Migration is upon us – morning bird walks soon to come!
As a birder, there are two times of year that I get very excited for: spring and fall. These seasons are times of perpetual change in the natural world; living things brace themselves for the shift in climate and seem to either appear or disappear from our sight. During fall in particular one can see some pretty amazing phenology through some simple observations. The leaves of your favorite tree changing color, wooly bears crawling on the forest floor and squirrels stowing away tree nuts are all signs that fall is coming or already here. But the most dynamic and interesting phenomena to observe is bird migration.
From August to November migratory birds are on the move; the days become shorter, triggering their instinct that it’s time to depart summer breeding grounds and habitats. This window of time allows us to observe traveling birds that we might not see in Adams County during other parts of the year. Being familiar with migratory bird behavior and how the weather dictates it can significantly raise your chances of seeing exciting birds.
Believe it or not, a lot of birds migrate at night. Most songbirds and waterfowl gather in the hundreds or thousands to form migrating flocks that fly under the cover of darkness, stopping during the day to feed and rest. It is during these rest stops that bird watchers have the opportunity to observe, often at relatively undisturbed habitats like fields, forests and bodies of water. Other birds, such as raptors, migrate in the light of day. They can be seen flying individually or in groups of hundreds along ridgelines and mountain tops.
Although the amount of daylight initiates migration, the weather controls its path and schedule. Weather factors can speed up, slow down and change the course of any bird’s migratory flight. If there are strong northerly winds (winds coming from the north) then birds will be on the move, letting the tail winds push them along their journey south. If the wind comes from the south, migrants will likely decide to wait until it changes. Any kind of inclement weather such as rain, hail, thunder, cold fronts or overly strong winds will force birds to “drop down” and delay their migration. The most skilled birders will take all of these factors into consideration when deciding when and where to go birding during migration.
As we get closer to the autumn season I challenge you to find some species of birds that are new to you. A great start could be joining us for fall migration bird walks that are taking place at least once a week for the month of September right here at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve. The walks will highlight the sights and sounds of the migratory species that travel through our neck of the woods. Non-birders as well as birders of all skill levels are invited to meet in front of the pink log cabin around 6:45am on the dates listed below. Please be sure to bring a sturdy pair of shoes, binoculars and a water bottle. Strawberry Hill has a limited number of binoculars available for use on a first come first serve basis. $5 donation suggested to support environmental education at the Preserve.
2016 Fall Migration Bird Walk Schedule:
Saturday, September 3
Saturday, September 10
Tuesday, September 13
Saturday, September 17
Wednesday, September 21
Friday, September 23
Joel Wagner is an environmental education intern at Strawberry Hill Nature Preserve.