Thursday, April 30, 2015

April 30th, 2015

Tonight's paltry migration
May is nearly upon us!

While this last night of April promises little in the way of migration, it appears that May will arrive with a bang. Tonight's decisively northerly winds are set to give way to weaker, leaning southerly-based winds tomorrow night. Along with this transition of winds, tonight's paucity of migration will undoubtedly give way to more migration tomorrow night. There remains potential for some spectacular movements, so keep your eyes on the wind and radar tomorrow evening.
Tonight's unfavorable, northerly
winds. Click image to view live.

Spectacular movements, provided the wind forecast stays true, are almost guaranteed for Saturday night. Put another way, this year's first heavy concentrations of migration are extremely likely on Saturday night, with a chance for them tomorrow (Friday) night as well. The southerly tailwinds forecast to facilitate this migration are also forecast to last at least until Monday, when high pressure is set to divvy up the state's winds. Exciting stuff, eh? At this point, it looks like we'll have notable movements on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

Cool! Curious what you'll find out there Saturday or Sunday mornings? Of course you are! Check this eBird page for Illinois bird bar charts, or check BirdCast's latest national migration forecast. BirdCast really does a spectacular job; their reports are what inspired these.

With that, I hope you have a great night and an even better time birding tomorrow!

Exciting winds forecast for Saturday night.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

April 29th, 2015

Winds tonight. Click to view live.
Tonight's radar
Short report tonight, as northerly winds predominant in Illinois tonight. In most places, migration is less-than-light, most birds being kept down by the unfavorable headwinds. Southern and southwestern Illinois are the exceptions, with light to moderate concentrations showing bright blues and greens on the radar tonight. With the exception of those locations, though, arrivals and influxes should be pretty sparse tomorrow. Keep in mind that diurnal migrants (like swallows or most shorebirds) can still be moving northward during these conditions, so checking the lakefront is never a bad idea.

Now for a check-in on the forecast leading into this weekend. Disappointingly, it looks like Friday night may not hold the strong tailwinds once predicted. However, these stronger tailwinds are being replaced by weak and confused winds, which may still allow migration into Saturday morning, so I'll keep you posted. Saturday and Sunday nights, on the other hand, are looking to be extremely favorable, with strong southerly tailwinds to usher the birds northward. Whereas last night's report predicted that either Saturday or Sunday mornings could be the highlight of the weekend, it's now clear that Sunday morning will be the highlight. Big movements are expected, with the kind of arrivals that add a number of species to your list. I'm excited. You?
Winds forecast for Saturday night. Get

Good stuff. To keep track of what you'll be finding out there, here's that perpetually useful eBird page.

Have a great night, all, and good birding!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

April 28th, 2015 (+ 4/27 summary)

Radar from 4/27
Evening everyone,

First of all, I apologize for the absence of a report last night. Luckily, very little was moving over Illinois to be reported on in the first place. Hardly light concentrations showed up on the radar, appearing mostly in northern and southwestern Illinois. While little was migrating last night, shorebird movement along Lake Michigan was undoubtedly one of today's highlights. American Avocet in particular showed a notable movement today, with individuals appearing on beaches of both Cook and Lake Counties.
Tonight's radar.

With that, let's move on to tonight. The story is slightly different tonight: while last night Northern Illinois saw the densest migration in the state, tonight it has shifted down southward. The reason for this? The Prairie State as a whole is dominated by northeasterly headwinds, but these winds have become notably weaker in Illinois' southern third. For this reason, eager-to-migrate birds are flying aloft at light to moderate concentrations there. Depending on how long these winds stay weak, there may be some apparent arrivals and influxes in Southern Illinois tomorrow. 

Tonight's winds. Click to view live.
But alas, the big cover story is still about how winds will set the stage for a grand weekend of birding. Tomorrow night, winds are forecast to be northerly in most places except the western half of the state. In these places, weak easterly winds will prevail, which may permit more migration. This brings us to Friday night. Friday night is looking up to be the opening of a door for spring migration of a larger magnitude. With the exception (there always seem to be exceptions) of some eastern portions of Illinois, winds are forecast to be southerly. Better yet is the forecast for Saturday night, predicting stronger, southerly based tailwinds for migrants to seize. SO, it looks like Saturday and Sunday mornings should make for some fine birding, perhaps with Sunday being the highlight of the two.

