[Tweeters] perception of spring migration

Jim Danzenbaker jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
Sun May 16 10:30:15 PDT 2021

Hi Andy, Gary, and Tweeters,

I really appreciate this thread as it addresses a concern of mine regarding
what I've been seeing in the quantity of neotropical migrants at my usual
birding haunts in Clark County this year.

Like many (or probably most) of you, the return of neotropical migrants
into our area is a sign that things are as they should be - nature is on
it's regular cycle, birds are singing, their song and color are in the air,
and we're all trying to capture the moments with binoculars and cameras,
eBird checklists, and etched memories. This year, I was really looking
forward to the second half of April when the first returning warblers would
appear in my yard, dawn choruses would be enhanced with their song, flashes
of yellow would appear in the bushes, etc. It didn't happen. The
beginning of May came and went - hardly any warblers, tanagers,
flycatchers, etc. Mid-May is here and there are a few neotropical
returnees around but nothing like what I would have expected. Last year, I
had migrant birds everywhere in my neighborhood and it seemed that most
other places being reported on tweeters were experiencing similar numbers.
My dataset only covers two years since I am usually out of town from mid
April through at least the 20th of May (except last year of course). The
analyst in me wanted to know why but, obviously, I could only come up with
speculation such as:

1.) The April and May weather has been stunningly beautiful - if you like
that kind of thing. It seems like most days have been 100% sunshine, none
of the scattered showers with cooler temps. This may have been great for
the migrants but not great for those of us looking for the migrants. Are
the birds just cruising overhead to their breeding sites without being
knocked out of the sky by bad weather and into our neighborhoods? Reports
of Orange-crowned Warblers and Pacific-slope Flycatchers etc being seen in
the usual numbers on their breeding grounds north of me were driving me
crazy. Good for the migrants!

2.) The Cornell study stated that bird numbers have dropped by 3 billion.
This is obviously tragic but it didn't happen from last year to this year.
This happened over time so I don't think this would skew the numbers
from last year to this year as much as the drop in birds from last year to
this year that I've seen.

3.) All the fires from last year that extended from Washington through
California probably had an impact because these fires were burning in the
Fall when our neotropical migrants were heading south. If any of us were
having a hard time breathing with the amount of smoke in the air, what must
it have been like for our feathered friends trying to breath as they passed
through these impacted areas? Did we lose a higher than average number of
neotropical migrants during the fires?

4.) The catastrophic loss of birds that occurred in the Rockys last Fall as
a result of an early storm and accompanying cold weather may have impacted
birds that would have been returning to our area. Estimates of the number
of birds killed in that one event number in the millions.

5.) Did some as yet undetermined event happen on their wintering grounds or
passage areas that we may not know about? Who knows.

Obviously the only way to get a handle on the number of birds that have
returned to our area or that have successfully arrived back to their usual
breeding haunts will be best determined by the results of Breeding Bird
Surveys. We can only hope that #1 above is the main reason for seeing
lower than the usual number of neotropical migrants.

In the meantime, I wholeheartedly agree with Andy when he stated...
"Advocacy for birds is extremely important right now and we can all
contribute to that effort and I encourage all of us to support an
organization working for birds and legislation to support birds and their
habitat needs."

Sorry, I've taken up too much of your time so I'll sign off.

Keep your ears and eyes skyward!


Battle Ground, Clark County

On Sat, May 15, 2021 at 5:35 PM Andy McCormick <andy_mcc at hotmail.com> wrote:

> Hello Tweeters,


> This is an important conversation regarding the numbers of birds in this

> spring’s migration. Gary’s data are important and help provide a longer

> term basis for assessment. Michael’s long history at Marymoor Park will

> also provide some good perspective. The unevenness in the reporting with

> scarcity reported in some places and good numbers in others is another

> important factor to consider.

> We are all aware of the hammering that neotropical migrants have been

> taking over the past few decades from habitat loss, insecticides killing

> their food sources, and a warming climate disrupting the previously more

> stable annual rhythm of life. The Cornell report of 3 billion birds, that

> is 1/3 of North American birds, lost in the past 30 years cautioned that

> this trend in the decline of birds is likely to continue. Similar declines are

> occurring in the Africa to Europe and Asia bird migrations.

> With 1/3 fewer birds migrating we are less likely to see a widespread

> influx of birds, and the spotty and uneven clusters of migrating birds we

> are experiencing is a likely outcome of this population decline and a

> more likely scenario for our birding future, unless we turn around the

> ongoing decline of these beautiful birds.

> Advocacy for birds is extremely important right now and we can all

> contribute to that effort and I encourage all of us to support an

> organization working for birds and legislation to support birds and their

> habitat needs. We have done it before with banning DDT and saving the Bald

> Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, and Brown Pelican. We can do it again for migrating

> birds.


> Regards to all,


> Andy McCormick

> Bellevue, WA


> Get Outlook for iOS <https://aka.ms/o0ukef>

> ------------------------------

> *From:* Tweeters <tweeters-bounces at mailman11.u.washington.edu> on behalf

> of Gary Bletsch <garybletsch at yahoo.com>

> *Sent:* Saturday, May 15, 2021 7:55 AM

> *To:* Tweeters Tweeters

> *Subject:* [Tweeters] perception of spring migration


> Dear Tweeters,


> Thanks to one and all for the interesting reports of spring migrants.

> Although I do remember saying to some birding friends that migration seemed

> a bit thin or slow, it has not seemed markedly so. I just checked my

> records for the first twelve days of May, covering the years 2018, 2019,

> 2020, and 2021, Skagit County only. My birding effort was similar in these

> four years. Here is a summary from these data.


> 2018, 4418 birds of 132 species.


> 2019, 2948 birds of 121 species.


> 2020, 5434 birds of 144 species.


> 2021, 5809 birds of 129 species.


> To me, these data show 2021 to be unremarkable. I can't help thinking that

> pandemic fatigue may be coloring everyone's perceptions of this year. I

> will say that there do seem to be slightly fewer neotropical migrants in my

> yard this spring. However, there are more Violet-green Swallows at my place

> than usual. In fact, they have taken over two of my birdhouses, one of

> which had been used previously by Tree Swallows, the other by House

> Sparrows.


> Yours truly,


> Gary Bletsch

> _______________________________________________

> Tweeters mailing list

> Tweeters at u.washington.edu

> http://mailman11.u.washington.edu/mailman/listinfo/tweeters


Jim Danzenbaker
Battle Ground, WA
jdanzenbaker at gmail.com
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