Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Morning is the best time for birding...or is it? Thoughts from Couturie.

Yesterday I was treated to a nice show of migrants in a one-hour visit to the Couturie Forest in City Park:
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Yellow-billed Cuckoo
4 Eastern Kingbird
1 Eastern Wood-Pewee
10 Red-eyed Vireo
7 Yellow-throated Vireo
2 Wood Thrush
1 Veery
1 Gray-cheeked Thrush (doubtfully a Swainson's)
1 Gray Catbird
1 Black-and White Warbler
1 Yellow Warbler
2 Chestnut-sided Warbler
1 Magnolia Warbler
7 Scarlet Tanager
8 Summer Tanager
1 Orchard Oriole
2 Blue Grosbeak
12 Indigo Bunting
3 Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Would it surprise you to know that such a nice list was tallied from 5-6 pm?  Isn't that a less than ideal time for birding?

The answer is that, yes, morning is best for birding- usually.  But one of the exceptions is that of spring migration on and near the Gulf Coast.  The reason is that migrating birds coming across the Gulf of Mexico usually cannot reach our area until the afternoon, so that there is often an influx late in the day- sometimes making afternoon better than morning.

After a good afternoon arrival event, if there is inclement weather (head winds, rain) that persists after sunset, the arrivals generally stick around in good numbers- in which case the following morning can also be really good.  It might be even better, given that the weather may clear in the interim and provide better viewing conditions, and the birds may also become more visible due to their usual morning up-tick in activity.  But if the nocturnal weather is fair and a southerly tail-wind prevails, afternoon arrivals are likely to be gone the next morning.

Were most of the birds on my list afternoon arrivals?  Without having been there earlier the same day to provide a comparison, it is hard to know.  But the spring phenomenon of afternoon arrivals is well worth factoring into decisions about when to go birding!


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