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indicators of timing. Sid Gautreaux’s pioneering study of bird migration in the 1960s using weather radar, still ongoing at the Radar Ornithology Lab at South Carolina’s Clemson University, is avail- able to birders on regional websites via Tinyurl.com/USBirdTrackingRadar. While radar can confirm the magnitude and direction of the migra- tion over the previous night, weather predictions help forecast when big flights will occur. So, the next step is to hold a wetted finger up to the wind. A big cold front will hold up birds from moving south because the associated low pressure brings south- erly winds and storms. Birds wait it out, storing fuel. Then, when the front clears and a tailwind comes from the north, a floodtide of birds pours southward.


Eager birders, having arrived


shortly after dawn, await at selected spots 200 to 300 miles south of the leading edge of the former front. On days like these, the skies are brim- ming with birds. Grassroots moni- toring reports on the birds’ progress from mid-August through October are posted at eBird.org, sponsored by New York’s Cornell Lab of Ornithol- ogy (Birds.Cornell.edu). As Joni Mitchell sang, we rejoice


that, “They’ve got the urge for going now, and they’ve got the wings to go.”


Timothy Boucher is a senior conserva- tion geographer at The Nature Conser- vancy (Nature.org), focused on ecosys- tem services, land use, habitat condi- tions and links between conservation and human well-being. His fieldwork spans six continents, encompassing lo- cal and global issues.


natural awakenings September 2013 47


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