Given that a couple of people responded to last night's post, asking me about 
the enigma of westward flights of birds in spring on Long Island, I thought I'd 
share this with the list. It's not an exaggeration to say that this very 
question changed my life!

I came to Long Island in April 1996 as a post-doc to run the bird-banding 
component of a study of Lyme Disease at Fire Island Lighthouse. In those first 
weeks, I was amazed to find the warblers and tanagers hitting my nets from east 
to west. Paul Buckley said "of course"--he'd been seeing this for almost 50 
years at that time. And it wasn't a complete shock to me, either. As a native 
Rhode Islander, I'd learned to appreciate that fall migrants that wind up on 
Block Island overnight funnel back to the north over the course of the morning, 
to jump back to the mainland before resuming their southward course.

Regarding yesterday's kinglets, the idea is, if conditions aren't perfect 
(southerly winds all the way), the nocturnal migrants that make it ashore on 
spring nights land on the beach and are dis-inclined to cross the huge bay to 
the north. They stream westward in a still not completely understood way until 
they regain the LI mainland, where they rest, feed, etc., before undertaking 
the next big nocturnal leap to the north. It's a re-orientation movement to get 
them into decent habitat sooner rather than later.

The recently described westward flights of Gannets in the Sound and on the 
ocean are something different. When purposefully migrating, Gannets go west to 
east in spring and east to west in fall--just as you would suppose. But in 
spring especially, they are tracking menhaden and other migratory fish, and 
they  seek them in unexpected places, like the Sound and even in the shallow 
bays, at times. These movements are purely facultative, tracking food. Another 
dimension to understand about foraging seabirds is that they tend to get 
drifted by the wind and/or tide, so there is often a "correction flight" where 
it looks like they are moving in a specific direction, but what they are really 
doing is flying to regain their preferred feeding position after being drifted.

All the best,

> On Mar 27, 2020, at 5:43 PM, Shaibal Mitra <> wrote:
> Bob's and Sarah's report clearly indicates a good flight overnight. Patricia 
> Lindsay and I were fortunate to be able to observe some of this flight 
> further east on the barrier beach of southwestern Suffolk County. 
> Particularly abundant here were Slate-colored Juncos, Song Sparrows, 
> Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-shafted Flickers; also included were two 
> each of Phoebe, Brown Creeper, and Field Sparrow, and best of all was a 
> Vesper Sparrow (singing!) from a little patch of Arctostaphylos moorland on 
> Captree Island (nice looking spot, but not a chance of local breeding).
> We walked around a little between Robert Moses SP golf course and Democrat 
> Point; it was a good day because we learned a little bit more about our 
> patch, watching how westward-moving Flickers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and 
> Myrtle Warblers behave at the puckerbrush-moorland ecotone.
> Shai Mitra
> Bay Shore
> ________________________________________
> From: 
> [] on behalf of Robert Paxton 
> []
> Sent: Friday, March 27, 2020 5:28 PM
> Subject: [nysbirds-l] spring arrivals: Eastern Phoebe
> We found eleven Eastern Phoebes in about a half-mile (120th street to 110th 
> street) at the  north end of Riverside Park, Manhattan, in about an hour (4 
> to 5 p.m). We found none in a similar walk yesterday. No other spring 
> migrants observed today.
>  Bob Paxton and Sarah Plimpton
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