The Migration Has Begun: Thousands of Birds Overhead Tonight

The twice-yearly migration of millions of birds from warmer climates to colder northern regions has always fascinated me.  It would be like half the USA getting up and walking a few hundred miles twice a year.  Although I guess it did happen in the mid-1800s when many of our ancestors came west to Oregon.

canadaGoose1

And it shows up on weather surveillance radar quite well at times.  I just noticed it on the Portland radar for the first time this season.  We usually see it on the radar from early-mid spring and then again in early-mid Fall.  You can see the echoes suddenly appear right after sunset, rise in height, and peak out around 10,000′ or so.

Tonight was a great example.  Soundings show a westerly wind from 5,000-10,000′, yet the current radar screen shows a strong SOUTH TO NORTH movement…20-40 kts.  And at sunset the radar suddenly fills in with those “targets” moving from SOUTH TO NORTH.    Ornithologists call that the “exodus” as thousands of birds suddenly take flight at sunset.   Here it is on the radar loop:

codnexlab.NEXRAD.RTX.N0Q.20140308.631.048ani

Here is the VAD wind display from the Portland radar around 7pm showing the strong southerly wind, which is really moving birds:

vadwind

The wind arrows are all northerly up to around 11,000′, then no echos to get a speed/direction from above that level.  Birds don’t like to fly too high.

Most birds prefer to migrate at night due to smoother airflow (no daytime heating for strong up/down motions), and they need to eat during the day down on the ground.

It doesn’t take that many birds to make a radar show “rain” (what it looks like to you).  Think of the surface area of a flock of geese or ducks compared to raindrops.  Or dozens of flocks of smaller birds scattered around the region.  Several studies have been done showing 20-30 dBZ echoes equal 200-1800 birds per CUBIC kilometer.  That’s a cube 1 kilometer  wide/high.  Lots of birds!

You can read more about it here:  http://virtual.clemson.edu/groups/birdrad/index.htm

By the way, there is a movie called WINGED MIGRATION (a documentary) produced about 10 years ago using hand-raised birds. They follow the birds (usually geese) while flying and migrating using some sort of very light aircraft. Or, actually I suppose the birds follow the aircraft since they imprinted on humans at hatching.  That means they think humans are part of their family. Now, believe me, this is no “party movie”, actually it’s REALLY slow, but great visuals for little kids to watch. Filming was done all over the planet. Here’s a clip to relax you before bedtime:

By the way, my duck (ChitChat) quacks when she flies…across the yard.  So for some reason waterfowl like to chat as they fly…you can hear that in the video.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

75 Responses to The Migration Has Begun: Thousands of Birds Overhead Tonight

  1. WEATHERDAN says:

    Sunny and 54 at 2:00 PM. Good NE wind with low dewpoint. Probably another frosty night on the way. Hit 30 this morning. Should top out around 60 today and maybe 65 on Wednesday. Lots of leaves on trees already. No sign of dreaded cold wet spring so far. Clouds broke in Salem at around 11:30 AM today. Peace.

  2. schmit44 says:

    3/10/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    Warmest:
    High:61 at NORTH FORK JOHN(1975 ft) & HERMISTON R&E(607 ft)
    Low: 49 at UMATILLA RIVER B(587 ft)

    Coldest:
    High:26 at Mount Hood Meado(6601 ft)
    Low: 15 at Rim (7050 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 26 degrees
    ILLINOIS VALLEY (58/32 ) (1389 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    1.33″ at Detroit Lake(1675ft)
    1.32″ at YELLOWSTONE MTN.(3080ft)

  3. Jason Hougak says:

    Awesome day for us weather enthusiasts. Had a nice morning with sun followed by amazing cloud formations and massive downpours with claps of thunder. No lighting seen but I was stuck deep in a canyon working and have very little horizon. I’m happy, even ski bowl is picking up snow again!

