Big Year Birding – Migration Interrupted

Chipping Sparrow

Spring migration in New Jersey has taken an unexpected (and unwelcome) turn.

Early migrants, like this Chipping Sparrow, arrived pretty much right on schedule. A walk through the woods was now accompanied by the songs of birds trying to establish their rights to a tree or a bit of wooded area that would be their home for the next several weeks. Funny, I don’t notice just how quiet the woods can be until Spring arrives and birds begin singing again!

Something is wrong this year. Not only are the woods still quiet – they are REALLY quiet. Our year round residents, like chickadees, titmice, and cardinals, have gone on the nest and are trying their best to go undetected by sight or sound. This annual ritual is completely expected and normal.

But something outside the norm has occurred. Spring migrants which began arriving in late April have simply stopped showing up. Warblers, flycatchers, thrush – they aren’t here. A walk through New Jersey’s wooded areas during the first weekend in May should be accompanied by a chorus of songs. Instead, all you hear is the crunching of leaves.

Some bird migration forecasts are blaming an unusual weather system. Unusual weather system – aren’t we hearing that term used more often these days? This unusual weather system is causing easterly winds to blow across our state. Migrating birds are encountering this weather system as they fly north along the eastern seaboard and are being pushed westward by the winds. Bird reports from western Pennsylvania and Ohio show that the birds are still migrating – just not through New Jersey.

I am hopeful that this weather system, which has shown remarkable staying power, will eventually break up or move along. Until such time as it does, New Jersey will continue to experience a Spring without bird migration.

I typically sign of each post with a term familiar to birders – Good Birding! Today, this term is more hopeful than ever!

Until next time – Good Birding!



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