[CT Birds] Finding migrants and Bluff prediction

David Provencher davidprovencher at sbcglobal.net
Thu Sep 13 09:42:19 EDT 2012

To echo and slightly expand on Paul's and Greg's post; Fall migration is
different than Spring migration for a number of reasons. As noted,
understanding the migrants' behavior helps in finding and observing them. On
migration, the very first thing in the day that many Fall migrants do is
called "Morning Flight." This is a continuation of their migration and is
generally speaking carried out along the direction the migrants need to go
to reach the wintering grounds. This movement is affected by geography and
topography, but is in essence carried out individually or in very small
groups or pairs. So finding migrants first thing in the day can be aided by
searching areas that hold geographic and/or topographic features that will
cause either a buildup of moving birds or that will funnel them through a
small area. Places such as Bluff Point's hot corner, Hammonassett's
"islands", Sherwood Island's tree stands, isolated hilltops, city parks,
etc. Later in the day (and by later I am talking about by mid morning on)
many of the migrants start to form loose roving mixed flocks as they forage.
This reflects the behavior that many of them exhibit for most of their lives
during the non-breeding period. As Greg pointed out, it can be extremely
helpful to pay attention to birds we consider "common" and resident, like
Black-capped Chickadee (though they aren't truly resident per se) since the
Neotropic migrants will often form mixed feeding flocks that include
Chickadees, Titmouses, White-breasted Nuthatches, etc. So keying in on
Chickadee calls may well lead you to finding Warblers, Vireos, and others.
And as Greg also pointed out, where the morning sun hits and warms trees and
foliage is also a likely place to find these travelers since the sunlight
not only warms the birds but more importantly attracts and warms the insects
that these migrants need to refuel.

As for Bluff Point's hot corner; the next morning that looks promising at
the moment is Sunday morning. The flight will likely not be large (probably
a few hundred warblers or more, and others of course) but the conditions
predicted look good for some nice views of what does move through (within
the context of the phenomenon of course!). The period that usually sees the
greatest number of migrants pass through the hot corner is the last week of
September and the first week of October. This is largely due to the overlap
in neotropic migrant movement and the "Sparrow" movement at that time. While
warbler diversity will be decidedly falling off by that point, and the
flight will be increasingly dominated by large numbers of Yellow-rumped
Warblers, the overall flight can be truly impressive, in the tens of
thousands. AND, it is the time of increasing likelihood of rarities!


Dave Provencher

Naturally New England
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Subject: Re: [CT Birds] Finding migrants

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