Tag Archives: Morning flight

Yet Another Great Morning Flight at Sandy Point!

k -DSC_0024_PIWO,SandyPoint,9-26-13
I do love it when the big ones fly by, especially on mornings like this.  They’re easier to identify and tally…especially when they are Pileated Woodpeckers!

It’s also nice when more birds pause in the trees at the point, allowing for identification as a “sample” of what’s going overhead.  It’s especially nice when they land in front of my face…like this Philadelphia Vireo did.  If only there weren’t a few twigs between us!
i -DSC_0008_PHVI,SandyPoint,9-26-13

I usually leave the bridge before raptors begin to get going, but today, I was treated to an early-morning Peregrine Falcon flight.  A couple of the birds didn’t even blink and eye and kept going.  Others terrorized migrant flickers.
j -DSC_0017_PEFA,SandyPoint,9-26-13

Normally, I start off with the overnight radar analysis to describe why there were (or were not) so many birds come morning.  But today, let’s cut to the chase and get right to the numbers:

6:32-10:10am
43F, light NW, mostly cloudy, slowly clearing.

1662 Unidentified (*2nd highest)
441 Yellow-rumped Warblers (*2nd highest)
263 Northern Parulas (how are there still so many parulas!?)
193 Black-throated Green Warblers  (*2nd highest)
188 Ruby-crowned Kinglets (*2nd highest)
150 Northern Flickers
56 Golden-crowned Kinglets
52 Magnolia Warblers (*2nd highest)
46 Black-throated Blue Warblers (*new record; old = 13!)
44 Cedar Waxwings
44 Dark-eyed Juncos
41 Black-and-white Warblers (*2nd highest)
31 Red-eyed Vireos
29 Blue-headed Vireos (2nd highest)
27 Blackpoll Warblers
26 Eastern Phoebes (*new record)
26 Nashville Warblers (*new record)
23 Palm Warblers
22 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers
15 American Robins
15 American Goldfinches
14 Blue Jays
12 Scarlet Tanagers
12 Rusty Blackbirds
9 White-throated Sparrows
8 Eastern Bluebirds (*new record)
7 Philadelphia Vireos
7 Chipping Sparrows
6 Peregrine Falcons (*new record)
6 Unidentified vireos
6 Brown Creepers
5 Yellow Warblers
4 Tufted Titmice (*new record)
4 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
3 Black-capped Chickadees
3 Tennessee Warblers
2 Sharp-shinned Hawks
2 Cape May Warblers
2 Wilson’s Warblers
1 Red-breasted Merganser (first of fall)
1 Common Loon
1 American Kestrel
1 Merlin
1 Mourning Dove
1 PILEATED WOODPECKER (my third crossing ever; crossed after 4 false-starts)
1 RED-BELLIED WOODPECKER (crossed after 3 false-starts)
1 Warbling Vireo
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Swainson’s Thrush
1 Bay-breasted Warbler
1 Common Yellowthroat
1 Swamp Sparrow
1 Lincoln’s Sparrow
1 DICKCISSEL (4th of season)
1 Red-winged Blackbird

Total= 3523 (*third highest total)

So there you have it.  Wow.  <Insert various superlatives and/or swear words>   I just wish I could have whittled down that unidentified total a little bit more – who knows how many single-species records I might have set?

There were two reasons the unidentified tally was so high.  One is that early-morning cloud cover once again reduced many of the birds to silhouettes.  Secondly, the intensity of the first two hours of the flight was really exceptional.  On multiple occasions, I could do nothing more than step back look up, smile, and click off a cloud of unidentified warblers – no point of even lifting the binoculars.  Bunches of birds high overhead; I’d follow one bird into the Magic Elm, and 20 would shoot out.  Birds were sneaking below me.   It was, at times, a bit overwhelming!  But it was also exceedingly fun; I like the challenge, and since my interest lies in quantifying the flight as much as identifying the composition of it, the high unidentified tally only bothers me a little…OK, maybe a little more than a little, but anyway…

