if they didn’t have these important places.

There are International Migratory Bird Day events happening all over the country, and if you check with your local zoo, nature center, or bird club, I am sure you can find an event close to you. It is a great way to learn about birds and what you can do to help protect them. You might even be able to show off some of the skills you have learned from Journey North! I have enjoyed teaching you about how weather affects migration and bringing you my reports, and I hope you have learned something from them.

Have a great summer!

  • David Aborn
    North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
    Chattanooga, TN
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