Friday, May 29, 2015

May 29th, 2015 ~ Spring 2015 Conclusion

Tonight's confused southerlies
Well, here we are. This spring's last Illinois Migration Report. Let's dive in.

Tonight, while winds are southerly throughout the state, they are highly inconsistent. In some areas, they are strong in southeasterly. In other areas, they are weak and southwesterly. This inconsistency, combined with precipitation sailing overhead, has resulted in limited migration tonight, hardly reaching light concentrations in most areas. Tonight is a good time to close the report indeed. What species might be among the last migrating this spring? As always, check this eBird page for an Illinois focus, and the latest BirdCast National Forecast for a regional focus.

Beyond tonight, how is May predicted to conclude? By tomorrow night, Illinois is forecast to be ensconced in powerful northerly winds. Powered by low pressure, these winds will shut down any last traces of spring migration. Weakening out a bit, this winds are forecast to remain in place through Sunday night, at which time they will gradually be transitioning to an easterly direction. So that's that.
Winds forecast for tomorrow night (May 30th)
Winds forecast for midnight on May 31st

Now that we're done with tonight, I'd like to share a few closing remarks and stats for this spring. As mentioned earlier, tonight will be this spring's last Illinois Migration Report. In addition, it will also be my last Illinois Migration Report, as I will have moved to Minneapolis by the time fall migration rolls around. But fear not! I'm extremely pleased to announce that Henry Griffin will be carrying the torch starting next fall. Many of you may know him from his posts about bird walks led in Oak Park. These walks, along with his blog (viewable here:, are both evidence of his passion for sharing birds with others. For that reason, he's a perfect candidate to take on this report, and I'm sure he'll do a grand job next fall. Kudos to you, Henry!

Next, I'd like to share some analytics from this spring's migration report:

  • Since I started the report on April 1st, as of today I will have written 50 reports, most of which were on consecutive nights
  • Between Illinois Birders' Forum and this blog, the report has received 14,016 pageviews. This number is an astounding increase from last spring's reports, which received only 4,101 pageviews. These numbers do not count any views on Twitter or Facebook, nor do they count views on the Illinois birding listerv (IBET), where most of the views are. To attain a conservative estimate, we can take the number of people subscribing to the listerv (2454), round way down to 1500, and multiply by the number of reports. That number comes out to 75,000, bringing the view total to a staggering 89,016.
  • The preface to this year's series of reports reached 904 pageviews alone.
  • Between all mediums on which the report has been posted, the link to radar with which we view migrating birds has been clicked 942 times. Similarly, the link to a useful page of eBird Data with which we predict what birds we see has reached 1,046 clicks.

These numbers are a remarkable testament to what interest in nature there really is, even within our relatively niche topic. I'm incredibly humbled and honored to have been given the privilege of writing these reports. Given the results above, it has been an extremely rewarding endeavor, writing for you. My only hope is that through this process, you've learned something new about how birds interact with their world, and perhaps learned to make some of your own predictions. The natural world is equally exciting and mysterious, and I'm glad to have been here to seize our mutual curiosity. 

All said, if you have any feedback, lingering questions, or other commentary, feel free to contact me anytime! I love nothing more than some correspondence on a good question.

As always, keep watching, keep listening, keep questioning. I'll see you out there soon.

Here's to the birds!

Thursday, May 28, 2015

May 28th, 2015 (+ Recap for 26th & 27th)

Migration 5/26
Migration 5/27
First and foremost, I apologize for unexpectedly missing these past 2 days. Luckily, if I was to choose a convenient time to omit reports, the 26th and 27th would be good days. Very little has been moving for the past 2 days, with light to negligible migration on the night of the 26th, and light migration on the 27th. In both of these cases, conditions were essentially consistent throughout the state. So, overall, spring migration has been very calm indeed for the past two days.

Tonight, things are picking up as much as migration can in late May. Direct, southerly tailwinds have given way to light migration, with some moderate concentrations occurring overhead in Southern Illinois (see or click image to the right). Regardless of where you are in the Prairie State, some influxes should be visible tomorrow. Like in the case of today's cooperative Connecticut Warbler, these influxes will be most apparent in those more sought after species that pop up here or there. Other than that, we should be noticing an exodus of migrants now more than anything else. Which migrants are exiting? Great question! Check this eBird Page for Illinois specific answers, and the latest BirdCast National Forecast for a regional perspective.
Tonight's winds. Click to
view live.

