Neighborhood Nature

Our Family's Nature Blog

Last Night’s Weather Radar Showed More Birds on the Move April 17, 2009

Last night Aaron called me over to look at his computer. He showed me the Chicago Tribune’s Midwest regional weather radar, which showed birds taking flight and migrating north. The green wash of migrating birds spread from east to west as sunset fell across the continent:

Watch the green wash of migrating birds shift from east to west as the sun sets.

Chicago Tribune weather radar from Thursday evening, April 16, 2009. Watch the green wash of migrating birds expand from east to west as the sun sets.

So, now we spend the day looking and listening for new birds in the neighborhood. Will we see White-throated or White-crowned Sparrows? Or maybe our first Palm Warbler of spring? We’ll watch our yard, our block, Columbus Park, and the walk home from school.

Last night birds migrated though winds were from the east over Illinois. Tonight’s winds should blow from a more southerly direction. There may be even more new migrants by Saturday morning!

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Note added the same day at 6:45 p.m. (then updated at 9 p.m.): Contrary to our hopes and expectations, our on-the-ground birding did not reveal dramatic changes in our neighborhood birds. At home we got a reminder that some birds migrate away from us in spring: For the first time in almost six months we did not see a single Junco in our yard today, although we did see two at Columbus Park. Also, Robin numbers in Columbus Park have decreased to 150 (from a peak of 250), and Flicker numbers were down to 30 (from a peak of 55). The golf course and lawns provide lots of feeding space for these species. Go here to read more about our Columbus Park sightings.

One happy note: On IBET an Oak Park birder reported Red-eyed Vireos at Thatcher Woods, which is about two miles northwest of us. That would be a year bird for us. (Red-eyed Vireos frequent Columbus Park — and perhaps breed there — from late spring through the summer.)

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Note added the same day at 9:15 p.m.:  As predicted, the winds here are shifting to the southeast. Tonight’s Midwest weather radar is shaping up just like last night:

Friday night's Midwest weather radar. Just like yesterday, the green wash of migrating birds expands from east to west.

Chicago Tribune weather radar from Friday evening, April 17, 2009. Just like yesterday, the green wash of migrating birds expands from east to west.

We should had a fun day of birding tomorrow! (It’s a Saturday, so the kids are home from school.)

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Note added the next morning (Saturday) at 6:20 a.m.: Here’s the Chicago Tribune‘s weather radar from this morning. It shows the green wash disappearing from east to west as migrating birds come in for a landing. That’s a real rainstorm moving in from the southwest:

Chicago Tribune weather radar from Saturday morning, April 18. The donut-shaped green shows birds migrating. The green and yellow in the southwest is a real rain storm.

Chicago Tribune weather radar from Saturday morning, April 18, 2009. The doughnut-shaped green shows birds migrating. The green and yellow in the southwest is a real rain storm.

So, this morning we plan to go first to Montrose Point Bird Sanctuary and then North Park Village Nature Center (where Eagle Optics is having a special sale). Who knows where we’ll go this afternoon?

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You can study bird migration using radar images from WeatherUnderground (the source of the Tribune’s images) and the National Weather Service radar website. The Minnesota Bird Nerd blog posts versions of these images during peak migration.

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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