5/7 Migration Forecast

We’ve had some moderate nights lately. Calm winds, no rain. Tonight is similar. Calm winds throughout the northeast means a moderate movement of birds. The calm winds also means that migrant traps in southeastern New England usually get left out a little bit, in my experience. If you’re further west in New England, the traps should have some new birds in the morning.


I’m still waiting for a night with some unusual conditions. Either some rain pushing in, strong west winds to bring the birds out to Rhode Island, or a switch in winds overnight that pushes birds offshore for a little bit of fallout in the morning. I’m sure the birds, however, appreciate the smooth sailing conditions. I think we’re all waiting to see what Invest 90L does with itself.

5/3 Migration Forecast

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Lots of movement tonight across the east. There are some really beefy blobs of birds coming out of southern North Carolina. There’s a slightly more southwestern bent to the velocities, which is exciting for places like Rhode Island and SE Mass that rely on more westerly winds to bring them higher numbers of birds in the Spring. Tomorrow is a good bet for hitting your usual spring migrant traps, they should have some new birds in them. I’ll be on Block Island in the morning, which has so much potential, but seems to really demand some peculiar conditions.


Further west, the real action lies ahead of big front pushing east. There’s steam train of southwest winds that connects southern Texas with Quebec. I think there’s above average potential for overshoots in the northeast quadrant of the continent the next few days.


Last night was big too and showed on the ground, especially here in Rhode Island, with Yellow-throated Warbler (pure overshoot) and Summer Tanager (very rare possible summer resident) being found. My nocturnal flight call mic finally added some diversity to the Chipping Sparrows, with Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Black-throated Blue Warbler, and Wood Thrush.

4/29 Migration Forecast

For the last week or so, there have been north winds. Birds haven’t been moving, they’re pent up. Tonight, the skies are calm all up and down the eastern seaboard and so birds on the move for the first night in quite a few. Tomorrow will see significant turnover and arrivals into New England. I would expect there to be a number of long overdue first of the years. Winds are forecast to be calm all evening, so it should be smooth sailing for most migrants overnight. Typical spring migrant traps will be the places to bird.


I’ve just checked my nocturnal flight call microphone recordings for this evening and so far, no call detections. Last night, however, was slightly busier than it had been as some birds that were able to get off the ground to the south pushed through and showed up late in the evening. I had my first identified warbler of the season (Ovenbird) and a continued run of sparrows.

Winds get a little less favorable and a little more confusing tomorrow night and into Friday and Saturday, so if you can get out tomorrow morning, it might be worth your while.

4/13 Migration Forecast

Strong movement again tonight, but less so than last night, at least on the early side of the evening. The wind conditions are good (birds moving more in the ENE direction than last night), but there’s rain pushing into the region, as can be seen by the strong frontal boundary. I can’t quite read the timing of the frontal arrival, but I’m guessing it will hit New England sometime after midnight, which could mean some concentrations in the morning, if birds keep coming and intensify a little. Based on the lower densities tonight and last night’s species composition (see below), I’m not overly optimistic for an above average morning.

displayN0R (1)What might we expect to see if there are some concentrations due to rain in the morning? Last night’s Nocturnal Flight Call counts should help. I’ve got my OldBird 21c running and am trying to stay on top of sorting through the positive detections. Here, you can see my checklist from the latter half of last night. Basically, there were lots of Dark-eyed Juncos moving (an additional 10 before midnight), some Chipping Sparrows and then probable Savannah Sparrows (the double downs). These were the predominant species moving last night, so tonight’s mix should similar and if there are some fall outs, these may be the most abundant species on the ground too.


4/12 Migration Forecast – Big Night

After days of rain and the wrong winds, the weather pattern has changed and the migration conditions are incredibly favorable for tonight! Tomorrow night should be good too. There are no confounding variables, just increasing south and southwest winds, throughout the night, so it should be clear sailing for most migrants. I would expect lots of arrivals tomorrow, as well as quite a bit of turnover. There were a LOT of birds leaving southern New England tonight…probably a lot of Juncos, White-throated Sparrows, Robins and other birds that might be lingering winterers.



The velocity over New Jersey is pretty much NNE right now, so I think there’s a chance that the SE corner of New England could get neglected a little on this flight, as seems to be the case in the spring where the migrants don’t really show up in numbers unless there are some significant west winds in the evening. One new product I wanted to debut was a bioscatter product from NOAA. Essentially, this product uses new RADAR technology to separate rain from birds, insects, and bats. It’s at a coarser resolution and not necessary on clear nights, but it does give a really good picture of bioscatter density tonight. This will be more useful on rainy evenings.

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Tableau for eBirders

As someone who works with data all day long, it was only a matter of time before I started using the techniques I apply at work to my own personal eBird data. For years, I had been tracking various lists and views of my life lists using conditional formatting in Excel. Over the past few years, however, my data science skills have grown and it was only a matter of time before I ditched Excel and processed my lists with more advanced and user-friendly tools, such as Tableau.

