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Weather and Songbird Migration: Feb. 26, 2014
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Dear Journey North,

Today I begin my reports about spring songbird migration, although for much of the country (including here in Tennessee) it hasn't felt much like spring! Nonetheless, there are signs spring is approaching. For the past week I have been hearing the first robins, cardinals, and Song sparrows singing, which is about a month later than I heard them last year. 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, arrived last week, and are busily staking their claim to nest boxes in the area! Before you know it, the country will be overrun with warblers, vireos, tanagers, thrushes, and other migrants coming up from their tropical wintering grounds. Before that happens, we have some work to do!

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 help 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!

Be sure to explore my tutorial on how to read a weather map and how weather affects bird migration so you can prepare for my reports this migration season.

 

Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Photo: David Aborn
Dr. David Aborn
 
Tree Swallow
Photo: Laura Erickson
Tree Swallow
 
Male Cardinal
Photo: Randy Indish
Male Cardinal
Weather Map: This Week's Outlook
Now that you have some background, let's look at what is happening this week:
Weather map for Feb. 25, 2014
  • A weak stationary front (alternating blue and red line) extends along the Gulf coast. There wasn't much moisture with the front, so rain is not an issue. However...
  • Two-thirds of the country is under the influence of a couple of high-pressure areas that are bringing strong north winds and more very cold weather to much of the country (curse you, polar vortex!). If spring migration were in full swing, those winds would keep migrants grounded along the Gulf Coast, so people down there would be enjoying lots of birds. As soon as those high-pressure areas move east in a couple of days, the winds would shift to the south, and all those birds would resume their migration northward.

It is too early for much movement, but there may be a few more swallows that show up later this week. In the meantime, practice reading weather maps and using your binoculars. You want to be ready when migration really gets going!

Take care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN


Next Update: March 5, 2014
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