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Meeting Notes: Feb. 11, 2009

Ben O'Neal:

"Waterfowl on Weather Radar: Tracking Clouds of Ducks"

At the Feb. 11 meeting, Ben O'Neal, doctoral candidate from the University of Illinois, discussed using weather radar to track the migration pattern of ducks in Central Illinois.  Ben indicated that in the early World War II days of using surveillance radar, operators would sometimes observe "angels" in the images.  Many of the "angels" turned out to be flocks of migrating waterfowl.

With funding from the Illinois Natural History Survey, Ben is using the "angels" as a biology research tool to study duck migration.  One advantage of radar, is that the observation tool can be used 24-hours daily.  According to Ben, "Migration is a critical stage in the annual cycle of birds, but a difficult one to study. It occurs over an enormous scale and often at night."





NEXRAD in Lincoln, IL

Using the NEXRAD radar in Lincoln, Illinois, Ben observed a dominant southeast migration of ducks from Central Illinois.  Note the image on the right where a flock of ducks is moving southeast from Chautauqua toward Lake Shelbyville. 

Before the radar studies, most biologists thought that Central Illinois waterfowl generally followed the direction of the rivers - perpendicular to the observed southeast migration.  It is not know if this trend is historic or if it is the outcome from construction of large man-made lakes and wildlife refuges in the last 30-50 years. 

Observing Duck Migration with Radar

Ben was gracious to share an article that he authored, with Joshua Stafford and Ron Larkin that was published in Outdoor Illinois. 

Click Here to download a copy (pdf; 2MB) of the Outdoor Illinois article.




Ben's Suggested Links for Radar Ornithology:

Real-time Weather Data -- NEXRAD images from WSR-88D radar sites in US

Ronald Larkin, Wildlife Ecologist -- Website of Ben's research advisor on radar wildlife research

Clemson University Radar Ornithology Lab -- Research on using NEXRAD for ornithology

Robert Diehl: Avian radar images -- Research showing NEXRAD bird migration imagery

US Geological Survey: Radar Technology -- Info on using radar to understand migratory "Aerofauna"

Wisconsin Society for Ornithology -- Birding News: Bird Migration on NEXRAD

Bird Migration and Movements on NEXRAD -- Bird/radar imagery from Wisconsin and Great Lakes

New Jersey Audubon Migration Study -- Several web pages on using radar to study bird migration


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Images and article are courtesy of Ben O'Neal.  All rights reserved by the authors