[CT Birds] Morning Flight and Bluff Part 2

David Provencher davidprovencher at sbcglobal.net
Sun Aug 29 21:10:56 EDT 2010

So what is "Morning Flight" and how does it play out at Bluff Point? Morning
flight is the continued migration of nocturnal migrants in the first hours
of daylight. As I said earlier, it is usually not seamless. There is
generally a period when the migrants land and rest before starting Morning
Flight. Avian migration is so complex and varied that one can only speak in
generalities, so let me throw that caveat out there first. Nocturnal
migrants, particularly in their first migration, migrate on a broad front.
They generally head in the right compass direction, as they become more
experienced it appears they use some landmarks to correct their courses.
Young birds just head in the right direction generally and learn their way
as they go. Here in southern New England, the coast runs east and west.
These migrants need to stay over land or very near to land so they can
alight and rest and refuel. When daylight comes, Morning Flighters change to
"Leading Edge" navigation and follow coast lines, ridges, river valleys,
etc., to continue to their wintering grounds. That change is what makes
Bluff Point's Hot Corner so good. It's about topography and bird behavior.


Bluff Point Coastal Reserve is a large undeveloped State of CT property that
has a central ridge that runs north and south. On its western boundary is
the Poquonnock River, which in turn is bounded on its west by the Groton/New
London Airport. Believe it or not, I am trying to be brief! So these
migrants start following the coast westwards since they have no choice in CT
but to head west to eventually head south, if they want to stay over land.
And yes some birds over shoot the land and come back from over the water of
LIS. So  these birds flood into Bluff and turn north along the ridge,
avoiding travelling over the wide river and wider open space of the airport.
When they get the Hot Corner, which is the northwestern most point of the
reserve, they have no choice. The reserve is bounded on the north by a
residential and commercial development. So to keep heading west they have to
fly into the open. Again this is all abetted for various reasons by a
northwest wind or a calm, windless morning. I don't have time to go into
that right now but it is absolutely key here. And fly into the open they do.
The "Hot Corner" is the western most point of the reserve and is reached
immediately after you drive under the railroad bridge at the reserve's
entrance. There is an Amtrak fence up the sort drive and that is where many
birders stand for this event. We have had some trouble in the past with
Amtrak police here. Occasionally they seem to think they can tell people on
State property that they have to leave, and I was told once by one of them
that she didn't want her boss to interrupt her coffee drinking so in essence
she was chasing me out of there as a proactive measure! I could say more but
it is better if I don't.


Dave Provencher

Naturally New England


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