Monday, February 27, 2012

Spring bird migration forecast from NOAA and Cornell

From e-bird news:

We are pleased to announce a collaboration between NOAA and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to provide this newest eBird feature: the Bird Migration Forecast. When a particularly interesting weather event develops that we think will impact bird migration, we’ll post a short story. We hope this inspires you all to get out birding and see what migration is occurring and what new species have arrived. Your observations will be an integral part in helping us develop better predictive models relating to birds and weather. The eBird BirdCast will be an intermittent feature this spring with the goal of heightening birders' awareness about the connection between bird migration and weather. ((The photo shows the forecast wind speed for Sunday morning (26 Feb 2012). The green areas show the highest winds (50kts) and the thatched arrows show the wind direction and approximate speed (more thatches mean stronger winds). Birds will move on these strong southerlies.))

Below are some of the species groups to watch for as this unusually
early blast of warm air sets spring bird migration in motion. If you
live in the southern United States or Mexico, you might watch for the
early departure of some of these birds.

Geese and swans – Snow, Canada, Cackling, Greater
White-fronted, and Ross’s Geese should all be on the move with this
weather system. Watch for them to potentially move north to staging
areas in Nebraska, and possibly to Quebec and points further east.
There is also a possibility that some western geese (Cackling, Greater
White-fronted, and Ross's) could be displaced eastward with the strong
southwesterly flow. Watch also for Tundra Swans departing the
mid-Atlantic and heading up through the Great Lakes.

Ducks – A range of puddle ducks and diving ducks
could be moving, including Mallard, American Black Duck, Northern
Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, scaup, Bufflehead, and many
others. The first arriving Blue-winged Teal and Wood Ducks may also
appear. We expect waterfowl concentrations primarily at traditional
staging grounds. Also watch for species like Northern Pintail in flocks
of northbound Snow Geese. Since there is no significant rain forecast,
inland duck fallouts are unlikely.

Turkey Vulture – A classic March migrant, Turkey
Vultures have been occurring as earlier and earlier migrants in recent
years and have been overwintering with increasing frequency in more
northern areas. Expect a good push of them on this warm blast.

Osprey – In many areas where Ospreys don’t winter,
they return in March, with exceptional arrivals (on the East Coast, at
least) back at nests by late February. If you need Osprey for your
local February list, this year could be your best bet!

Other Raptors – Many hawks are on the move already
in late February and March, and with conditions like these, the Great
Lakes hawkwatches (e.g., Hawk Ridge (Duluth, MN), Braddock Bay, Derby
Hill, and others) are apt to do quite well, depending on the daytime
winds at each site. Many Rough-legged Hawks (and possibly a few Snowy
Owls) will use this weather to move northward, along with Golden and
Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks. Northern Goshawks could be on the
move through the Great Lakes region.

Killdeer – A late February/early March migrant, we
are already seeing Killdeer on the move this year. Check out the
2012 January map compared to
the February one and note the incursion into the upper Midwest. We
can certainly expect more Killdeer with next week’s weather, setting up
an earlier than average arrival across a broad front.

American Woodcock – Woodcocks typically move into
mid-latitudes starting in late February, with arrival in more northerly
states in mid-March. Many places (as far north as Maine!) are already
seeing pioneering woodcocks up to three weeks ahead of schedule, and
like Killdeer, this pattern can be expected to continue. Watch for them
in the evening in areas where old fields mix with younger woodlots. On
calm evenings, you may hear them 'peenting' and displaying.

Belted Kingfisher – Arrival in the northern half of
the country usually begins in mid-March, but many have wintered farther
north this year due to the unusual amount of open water. This could be
an interesting species to watch; will their migration begin two weeks
early given the mild winter and favorable winds?

Swallows – Early returning Tree Swallows or
(exceptionally) Barn Swallows could occur under these conditions too,
so be alert for the vanguard of the swallow arrival.

Sparrows – This early in the season many sparrows
are stealthy migrants whose migration is difficult to discern. Song
Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos are two species that could be on the
move, both of which are often ignored since they winter widely. Watch
for both species in higher numbers or in areas where you haven't seen
them this winter. American Tree Sparrows could start withdrawing back
to the north, and Fox Sparrow is a well-known early spring migrant,
with movements well underway in March.

Blackbirds – Species such as Red-winged Blackbird,
Common Grackle, and Brown-headed Cowbird are the first signs of spring
migration in many places, usually first appearing in February. Look for
legions of blackbirds to move north with this system.

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