Looking ahead into the forecast, it appears May will conclude quietly, with very little likely to migrate this weekend. Southerly winds are forecast to continue through tomorrow night in all Illinois regions except northwestern IL. After that, a front is set to expand into the state, ushering unfavorable headwinds with it. By the end of Saturday, the whole state will be ensconced in powerful northerly winds, conditions set to last at least the Sunday night. Once we get into June, winds are set to become easterly. I will detail this forecast more in tomorrow's report.

Because these unfavorable conditions are forecast for the weekend, I've decided to make tomorrow night the last of my daily reports for this spring. As you all have noted, peak spring migration has surely come to a close; anything visible on the radar from here until fall is unlikely to exceed light concentrations. For that reason, there's not too much migration left to report on! I will share more concluding remarks tomorrow, as in studying nature, reflection is always key.

For tonight, though, I bid you all adieu and good birding!

Wind forecast for midnight on May 30th

Monday, May 25, 2015

May 25th, 2015

Tonight's winds. Click
image to view live.
Tonight, to our delight, the forecast has held true. Strong, southerly tailwinds dominate Illinoisan skies, facilitating some of this spring's last avian migration. Overhead, light to moderate concentrations are moving en masse throughout the state So, regardless of where you are, some influx should be visible tomorrow morning. Will you be out there to see it?

Tonight's radar. Click
image to view live.
The forecast, however, seems to have shifted ahead of today. Whereas yesterday predicted a shift of northerly winds into Northern Illinois, such an occurrence is no longer predicted. Instead, northern Illinois is set to receive westerly winds tomorrow, while the rest of the state remains within the realm of southerly winds. From there, southerlies are forecast to predominate throughout the state at least until Friday. So to any migrants still waiting to move northward, the door is open in Illinois.

That's that about that. For any of you wondering just what you may see tomorrow, check out this eBird Page for an Illinois focus, or the latest BirdCast National Forecast for a regional focus.

Good luck to all those birding tomorrow! Until tomorrow, I bid you adieu.
Winds forecast over Illinois for tomorrow night. Note westerly winds in Northern IL.
Click image to view live.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

May 24th, 2015

Winds tonight. Click im-
age to view live.
As predicted, tonight has brought powerful southerly winds over Illinois. Perhaps even more significant, precipitation has entered the Prairie State in a variety of places. A combination of these factors has allowed only light to moderate concentrations overhead, with nothing moving where it's raining. As storms systems pass over Illinois tonight, they will block any migration they encounter. Luckily, most of the storm systems on the radar right now are limited in size, so some influxes should be apparent tomorrow regardless of where you are. 

Radar tonight. Storms &
birds in between. Click
image to view live.
As migration continues to wind down in the next few days, let's look at how the winds will affect them. Tomorrow night, winds are forecast to remain favorably southerly, so migration should again be visible Tuesday morning. On Tuesday, a front from the north is set to enter Northern Illinois, bringing unfavorably northerlies with it. By Wednesday night, these winds are forecast to block off the northern half of the state, restricting any migratory remnants to Southern Illinois. But fear not! Winds are then forecast to become southerly again by Thursday night.

Good stuff, Illinois. Predict which migrants are still out there using this eBird Page for an Illinois focus, or the latest BirdCast National Migration Forecast for a regional focus .

As always, thanks for the read, and good birding!

Winds forecast for tomorrow night (5/25): favorable, southerly tailwinds. Click image to view live.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

May 23rd, 2015

Tonight's winds. Click
image to view live.
Tonight, Illinois has received the strong southerly winds we've been waiting for the past few days. Strong southerly winds means smooth sailing for what migrants are left, and they are indeed moving northward tonight. Light to moderate concentrations are in transit over the Prairie State right now. Many of these species are on the last leg of their northward migration, a common characterization in this last week of May. Some migratory influx will be visible tomorrow morning, but keep in mind that it won't be as obvious as it was a week or two ago.

