WELLSBORO — Have you been seeing birds that you normally don’t see in the area? You’re not alone. But there hasn’t been anything reported that is out of the ordinary, Rich Hanlon, a member of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society, said. There have just been a number of different variables that set the stage for people to notice more colorful and smaller birds.
One reason you might be seeing more and different birds around is because the cold weather has delayed some birds migrating north, Sean Minnick, treasurer of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society, said. Typically, there is a gradual warming, but that didn’t happen this year and it’s been colder longer than usual.
Now that it is beginning to warm up, there’s been a massive influx of birds, Hanlon said. There’s been more scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles, indigo buntings and warblers, Hanlon said.
Ken Cooper, a member of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society, just returned from Arizona and said the migration of birds is late there, too.
Birds spend the winters in warm weathers in the south, such as the South America rainforest, and live on insects, Hanlon said. Insects are more dependent on warmer weather; if it’s cold, insects won’t come out. If insects aren’t out, there’s nothing for the birds to feed on.
With the colder weather, the trees haven’t been as fully leaved as they typically are during this time of year, as Dan Kottlowski, senior meteorologist at Accuweather, and avid birder, said. Because the trees were barer longer than usual, it is easier to see birds in trees. Usually the leaves begin to bloom in April, depending on the tree species, and birds can’t be easily seen.
“This year we had a lot of cold weather earlier in the springtime, so a lot of the foliage on a lot of trees didn’t come out … until the last five days or so,” Kottlowski said.
Birds also migrate with respect to the wind.
“When the wind is from the north this time of the year, birds are less likely to migrate quickly because they want to catch the winds so they’re moving along with the wind,” Kottlowski said. A south wind will promote a northern migration, while a north wind prevents it.
It’s also just being aware of your surroundings.
“If you really take (bird watching) seriously, you’ll see a lot more birds … just looking up and seeing a bird is probably not going to give you an indication of what birds are out there,” Kottlowski said.
Kottlowski and his wife, Karen, biked the northern part of the Pine Creek Rail Trail last summer and saw and heard several birds.
“When you listen to the birds, listen to them closely because each species has a different bird song,” Kottlowski said. “When the leaves get on the trees, you can’t even see the birds, necessarily.”
Hanlon, who has spent the majority of his life birding and acquainting himself with the outdoors, is able to identify a bird just by its song or chirp. When he is able to see a bird, he takes note of the shape of the bird and where the bird is on the tree, as well as its song, to help him identify it.
Kottolowski said he uses the website, birdcast.info, created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which tracks migratory birds. It uses a weather radar to create an algorithm that shows where the birds are migrating to.
“You can really tell when the weather is having an impact because a couple of weeks ago, we had a northwest wind and there were no birds at all migrating into the eastern United States, but in the central U.S., where the winds were from the south, it was just loaded up,” Kottlowski said.
Kottlowski suggests people use eBird.org to see what birds are where, where bird hotspots are and when to expect to see certain birds based on historical reports.