Just call me a bird nerd

Gretchen Steele The Indigo Bunting Is One Of Illinois Most Colorful And Common Summer Songbirds 0968
The indigo bunting is one of Illinois' most colorful and common summer songbirds. (Gretchen Steele)

Just call me a bird nerd, I suppose. I don’t think I fall into the hard-core birder category by any means; at best, I am a casual bird watcher. But, I love photographing birds, and my all-time love of waterfowl has led me to be fascinated with migration, migratory periods, and migratory paths. More recently, I have been watching how migratory routes seem to be changing. I’m also trying to see  how changing weather patterns bring species to areas and ranges that previously weren’t part of their usual route or home.

I’m also a bit of a science geek. I remember being terribly excited when my good friend and meteorologist Nick Hausen (now Chief Meteorologist for WSIL_TV in Carterville, IL) taught me how to use radar to note waterfowl movements. He also taught me how to use weather tools and apps to enhance not just my waterfowl hunting but all my hunting.

Consequently, you can imagine how excited I was to get notification of Cornell’s Bird Cast’s latest bird nerd tool.

Cornell’s recent release says, “There’s a new way to view one of nature’s great unseen spectacles: the massive migration of billions of birds across the night sky. For any county in the Lower 48, BirdCast can now detail the number, speed, direction, and altitude of the birds cruising through the darkness on spring and fall nights—along with suggesting which species are most likely. And if you’re not a night owl, you can catch up with the previous night’s action the next day. ”

Holy smokes! Now I can just put in my County and get multiple types of information about the previous night’s migration.

In Spring 2018, the BirdCast team unveiled two migration monitoring tools: 1)  migration forecasts and 2)  real-time analysis maps of the intensities of nocturnal bird migration. These tools made tracking migrations easier and were widely available to the public on their website. Then in late April of 2022, Bird Cast introduced its newest tool, the BirdCast Migration Dashboard.

This easy-to-use and navigate dashboard allows users to access radar-based summaries of nocturnal bird migration at a much more detailed level than had previously been available through the other bird cast tools. Now we bird nerds can enter a specific county and find a wealth of information that includes; estimates of the total number of birds migrating, the birds’ movement directions, speeds, and altitudes. Currently, the dashboard provides data for the contiguous US. Enjoyable and valuable for bird enthusiasts is the “Expected Nocturnal Migrants” section. In this section, you can find a list of the species most likely to be arriving or departing the area you enter in the dashboard. How handy will that be for bird enthusiasts and waterfowl hunters wondering what types of waterfowl are showing up where each migratory season.

For fun, click here and see what was happening in my neighborhood on May 13, 2022 – a peak night of spring migration.

I encourage all who enjoy following the migrations, whether bird enthusiast or hunter to visit The Bird Migration Dashboard and see what’s happening in your neighborhood at night. You might be surprised!

Categories: — — Illinois – Gretchen Steele

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