Tonight's radar. Click
image to view live.
Next up: the forecast. Tonight's southerly winds are set to remain throughout the state at least into Tuesday, but even still they will be a'shiftin'. Tomorrow afternoon, winds will become progressively stronger, and by tomorrow night, we may see large areas where winds aloft reach nearly 50 miles per hour. This speed may be overpowering for migrants, so any movements are likely to be limited to near the surface, where winds are set to be calmer. All that aside, tomorrow night be one of those rare spring occasions of southerly winds and limited migration. From there, winds are set to remain favorably southerly through Monday night, at which time they will be calmer aloft. Southerly winds will continue until Tuesday night, when a front is set to intrude from the north and block off Northern Illinois from favorable conditions. As always, I'll keep you posted.
Powerful winds, maxing out at 44 kts, predicted aloft (1000 ft) for
tomorrow (5/24) at midnight. Click image to view live.

So tomorrow morning, then, should bear witness to some influxes. Predict what that influx will be composed of using this eBird page or a brand new BirdCast National Forecast.

Until tomorrow night, good birding, all!

Friday, May 22, 2015

May 22nd, 2015

Tonight's surface analysis
Tonight's winds
Tonight, we have an example of when the forecast just doesn't hold true. Instead of variably strong southerly winds throughout the state, high pressure has unexpectedly brought a cold front. This cold front from the north has brought unfavorable east/northeasterly winds, which have extended over much of Northern and some of Central Illinois by now. As a result of these high pressure systems, winds south of this front are not remarkably favorable either, remaining confused and undirected. So, overall, we've received conditions in which migration is predominantly light. So much for the weekend arriving with a bang.
Radar tonight.

Looking toward the forecast, winds are predicted to become powerfully southerly tomorrow and remain so at least until Tuesday. This means favorable conditions for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday nights at least. Keep in mind, though, the following two things: 1) These winds are forecast to be strong at a level that may be overwhelming for migrants, and 2) We've entered the back end of spring migration, when heavy movements are increasingly rare. All said, we should see at least some noteworthy migration tomorrow night. I'll keep you posted.

For now, keep an eye on our handy eBird Page for predicting which species you'll see tomorrow.

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

May 21st, 2015

Tonight's winds. Click image to
view live.
Tonight, as discussed yesterday, we have received strong, westerly-based winds. I much of the state, these winds have taken on a southerly component. Unfortunately, perhaps due to the presence of two pressure centers in or near Illinois, birds are not responding heavily. Migration so far tonight is light at best, with minimal avian noise showing on the radar.

Radar tonight. Click
image to view live.
Tomorrow night, on the other hand, is looking to be more encouraging. Winds throughout the state are forecast to be favorably southerly, though Central Illinois is set to have a strong easterly component as well. Compared to tonight, tomorrow night will probably carry more migration, perhaps reaching moderate concentrations. From there, Saturday night is looking to be even more favorable, with strong, direct southerly winds on the docket. From there, favorable southerly winds are forecast to last at least into Tuesday. Throughout this period, winds are forecast to reach 45-50 miles per hour in some places, so birds may not be as responsive to tailwinds as before. I'll keep you posted.
Winds forecast for tomorrow night (May 22nd). Click image to view the wind forecast live.
For now, I will bid you all adieu again with a link to our handy eBird Page and the latest BirdCast Report for predicting what species are out there. The breeding season is nigh, everyone; tracking phenology now essentially means finding those last migrants to depart Illinois, and of course finding those oddball stragglers.

Here's to finding stuff, everybody. Good birding!

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

May 20th, 2015

Tonight's winds. Click im-
age to view live.
Tonight's will be a short report, as essentially nothing is moving over the Prairie State tonight. Steady, northerly winds are preventing any legitimate movements from occurring, and as such, tonight's radar is dark. That's that about that.