I couldn’t resist taking a few photos, such as the Philadelphia Vireo landing in front of me, or the majestic Pileated Woodpecker cruising by.  16 species of warblers, a bunch of new records and near-records, and some “good” birds.  Yeah, that’s a good flight.  But I actually think my highlight was one little female American Redstart.  She dropped in from high overhead, straight down into the regenerating cherry that stands directly in front of me (and perfectly blocks the sun from my eyes for the first hour of the day) – the one the Philly V was in – and hopped her way to the near edge.  She looked at me, and cocked her head to look at the camera lens that was lying down next to me.  I am guessing she saw her reflection.  She looked at me, chirped in a gentle contact call – not the harsh alarm call or even the sharp flight call – and then hopped back into the brush.  We had a moment.  I enjoyed that.

OK, back to business…the radar.  Save these images for future reference.  This is what “GO BIRDING IN THE MORNING!!!” looks like.  Here are the 10pm, 12am, 2am, and 4am radar and velocity images for example <insert “boom” sound>:
a-10pm radar, 9-26-13 b -10pm velocity, 9-26-13 c -12am radar, 9-27-13 d -12am velocity, 9-27-13 e -2am radar, 9-26-13 f -2am velocity, 9-26-13 g -4am radar, 9-26-13 h -4am velocity, 9-26-13

Even at 6:00am, with light more than peaking into the eastern sky, birds were still on the move.  If I had not expected to go to SandyPoint for sunrise this morning, and I had seen this image, I would have flown out the door.
6am radar, 9-26-13 6am velocity, 9-26-13

When there are this many birds in the air so close to sunrise, there are going to be a lot of birds taking part in the “morning redetermined migration” come dawn, along with crepuscular migrants that are moving in the early light.  The radar provided all of the suggestions of a big flight.  And, with a light northwesterly breeze, many more birds were low and in the trees than on the westerly breezes of the last few mornings.  Here’s the wind map, showing that low moving off of the Maritimes, ushering in a north to northwesterly flow behind it – as I postulated on my blog yesterday.
wind map, 9-25-13

While I am rarely even at Sandy Point for four days in a row, it is exceedingly rare that the fourth day would be so busy.  But I think that upper level low finally pulling out of the way re-opened the floodgates.  And it looks like tomorrow should be good as well, continuing a most impressive string of good flight nights.  But I will give my neck a break tomorrow from staring straight up and spinning back and forth at Sandy Point.  Instead, I’ll just have to see what the flight will be like with my tour on Monhegan Island.  Yeah, I know, tough life.

On Sandy Point, Winter Finches, and Portland’s Congress Square Park

I’ve spent each of the last three mornings at Sandy Point, and it is a rare treat indeed (but not for my neck!) that the winds tonight will likely be conducive to yet another morning in my “other office.”  Yesterday’s moderate flight produced two Patch Birds: Western Kingbird and Gray-cheeked Thrush while today’s better than expected flight yielded 15 species of warblers.  (Tallies from both days are on our store’s Facebook Page as always).

While I can’t believe there are more Northern Parulas left to migrate through, I am optimistic about tomorrow morning.  The upper-level low spinning over Atlantic Canada that has produced rain to our northeast and the clouds overhead that have reduced the flight – and my ability to identify it! – is expected to move out, and I wonder if that will open up another wave of birds to head south from that region.  It is exceedingly rare for me to have four days in a row of good Morning Flights at Sandy Point, so I look forward to another early start tomorrow.

With each passing flight, the changing season is becoming more obvious.  Fewer early warblers and growing numbers of Yellow-rumps and sparrows, for example.  And of course, as a season progresses, we birders often think ahead to the next season.  The near-complete dearth of Red-breasted Nuthatches, Purple Finches, and Pine Siskins (zero) that have passed SandyPoint is an early indicator that it will be an “off” winter for northern finches as expected.  Few Blue Jays and Black-capped Chickadees passing through also suggest an abundance of food to our north.

These observations reflect what I am seeing elsewhere in Maine, and reflect the information contained in this year’s “Winter Finch Forecast” by Ron Pittaway that just came out this week.  This venerable resource is posted each fall, and reflects a lot of effort by the author to bring together various tidbits of information.  Its arrival each fall is highly anticipated – even if it does not portend the arrival of lots of highly anticipated finches.

