Do Migrating Birds Ever Get Confused?

After two incredible mornings of migration, today offered a little respite from the overwhelming magnitude witnessed (and counted!) recently.  Total flight was about 1/3 of what it was yesterday, understandably so with the weather offered today.

Rain showers arrived late last night, and continued until dawn.  This link shows last night’s radar, where birds had begun migrating, but had the storm systems come in and throw all of migration off, grounding some birds or perhaps forcing birds to change directions.

Many Red-wings were going the wrong way this morning.

Perhaps as a consequence of the storms, birds were migrating in all directions early this morning.  Just as many birds were heading east along the lake as there were heading west.  Within 30 minutes, birds were literally throwing on the brakes, and changing directions to follow other flocks.  By 8am, all migrating birds had righted themselves and were now flying the traditional west we come to expect up here.

Adding to the difficulty, this morning was very overcast, making bird ID more difficult, especially those far out over the lake.  Most passerines are identified by silhouette, so it doesn’t matter too much, but seeing any color on non icterids was out of the question today.

Better lighting later in the morning allowed for colors to begin showing in many of the migrating robins.

11,222 birds were logged this morning.  The most common, listed by abundance were: Red-winged Blackbird (4,367), Common Grackle (2,493), American Robin (2,079), European Starling (945), and Ring-billed Gull (752).

Other highlights today included Red-throated Loon, Black Scoters, Great Black-backed Gull, Tree Swallows, 72 Eastern Bluebirds, 4 Fox Sparrows, and 13 Rusty Blackbirds.  No winter finches were found, but a feeder just south of the state park was still hosting 6 Common Redpolls after the count period ended today.  Tomorrow looks to be interesting, with a few sites predicting SW to W winds, while others are saying NW.  The cork in this migration bottle is either staying open or will be closed tight.  We’ll have to show up and see!  If it’s slow we’ll share some photos on identifying these birds by silhouette only.

The complete season total now stands at 76,664 individual birds!


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