Thursday, May 12, 2016

Countdown to the WSB: Notes on birds and weather

The 33rd Annual World Series of Birding is right around the corner! Am I tired? You bet. Am I excited? **** Yes! This game isn't just about the 24 hours of the main event; it's everything: the months of planning, the appeals to prospective donors (thank you! thank you! thank you!), and the exhilaration of seeing so many faces, both familiar and new, of the birders who make their way to New Jersey for the biggest birding fundraiser of the year.

This spring has been different, though. The weather hasn't been good. It has been amazing! Low pressure over New Jersey has set up shop, and as a result strong westerly flow has affected birds migrating over the carolinas and Virginia, while light and variable winds over southern New Jersey have either had no effect, or put birds down statewide. This perfect storm of wind vectors and the addition of precipitation has lead to some of the most amazing fallouts of birds I've ever seen in spring Cape May! But what about on Game Day? What does the weather look like? 

The weather forecasts leading up to the weekend have been poor at best. That said, if the forecast is moderately accurate going forward, there are a few points that seem safe to make.
  1. The first one is not weather-forecast related at all, really...but it's important! There are lots of birds currently on the playing field. I mean L O T S of birds. Over 30 species of warbler have been tallied in Cape May County over the last 48 hours and the last big wave of boreal songbirds (Cape May Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, etc.) have been hitting central and northern NJ yesterday and presumably today. Flycatchers have been hitting southern NJ over the last week but empids (other than Acadian) are scarce thus far (as I type this, the first Eastern Wood-Peewee sang outside the window; clearly a new arrival this morning). 

  2. Friday and Saturday will experience precipitation across the state as a series of cold fronts move through on both days. The timing of these fronts so far looks like they will convey birds up into the playing field during both Friday and Saturday nights, and the combination of precipitation and migration will mean birds being grounded throughout the area. 

  3. Wind will build on Saturday which will be a consideration for both listening for birds, and finding them in exposed areas. Plan your route accordingly for nocturnal flight call listening on Friday night, and sheltered listening on Saturday night. This year promises to be a great one for those teams who can roll with the unpredictable weather!
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Accumulated Precipitation Forecast for the Mid-Atlantic region from Thursday through Sunday AM. Note the two fronts moving through the region during Friday and Saturday. 

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Surface wind forecast for the region from Friday through Sunday AM.

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Winds aloft forecast for the region from Friday through Sunday AM.

So as you can see, the weather for the 33rd Annual World Series of Birding is interesting, to say the least. In preparation for the Big Day, please try and have at least one member from your team attend the swap meet. This will ensure you have the most up-to-date scouting reports.

For the South, the Swap Meet will be held at 6:30pm at the Center for Research and Education, 600 Route 47 North, Cape May Court House, NJ 08212.

The Northern Swap Meet will take place at Jumboland Diner at 6:30 pm on Thursday, May 12th. It is being loosely organized by Jackson Mesick, who can be reached at jmesick@bu.edu. The address is 438 US-206, Branchville, NJ 07826

And now for some eye-candy, all taken in the last few days in Cape May while scouting for the World Series of Birding...

Cape May Warbler © Michael Lanzone 2016

Black-throated Green Warbler © Michael Lanzone 2016

Black-throated Blue Warbler © Michael Lanzone 2016

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher © Michael Lanzone 2016

Mixed shorebird flock including 15+ Purple Sandpipers © Michael Lanzone 2016

Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warbler © David La Puma 2016

Prothonotary Warbler © David La Puma 2016

Indigo Bunting © David La Puma 2016

Orchard Oriole © David La Puma 2016

Bobolink © David La Puma 2016

Northern Waterthrush © David La Puma 2016

(Yellow) Palm Warbler © David La Puma 2016

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