But today, I wanted to take a moment to discuss one of the local issues that we have decided to wade into.  As most Portland – at least – residents may know, there is a proposal to transfer a portion of Congress Square Park to private development for a conference center.  The city needs a conference center, and the park needs some attention.  I’ll leave it to the residents of Portland to weigh the costs and benefits of this particular plan, but one aspect that concerns me greatly is the current blueprints that show a massive glass wall facing a smaller park with limited vegetation.

Here’s a link to what I believe to be the most recent development proposal; I don’t think any significant updates have been made.  Jeannette and I believe that we can use our store as a vehicle to promote bird conservation, and although we certainly don’t stick our nose into every project, sometimes we feel that we need to be the voice for birds, birding, and bird conservation.  Capisic Pond Park, the Eastern Promenade, Sandy Point, and now development at the fringes of Florida Lake have been projects we have worked on.  While we may not go too much further with our efforts in this case, we thought it was best to offer expertise to point out a potential issue with this projects design.  I have sent this letter to city officials and the new group, Friends of Congress Square Park.  I post it here for your information, and if anyone has suggestions on whom else to send this to, don’t hesitate to let us know.

September 18, 2013

RE: Congress Square Redevelopment plans

To whom it may concern:

I am writing you today not to take a stand for or against the current proposal at this time, but instead to bring to your attention a couple of aspects of urban parks, construction, and wildlife interactions that has raised a significant amount of concern with me.

First, a little bit of background.  Migrating birds that stream over Portland every spring and fall face a myriad of risks.  Many of our favorite songbirds, such as warblers, orioles, and tanagers all fly at night.  For reasons unknown – likely due to the use of stars for navigation – birds can become disoriented by lights.  Lights on communication towers, lights on buildings, lights at stadiums, lights left on in office buildings, and even lights in people’s homes.  Especially on cloudy and foggy nights, birds will be drawn to this artificial lighting, and many will meet an untimely death as they collide with structures or even drop dead from exhaustion as their bodies metabolize their muscles in order to fuel the last gasps of flight as the bird circles, and circles, and circles, confused by the light, drawn in by its grasp.  The cumulative light pollution of cities, towns, and even single-family homes, results in perhaps hundreds of millions of deaths of migrating birds each year.

However, not every bird disoriented by city lights will die.  Some find refuge in a well-landscaped park and find enough food to survive, refuel, and eventually move on. Most others find just enough refuge to move on come sunrise, when the direction of the sunrise and visual landmarks can usher a bird in the right direction.  In order to avoid predators, many of these birds will fly low through the city streets, dropping in to the next tree, the next park, or even the next garden as these birds – in what is termed “redetermined migration” attempt to correct for the errors of their ways overnight.  These errors could result from disorientation from lights, “groundings” from severe weather, or even from drifting too far on strong winds behind a cold front.

Especially for those birds exhausted from their travels or their disorientation, every single tree in an urban environment can be a life-saver.  A place to rest, a place to forage for just a little food or at the very least a place to avoid predators.  Working from some part of the city, the birds will work their way inland (in the case of a coastal city such as Portland) looking for more extensive habitat where they can refuel.

I have watched flocks of White-throated Sparrows winging it down side streets, landing in potted plants at the first sight of a possible threat.  I’ve seen an American Woodcock walking down a sidewalk near Monument Square.  I have seen waves of Blackpoll Warblers streaking by just over the treetops of Deering Oaks Park.

As the birds work their way to quality habitat, such as Evergreen Cemetery, many of these birds are more than strong enough to avoid predators, avoid traffic, and fly at full speed over the course of the first couple of hours of daylight.

Thud.

The migrant lays still on the sidewalk; dead.    It has hit a window.

