Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Last Night’s Weather Radar Showed Birds on the Move! March 15, 2009

Filed under: Animals,Birds,Seasons,Spring — saltthesandbox @ 7:04 am
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Here’s an animated weather radar image from the Chicago Tribune weather page from 10:05 Central Daylight Time last night:


The patches of color appearing on the screen are birds taking off and heading north. (Patches to the north are purple because the computer interprets them a sleet or freezing rain.)

Here the image from 2:35 this morning:


The image from later the same night showed more color because there were more birds. There was more purple because the temperatures had dropped a few degrees.

As of 6:30 this morning, the color patches were beginning to fade as the birds looked for safe places to land.

So, the birds were on the move last night, migrating north. One interesting thing about last night’s movements: They took place despite the lack of surface winds. The birds did it on their own, with little or no south winds to help. There will be lots of tired birds looking for food this morning!

Of course, we’ll have to go out and find the birds on the ground to see which species migrated last night. We’ll go out before, during, and after the ESCONI show, plus we’ll read online reports from other birders.  We’ll report our finds right here.


Update added Monday morning, March 16 (the next day):

Here’s our on-the-ground report of birds that may have arrived during the Saturday night/Sunday morning migration.

Because we spent the day outside the neighborhood (in DuPage County), it was a little hard to tell which of the birds we saw were new arrivals. Talking with local birders, our best bet is that many of the Meadowlarks we heard and saw at Fermi Lab had recently arrived.

Looking at the birding email lists for Illinois and surrounding states, lots of other birders also were seeing newly arrived Eastern Meadowlarks. Other birds listed as first sightings of the year included Eastern Phoebe, Chipping Sparrow, and Field Sparrow. Other sparrows seem to be becoming more common. Birders are also starting to find shorebirds, like Pectoral Sandpiper and Lesser Yellowlegs in counties to the south of us.


You can study bird migration using radar images from WeatherUnderground (the source of the Tribune’s images) and the National Weather Service radar website.

To learn more about using weather radar to track bird movements: The Badbirdz – Reloaded blog includes a primer on using weather radar to track bird migration. For more explanations of birds and radar, try the New Jersey Audubon website.



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