  4. Sapo says:

    Looks like rain showers are tapering off…Had a few downpours, longest shower lasted 45 minutes. Had some thunder and hail. Interesting weather today!

  5. David B. says:

    And Flash! Kaboom! Here comes a thunderstorm on Bainbridge Island! Anything happening down south today?

  6. Aloha Rainshadow says:

    All this heavy rain just demolished my early season Crocus’s….petals all over the ground…argh.

    • W7ENK says:

      Early season crocus? It’s mid March, I’d’a thought “early” for crocus would be mid January or something…? My neighbor’s crocus ran their course a few weeks ago, right after all that snow.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Mine are just getting ready to bloom. Of course that’s at 1,000′ in the Gorge so everything is slower up there.

    • Aloha Rainshadow says:

      They started puncturing the surface early February, didn’t start blooming until about 2-3 weeks ago….but that is just about done now.

  7. schmit44 says:

    3/09/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    Warmest:
    High:69 at DW0462 Umatilla( 390 ft) & EAST BIRCH CREEK(1617 ft)
    Low: 55 at JUNIPR(359 ft)

    Coldest:
    High:35 at Mount Hood Meado(6601 ft)
    Low: 25 at Mount Hood Meado (6601 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 25 degrees
    Arlington (65/40 ) (449 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    4.87″ at RED MOUND(1753ft)
    3.75″ at BROOKINGS(79ft)
    3.48″ at QUAIL PRAIRIE LO(3183ft)

  8. Jake-(Gresham) says:

    Looks like nice weather coming. I think the lawn is going to wake up soon.

    • Ted Berry says:

      mine woke up about three weeks ago, it really needs a serious mowing before it gets out of control!

  9. Josh Gardner says:

    Lightning and thunder in Gresham!

  10. pappoose in scappoose says:

    Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On!

    M 6.9 – 77km WNW of Ferndale, California
    http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/eventpage/nc72182046#summary

  11. pappoose in scappoose says:

    “Yes…this is also called the pineapple express.”

    http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2014/03/strong-atmospheric-river-brings-unusual.html

  12. Ted Berry says:

    Spring has sprung as it usually does, the climate warms, the rain lessens, don’t need a blog to tell me that,

  13. WEATHERDAN says:

    60 degrees in Salem this afternoon with a few sun breaks. Looks like a warm week ahead. Maybe up close to 70 by Saturday. After day 10 it looks to be back down to the 50,s. Talk of snow in the valley looks very unlikely. Our coldest day with this cold trough likely will be 48-52 degrees. Warmer by far that anything that would allow for snow. Snow might happen above 2,000 feet however. Only once in 121 years has Salem ever recorded measurable snow after March 20th. So far March has been warm and wet. Spring has begun. Peace.

    • Garron near Washington Square says:

      That would be crazy to have to shovel some heavy wet snow after all these nicer warmer days. Most of my neighbors have been out doing yardwork, and I’ll be next on Wed/Thurs. Really looking forward to next weekend if it stays on course for the 68 and sunny track. Gonna have to mow the grass for the 1st time by next weekend.

    • Lurkyloo says:

      Does it feel extra warm outside because of the cold spells we’ve become used to? I started a fire last night (because I’m pyro that way) and then I felt guilty, like I was wasting the wood. I’m ready for Springtime, and by the looks of it, so is all the vegetation — tulips are sprouting, trees leafing out … The birds in my backyard are scarce now. When it was cold they’d sit and yell at me if I didn’t have food in their feeder. Now I haven’t seen them for a day or so — maybe they hitchhiked with the party going on up in the air!

    • WEATHERDAN says:

      Our overnight lows this month are way above average. Not so much the daytime highs. Even though they too have been above average. We sure transitioned from Winter to Spring very quickly this year. Peace.

  14. Sapo says:

    After today and Monday, looking like a very warm and sunny week ahead! And Saturday looking very warm, 65-70 degree range! 70 degrees would be nice, probably unlikely though.

