Saturday, May 22, 2010

South Wind

It arrived in Metro Denver during the night, sending a roar through the trees and rattling the windows of our Littleton farmhouse; on this strong, southwest wind, downsloping from the Front Range, the morning temperature had climbed into the mid sixties F, a good ten degrees warmer than usual. The culprit was a potent storm system, centered over Wyoming, and its cold front, trailing through western Colorado; ahead of the system, southerly winds were racing toward the central low, raking the High Plains with gusts to forty miles per hour.

Setting out for Missouri, we fought these winds almost all the way to Columbia. In Denver, the winds were southwesterly, over the Great Plains they were directly from the south and, in eastern Kansas and Missouri, they came from the southeast, all indicating that the central low had not progressed very far to the east; indeed, as of this evening, the center of the storm sits over the Wyoming-Nebraska border, igniting thunderstorms in the western Dakotas.

While avid birders know that high winds tend to keep birds on the ground and thus diminish birding success, today's wind storm actually produced some unexpectedly close sightings as avian travelers got hung up in the stiff breeze, hovering above the highway before dipping toward the grasslands. Swainson's hawks, northern harriers, western kingbirds, scissor-tailed flycatchers and several more common species put in these close encounters, courtesy of a potent storm, hundreds of miles away.