Tonight's radar. Click
image to view live
Tomorrow's strong westerly winds, forecast for two days in a row now, may not be more promising, but we'll keep eyes on the radar. Looking ahead from there, favorable southerly winds are set to return by Friday night and continue throughout the state at least through Tuesday night. Keep in mind, though, that migration is winding down in the East. Birds are reaching their sought after breeding grounds, and as more species reach the culmination of their hurried journey, there will be fewer and fewer to find here. While winds are set to be favorable starting Friday night, it's unlikely that we'll see migration like what we saw a week ago. Even so, this weekend may be spring migration's last big push before only stragglers remain. As always, I'll keep you posted.
Winds forecast for Saturday night (the 23rd). Click image to view live.
Until we conclude our mutual migration reporting, check which species to expect remains a worthwhile endeavor. As always, here are the internet sources to equip you in making predictions: our trusty eBird Page for Illinois-specific data, and the latest BirdCast National Forecast for a more regional perspective. 

Until tomorrow, good birding all!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

May 19th, 2015

And we're back, Illinois!

Over the course of my three day hiatus, migration has gradually died down as favorable conditions have deteriorated. Migration reached moderate to heavy concentrations Saturday night (the 16th), but then only reached moderate concentrations at most on Sunday (the 17th). Last night, the 18th, migration was even sparser, remaining steadfastly around light concentrations at most.
Radar from 5/18

Radar from 5/16
Radar from 5/17

Radar tonight.
So where does that leave us tonight? As somewhat of a conclusion of these past few days, unfavorable northerly headwinds are dominant in Illinois tonight. As such, very little is migrating tonight, with hardly light concentrations reaching even Southern Illinois. After the glory of the past two weeks, we're on the downslope, folks, descending steadily from the summit.

Where to go from here? The forecast predicts the continuation of northerly winds through tomorrow. Thereafter, winds will become powerful and westerly, less-than-favorable conditions that will finally give way to southerly tailwinds on Friday night. Given the presence of a front predicted in Southern Illinois that night, it looks like it's really Saturday night to be excited about. At that time, the door from the south and to the north will be opened, as southerly winds will predominate across the state. Until then, I'll keep you all posted.

In the mean time, it's always good to check in on which species you'll be seeing out there. Check out this eBird Page for an Illinois focus, and the latest BirdCast National Forecast for a more regional perspective.
Winds forecast for Saturday night (May 23rd)

That's all for tonight, folks. Happy to be back reporting.

Good birding!

Friday, May 15, 2015

May 15th, 2015 ~ Expanded Report on May 14th - 18th

Migration from midnight,
May 14th
First of all, a little housekeeping. I'd like first to apologize for the absence of a report last night. As predicted, there actually was a decent amount of migration. Given the predominant southerly winds, birds were moving mostly at moderate concentrations. While the tailwinds were there, they were likely a little too strong for some birds. Moderate concentrations were most found in Southern Illinois; migration lightened out as you look northward, with the lightest movements in precipitation-disturbed Northern Illinois.This morning, then, it was unsurprising to read of some arrivals and influxes, though no spectacular movements were reported. 

Winds tonight. Click im-
age to view live
Migration tonight. Cl-
ick image to view live
Let's move on to tonight, then. Southerly winds remain dominant in most of the Prairie State tonight, but a high-pressure-drive cold front is preventing their total dominance. This cold front is currently sitting over part of Northern Illinois, and as such, anywhere north of it is experiencing extremely diffuse winds. Failing to provide a legitimate headwind, this front is doing very little to prevent migration. So, moderate movements are again the rule throughout the state. While migration may get a little heavier as the night progresses, this is probably as intense as it will get. Expect moderate, not spectacular, arrivals and influxes tomorrow morning. 

From here, I'll have to do an especially detailed job of forecasting tonight, as I will be unable to report for the next three days. Let's dive in:

On Saturday, what could be called "Goldilocks winds" are forecast to return: they're just right. Winds are forecast to be southerly throughout the state, and will not be as prohibitively strong as they were on Thursday. With such conditions as these, heavy concentrations of migration are likely. Sunday morning, then, should be an exciting time to get out there and bird.
Winds forecast for midnight, May 16th. Click image to view live.