  15. paulbeugene says:

    The Euro 12z has a cold looking trough diving down the BC coast at day 10. Another shot at late season snow? Who knows. GFS has been suggesting cold trough around day 12.

    • Sapo says:

      Not late season snow for here probably, but lower elevations could see flakes.

    • karlbonner1982 says:

      If that sea green area on the ECMWF map (850mb temps -8 to -12) manages to make it down into at least part of WA state, then we MIGHT see non-sticking flakes in the lowlands and 1-2″ in the hills. But in late March it takes a near-perfect setup to get to -8c over Portland – and that still gives PDX high temps 45-50 due to the powerful sun angle warming the surface layer.

  16. pappoose in scappoose says:

    Gather up the burrito wrappers!

    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PORTLAND OR
    1030 AM PDT SUN MAR 9 2014

    THESE SHOWERS WILL SPREAD INLAND OVERNIGHT…WITH THUNDER POSSIBLE IN THE INTERIOR MONDAY. WE WILL LIKELY SEE SMALL HAIL WITH SOME OF THE SHOWERS AS WELL. THE MAIN PART OF THE UPPER TROUGH MOVES THROUGH BY LATER IN THE DAY MONDAY…SO THE SHOWERS SHOULD DECREASE THEN.

  17. vernonia1 says:

    Yay!!! NWS says…” IT LOOKS LIKE THERE IS PLENTY OF ROOM IN THE NEHALEM NEAR
    VERNONIA TO PREVENT FLOODING IN THE TOWN.”

  18. schmit44 says:

    3/8/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    Warmest:
    High:67 at DW9612 Umapine( 797 ft) & EAST BIRCH CREEK(1617 ft) & Pendleton /McKay(1100 ft)
    Low: 50 at EW4665 Culver(2694 ft) & EW3480 Ashland(2333 ft)

    Coldest:
    High:38 at Mount Hood Meado(6601 ft) & Timberline Lodge(7001 ft)
    Low: 17 at CRANE PRAIRIE (5500 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 44 degrees
    LAKEVIEW (64/20 ) (4770 ft )

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    3.66″ at SOUTH FORK(2257ft)
    3.05″ at DW0237 Lees Camp(699ft)
    2.03″ at TILLAMOOK(11ft)
    2.01″ at TIDEWATER(2035ft)
    1.87″ at LOG CREEK(2800ft)
    1.80″ at NORTH FORK(3120ft)
    1.61″ at MILLER(1031ft)
    1.57″ at CEDAR(2220ft)
    1.55″ at HEBOWX Mt. Hebo(3160ft)
    1.54″ at RYE MOUNTAIN(2000ft)

  19. Jason Hougak says:

    Mighty stormy outa there right now!

  20. pappoose in scappoose says:

    What’s wrong with this picture! Hahaaah!

    NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PORTLAND OR
    923 PM PDT SAT MAR 8 2014

    SHORT TERM…TONIGHT THROUGH TUESDAY…FORECAST CHALLENGES IN THE SHORT TERM ARE HOW STRONG WILL THE WINDS BE WITH THE FRONT AND AMOUNT
    OF HEAVY RAIN TONIGHT AND SUNDAY.

    • Jason Hougak says:

      Ha they issued that in the future

    • boydo3 N Albany says:

      Set your clock now. Mine did it for me last night…for some reason it thought it was today. Maybe the NWS has the same cheap alarm clock 🙂

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      Psychic no doubt. Issued it in the future. Hahaah!
      Great stuff, Jason.

    • pappoose in scappoose says:

      NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PORTLAND OR
      515 AM PDT SUN MAR 9 2014

      IT LOOKS LIKE THERE IS PLENTY OF ROOM IN THE NEHALEM NEAR VERNONIA TO PREVENT FLOODING IN THE TOWN.