If you're looking ahead to what you'll find this weekend, or what's out there now, check out this eBird page or the latest BirdCast Migration Forecast.

That's all for tonight, folks! Until tomorrow, I bid you all adieu (shout-out to Beau Schaefer).

Winds forecast for Friday night. Note that southerly winds are distributed in a western portion of the state, while winds
are extremely weak in southeastern and much of Central Illinois. Strictly speaking, there are no headwinds in the
forecast. For that reason, given the migratory restlessness felt by birds at this time of year, this forecast may mean
moderate to heavy concentrations of migration throughout the Prairie State.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

April 26th, 2015

Tonight's radar. A li
le bit of avian noise
s. and n. IL, 
ng to get excited 
Short report tonight. Winds are northerly throughout Illinois tonight (the winds are extending southward almost to the Gulf of Mexico, by now), and as such little is moving tonight. There are some less-than-light concentrations aloft in some areas of Illinois, but if that's all, we shouldn't see many new arrivals and influxes tomorrow. So that's that.
Tonight's decisively northerly

Looking ahead, it seems that more and more forecasts (and forecasters) are focusing on next weekend as the next big push. Weak, southerly-based winds are forecast to be in Northern Illinois next Thursday. By Friday, the whole state is set to be under the influence of southerly winds. What does this mean? It means Saturday the 5th may be utterly spectacular. Here's looking forward to that!

With that, I'll share our favorite eBird page of Illinois bird frequencies, and bid you all a good night.


This is the current wind forecast for ne-
xt Friday (May 1st) night. Southerly ba-
sed winds throughout the state and the
time of year means Friday night may be 
the pulling of a trigger.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 25th, 2015

Well today was exciting! Birders around the state were out there finding cool things today. Headliner species today were as diverse as Little Gull, Rusty Blackbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Bonaparte's Gull, Lark Sparrow, Piping Plover, Franklin's Gull, Smith's Longspur, Surf Scoter, Snowy Egret, and Cape May Warbler. Along with these sightings, more common species like Palm Warbler, Common Loon, and kinglets were out and about as well. It seems that for most birders that braved the rain today, there were some exciting avian rewards. Today was a nice prequel to what we'll have within the next couple weeks. Want an even clearer preview? Check out the MASSIVE concentrations of birds moving over the Texas Coast. Over Texans heads journey almost 2000 individual birds per cubic kilometer of sky. Many of them our headed our way.
Note the green spheroids over the Texas coast. Green represents nearly 2,000 birds in motion per cubic kilometer
of sky. Nature's really going for the wow factor down there. Not to worry; we'll get our wow factor soon enough.

The cold front that dis-
posed of favorable con-
ditions in IL.
When they will get here is still difficult to predict. Today, a cold front ushered northerly winds over the whole of Illinois, and as such nothing is migrating. This trend is set to continue for a couple more days, but starting Tuesday night, southerly-based winds are forecast for small portions of the Prairie State. Local-scale migration will probably start then and continue sporadically until Thursday or Friday night's, when BOOM: Southerly winds return throughout Illinois. I certainly hope the forecast holds true; next weekend should be epic if it does.
Tonight's radar. A litt-
le different than in TX,

I'll keep you posted. And as always, checking the eBird data can never hurt.

Good stuff, everyone. Looking forward to seeing where the spring takes us.

Friday, April 24, 2015

April 24th, 2015

Tonight's winds. Click to view live. 
Note southerly winds in most of IL,
except in Northern IL, where rain is 
keeping birds grounded anyway.
Good news! Tonight, unexpectedly, high pressure has brought strong, southerly-based winds over Illinois. These winds are much stronger than the forecast predicted last night, and as such provide a much stronger tailwind for migrants. For these reasons, birds are moving in light to moderate concentrations tonight, save where storm systems boom overhead. But wait! There's one more detail to observe. Tonight, much of the state is glossed over by cloud cover. Because cloud cover prevents birds from reaching higher flight altitudes, they are forced to fly lower. This lower flight altitude means that if you're in an area where it isn't raining, tonight is the perfect opportunity to listen for nocturnal flight calls (NFC's). Tom Auer, a biologist with the National Audubon Society, has been sharing some fascinating content on this topic. In updates not unlike these migration reports, he focuses more on NFC's, including eBird lists detailing what calls overhead at night. Check his blog out here.