It has flown hundreds of miles from the forests of Canada.  It has survived ever-changing weather, dodged hawks at every turn, and found enough food to pack on enough fat to fuel an epic journey to the rainforests of South America for the winter.   A shift in the wind the prior night resulted in foggy conditions as it arrived in the airspace over Portland.  Attempting to orient itself, it circles the red blinking light on the top of a building until it is too tired.  But this bird is lucky.  Below this building there is a small park with a handful of trees.  Good enough, and the bird alights.  The sun rises, and the bird, not finding much food in a few ornamental plantings, decides to head further inland.

Flying from tree to tree, the bird sees the next tree just ahead.  But that tree was only a reflection in glass.  Its journey ends.

Glass kills as many as 1 billion birds per year in North America. Urban light pollution may kill as many as 31 million birds per year.  Lighted communication towers may kill upwards of 100 million.  Only free-roaming cats are estimated to kill more birds per year than any of these other anthropogenic causes.  You can see why glass in lighted urban areas is such a problem.

The current proposal for a new Event Center in what is now Congress Square Park includes a massive glass façade, with “doors” that open, putting glass walls out at multiple angles.  All of this glass will be reflective.  Architects and admirers like that about glass.  But whatever trees remain will be reflected by that glass.

Thud.  Another migrant is dead.  How many dead birds will people pick up on the sidewalk before anyone takes notice?  Or will the rats clean up the mess before the morning rush?

Is the new CongressSquareEventCenter going to be a death trap for exhausted and confused migrants?  Probably.  Can this risk be minimized or avoided?  Yes.  Does anyone care?  That, to me, is always the toughest question.

But there are solutions out there.  There are treatments that make glass less-reflective, or ways to break up the reflection so birds will not be drawn to it.  Glass can be positioned to reflect the ground, and trees can be positioned to minimize reflection.  There are certainly plenty of materials that don’t cast a reflection as well.  There are even city-wide efforts to reduce bird collisions that range from lighting standards to simple programs to get people to turn off the lights as they leave their office for the night.

My only goal with this letter is to raise awareness about a significant problem, but one that might well be avoided.

For the sake of brevity – I think you will agree that this letter is long enough already – I will simply point you towards two sources for more information, from background to solutions.  The first is the “Birds and Collisions” page from the American Bird Conservancy: http://www.abcbirds.org/abcprograms/policy/collisions/glass.html

The second is the home page of the Fatal Light Awareness Program: http://www.flap.org/

I sincerely hope that you will recognize my concerns and take them under consideration.  I would be happy to offer more first-hand observations to describe why this issue is real in Portland, and why a glass façade facing some of the few trees that exist in the center of an urban area could result in significant avian mortality.

I thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,

Derek Lovitch
Freeport Wild Bird Supply

Huge Morning Flight at Sandy Point!

My last blog entry ended with a little bit of foreshadowing, did it not? But before we get to Sandy Point this morning, let us take a moment to review the radar images from the weekend for comparison.

This is the 12:00am image from Sunday.  This is what “no migration” looks like on the radar.  You can also see the rain approaching from the west.
12am radar, 9-22-13

Now this is the midnight image from Saturday.  This is what “I have no idea what’s going on” looks like on the radar.  While anything from some weird warping of the radar beams from changes in air temperature to a simple malfunction could result in this, what it is NOT is a lot of birds.  It’s too irregular…and bird’s don’t “explode” in narrow bands!
IMG_1575_edited-1 IMG_1576_edited-1

So, compare those to what “a whole boatload” of birds looks like.  Here are the 10pm, 12am, 2am, and 4am base reflectivity and velocity images from last night.

10pm radar, 9-22-13 10pm velocity, 9-22-13

12 am radar, 9-23-13 12 am velocity, 9-23-13

2am radar, 9-23-132am velocity, 9-23-13

4am radar, 9-23-134am velocity,9-23-13

Yeah, it would have been nice to be on Monhegan this morning.  But I was in my other sanctuary – my office at Sandy Point.  And this is what happened:

6:28 – 10:05am.
43F, increasing W to NW, clear.

