Fall Migration

by special guest, Lois Stacey

The weather is cooler and the leaves are starting to show their orange and yellow color.  This means that Fall Migration is here!  Many birds fly north in spring to breed.  The males flit from perch to perch flashing their pretty colors and singing their songs; “Pick Me!  I’m pretty, I’m a good provider, Pick Me!!”  They are bright and loud and easily found and identified.

Prothonotary Warbler by Wade Gassman
Prothonotary Warbler by Wade Gassman

Now breeding is done so there is no need to impress. Mid-September through mid-October is when most of these birds come through our area on their way to Central and South America.  Many of them have lost much of their bright coloration and they no longer sing for the ladies.  They skulk through the trees looking for food to fatten up for their long trip south.  A few will winter here but most are on their way to Central or South America.  In addition, the young from the year are also flying south and they can be even duller than their parents.  Birders have a term for these birds; they are called Confusing Fall Warblers!  It can be difficult to identify these dull, mostly green little birds.

On Saturday, October 17th, Phinizy held the Fall Migration Bird Walk at the park.  We wandered through the woods to see which migrants we could find.  Since they are not singing, and not chipping much either, it takes a different approach to find them.  The key to finding migrants in the fall is to watch for movement.  For these birds to make it all the way to their wintering grounds they have to spend almost all of their waking moments trying to find food.  Most of them eat insects which means they are flying from branch to branch chasing caterpillars and other soft-bodied insects.  If you watch for the movement you can find the birds.  During our walk we found 10 species of warbler and a few non-warbler migrants as well.  That’s not bad!

We hope they all have a safe trip and come back again next year.