To get back to migration in Illinois, migration is essentially occurring everywhere but in Northern Illinois, where a long line of storm activity is keeping them down.

Radar at the time of this
In line with last night's forecast, winds are not predicted to be favorable any time soon. If tonight's forecast holds true, birds may not be moving en masse until next Saturday night. Keep in mind, however, that the further into the future a forecast is, the more subject to change it becomes. As always, I'll keep you updated.

Good stuff! Keep your eyes peeled for species whose frequencies in IL are detailed here. It's not unreasonable to expect that you'll find some new birds tomorrow, provided it's not raining where you are. Good luck to those of you who find your way out there.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

April 23rd, 2015

High pressure dominates the center of
the continent

Tonight, the winds have panned out exactly as predicted, with winds being unfavorable in most places. Overall in Illinois, we could generalize by saying that we will see little more than light migration any time tonight. Driven by high pressure across the Midwest, northerly winds are the rule, keeping birds grounded and waiting for the next batch of tailwinds. As birders, listers, chasers, and feederwatchers, we're down here waiting with them.

But as with most rules, there are exceptions tonight. Far Southern and Southwestern Illinois, as was forecast last night, are receiving slightly altered winds tonight. Winds there have taken on a much stronger easterly component, being either east/northeasterly or even east/southeasterly depending on where/when you look. What does this mean? It means that in Far Southern and Southwestern Illinois, birds are moving tonight, perhaps even reaching moderate concentrations by later tonight (that's around 71-227 birds per cubic kilometer of sky, whereas light migrations are only 59-71 birds). If you're birding in those regions tomorrow, expect some arrivals and influxes.

Tonight's winds
Let's look at the wind forecast now. Tomorrow night shows some promise, with favorable southerly winds predicted in Southern and Central Illinois, but confused directionality and weakness in those winds may disappoint. That, we shall see. From there, winds are forecast to be unfavorably northerly all the way until Thursday the 30th. Though this may mean limited migration until then, consider this: if the forecast holds true, how much migration will be itching to happen that Thursday night? The answer to that question gets me excited.

Winds forecast for next Thurs.,
April 30th
Curious what species you'll find out there? As always, eBird provides resources to save the day.

With that, I will bid you all ado for the night. Good birding!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

April 22nd, 2015

Note the oncoming "H", a sys-
tem around which winds rota-
te clockwise
 Evening everyone,

Did you think last night's report was short? Wait until you read this one:

Thanks to an oncoming high pressure system, Illinois is currently occupied by strong, northwesterly winds. This means, you guessed it, essentially no migration in Illinois tonight. So that's that.

Tonight's radar
The forecast, at least for the next two days, doesn't include any nights wherein all of Illinois is favorable for migration. Tomorrow night, only the furthest western edge of the state is forecast to have westerly winds tomorrow. Friday night, Southern and Central Illinois is forecast to have southerly winds, so if the forecast holds up, Saturday morning may be good for your lists.

That's all for tonight, folks. As always, if you're curious about what birds are out there tonight, look no further than this handy eBird page.

Good birding everyone!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

April 21st, 2015

Hey all,

It's late and not much is moving, so I'll make this a quickie.

With the exception of some less-than-light movement in Southern Illinois, precipitation and northerly winds are keeping birds down tonight. As a result, we expect little in the way of arrivals and influxes tomorrow morning. Same story as last night.

Looking ahead, the forecast for Friday night continues to show the most promise, with strong southerly-based winds to serve as a tailwind. Until then, any southerly winds are forecast to be spotty and ephemeral, but as always, I'll keep you updated.

With that, I'll share our handy eBird page for predicting what species you'll see tomorrow, and bid you a hearty buenas noches.

Winds forecast for Friday night

Monday, April 20, 2015

April 20th, 2015

Winds at the time of this

Hey folks,

Tonight, I won't be able to write a report come nightfall, so I'm going to write an early and somewhat truncated report now. Let's get to it.

