September 14, 2022

The Birds Know that Fall is Here

 There are a number of humans that don't believe that summer will ever end.  

But the birds know that fall is here.

Last night, the weather radar showed an explosion of radar returns over land around sunset.  Many birds prefer to fly after sunset---safer that way.

Here is a composite of several radar sites at 7:30 PM last night (Tuesday) before the sun set.  Not much to see.

And here is the image at 10 PM.   Wow...lots of birds.  You notice they don't like to fly offshore!  

Modern Doppler radars provide wind velocity (actually the velocity of targets like precipitation) towards or away from the radar.  But last night there was no precipitation but plenty of birds.  And radar really picks up birds...they appear like giant raindrops.

Here is the velocity towards or away from the Langley Hill radar near Hoquiam.  Green indicates approaching birds and yellow/orange birds moving away.  These birds are moving south!

There is a very good website that shows bird migration based on radar imagery:
Their graph for 11 PM last night shows the southward migration over our region.  But there was even more birds flying south across the eastern U.S.

Interestingly, there seemed to be far fewer birds flying around on Saturday night after sunset (see below at 11 PM).  Perhaps our feathered friends do not like smoke.  In fact, there are some studies that suggest this kind of avoidance.

Fortunately, I have some good news for migrating birds: by Friday at 4 PM, the region should be pretty much smoke-free according to the NOAA HRRR smoke model (see below).  So both humans and birds will be able to take a deep breath....


  1. When I was a kid, my older sister took a first stab at baking cookies from scratch. Her very first batch was so hard and dry we couldn't eat them.

    The next morning, after my sister went off to school, my father suggested to my mother that these cookies be fed to the birds. "No way," my mother said. "If the birds eat these cookies, they'll have to walk south for the winter."

    "OK, what do we do with them?" my father asked. "Learn to love them." was the response.

  2. I was in Seattle this week for a checkup on my joint replacement surgery. We traveled there from eastern Washington for my appointment at UW Medicine.

    When we were driving along I-90 near Ellensburg headed west towards Seattle, we observed thousands of birds perched wing-to-wing on the power lines next to the highway.

    What was going on here? Were all these birds getting ready for a replay of a famous Alfred Hitchcock horror movie from 1963? ('The Birds' didn't quite reach the intensity of 'Psycho', but it was close enough for a good Hitchcock horror movie.)

    Anyway, it is thought that when birds exhibit this behavior in the fall, it's a sign that a harsh winter is on its way. We can only hope for this knowing that here in eastern Washington, harsh winters keep the insects down the following spring and summer.

    OK, we knew we were getting close to Seattle by observing the number of Tesla cars which were traveling on I-90, and later on I-405 and 520.

    The closer we got to Seattle, the higher became the Tesla Car Concentration (TCC) as measured by counting Tesla Vehicles per Thousand (TVpT). We knew we were getting close to the city limits when the TVpT count began to rise sharply.

    After my appointment, we had dinner in Bellevue with a long time friend whom I worked with when I was employed at Boeing twenty-five years ago, the pre-merger version of Boeing.

    My friend is greatly concerned about climate change, especially that the Marshall Islands, a place he likes to vacation at occasionally, are threatened by sea level rise.

    I told him that sea level is rising only slightly faster than the historical average for the past century, and that there is evidence that coral islands such as those that make up the Marshall Islands actually grow in response to sea level rise. He was unimpressed by this news.

    The topic of discussion then turned to the decision by Washington State government to ban the sale of new gasoline powered cars by 2035, and the issue of where the electricity needed to power all these new electric vehicles will come from.

    I could only offer my opinion that since we will have less electricity in the year 2035 than we have today, then we won't be buying all the new EV's here in Washington state the climate activists are planning on.

    As the price of gasoline continues to rise, and as the supply of electricity in our state begins to fall, we will be relying more and more on public transportation to get us from Point A to Point B.

  3. Crows begin flocking together in the fall, I don’t know that they go much further south, but maybe hanging together helps them survive the winter better. I noticed they started doing this around the beginning of September, which is also the start meteorological autumn. I also notice that the geese are starting to gather and seem to be doing practice flights, not necessarily flying south or going long haul, but flying from pond to pond and meeting up with other flocks. I am in central WA—a great place to watch bird behavior.


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