Weather and Songbird Migration: Mar. 20, 2013
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Dear Journey North,

Well, it is the first day of Spring and birds are really starting to move! Last week I mentioned that migrants would be able to make a lot of progress as soon as the high-pressure areas over much of the country moved east and winds shifted to the south. That is just what happened.  

New Arrivals, East and Central US
In the eastern and central US, one of the more common new arrivals was the Louisiana Waterthrush, with sightings in Texas, Alabama, North Carolina, and here in Tennessee. Alabama also recorded its first Prothonotary Warbler of the spring. Birders in Texas and Louisiana were treated to a nice assortment of migrants this weekend, including the first Blue-headed Vireos, White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-throated Vireos, Nashville Warblers, an early Yellow Warbler, and Summer Tanagers.

Progress in Midwest and Mid-Atlantic  
Those southerly winds allowed some of last week’s migrants to make it out of the southern US and into the Midwest and mid-Atlantic regions. Tree Swallows were seen in Kansas, Oklahoma, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, and Purple Martins arrived in Ohio. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were seen in Missouri, along with Black-and-white Warblers and an early Eastern Kingbird.

Migrants in West Push Northward 
Birders out west didn’t miss out on the action, either. They also had southerly winds, which created good flying conditions for birds coming from the tropics. In Arizona, Scott’s Orioles and Bullock’s Orioles were seen, along with Lucy’s Warblers, and the first Wilson’s Warblers and Warbling Vireos of the spring. In California, the first Black-headed Grosbeak showed up, along with Warbling Vireos and Nashville Warblers. As in the eastern half of the country, the winds helped push birds farther north. In Nevada, 4 species of swallows arrived (Violet-green, Tree, Barn, and Northern Rough-winged), along with Orange-crowned Warblers and Cassin’s Vireos. Some migrants were even able to make as far as Oregon, with birders reporting Rufus Hummingbirds, Tree Swallows, and Violet-green Swallows.

Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Photo: David Aborn
Dr. David Aborn
Summer Tanager
Photo: Laura Erickson
Summer Tanager
Eastern Kingbird
Photo: Laura Erickson
Eastern Kingbird
Blue-headed Vireo
Photo: Laura Erickson
Blue-headed Vireo
Weather Map: This Week's Outlook
All the migrants in this report had better enjoy it where they are, because they won’t be going anywhere for a few days. The weather map shows why:
Weather map 3/13/13
  • A cold front just moved across the country, and it has really cooled things down (here in Tennessee we were in the 70’s the past few days, but we have a freeze warning tonight!), and another front is moving in to reinforce the north winds. That means that migrants will be grounded for a few days. They might get a day to make some progress towards the end of the week, but...
  • Another front moving in from the Pacific will be bringing rain and more north winds, so weather once again prevent birds from doing much flying.

There are a lot of birds around to see, so take advantage while you can. As soon as conditions improve, they will be gone. The good news is that there is still a lot of spring migration to go, so more birds will be on the way!

Take care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN


The next Weather and Songbird Migration Update will be posted on March 27.