Most important to observe as always are the winds. The Prairie State is currently dominated by strong northwesterly winds, resulting in unfavorable conditions for migration. So while I can't look at the radar for birds now, it seems likely that very little will be migrating tonight.

Winds forecast for Tuesday night...
not very favorable anymore
How about the forecast? Unfortunately, the wind forecast has again shifted, placing northerly winds over Illinois on Tuesday night. While migrants may still be in the skies of Southern Illinois, this bodes poorly for much migration the rest of the week. The only promising forecast is that for Friday night, and given how far into the future that is, I'm sure the wind forecast we see tonight will be utterly unlike what we see on Friday. SO, overall, it appears this week is going to be a time of refuelling for the birds (or at least nocturnal migrants), which just gives us birders more time to find them.

Speaking of finding birds, predict just what species you'll find with this handy eBird page.

And that's all she wrote! I'll be back at it with you tomorrow night,

Sunday, April 19, 2015

April 19th, 2015

Tonight's radar, showing more
rain than birds.
Good evening,

Well folks, in comparison to last night's very apparent migration, things have definitely quieted down tonight. A collection of low pressure centers, cold fronts, and dry lines (see left) have done a number of the conditions that we had last night. While winds are southwesterly in most places, the full story is quite a bit more complicated. View it here on the wind map. What do these conditions mean? Powerful winds, dynamic pressure, and precipitation are basically keeping birds earthbound tonight. While some birds are moving now in southeastern Illinois, precipitation moving eastward will soon put an end to that. In short, few arrivals or influxes expected for tomorrow.

Tonight's winds
With that in mind, what does the forecast present us with? Good question, fellow forecaster! Tomorrow night is forecast to be dominated by westerly winds, which may allow light concentrations of migration. Tuesday night, as predicted last night is still the next time for southerly winds. But, as often happens, the forecast has changed. As it's depicted now, winds are forecast to be favorable southerly in only the southern half of the state. The northern half will be steeped in less favorable west/northwesterly winds. As is our M.O., we'll keep an eye on the radar and see what happens.

Now that we've covered that, all that's left is to link our handy eBird page.

Thanks for reading, everybody! Good luck to all those birding tomorrow!
Winds forecast for Tuesday night

Saturday, April 18, 2015

April 18th, 2015

Tonight's winds
Fellow Illinoisans!

For those of you still up, let's take a look at what's over our heads tonight. Most important are the east/southeasterly winds over Southern and Central Illinois. These winds are more conducive to migration than what's happening in Northern Illinois, as we'll see, but fear not about reduced migration. Let's divvy Illinois up by Northern, Central, and Southern regions (Central and Southern IL will be grouped) to analyze the complexities of tonight's winds, weather, and migration:

Tonight's radar
Tonight, a low pressure system has been rotating a little faster than expected, bringing a cold front southward over Northern Illinois like a curtain closing a play. This curtain is composed of northeasterly winds, propelled downward by the aforementioned cold front. SO, if we look at those conditions that tend to be favorable for migration, seeing anything "north" in the winds is generally not a good thing. But tonight, birds are persevering through the Prairie State with remarkable consistency. Northern Illinois is host to the same light to moderate concentrations of migration that are seen in Central and Southern Illinois. On the radar, this is resulting in a remarkably consistent blue stain over Illinois, with black patches only visible in the wake of oncoming storm systems. What does all this mean? It means that tomorrow morning, if you can get out before the rain, you should observe some notable arrivals and influxes.

Winds forecast for
Sunday night
Well that's good news! Looking ahead, Sunday night may also be favorable for migration throughout the state, though in many places it may be disrupted by precipitation. With the approach of a low pressure center, winds will be weakly southerly throughout the state until around 10 AM on Monday. From there, the wind forecast puts our next batch of southerly winds on Tuesday night. Until then, I'll keep you posted.