1338 Unidentifed (*2nd highest)
416 Northern Parulas (* Seriously, how are there any more parulas to come through!  This is the second highest count of all time, and now all three of the highest tallies are from this year!)
281 Northern Flickers
179 Black-throated Green Warblers (*2nd highest)
163 Blackpoll Warblers
91 Yellow-rumped Warblers
43 Black-and-white Warblers (*record high)
39 Red-eyed Vireos
35 American Redstarts
29 Blue Jays
29 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
23 Yellow Warblers
22 Blue-headed Vireos
21 Scarlet Tanagers (*record high)
21 Dark-eyed Juncos
19 Cedar Waxwings
18 Magnolia Warblers
17 Nashville Warblers (*record high)
17 American Goldfinches
13 Black-throated Blue Warblers
12 Eastern Phoebes (* ties high)
11 Swainson’s Thrushes
9 Palm Warblers
6 Rusty Blackbirds
5 American Robins
4 Unidentified vireos
4 Chestnut-sided Warblers
4 White-throated Sparrows
3 Least Flycatchers
3 Cape May Warblers
3 Bay-breasted Warblers
2 Common Loons
2 Broad-winged Hawks
2 TUFTED TITMICE (rarely seen crossing)
2 Unidentified thrushes
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
2 Blackburnian Warblers
2 Common Yellowthroats
1 Osprey
1 American Kestrels
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
1 Eastern Wood-Pewee
1 Common Raven
1 Philadelphia Vireos
1 Veery
1 Tennessee Warbler
1 CONNECTICUT WARBLER (My third of the season here; it’s the fall of the CONWs in Maine!)
1 Northern Waterthrushes
1 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
1 DICKCISSEL (third of the season here)
1 Baltimore Oriole

Total = 2, 905 (4th highest tally all time for me)

DSC_0016_REVIonAlternate-leafedDogwood,Sandy Point, 9-23-13DSC_0026_SWTH_onWinterberry2,Sandy Point,9-23-13
Some of the migrants pause long enough at Sandy Point to do a little snacking.  Here’s a Red-eyed Vireo eating Alternate-leafed Dogwood fruits, and a Swainson’s Thrush stepping out into the sun to dine on Winterberries.

DSC_0034_WISN,GreelyRoad,9-23-13_edited-1
A little post-Sandy Point birding yielded two Wilson’s Snipe trying to stay hidden along the edge of a puddle along Greely Road in Cumberland.

And tonight looks just as good…perhaps even a little better with a more northwesterly flow.  See ya at the bridge at sunrise!
wind forecast, 9-23-13

Two Fun Mornings at Sandy Point

_MG_9884_edited-2

With a busy tour and travel schedule once again this fall (every year I say I will schedule fewer things in my favorite season to bird in Maine!), my time at Sandy Point is at a premium.  Since it takes certain conditions to make birding here worthwhile, I get quite excited when conditions line up for a good flight.

I was very anxious to arrive at “my office” on Tuesday morning.  Moderate northerly winds overnight turned to the northwest, resulting in an exceptional flight over and through SandyPointBeach come dawn.  Here is the morning’s scorecard:

-6:23-10:45am.
-37F, Clear, Light northwest, increasing.
-Jenny Howard and Jeannette Lovitch assisting with the count.