On Sunday, winds are forecast to remain favorable southerly. While they are forecast to get a little stronger, reaching ~46 mi/hr in some places aloft, it is likely that birds will still be moving in moderate to heavy concentrations. Note that a low-pressure driven front is forecast to enter the state on the day Monday. Looking ahead more than a day, though, the wind forecast is absolutely subject to change. If this change does occur, it is likely that it will involved this front entering the state with unfavorable winds earlier than expected. Regardless, this front will only hinder migration in the northwestern portion of the state, so Sunday night should be favorable in most parts of the state.
Winds forecast for midnight, May 17th. Click image to view live.

By Monday at 7 PM, winds are forecast to be northwesterly throughout the state, conditions that may not be conducive to migration. By midnight, winds are set to be even more northerly and even stronger. SO, while some birds may fight to winds, it appears that Tuesday morning will not show evidence of much movement.
Winds forecast for midnight, May 18th. Click image to view live.

That's that about that, folks. As always, I encourage you to predict what birds you'll find for yourself! For my 3-day hiatus, this eBird Page will remain useful. Even more useful may be the latest BirdCast National Migration Forecast, which predicts species peaks, arrivals, and exits through next Friday.

That's all for the next three days! I'll be back to finish May (and Spring Migration) strong for 2015. Here's looking forward to that.

Good birding, all!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

May 13th, 2015

Interesting report tonight. Thanks to a large high pressure system centered over Michigan, winds in Illinois are east-northeasterly. At most times of years, these winds would prohibit heavier concentrations of migration, but not tonight. While migration is not consistently heavy across the state, moderate to heavy movements are occurring over some of Southern Illinois, as well as a small patch in northeastern Illinois. Elsewhere, movements overhead are light to moderate and spotty. Overall, we will see some arrivals and influxes tomorrow. Their magnitude will depend merely on where you are.
Winds tonight. Click ima-
ge to view live

Looking ahead at the wind forecast, southerly winds remain predicted for tomorrow (Thursday) night. As before, these winds are set to be very strong, so we'll see how heavy migration actually gets. From there, winds are forecast to remain southerly based at least through Sunday. From there, favorable conditions may deteriorate for a short while. I'll keep you posted.

Until then, what might you find out there tomorrow? Answer for yourself using this eBird Page or the latest BirdCast National Forecast.

Good stuff, folks. Best of luck to all those birding tomorrow.

Winds forecast for tomorrow (Thursday night). Favorably southerly, but strong. Click image to view live.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

May 12th, 2015

Tonight's winds. Click
image to view live.
Evening everyone,

Thanks to not one, but two high pressure centers directly west of Illinois, we are currently steeped in northerly winds. Functioning as headwinds, these conditions are keeping most migrants grounded tonight, with the perpetual exception of Southern Illinois, whose radar stations are still showing some moderate movements. As such, arrivals and influxes tomorrow will not be apparent in most places tomorrow. Ho-hum. 

Tonight's radar. Click
image to view live.
Given the quiet skies over Illinois tonight, let's see what the wind forecast has in store. The forecast for tomorrow night remains to be east-southeasterly winds, which may or may not be conducive to migration. Though the strength of the winds may be a little too much for migrants, stay tuned. As we know well, nature is unpredictable. From there, Thursday is forecast to hold the return of southerly winds, but my do they return with a vengeance. Winds are forecast to be nearly 40 knots (~46 miles per hour) in some places. Such tailwinds are often a little too strong for <1 ounce migrants, but we'll see what happens. After that, winds are forecast to remain southerly--and powerful--at least through Sunday. I'll keep you posted.

Wind forecast for Thursday night. Click
image to view live.
Until then, keep up the good bird finding! Predict what you'll find...and perhaps what you don't expect to find...using this eBird Page and the latest BirdCast National Forecast.

Good birding, all!

Monday, May 11, 2015

May 11th, 2015

Tonight's strong westerlies. Click
to view live.
Short report tonight. Things have panned out exactly as predicted last night, with powerful westerly winds dominating the state. Given the unfavorable nature of these winds, birds are basically staying down tonight everywhere except for southernmost Illinois, where heavy migration persists (do note light concentrations in southern and northeastern Illinois). Other than that, it seems migrants are getting a night of respite across the Prairie State tonight.

