by Seth Benz
The migration of birds along the Downeast coast of Maine is spectacular. According to Birdcast, a collaborative migration forecasting and analytic modeling program based upon radar ornithology, 42 million birds have passed through Hancock County thus far this autumn (August to present). 42 million and counting! That entire tally has occurred during the nighttime hours between 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Conversely, Schoodic Institute’s Sea Watch at Schoodic Point and Hawk Watch at Cadillac Mountain contribute daytime observations. Our counts are incorporated into continent-spanning monitoring networks that collectively add millions more to the nocturnal totals, resulting in billions of birds moving south. The daytime pulse of migrating birds is quite visible and offers a superb opportunity to hone one’s birds-in-flight identification skills. In 2018, the autumn Sea Watch count at Schoodic Point tallied more than 104,000 birds. Our fall season average over the past seven years is 59,000. The pulse of the seasonal flight quickens during the month of October, each hour of observation yielding as many as 250 migrants. Nearly 70 percent of all the migrants counted each year pass during the month of October.
Migration counts and analysis may help researchers understand how bird migration timing and pathways respond to changing climate, and whether linkages exist between migration timing and subsequent changes in population size.