As a birder with a degree in meteorology (yes really!) I couldn’t approve more of this project. Over in North America, the rather wonderful Cornell Lab of Ornithology is pioneering the provision of bird migration forecasts. They’re based on weather forecasting, knowledge of how migrating birds respond to weather, known timings and routes, and Cornell’s migration modelling, incorporating radar data. This information is put together into weekly reports like this one, offering both a summary of what can be expected where and when and a handy list of species expected to reach peak migration in the near future.
It might be because the Americans have a whole continent to play with – from sea to shining sea, as the song goes – that they seem further ahead with migration studies. It would be fun to see a similar project set up across Europe, but undoubtedly a lot trickier to co-ordinate. Speaking only for the UK, whilst we still eagerly await migration season it seems less a feature of birding inland than it is in the States. Anything can happen (within reason), but if you want to see really exciting migration in Britain you need to head to the coast.
By contrast, I fondly recall a few occasions in the USA when I’ve been birding in perfectly ‘ordinary’ suburban edge habitats and found myself overwhelmed by the numbers of birds, among them species I wouldn’t usually expect to see in the area, such as blue-headed vireos, yellow-bellied sapsuckers and fox sparrows. I’ve even had the pleasure of watching mixed warbler flocks moving through the garden whilst I stand out on the back porch with a cup of tea. In two days time we head back to Maryland and Pennsylvania for a two week visit, so I’ll be keeping an eye on the BirdCast – and hoping something good turns up!