We’ve been experiencing unseasonably mild conditions for most of October, with intermittent rain and south or east winds. It’s felt more like April or May and this pattern is forecast to continue into the middle of the month. These are poor conditions for fall migration. When October comes, birders look forward with eager anticipation to cold fronts and west winds, ideal conditions that bring large numbers of migrants south. A cold front is the leading edge of a colder air mass that originates to the north of us. The graphic illustrates what a cold front looks like on a weather map – a blue, curved line with small triangles that look like teeth. Migrants ride these cold fronts south out of Canada. If you’ve been to Montrose in the last week you’ve probably noticed how flat it feels. We are getting migrants, but not big numbers of birds we should be seeing now, like Yellow-rumped Warblers and White-throated Sparrows. At some point this pattern will break and things will change. Being a birder means waiting a lot for something to happen.
The weekend of May 1 – 3 looks like a good one for birding, with sustained southwest winds Saturday, Sunday, and into Monday. We should see a big influx of warblers and sparrows, as well more thrushes and flycatchers. Don’t forget to check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for updates.
We’re in for a surge of warm air and southwest winds on Tuesday, April 27 and Wednesday, April 28. These conditions look favorable for a strong movement of passerines during that two day period. We should see an increase in warbler activity, with several uncommon species possible, including Hooded, Kentucky, and with luck, Worm-eating. Sparrows will be the big story. White-throated and Swamp Sparrow numbers will increase dramatically, and late April is a good time to see less common species like LeConte’s and Henslow’s. As always, keep checking the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for updated information and sightings.
Time to get excited.
As expected, the strong south winds brought a lot of migrants to Montrose Point on March 30. I ended up with 41 species in a little over two hours of effort, and 57 species were reported on eBird by all observers. Most impressive were the numbers of Northern Flickers coming in off Lake Michigan early in the morning. These birds were migrating north over the lake at night, and when the sun rose they started to head inland towards land and safety. No passerine or other landbird worth its life wants to get caught over Lake Michigan when the sun comes up. The local Peregrine Falcons and Herring Gulls relish hunting these tardy migrants as they make their way to shore. I also had multiple first of spring sightings, including Caspian Tern, Belted Kingfisher, Hermit Thrush, and Lapland Longspur. Link to my eBird checklist for the morning below.
March 30, 2021
It looks like we’re in for a nice stretch of favorable migration conditions from March 21 to 24, with southerly winds each day. Montrose should be excellent during this period. We should see an influx of “later” early spring migrants like Golden-crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrushes, Eastern Towhees, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and others. As always, check the Montrose Point eBird Hotspot for current sightings.
The forecast for March 8 to March 11 looks propitious for a strong movement of birds, with southwest winds each day. This is an ideal setup for a big push of blackbirds, American Robins, waterfowl, and other early spring migrants. If you can get to Montrose any of these days, by all means do. We wait all winter for a stretch of favorable migration conditions like this.