Every year I forget that late summer birding is composed of long periods of quiet interrupted by short periods of activity. Like this past weekend for example when the birds weren’t singing much, even in the early morning, Then it dawned on me during Fall Migration the best time to bird is the day before and a couple of days after a cold front. And that doesn’t even guarantee birds will be active since last Saturday was the day after a front passed through.
The bad thing about Fall cold fronts as opposed to ones in Spring is they don’t come through on a regular basis. Sometimes they will causally drift through every 5-6 days. Other times longer. And the birding can be slow in-between. So a short primer on fall migration.
Very Short Primer on Fall Migration
Shorebirds move the day or two before cold fronts.
Passerines move the day or two after cold fronts.
That’s it in a nutshell.
No use in making it any more complicated. Of course birds move all the time and can be seen on any day.
In 2012 I birded every day in August and on the two days around the passing of the 5 cold fronts I saw 95% of the birds for the month. So in essence I could have birded the best 10 days and would have seen almost all the birds that month.
For weather reference I use a couple of sources to check the passing of fronts.
First I check the 1-3 and 3-7 day forecast maps at NOAA.
Next I read the discussion on the local National Weather Service weather page.
And that’s it. Now I wait for the next front.