This spring has produced one of the most disappointing migrations in several years for many area birders. Cold, wet weather has made finding the gaudy, brightly-plumaged neotropicals very challenging.
Sagging cold fronts not only retard northbound species’ progress, they also retard the singing that helps birders locate the tiny, treetop birds. The absence of favorable winds forced migrants to trickle through instead of appearing in the waves that birders wait all winter to see.
All of that seemed to change on the morning of May 6. Following yet another weekend of cold, damp weather; a rising warm front produced a period of heavy rain that moved into our area just before dawn. Northbound birds riding favorable winds suddenly hit the turbulent air and rainfall and were forced down into the Piedmont. Birders call this a fallout.
I knew the migration picture was changing as soon as I arose that morning. The trees in my yard, generally silent for most of the spring, were alive with new arrivals such as Baltimore oriole, orchard oriole, hooded warbler, magnolia warbler, Northern parula, and yellow warbler.
When I arrived at work on College Street, American redstarts, American goldfinches and chestnut-sided warblers were all in fine voice. An ovenbird shuffled into the landscape shadows as I entered the building.
I soon began getting messages from birders from all over the area extolling their morning’s productivity in finding the long-awaited travelers. I could hardly wait until lunchtime, when I would be able to take a stroll through Latta Park.
I was not disappointed when I did break away. The trees were alive with migrants moving through the tops, all contributing to a fine chorus. Blackpoll warblers, Cape May warblers, chestnut-sided warblers, Northern waterthrush, American redstarts, magnolia warblers, black-throated blue warblers, black-throated green warblers, scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore orioles, ovenbirds, Swainson’s thrushes and a veery make up a partial list of species that were present there.
The next day was still good for finding birds, but numbers were noticeably reduced. That’s how it often is with birding; you have to seize the moment when conditions are right.
Taylor Piephoff is a local naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com.
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