Bird-a-thon in the Rain

Bird-a-thon has never been postponed and cancelled due to weather. Bird-a-thon team leaders are requested to remind all birders working on behalf of their sanctuary or Mass Audubon program that safety during the Bird-a-thon is of utmost concern to the organization. It is suggested that birders monitor local weather predictions and modify their birding plans and itineraries accordingly depending on rain, wind, or possible flooding conditions

Contrary to popular belief, birding in the rain can be productive

While it is generally true that heavy rain or high wind is not terribly conducive to great birding, there are times when such conditions can work to a birder’s advantage. A few examples follow:

  • Most nocturnal songbird migrants will be grounded under these conditions, even though they may be more difficult to find than under sunny or less windy conditions.  In other words, there are more birds around than you would intuitively expect under the predicted conditions.
  • Many waterbird migrants may also be grounded by low overcast and rainy conditions, especially on large inland lakes and ponds, or in flooded fields and wet pastures. Be on the lookout inland for species like shorebirds and Black Terns.
  • Many songbirds, including warblers and other canopy-feeders, will often be found foraging low or nearly on the ground if high wind or rain is keeping insects low and under cover. Seek and you shall find!
  • If there are breaks in the weather, even if temporary, there will often be bursts of song or increased activity for as long as the clearing persists, so try to be in a favorable location if you sense that conditions are changing in your favor.
  • If you are birding at the coast, be sure to keep a careful eye on the ocean, since the easterly winds that are predicted will often deflect migrating seabirds close to shore under these conditions, especially at this time of year. Many birders will no doubt remember the amazing Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Phalarope, and Arctic Tern flights of the 2006 pre-Memorial Day storm.

Last, but by no means least, remember that Bird-a-thon is intended to be a fun event and is happening as a way to raise important dollars for conservation. Good birding and good luck!