Weather and Songbird Migration: April 3, 2013
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Dear Journey North,

Things are starting to happen! I am going to fast forward a bit and talk about today’s weather map, because what is happening with the weather has created the first fallouts of the season!

You will notice that there is an area of low pressure and rain along the Gulf Coast. Well, we are far enough into spring migration that the rain forced good numbers of migrants arriving from the tropics to land. The numbers weren’t as spectacular as they might be a little later in the season, but a birder along the Texas coast reported a “major influx” of Black-and-white Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, and Northern Parulas. Great-crested Flycatchers, Scissor-tailed Flycatchers, and the first Acadian Flycatchers were also seen. In southwest Louisiana, a birder counted 30 White-eyed Vireos, 15 Hooded warblers, 15 Black-and-white Warblers, and a few Indigo Buntings. There have been many reports of fallouts where hundreds, and even thousands, of migrants, exhausted from their long flight across the Gulf of Mexico, are forced down by rain and/or strong north winds. I have seen such events a couple of times myself, and they are really spectacular!

Southerly Winds Push Migrants North
Backtracking a bit, last week I mentioned that there would be a few days of southerly winds, which would allow migrants to make some progress north. Indeed, more places are reporting migrant sightings! Yellow-throated Warblers have arrived in Pennsylvania, and Louisiana Waterthrushes were seen in Ohio. People in Missouri saw not only waterthrushes, but Barn Swallows, Northern Parulas, and Black-and-white Warblers as well. Here in Tennessee, I saw my first Black-throated-green Warblers and Yellow-throated Vireos, and more Blue-gray Gnatcatchers have arrived.

The southerly winds brought a lot of birds to the western US as well. Bullock’s Orioles and Black-headed Grosbeaks continue to arrive in Arizona, as well as the first Hooded Orioles and Western Kingbirds. Lots of migrants were seen throughout California. In addition to Bullock’s Orioles and Western Kingbirds, birders reported the first Cassin’s Kingbirds, Nashville Warblers, Yellow Warblers, Olive-sided Flycatchers, Gray Flycatchers, and Violet-green Swallows. Nice going! The southerly winds helped push migrants very far north. Many Bullock’s Orioles were seen in Nevada, the first Orange-crowned Warblers and Black-throated Gray Warblers arrived in Oregon, and Violet-green Swallows, Tree Swallows, and Rufus Hummingbirds were seen all the way up in Washington!

Dr. David Aborn, ornithologist
Photo: David Aborn
Dr. David Aborn
Indigo Bunting
Photo: Laura Erickson
Indigo Bunting
Black-and-White Warbler
Photo: Laura Erickson
Black-and-White Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Photo: Laura Erickson
Black-throated Green Warbler
Weather Map: The Outlook

So what does the rest of the week look like? You have seen enough of my reports by now that you should be able to start figuring that out for yourselves.

Weather map 3/13/13
  • That area of rain should create fallout conditions along the Alabama coast and the Florida panhandle, and then it is going to move northeast. That means birds in the southeastern and eastern US will be grounded for a couple of days. Once the system clears, the winds are not expected to be very strong, so all those birds forced to land along the Gulf Coast will be able to move north again. That means people in the central and perhaps even the northern US should expect a wave of migrants to move in! Since there is still a lot of migration yet to go, people along the Gulf Coast can expect a new batch of migrants to arrive from the tropics. While there may not be a fallout, there will still be plenty to see!
  • Another frontal system is moving into the central US from Canada. This system doesn’t look like it will have a lot of rain or strong north winds, so birds may be slowed a bit by early next week, but it shouldn’t be a big delay. Out West, it looks like smooth sailing (flying?) for the better part of the week. That means more migrants should be showing up in the Northwest and new arrivals should continue to stream into the Southwest.

We are well into spring migration, and it will only get better in the week ahead!

Take care.

David Aborn
North Chickamauga Creek Conservancy
Chattanooga, TN


Next update April 10