Tonight, the story is relatively simpler in Central and Southern Illinois. Winds there are consistently southeasterly. Resulting from these consistent winds is consistent migration, forming concentrations aloft in the light to moderate range (~59-227 birds per cubic kilometer of sky; radar here). This means the same thing it has meant for the past few days now: arrivals and influxes. Though these past few days have reportedly been exciting times to bird, it will be interesting to see if there's an added vigor to tomorrow morning's migrants as they rush (in groups) to find resources before the onset of precipitation. Keep an eye on the radar; if you are in an area where storm activity is set to hit shortly before sunrise, migratory fallout is likely.

Winds forecast for Tuesday night
Looking now to the forecast, Sunday night is set to be favorable for migration throughout the state, though in many places it may be disrupted by precipitation. With the approach of a low pressure center, winds will be weakly southerly throughout the state until around 10 AM on Monday. From there, the wind forecast puts our next batch of southerly winds on Tuesday night. Until then, I'll keep you posted.


Overall, regardless of where you are, arrivals and influxes should be pretty consistently noteworthy tomorrow, so if you can, get out there tomorrow! An interesting behavioral note: with oncoming storm activity and other natural stressors, migrants are generally much more social in areas they've just arrived to. They do this because following other migrants is a good way to find food and shelter when they don't have time to find it for themselves. So what does this mean for our birding? It means that migrants may be especially congregated between bouts of precipitation tomorrow, and some exciting mixed feeding flocks may be out there for the finding. What might be in those flocks? Click here to predict what you'll find.

With that, I'll bid you all ado for the night. Good luck in your birding tomorrow!

Friday, April 17, 2015

April 17th, 2015

Radar at the time of
this post
Hey everybody,

Tonight's winds.
Remarkably, tonight is showing a remarkable similar pattern to last night's migration. Throughout most of Illinois, winds are fairly weak, with directional variation observable every 25 miles or so, depending on where you are. Birds are indeed migrating through this variation, doing so with light concentrations everywhere in the Prairie State except for far southern and southeastern IL, where migration is reaching moderate concentrations. Given that we've had some noteworthy migration last night and tonight, tomorrow morning should be a great time to bird. I'll be excited to read your reports. Today, species as diverse as Broad-winged Hawk, Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler, Swainson's and Hermit Thrushes, Purple Finches, and even a Loggerhead Shrike. We're really digging into spring migration folks; it only gets better from here.
Winds forecast for Saturday
 night. Click to enlarge.

SO, the big question remains to be about Sunday morning. Winds are forecast to be powerfully southeasterly (18 to 28 mph aloft) tomorrow night, which makes it likely that even more blue will be packed into the radar. While the easterly component of the winds may deter some migrants who intend to head northeast-ward, I expect to see a lot more migration tomorrow night, reaching moderate concentrations throughout the state at least. We'll see if this actually plays out, but Sunday morning is likely to be an exciting time to bird.

Given this forecast, as always it's important to know what you may out there! So, here's our handy page of eBird data that depicts the year in bird frequencies. Also, I encourage you to take a look at the latest BirdCast National Migration Forecast, hot off the press from the pros at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Good luck to all those birding tomorrow morning!
The confusing amalgam of weather systems ("L's" and "H's") responsible for tonight's winds.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

April 16th, 2015

Tonight's radar
Evening everyone!

It's getting late, so I'll use this report as a (much needed) exercise in brevity

Exciting news! In tonight's weak and confused winds, birds are migrating throughout the state. Concentrations overall are light, but the beauty is in their consistency throughout the Prairie State. Migration is already reaching moderate concentrations in far southern and southwestern Illinois; we'll see tomorrow if concentrations increase throughout the state. Regardless of where you are, there should be some notable arrivals and influxes tomorrow, albeit more subtle than what we'll see in May.

Tonight's winds
Looking ahead, winds are forecast to be weakly southerly in Southern and Central Illinois tomorrow night. Northern Illinois is set to be in a high pressure center that ushers winds in from the north, so migration will likely be less notable there. SO, if you're in Central and Southern Illinois, Saturday morning may be an exciting time to get out there and survey some migrants. Northern Illinois may just show less obvious influxes from the the night before. The real time to look forward to throughout the state, though, is Saturday night, when winds are forecast to be strongly southeasterly. If the forecast holds (it has remained consistent for a couple of days now), Saturday morning should be a nice warm-up for what appears on Sunday morning. Good stuff. I'm excited! You?