1195 Unidentified
984 Northern Flickers (*2nd highest count)
703 Northern Parula (*New high count; old record only 234!)
391 Cedar Waxwings (*New high count)
153 American Redstarts
152 Blackpoll Warblers
145 Black-throated Green Warblers (*2nd highest count).
101 Broad-winged Hawks (*New high count)
35 Yellow Warblers
28 Black-and-white Warblers
23 Yellow-rumped Warblers
21 Red-eyed Vireos
19 Magnolia Warblers
17 Swainson’s Thrushes (*ties high count)
16 Eastern Phoebes (*New high count)
12 Nashville Warblers
11 American Goldfinches
9 American Robins
9 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (*New high count)
7 Palm Warblers
7 Scarlet Tanagers
6 Common Loons
6 White-throated Sparrows (in bushes; no crossings)
5 Tennessee Warblers
5 Common Yellowthroats (in bushes; no crossings as usual)
4 Cooper’s Hawks (*New high count)
4 Unidentified vireos
4 Blue Jays
3 Ospreys
3 Least Flycatchers
3 Unidentified empids
3 Philadelphia Vireos
3 Chestnut-sided Warblers
3 Blackburnian Warblers
3 Bay-breasted Warblers
3 Black-throated Blue Warblers
3 Chipping Sparrows
3 Rusty Blackbirds (first of season)
2 Sharp-shinned Hawks
2 American Kestrels
2 Bald Eagles
2 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
2 Golden-crowned Kinglets
2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
2 Cape May Warblers
2 European Starlings (first time I have “deemed them migrating”)
2 Dark-eyed Juncos
1 Red-tailed Hawk
1 Northern Harrier
1 Unidentified small falcon
1 Eastern Wood-Pewee
1 “Traill’s” Flycatcher
1 Blue-headed Vireo
1 Red-breasted Nuthatch
1 NORTHERN MOCKINGBIRD (6 false-starts before apparently crossing)
1 Pine Warbler
1 CONNECTICUT WARBLER (3rd of the season as Tom Johnson and Jenny Howard had one here on 9/15 as well)
1 Northern Waterthrush
1 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Purple Finch
1 Monarch butterfly

Total= 4,134 (*2nd highest count of all time!)

Simply put: wow!  That was one heck of a flight.  In fact, it was downright overwhelming at times – flocks of flickers, waves of warblers, packs of waxwings.  It was almost too much to count, and thankfully, Jenny Howard agreed (OK, so maybe I didn’t exactly ask, but beg) to tally flickers for the busiest part of the morning for me. That helped a whole lot.

After a flood like yesterday morning, I am not disappointed by the slow, but steady trickle through the point this morning.  It was a more manageable number to count, with quite a few birds lower than yesterday, and often only a few at a time; it was easier to sort through.

Here’s this morning’s scorecard, then, we’ll compare the different flights as viewed on the radar.
– 6:21-9:05
– 41F, Clear, Calm becoming very light west.

265 Northern Parulas (*2nd highest count)
202 Unidentified
54 Black-throated Green Warblers
45 Northern Flickers
32 Cedar Waxwings
32 American Redstarts
26 Yellow-rumped Warblers
17 Yellow Warblers
14 American Robins
14 Blackpoll Warblers
13 Blue Jays
10 Red-eyed Vireos
7 Nashville Warblers
6 Eastern Phoebes
6 Black-and-white Warblers
4 Ruby-crowned Kinglets
4 Tennessee Warblers
4 Palm Warblers
4 Wilson’s Warblers
4 Chipping Sparrows
3 Common Loons
3 American Kestrels
3 Blue-headed Vireos
3 Chestnut-sided Warblers
3 Common Yellowthroats
2 Unidentified empids
2 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds
2 Swainson’s Thrushes
2 Black-throated Blue Warblers
2 Magnolia Warblers
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
2 Baltimore Orioles
2 American Goldfinches
1 Peregrine Falcon
1 Solitary Sandpiper
1 Least Flycatcher
1 “Traill’s” Flycatcher
1 Unidentified flycatcher
1 Philadelphia Vireo
1 Unidentified vireo
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Prairie Warbler
1 Scarlet Tanager
1 Purple Finch

Total: 801

I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite this good.  And despite really only a “good” flight, parulas had their second highest tally – I didn’t think there would be any left after yesterday’s flight!  And yes, this more manageable flight was more “enjoyable,” if considerably less awe-inspiring.

So, what made me have lower expectations for today?  Let’s go to the radar!

First, the massive flight overnight Monday into Tuesday that led to all of the records yesterday.  I have included the 10pm, 12am, 2am, and 4am radar and velocity images:
a b c d e f g h

Combined, these images show a very strong flight all night long, with a lot of birds offshore come twilight, and likely a lot of birds arriving at the coast come dawn.  Looking at that image when I went to bed, and when I awoke, coupled with the light northwesterly winds all night left no doubt that things would be hopping at Sandy Point.  And, as we now know, there most certainly was. If you see a radar image that looks like this – go birding in the morning!