If you haven’t seen or heard of Tableau before, it’s a popular tool for creating visual analytics, typically on business data for a field known as Business Intelligence. However, it’s not structured specifically for business data and can be re-purposed for any data that is complex and multivariate. Most of all, it’s fast. Very fast. The kinds of visualizations that can be produced in seconds or minutes with Tableau would often take days with Excel or hours with R.

Getting eBird data into Tableau requires a little pre-processing, since the fields included with your eBird data export (available by clicking Download my Data on the My eBird page) don’t come with the taxonomic information necessary to get accurate unique species totals. The following R script handles this. You’ll need to download the latest taxonomy from eBird first.


#read in my ebird data

#read in taxonomy and replace REPORT_AS field with SPECIES_CODE where REPORT_AS is empty
ebird_v1_55 ebird_v1_55[REPORT_AS == “”, REPORT_AS:=SPECIES_CODE,]

#merge the taxonomy onto my ebird using Common Name

#write out csv
write.csv(out_my_ebird, “my_ebird_w_taxa.csv”)

Once you’ve got the taxonomy onto your MyEbird file, the resulting .csv file is almost ready to go. In Tableau, you’ll want to make sure you filter by the Category field and select: species, issf, and domestic. Tableau has a significant learning curve, but if you’ve got a propensity for visualizations and data, it should come pretty quickly. They also provide quite a few free tutorials and learning resources. Everything I’ve done with Tableau I’ve picked up from their resources. Below are a couple of my favorite quick views I’ve put together. Most of all, these examples don’t even begin to highlight the interactive capabilities of the software. Linking between views can create some really powerful visualizations.

One example I’ve put together is my species total by month and year. I’ve dual encoded it with color and size to make the patterns really pop. Really quickly, it’s easy to see that May is the month I most often see the most birds. The anomalous months are often those during which I’ve traveled quite a bit. The height of grad school shows up as some rather paltry or absent months in 2008. And, my intentional attempt to see at least 100 birds a month for year is quite visible from August 2011 through July 2012.

The other view I’ve enjoyed lately is seeing my unique checklists by hour of the day across recent years. Here, I can see my changes in birding behavior through daily time and yearly time. In 2007, I was working on a field project and was up early. Again, 2008 was grad school and less birding. And in the years since, my birding has been starting later and later, likely due to the demands of my young daughter. I’m almost to the point that I’m a lunch break birder!

Tableau has a lot to offer anyone with data, eBirders too. Give it a try with your own data and if you have any questions or successes, get in touch. I’d love to help or see what you’ve made.

4/7 Migration Forecast – Rain

Last night was the night I should have put a forecast together, because the nocturnal flight call (NFC) mic was relatively hopping and I ran into some small clusters of migrants today. Birds and rain mixed throughout the night and kept them low for my NFC mic to pick them up. In the field, I had a flock of 200 robins mixed in with quite a few Flickers, so I think there was a bit of concentration in the night.

This night, however, we’re looking at rain keeping birds on the ground. Tomorrow night, the winds are going to be west or northwest and possibly joined by rain, so not much happening then either. Will revisit in a few days.

4/5 Migration Forecast

We’re working through some sluggish days of rain that’s off and on and unfavorable winds. Tonight has a little different flavor, as scattered rainshowers push across southern New England while southern winds just to the south of us push some birds north. The most recent NEXRAD composites would seem to show a mix of rain and birds that could produce concentrations or fallouts over Manhattan, western Long Island and Northern New Jersey. It’s early in the night, so sometimes the birds correct, but my interpretation of the pattern for these showers is to continue east and south into birds being brought north by favorable southerly winds over the southern half of Jersey and points south. Very much worth investigating in the morning for these areas, in my opinion.


4/1 Migration Forecast

Spring migration returns to New England. Or, has been returning for the past few weeks. Soon, the intensity will heat up as we careen towards the fever pitch excitement of May. Now, the Juncos are still trickling north and wayward individual pioneers are marking themselves on the arrival date ledgers. After such a severe winter, these birds are much needed salve. Let’s get into ‘em.

We’ll need to hold our horsies (as I would tell me daughter), for tonight, at least. Winds are not favorable, despite clear, relatively calm skies. And Thursday and Friday nights promise rain.


5/7 Migration Forecast

The north winds that had been keeping the birds at bay broke a night earlier than forecast. Birds are on the move and there’s a nice and strong SW > NE flow to the migration tonight, which bodes well for SE New England. The intensities are quite strong and about what we would hope for this time of year. Confounding potential rain is to the south and fading fast, and, thankfully, appears to not be preventing birds from the south from pushing north. Tomorrow is worth hitting the usual migrant traps.