Winds forecast for Saturday night
As always, here's the eBird page for your convenience in predicting what birds are over our heads right now.

Until tomorrow night, good birding everyone!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

April 15th, 2015

Tonight's winds. Click to view live.
Evening folks!

Tonight, high pressure is sending us due easterly winds, a phenomenon that blankets the length of our state. What might migrants be doing in these winds, you ask? Adhering to little in the way of identifiable trends, birds are showing up as sporadic blue noise across the state. While northern and southwestern Illinois radar expose light migration (the densest concentrations of the night), the rest of the state is witness to even lighter movements as well. If you're up and at 'em tonight, take a look at the radar! Watch as sporadic migrations cause shimmering blue ripples over Illinois skies, appearing and disappearing unpredictably in the radar's mosaic of blues, greens, and black. This effect will be especially beautiful to watch in animated radar sources, like this.

Overall, though, tomorrow should show few notable influxes, except perhaps in northern Illinois and southwestern Illinois. Note also that the areas of heaviest migration concentrations may shift as the night goes on. As of now, however, likelihood seems greatest that any influxes will be most notable in the above mentioned areas.
Note the beautiful
mosaic of blue and
black in tonight's

The forecast continues to change before our eyes (see postscript). Where before winds were forecast to be stronger and southerly on Thursday night, no such forecast exists now. Instead, the next few days are forecast to be complicated by slow-moving high pressure. Tomorrow night, as it oozes across the Prairie State, winds will be confused, inconsistent, and overall very weak. It is tough to say whether or not birds will be migrating then; I'll be interested to see. Winds are forecast to get a little more decisive from there, with southerly-based winds predicted for Friday and Saturday nights. The most important thing to keep track of will be the passage of high pressure, and how these systems influence when birds choose to move. I'll be watching with you.

With that, I hereby call this migration report to a close. In case you remain curious about what birds may be around tomorrow, visit our perpetually handy eBird page.

Until tomorrow night, good birding all!


A fascinating juxtaposition. On the left is the current wind forecast for midnight on Thursday, April 16th. On the right is yesterday's forecast for the same time. What does this show us? Meteorology is a field rife with innumerable variables and constant change. It's amazing to think of what we do in analyzing this, and then placing ornithological variables on top!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

April 14th, 2015

Radar tonight...note the
avian blue noise all over
the northern half of IL
Hey folks,

While tonight the Prairie State is covered by unfavorable northeasterly winds, there's some interesting migration phenomena that make it worth halving the state. Since it's late, let's keep it short and dive right in:

While the state overall is receiving northeasterly winds, winds in the northern half of the state are slightly different. They are both notably weaker and notably more easterly. The weakness of these winds, winds that could hardly be called headwinds, is allowing spotty light migration to occur over the northern half of the state. SO, if you're out tomorrow, especially in northeastern Illinois where migration is most concentrated, there may be some sporadic arrivals and influxes.

As often happens, the wind forecast is changing dynamically for us. Winds tomorrow night are forecast to be southeasterly in the northern half of the state, so we may see some slight migration then. Thursday night, while winds will remain southerly-based, is set to be characterized by weak and indecisive winds. So for the next two nights, we'll probably have some migration, but no wow-factor type movements....yet. 

Tonight's winds. Click
to view live.

Tonight in the southern half of the state, winds remain to be strongly northeasterly, keeping most migrants down. For that reason, with the exception of some very light migration showing up in far Southern Illinois, there's little migration to be had in this half of the state.

Winds forecast for Thursday night.
Looking ahead to the next couple days, things are forecast to get a little friendlier for migratory birds. By tomorrow night, winds will be southeasterly in the Southern third of the state. By Thursday night, winds are forecast to be southerly in both Southern and Central IL, which means, you guessed it, more migration. If the wind forecast changes little, it looks like Friday morning will be the next time to look for new migrants.


So that's that about that. Curious about what birds you'll find out there? Never fear! Click this eBird page for the data you crave.

Best of luck to all those birding tomorrow! It will be especially interesting to see if anything new is reported from Northern Illinois. Until then, good birding all!