In fact, it was a good day all-around for migrants, and everywhere we looked up yesterday, raptors were on the move.

winds, 110am,9-17-13

Now, let’s take a look a the radar and velocity images from 10pm, 12am, 2am, and 4am last night:
i j k l m n o p

As night fell Tuesday night, clear and mostly calm conditions let birds take to the air once again – but not nearly as many as the night before. Notice how much smaller the area of return is, and how much less dense? Meanwhile, the velocity image was much less distinctly fast-moving, north-to-south as the previous night (of course, with little to no wind, the ground speed of the birds would be less anyway) – a little more ambiguous than the night before.  Furthermore, with a forecast for westerly winds (not as good as northwesterly), and the chance that they would become southwesterly by dawn, I did consider skipping Sandy Point this morning, but with the rest of the week looking even less productive, I knew I had to give it a go.

And, obviously, I am glad that I did.  But upon returning to the store, and checking those above radar images once again, I find it a bit odd that the radar image (small in diameter, but very dense) did not translate to a more distinct velocity image.  Perhaps there was a lot of slow-moving stuff up there (insects, pollen, dust, etc) that clouded the motion of the birds.  Either way, it was a good night for flying, and if it’s a good night for flying, it’s a good morning to be at Sandy Point!

A Record-setting First Day of the Season at Sandy Point

I definitely had second thoughts when the alarm went off at 4:45 this morning.  I hate pre-5am alarms.  But August flights at Sandy Point Beach, Cousin’s Island, Yarmouth can be so much fun.  I just wish dawn didn’t come so darn early right now.

But as of 9:30 last night, the NEXRAD radar was absolutely on fire!  Light northwest winds and clear skies really put birds on the move.  Here are the 10pm, 1am, and 4 am radar and velocity images for example.  For a detailed explanation of how to read and interpret these images, see Chapter 5 of my book, How to be a Better Birder.
10pm radar,8-23-13

10pm velocity, 8-23-13

4am velocity, 8-24-13

4am radar,8-24-13

1am velocity, 8-24-13

1am radar,8-24-13

This was really an exceptional flight for this early in the season. But back to that alarm clock…I woke up, and saw that the winds had become northerly overnight.  The lack of a westerly component usually diminishes the Morning Flight here.  However, with that high of a density on the radar, even as late as 4:00am, I figured I would give it a go, despite serious contemplation of rolling over and waiting until the next cold front (and waiting for a few more minutes of darkness).  Let’s just say I was glad I motivated.  Come sunrise, a little northwesterly to westerly breeze at the surface developed, and encouraged more birds to cross at the point.  The winds were very light, so a lot of birds were high; the trees and shrubbery were fairly quiet this morning.  Therefore, with so many high birds, and some big groups just too far to the north of the bridge, my “unidentified” tally was higher than I would have liked.

Regardless, it was still great.  In fact, it was record-setting.  A new August high count, and a new high count for 6 species.  Plus a Patch Bird!  Here’s the morning’s scorecard (*= new record high count):

408 American Redstarts*
379 Unidentified
67 Yellow Warblers
59 Northern Parulas
59 Magnolia Warblers*
50 Cedar Waxwings
33 Black-and-white Warblers*
28 Black-throated Green Warblers
25 Yellow-rumped Warblers (all in active molt)
8 Bay-breasted Warblers*
8 Blackburnian Warblers*
7 “Traill’s” Flycatchers*
7 Canada Warblers*
6 Chestnut-sided Warblers
5 Unidentified empids
4 American Robins
3 Chipping Sparrows
3 Red-winged Blackbirds
2 Olive-sided Flycatchers
2 Least Flycatchers
2 Black-throat Blue Warblers
2 Bobolinks
2 American Goldfinches
2 Purple Finches
1 SOLITARY SANDPIPER (my 174th species here!)
1 Red-eyed Vireo
1 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Pine Warbler
1 Wilson’s Warbler
1 Dark-eyed Junco (record early)
1 DICKCISSEL (first of fall; my 3rd August record here)

Total= 1177* (new August record)