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Hi all,

    I've been following what's been going on downstate now that we can catch our breath up here in the Pensacola area after three major fallouts in three weeks. By major, I mean trees loaded (dripping) with birds in quantity, not ones and twos but dozens. Like 21 species of warblers at Ft. Morgan, Alabama, 55 mi west of Pensacola on the 13th. Like 12 Painted Btgs on the ground in one place with dozens of indigos and waves of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, orioles, and tanagers passing overhead.

    The 13th was a classic fallout situation and quite predictable. Birds had strong incentive to launch at dusk on the 12th, with favorable SE winds in northern Yucatan. They were in mid-Gulf near midnight or early morning with brisk S or SSE winds making good time. A heavy squall line hit them about 100 mi south of the coast. It stretched from the mouth of the Mississippi River to the Alabama coast by 9 a.m. and slowly moved east all day. We drove through the line and got to Ft. Moran when the rain stopped around noon. Birds had already come in, from what I gathered from other birders, somewhat ahead of their usual late morning arrival, probably sped on by those fresh S winds. Winds remained light SE or variable the rest of the day and the birds were not tired. The rain in the Gulf was enough to force them down temporarily but the winds out of the SE did not keep them pinned down. The next day, reports from Dauphin Island, just across the entrance to Mobile Bay, indicated most had left.

    I have been posting birding forecasts on AL listserv for several years, mostly twice a week from late March through April. It would be up to AL birders to judge my competency, sometimes I'm dead wrong. This year I'm batting 1000. I usually post when fallouts may occur, but also, in the interest of fuel conservation, when it's going to be a 'no go.'

    Forecasts are based strictly on the weather pattern. I do not rely on interpreting radar specks as migrating birds because I have tried without success, to interpret it. I assume that migrants will be moving out of Yucatan with fair weather and favorable winds, in late March and April.

    Now, Lucy and I got back home late on the 13th and I did not pay attention to what was happening to the front and rain in the Gulf once it passed us, but I think the mid-Gulf buoy was reading NW 20 - 25 mph. I also think winds in n. Yucatan were S or SE, in which case birds would have taken off, hit strong, adverse winds in the very early morning hours in mid-Gulf and would have been shunted to a more easterly landfall. This is, of course, speculation. Since the ultimate target for most trans-Gulf migrants is the Appalachian - New England area, the optimal heading would be NNE. With a strong NW wind, they would have been drifted somewhat east of our (NW FL) area. I recall Dr. Sid Gauthreaux from Clemson stating at an AOS meeting that birds crossing the Gulf hitting strong adverse winds "go with the flow." This fits well with birds reported at St. Marks, Cedar Keys and Bald Point. Ft. DeSoto would be short changed since the winds were not due west and that is not a preferred heading anyway. Furthermore, winds were reported to be strong S there at Ft. DeSoto, a strong incentive for birds to keep going or empty out a migrant trap where the biomass is limited.

    That's my two cents worth,

Bob Duncan
Gulf Breeze, Fl in the w. Panhandle
    
       


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