Tonight's migration
Looking ahead, the forecast continues to place northerly headwinds over tomorrow (Tuesday) night, and powerful easterly winds over Wednesday night. It is most probable that little will be migrating over the next few nights as a result. Thursday night, then is forecast to be the next night of favorable southerly winds. From there, winds are forecast to remain southerly at least through Monday night. But as we all know, the further ahead the wind forecast, the more liable it is to change.

Curious what species may be taking advantage of tonight's respite? Check this eBird page for exhaustive coverage of Illinois specifically, and the latest BirdCast National Forecast for a more regional outlook.

Good stuff, everyone. Good luck to all those birding tomorrow. You never know what westerly winds may bring eastward.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

May 10th, 2015 (+ recap on May 8th and 9th)

And we're back, Illinois!

These past few days have been exciting, haven't they? Vagrants, dense concentrations of migrants, high species diversity, the Spring Bird Count, and a Global Big Day. Even with the absence of my writing this report, the revolution that is spring has revitalized and transformed ecosystems around us. From earthbound microorganisms all the way to sky-bound birds, the diversity of life around us has exploded, with myriad new interactions arising with each hour. To say the least, now is an exciting time. And then there's this:
What an amazing endeavor we take part in, this birding thing. It is staggering to think of all the people that connected with those 4,500 units of biodiversity on Saturday. Truly staggering. What species did we connect with here? The answer, perhaps, is best illustrated by some of the IBET headlines and quotes from the past few days:
Violet-green Swallow at Northwestern!!!
Cook Co Yellow Rail
 Black-necked Stilts @ Indian Ridge Marsh, Cook County
Palos/Orland Spring Count 23 sp warbler, 121 sp birds
"...96 species at West DuPage Woods F.P. today with most of those being found within the Elsen's Hill unit and about 106 species for the day."
Montrose Black-necked Stilts
"With 137 species, I've had my best spring count and one of the more memorable days of Lake County birding."
Black Tern - North Av Beach
Worm-eating Warbler at LaBagh
Cerulean @ Dan Wright
Warbler-fest at Montrose Harbor, Chicago
 Another Piping Plover at Montrose Beach, Chicago
NPM Lark Sparrow

Radar tonight
The highlights? In short, spring migration appears to be in full swing. Influxes range from a nearly-full gamut of warblers to thrushes to flycatchers to vireos to sparrows to grosbeaks to orioles to terns to cuckoos, and more. There may not be a more exciting time in the birding year than this, so it's heartening to read your excited stories from the field.

With the past few days out of the way, let's move onto tonight. Winds aloft tonight are favorably southerly throughout most of the state. But with the presence of a stationary front and attendant low pressure, Northern Illinois is sadly cut out from the fun by northeasterly winds. In addition to unfavorable conditions in Northern Illinois, a dry line is pushing precipitation across the rest of the state. Fortunately, the squall line of precipitation is just about out of the Prairie State, and behind it has erupted migration. Heavy migration has broken out across Illinois, illuminating the radar in all places except IL's northernmost latitudes. Birds are migrating northward tonight, but they don't appear to be moving very far north of the stationary front. Given the low cloud cover over much of Illinois tonight, now would be a very good time to listen for nocturnal flight calls. For resources on nocturnal flight calls, click here or here.

Winds tonight. Click image to view live.
How's the wind forecast looking? Currently, it looks like tonight will hold some of the last favorable conditions for at least three days. Tomorrow (Monday) night is forecast to bring strong westerly-based winds. Though these winds may have a southerly component, their strength may deter most migration. From there, northerly winds are forecast for Tuesday night, and Wednesday is set to bring easterly winds. Thursday night, then, is forecast to bring nice, southerly tailwinds. Until then, I'll keep you updated.

That means these next days will be a perfect time to sift through migrant feeding flocks and study behavior. What will make up those feeding flocks? Conjecture what you'll find in our trust eBird page, or in the latest BirdCast National Migration Forecast.

Happy to be back reporting, folks. Let's enjoy the rest of this month.

Good birding!
Winds forecast for Thursday the 14th. Click image to view live.