Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Back in the Gulf Plume

Having returned to central Missouri, I am back in the plume of moisture that flows up from the Gulf of Mexico.  Repeatedly pumped northward by low pressure zones as they ride eastward along the jet stream, this intermittent but relatively steady supply of moisture produces the verdant landscape of the American Midwest, a marked change from the semiarid environment of the Colorado Front Range.

Taking advantage of the insect hordes that warm, humid air spawns, migrant insectivores are streaming northward through the Heartland and I headed over to the Columbia Audubon Sanctuary to observe the parade; the preserve was adorned with flowering redbuds and, throughout my visit, I was serenaded by a mixed chorus of songbirds, tree frogs and trilling American toads. Among my first seasonal sightings were eastern wood pewees, yellow-throated, black and white and prairie warblers, Swainson's thrushes, blue-gray gnatcatchers, eastern kingbirds and a lone common yellowthroat.  Other seasonal firsts, not strictly dependent on insects, included brown-headed cowbirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks and an indigo bunting.

I'll remain within the Gulf Plume for another nine days and will hopefully observe many more eastern species before I return to Colorado.  While I favor the drier and sunnier climate of the West, it cannot match the songbird diversity of the Central and Eastern U.S., especially during the peak of the spring migration.