Weather and Songbird Migration: Mar. 27, 2013
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Your Sightings!
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Dear Journey North,

Is it really still spring, or are all the calendars stuck in January? The past couple of days here in Tennessee we have had snow showers and 25 mph north winds. The high temperature was colder than the average low temperature for this time of year! Brrr!

North Winds Slam Brakes on Migration
As I discussed last week, the northerly winds that covered much of the country put the brakes on spring migration. Most of this week’s sightings come from the Gulf Coast states, as migrants couldn’t make it much farther than that. The first Great-crested Flycatcher of the season showed up in Texas, and Black-throated-green Warblers showed up in good numbers from Louisiana to Florida. The first Indigo Buntings and Worm-eating Warblers were also seen in Alabama. Before the cold weather arrived, there were a couple of days of southerly winds that allowed birds to make a little progress northward. A Baltimore Oriole showed up in Georgia, and a Louisiana Waterthrush was seen in Indiana. I saw the first Purple martins and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in Tennessee, and a few martins made it to Kansas.

Things weren’t much better out West. The north winds closed the door on migration for many areas. Southern California saw the greatest amount of arrivals, especially around Los Angeles. The first Bell’s Vireos of the spring arrived, along with Warbling Vireos, Plumbeous Vireos, Western Tanagers, Black-headed Grosbeaks, and Bullock’s Orioles. As in the east, there was a short window when birds could make a little progress north, but the only report I received was of Barn Swallows showing up in Oregon. For the birds that didn’t move, you snooze, you lose!

Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Photo: David Aborn
Dr. David Aborn
Black-headed Grossbeak
Photo: Laura Erickson
Black-headed Grossbeak
Great-crested Flycatcher
Photo: Laura Erickson
Great-crested Flycatcher
Weather Map: The Outlook
As for what the next week will bring, there is good news and bad news. The weather map shows why:
Weather map 3/13/13
  • The good news is that the high pressure area is moving off the east coast, which means winds will shift to the south—allowing us to thaw out, and letting all those migrants stuck along the southern edge of the US to finally resume migration. I expect there will be quite a few sightings across the country over next few days.
  • Now for the bad news…rain! Another front is forming in the central US, which will bring rain to the eastern half of the country by the weekend. That means migrants will be forced to land again. This front is not as strong as last week’s. Temperatures will cool off a little, but won’t be as frigid, which means migrants shouldn’t be grounded as long.

With the southerly winds, chances are there will be a lot of migrants heading your way! It will be a good excuse to get outside and enjoy the warmer weather!

Take care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN


Next update posted on April 3.