Light migration over NJ, but the future is birdy!

Migration was hot and heavy last night, just not over our area. Here’s the midnight national composite showing the heavy flight over the Central and Mississippi flyways, as well as the Eastern up to Virginia.

Midnight national composite 051011
Midnight National NEXRAD Composite 051011


and here’s the radar for our region from sunset last night through 5:00am this morning.

Frames are every 1/2 hour. Click on the thumbnail to view the full-sized animation.

Base Reflectivity image from Fort Dix Base Velocity image from Fort Dix Base Reflectivity image from Dover AFB Base Velocity image from Dover AFB Base Reflectivity image from Upton NY Base Velocity image from Upton NY Composite Base Reflectivity image from the Northeastern USA 

A strong low-pressure system off the New England coast (you can see the western edge of it on the regional composite) is churning counter-clockwise and driving northwest winds down into the Northeastern US. This effectively shut down migration over the Northeast region last night, which you can see on both the regional composite as well as the Upton NY radar feed. Over NJ we did see a small and short-lived migration event on a SW->NE trajectory last night, so some stuff will have moved around today although I don’t expect any major differences from yesterday’s birding conditions. Take a look at the Fort Dix radar loop- and especially the velocity- where at just before 5:00am birds appear to leave Staten Island and head towards Sandy Hook. I’m not sure what this is (feel free to chime in) and while a reverse-migration of land birds would not be unheard of,  I suspect these are most likely shorebirds or gulls.

Otherwise things were pretty quiet over the region- but man, does the future look bright! Lots of birds appear to be heading this way from points south, especially along the east coast. The question will be whether a front can push far enough to the east to set up some southwesterly flow and keep the bulk of these birds along the east coast… and right now that scenario looks less-likely. Later this week the big oceanic storm will migrate south along the coast causing NNE winds offshore of the Mid-Atlantic. A front stretching from the Great Lakes to off of the Florida coast will set up light SE->NW winds over the region into the weekend, which will naturally favor inland migrant traps. As of this writing, the winds are forecast to be exceptionally light leading into the weekend, so there is some hope for some of the migration cloud to reach the coast… stay tuned!

In the meantime our Rutgers Scarlet Knight-Herons are pedaling our way around Cape Island, trying to scout every nook and cranny for the upcoming World Series of Birding. We’re competing in the Cape Island Cup and Carbon Footprint Cup categories and hope to break the 150 species mark between midnight on Friday and midnight on Saturday. Right now we’re coming up very short on our fundraising efforts, and haven’t even raised enough to cover our entrance fees. I’m sure most of this has to do with our last-minute ability to get our team together, so I’m really hoping for a late-game rally from the community. If you can support us with a $$ per bird pledge, please email me with your pledge (25 cents, 50 cents, 1 dollar / bird, etc.). If you’d just like to make a flat donation, that’s awesome too! You can send a check to my work, made out to Rutgers EcoGSA (please put WorldSeriesOfBirding in the memo so they know where it’s coming from!) at the following address:

David A. La Puma
Postdoctoral Associate
New Jersey Audubon Society
600 Route 47 North
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210

And if you’d like to use paypal, any donations made to between now and Sunday, via the link on this page, will go directly to our WSB fundraising efforts.

Thank you again (and again, and again) for your support- and Good Birding!


5 responses to “Light migration over NJ, but the future is birdy!”

  1. We returned to Garret Mtn today. Species diversity was less than yesterday but was still very nice to walk around and see birds. Big surprise was the Olive-Sided Flycatcher up at the stables. We had 13 sp. of warbler inc. 6 Nashville, uptick in Magnolias. Blackburnian seen by others. Other birds seen by us Purple Finch, Least Flycatcher, 2 Swainson’s Thrush.
    Pine Siskin and Winter Wren and Lincoln Sparrow reported by others.

  2. I’m a little confused about your forecaste for the next few days… the NWS says that DC should have SE and S winds for Wed. and Thursday night respectfuly. Shouldn’t that indiate that all these birds just south of us will come flooding in for great birding Thursday and Friday mornings?

    Or are you saying that the question is wether birding will ALSO be great along the NJ coast?

    Either way, we had good birding around here in DC – 16 warbler species this morning at a local forested ridge (Fort totten).

    • Jason-

      Sorry for any confusion- YES the future looks bright for inland folks (like you in DC) but less so for coastal folks (like me in Cape May) because of the easterly component to the wind and the fact that most nocturnally migrating land birds do not originate over water. Your prospects for the weekend are excellent! Enjoy!

  3. I’ll chime in on the “reverse migration” from staten island to sandy hook. I would suspect that the signals being picked up on the radar were gulls and/or geese. Having lived most of my life on staten island I’ve (and others) wondered if sandy hook was a springboard for landbirds moving in to the south shore of staten island (from great kills park to conference house park). Now that I’m in NJ and spend most of my birding days at the hook there doesn’t seem to be much of a correlation between “good days” at the hook and good birding days along staten island. I’m often in contact with friends on staten island when the hook is birdy, but quite often, some of the south shore migrant traps on staten island aren’t as busy, and sometimes downright slow. There are days when I get good landbird reports from staten island, and I’m wondering where the birds are at the hook.

    One thing pointed out to me by Tom Boyle, someone with far more experience birding the hook than me, is that birds that settle into the hook overnight and at first light tend to move back south on the hook (which many raptors do as well), or move west across sandy hook bay and the shrewsbury/navesink. This is supported by my banding efforts as well, as I tend to capture more birds on the south facing sides of my nets in the early morning, and as the morning continues, more birds in the north facing side as birds push back south.

    There are times when migrants just seem to overshoot the hook in the morning, as flocks of birds push over the northern end of the hook, it’s likely that some of these birds will land on staten island, or if there are strong SW or W winds, possibly across the entrance to Raritan bay to the rockaways.

    • Thanks Tom!

      I did see the same pattern today. It would be interesting for someone to try and visualize what’s going on here… it’s should be apparent on the ground as the birds are obviously flying at low altitude. As far as the weather/migration pattern link – I’m definitely going to investigate this further and come back to you with some ideas/questions. I’m really glad you chimed in! Cheers -David


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