[CT Birds] Afternoon thunderstorms, weather events that can cause good birding

Jamie Meyers ctredbird2 at comcast.net
Thu May 9 19:21:07 EDT 2013

I was en route to New Britain for a ballgame that got rained out when a line of reasonably heavy showers moved through. After it cleared I could hear a few songbirds that aren't usually present at the stadium singing from behind the outfield fence, including an Ovenbird. I went to extremes to get that species for New Britain once upon a time. Anyway, I have on more than one occasion had the experience of getting really good birds immediately after the passage of violent weather during the day, so I checked 4 reservoirs in the area. Unfortunately, there was nothing of interest on any of them. 

That said, though, a hard front, especially from the northwest, can act as a blocker and drive birds down. I am reminded of a day when the place where I work was dripping with birds at lunchtime after the passage of such a storm in mid-morning. There was a small flock of Short-billed Dowitchers in the small pond there, six species of flycatchers and a dozen Blackburnian Warblers in a small copse of trees near the pond. This is as close to a classic "fallout" as I have experienced in CT. I would submit that we don't actually get those events here, at least not as described in the literature or by old-time birders who would literally multiples of more than a dozen species of warblers in one tree. Now we just get good days interspersed amongst a lot of middling to average days. 

Anyway, inland lakes and reservoirs can be worth checking right after fronts too. Black Terns might be found in such places at the right time, or even Sterna-terns. Probably Commons I would imagine but they should be looked at carefully. Fran Zygmont found 4 Common Eiders on Barkhamsted Reservoir after a front came through, which is a fantastic bird inland. Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, grebes and Bonaparte's Gulls are also part of those events sometimes. 

If not a front, then other kinds of weather can drop birds too. I have had some well above average mornings when it's been misting and foggy. If it's clear out but fog or heavy clouds move in just before dawn, that might drop birds that would otherwise continue moving in better conditions. 

The comments about the state of this year's migration are well taken, by the way. I've ejoyed reading them. I have long resisted the idea that birds are moving earlier in the year, but certainly that's been the experience in the past couple of years. I do a walk for Hartford Audubon at Nepaug Reservoir on the third Sunday of May every year. Without doubt, this walk gets far fewer obvious migrants than it used to. I would have moved it to the second Sunday except it's Mother's Day. I often do a personal Big Day and have similar experiences going out around May 20, such that I've wondered if that's getting to be too late now. I guess the only conclusion to make is that every year is different, and the more we think we know, the less maybe that we actually do. Thus far certainly there aren't as many things around as there have been on May 9ths in the recent past. I do agree that it is early yet. Hopefully the floodgates will open soon. It probably won't happen tomorrow since I have the day off! 

Jamie Meyers 
Canton, CT 

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