Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Bird migration at its peak!

This week will be the biggest birding week of the year. It’s the week when migration explodes and millions of songbirds and summer residents head through the lower 48. Indications are already that birds are moving through the Central and mid-Atlantic. Many summer resident birds are here already, of course, though this week is still the biggest single time of the year for birds to move.

Unlike fall migration, which is spread out over a longer time, often with males, females and immature birds heading south on different schedules, spring migration is all about finding the best habitat for the best nest site and doing it before anyone else gets there or takes the best spot. Here in the northeast, we’ll have to wait for the low pressure system that’s sitting over top of us to move before the action really takes off. Last night, radar of the DC metro area showed a big concentration of birds, as did central Kansas.

Here at Roundtop, you can see what the sky looked like this morning—foggy, with rain expected off and on all day. It’s the kind of weather where birds like to sit and wait for conditions to improve. In a way, the concentration of birds in DC may prove to be unlucky for me just over a hundred miles or so to the north. Birds can cover 100 miles in several hours of flying; they may not stop here this year. It may be that only the birds who come for the season will land. The birds that we only see during migration may well not be ready to stop for lunch, let alone for the night, at the point when they will be over top of my cabin.

The serious bird radar watchers (or is that serious radar birdwatchers?) suggest that this year fewer birds are to be found anywhere on the trip north. Their radar spikes aren’t as concentrated or as large as is normal. I haven’t yet heard anyone discuss what that means—an ordinary variation in numbers, a sign of trouble in the wintering grounds. So I will try and resist the temptation to speculate and will instead just note it for the future. 

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