Morning Flight, 29-31 August 2015

Greetings songbird watchers.  The last three mornings have been slow....  but what a contrast with the three days prior to that.  South winds have brought the dog days of summer back to full effect.  There might be a few small pulses of neotropical migrants in the next few days with and Thursday, September 3rd looking promising. 

It's interesting to compare the behavior of the birds on these slow days,being typically, with south winds and zero cold front action, with the flights associated with the nice cold front the past week. With 229 Bobolinks flying by, mostly south, within a total of 370 the last three days, I think we have an excellent opportunity to think about the various mechanics inherent in these birds to talk about there migrational attributes.  From the dike, most of the "classic" Morning Flight species head north along the bayshore starting around dawn.  This has been defined as "redetermined migration" since 1978, at least, by radar-ornithologist extraordinaire, Sidney Gautreaux. The Bobolinks will do this northbound flight on cold fronts (sometimes) but will continue south into the south wind on these slower days, usually peaking after the first hour after dawn.  This falls into the category of "onward" migration.

We hope to learn something from all aspects of the Morning Flight phenomenon and stay tuned for more discussion of this central topic.  In the meantime enjoy a killer Black-and-white Warbler flight shot by Sam Galick!

photo by: Sam Galick

Morning Flight, 28 August 2015

Friday morning featured a front-loaded movement of (mainly) warblers, though Blue-gray Gnatcatcher also featured prominently. Most of today's action took place during the first hour after sunrise, and included a nice burst of American Redstarts, Black-and-white Warblers, and Northern Waterthrushes, among others.

Following the passage of a cold-ish front, the second half of this week has seen a good run of passerine flights-- something that we can't always count on happening during the 20s of August. Here's a selection of 3-day totals from our recent "good" stretch (Wednesday - Friday):

American Redstart (1090)
Black-and-white Warbler (277)
Blackburnian Warbler (18)
Northern Waterthrush (128)

Looking ahead, we'll settle into more summerlike conditions again this weekend, with southerly winds in the forecast through at least Sunday. A midweek cold front looks like a possibility...stay tuned.

[Eastern Kingbirds make up a big part of the daily scene at 
Higbee right now. Photo by Tom Reed.]

 [Yellow Warbler is among the earliest southbound migrants at Cape May-- 
34 were tallied during this morning's count. Photo by Tom Reed.]

 [Another early migrant, Louisiana Waterthrush typically clears out of Cape May by Labor Day. A total of 4 have been recorded during the first two weeks of Morning Flight. Photo by Tom Reed.]

 [Close-up of Louisiana Waterthrush in flight. Photo by Tom Reed.]

Morning Flight, 27 August, 2015

Today, let's talk numbers!

Species number
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Downy Woodpecker
Olive sided Flycatcher
Empidonax sp.
Eastern Kingbird
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Catharus sp.
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
Cedar Waxwing
Worm-eating Warbler
Louisiana Waterthrush
Northern Waterthrush
Waterthrush sp.
Blue-winged Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cape May Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
warbler sp.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Baltimore Oriole 
House Finch
House Sparrow

There's the partial list of species counted today.  Wow!  The vast majority happened in just the first hour!  Wow!  The vast majority happening in just the first hour!  With over 1,400 warblers of 20 species, 664 Eastern Kingbirds, and 127 Baltimore Orioles, the late-August magic was working.  It was fun to see fantastic birds like 4 Common Nighthawks, Olive-sided Flycatcher, and 2 Dickcissels.  

Tomorrow is sure to be a good flight as well, and we will have everything up and running on the real-time hosted by Specteo at:

See you at dawn where Tom Reed will be the official counter!

Morning Flight, 26 August 2015

Today's experience was remarkable. The pair of Cape May Warblers at dawn would have been enough. The flight was not huge, or even big by late-August standards, but it was present, and drawing the enjoyment out of that presence was worth a great deal to today's watchers at dawn. A nice variety was to be had and put our attention to the test. Also, just like the last few days, kingbirds swirled periodically over the treetops to the south.

One hundred and twenty-four years ago, today, with respect to the activity of the songbirds, might not have been too much different than today. We now can rediscover this in the accounts of Witmer Stone as presented in an exciting new book by Scott McConnell. Scott visited the dike today and shared with me what significance this day holds. Transfixed with an exploration of the ornithological history and one particularly notable local legend, Scott has accomplished a great feat of natural history research and writing. His new book, Witmer Stone: The Fascination of Nature provides us now with a direct link to the man and his birding references that live on today.

