The Avian Hazard Advisory System (AHAS) provides aviation community with geospatial bird data to help reduce the risk of bird collisions with aircraft. For the waterfowl hunting and bird watching enthusiast, the AHAS website provides real-time NEXRAD data that tracks both weather and avian movement.
The roots of Radar Ornithology can be traced back to early migration studies conducted by Frank C. Bellrose and Dr. Richard Graber between 1960 and 1964. It is unlikely that back in 1964 that Bellrose could have ever imagined that the average duck hunter would be able to access, real-time radar for the entire nation using a pocket touch screen device. Or that that same device could link to real-time duck hunting reports from hunters across the nation as they do here at Waterfowler.com.
While the technology and the way radar information is accessed has advanced exponentially since 1964, the application and theory of Bellrose’s studies are still applicable today. Radar CAN track birds and movement but cannot tell you what species of bird you are seeing on radar and it does take a level of skill to discern the difference between birds and weather on radar.
NEXRAD (Next Generation Radar) obtains weather information (precipitation and wind) based upon returned energy. The radar emits a burst of energy (green). If the energy strikes an object (rain drop, bug, bird, etc), the energy is scattered in all directions (blue). A small fraction of that scattered energy is directed back toward the radar. Echoes from migrating birds regularly appear during nighttime hours between late February and late May, and again from August through early November.
The radar summary maps on AHAS provide a summary of radar reports from across the nation. NEXRAD radar can operate in two modes; clear air mode and precipitation mode. It is much easier to locate birds on radar when it is operating in clear air mode. Detailed information on how to read radar images to locate birds can be found on the Clemson University website for Radar Ornithology.
As your skills and interest in Radar Ornithology increase, you will likely want to use detailed, local radar towers for the areas you hunt. Radar information is best when combined with known field data. If you are monitoring a large waterfowl refuge in your area, it is possible to track the time and direction waterfowl leave the refuge to feed. That data can then be applied to wind direction, temperatures and other data to increase your hunting success in the field — all from your desktop computer or cell phone.
Waterfowler.com encourages our members to get their duck-geek on today and begin exploring these advanced tool to help improve their hunting success and knowledge.