  21. Sifton says:

    Hill is calling sunny & 68 Sat. Guess we have to wait to see what Mark says in a day or so……

    • Garron near Washington Square says:

      I’m betting my 1st 70 degree day will be Saturday. Might have to use the A/C.

  22. Jason Hougak says:

    Giant green monster coming in on radar

  23. Garron near Washington Square says:

    Time to cover your car, and fill the feeders! I love it!!! Just the last two days, I’ve had those little red things fall off the the maple trees, surely meaning the leaves are soon to arrive. I wish I’d kept track of the cycles the last 3 years. 3 springs ago, the weird snowy pattern made the (regular) maples go into shock, a few opened up in April, but most were still getting their first leaves and fill in, in June. Last year they were MUCH earlier, and were full * I THINK* by late March.

    I even got new raspberries that started in late October, and eatable by early December. 1st time that has happened where I got a crop of raspberries twice in one season.

    Now it’s going to be near 0r above 60 on Wed/Thurs, my days off. Might try to start my covered portion of the garden this week.

  24. W7ENK says:

    Welp, day two of “sunny and 65 degrees”… bust.

    Not even 10am and it’s already raining at a good clip. Thanks Mark! 😦

  25. chiefWright (Marquam) says:

    Don’t know if I can get into a goose’s head to find out why it likes to fly next to light aircraft, but it’s not at all dumb to do so. Notice how they spread back to either side in V-formation with the aircraft taking the point? It takes much less energy to fly when there’s someone ahead of you generating a slipstream!

    Birdbrain is a very ill conceived term! Those winged beasties are smart!

  26. Here are a few pics of the last Standard sunrise

    So, as the sunrise was ending, I was treated to an amazing spring assault on the ears.

    In this video, the visual isn’t great, but turn the volume up to hear the coyotes, crows, many other birds and even an owl around 33 seconds 🙂

  27. Jason Hougak says:

    Save the song birds, remove the European Starling.

  28. BoringOregon says:

    That is amazing! I was wondering why there was so many birds out today. Even if you go out now you can hear them all over!

  29. boydo3 N Albany says:

    That is REALLY cool! I’ve got feeders in my yard and I love to watch the various migrations of song birds at my local stop over.
    SAVE THE BIRDS!!

  30. schmit44 says:

    3/7/2014 Oregon (All) Temperature Summary

    Warmest:
    High:67 at WILKINSON RIDGE(1346 ft) & EW3367 Coos Bay(98 ft) & CW5302 Roseburg(410 ft) & CW5474 Grants Pa(915 ft) & MERLIN SEED ORCH(1144 ft) & WILLOW CREEK(456 ft)
    Low: 49 at LINCON Lincoln C(187 ft) & DW6132 Portland(272 ft) & OCNSID Oceanside(22 ft) & PACCTY-2 Pacific(28 ft)

    Coldest:
    High:30 at HOWARD Mt Howard(8150 ft)
    Low: 18 at ANEROID LAKE #2 (7300 ft )

    Largest Diurnal Change: 34 degrees
    DW9869 Sisters (64/30 ) (3163 ft )
    FISH FIN RIM (55/21) (4907 ft)

    Heaviest Rainfall:
    0.89″ at FLYNN PRAIRIE(1543ft)
    0.63″ at Scappoose Indust(52ft)
    0.59″ at Eugene, Mahlon S(364ft)

  31. karlbonner1982 says:

    ♫Though the armies of Winter have all but retreated,
    The Usurper himself simply cannot be found.
    The Prince isn’t sure if his foe is defeated –
    But there’s no sense disputing the facts on the ground!

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Far better prose than mine.

    • karlbonner1982 says:

      Actually the first half of the verse, right before this part, is even more ‘beginning-of-the-beginning’:

      ♫The Prince marches forth to lead the resistance;
      His boldness no match for the might of his foe.
      And yet with his triumph that greets his persistence,
      His banner unfurled rises green from the snow.

      Though the armies of Winter (etc etc…..)♫

  32. David B. says:

    First?

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