Check out his blog and this particular post about, perhaps eventually, the unfolding future of the Morning Flight Project, seen with his fresh and beholden eyes back 124 years ago.

And maybe a kingbird or 400 kingbirds, like on today's anniversary, will swirl and swarm for you.

photo by: Glen Davis

Morning Flight, 25 August, 2015

Today, the birds were in places other than at Morning Flight. Aside from a few Bobolinks in both directions (we count north and south movement), some swirling, staging Eastern Kingbirds, and a trickle of Barn Swallows and Red-winged Blackbirds, there was not much migrating today.

Tomorrow, things should change though! I think we should get ready for a good flight. 

Until then, enjoy the amazing flight photography of Sam Galick! He shot these beauties two days ago. Below are American Redstart, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and a Yellow-rumped Warbler in molt. 

Morning Flight, 23 August 2015

Wow, I love watching, counting, and trying to understand the phenomenon at Morning Flight! Sometimes when it rains, it pours. Or perhaps today's flow of good birds could be likened to a series of flash floods, or pop-up thunderstorms. The light, late-summer cold front that swept through the Cape two days ago was still cranking out good "neotrop" birds at the dike today.

Yes, it was flash-flooding Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Kingbirds, and American Redstarts this morning. With over 300 of each flying north during the four hours we watched. Mixed in were other goodies: Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Least Flycatcher, Yellow-throated Vireo, Ovenbird, Prothonotary Warbler; and many other "classic" Morning Flight species like: Blue-winged, Magnolia, Bay-breasted, and Blackburnian Warblers. They came in punctuated bursts, a real all or nothing affair. I speculate that this particular action could have been set-off by the excitement of the kingbirds and especially the orioles.

The new data-recording and live, online streaming technology provided by Ornicept was really put to the test with this kind of flight and it continued to work wonderfully! The next six or so days hold a lot of promise with the weather-- Thursday, the 27th, looks especially good right now.

If you can't see it in person you can catch all the action at

Hope you can catch up with the fun!

Morning Flight, 22 August, 2015

And Worm-eating right in front! Is that a Tennessee and a Bay-breasted together? Yes! What is this swirl of Eastern Kingbirds up to?

We really kicked into high gear this morning, early season style. A dozen birders met up to experience a great flight of neotropical migrants, with over 200 warblers of 17 species. This was the first big push since August 13th, which was before the official first day of the count, this past Sunday.

I apologize to my cohorts on the behalf of the action of one particular rare bird seen today. I shouted, almost screamed "Golden-winged Warbler!!! Adult male!" as a Vermivora chrysoptera plunged downward and over the road below. I was the only one to get on it but what a look, albeit a brief one, of such a distinctive, prized bird.

We had some other cool things like early Palm Warbler (nice pick Sam Galick!) and Yellow-rumped Warblers.

The next week looks really promising. Hope to see you up there!

Morning Flight - 16-17 August, 2015

Good Morning!

Sponsored by: Swarovski Optik & Specteo

Hi, It's Glen Davis and I am very excited to be back with CMBO's Morning Flight Project at the Higbee Dike as primary counter.  This year's takeoff was special as we premiered the professional data entry app by Specteo. Now we can enter and display the action to you in realtime!  We'll have this to you all very soon!  We will be sharing the views, bird info, and, of course, all the thrills with you from August 16th through October 31st.  We are always learning new things about songbird migration from watching at the Higbee Dike.  That means you should come over and see what it's all about!

We welcome Tom Reed back this year as our Migration Count Coordinator-- in additions to working for all three migration counts-- at Hawk Watch, Avalon Seawatch, and Morning Flight, he will be taking on new responsibilities overseeing migration research projects and helping to bring the birding world to the present and beyond with his expertise in the Specteo app.

photo by: Michael Lanzone
Checking out the live data feed
photo by: Glen Davis
Get pumped for coming up to the dike, and shake the flat flies and mites off those dusty feathers by trying to ID these!  - bird names are at the bottom.
photo by: Glen Davis

4 photos by: Michael Lanzone
Ok, good job, here they are: Northern Mockingbird, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Blue-winged Warbler, Cape May Warbler, and...?

wa wa WEWA!, Worm-eating Warbler
photo by: Sam Galick