It seems as if we were just celebrating the arrival of our summer Neo-Tropical migratory birds, and already we’re telling them good-bye till next spring. The avian calendar is swift. We began receiving reports of hummingbirds at feeders in early August. The number of reports of folks having hummingbirds should increase through most all of September as September 6tth is when the majority are moving through. So there is plenty of time to get a hummingbird feeder out and enjoy them as they usually are at the feeders till the first week in October.
As of beginning to write this newsletter Linda and I encountered our first hummingbird arrival. He has been at the feeder several times today, Sunday morning, August 25th. But I have also noticed the black birds are beginning to flock together, typical for this time of year. I know we will hear a lot of complaints about these flocks at feeders in the coming weeks. This is just one of many signs of a coming change in the season. We have several weeks of summer left, but the birds are already sensing the change and preparations are slowly getting underway.
Our resident birds may not be visiting the feeders near as often this time of year. There are plenty of natural food resources that have become available to them to select from. Birds will also become quieter as they molt from their tattered summer feathers into new winter plumage. Just remember to keep those feeders well stocked none-the-less. This is a period where our resident birds will be establishing winter food sources, both natural and supplemental, and winter birds will be looking for feeding grounds as they arrive. A stocked feeder now will result in more bird activity when the days get colder and more energy is needed to weather winter’s cold days and frigid nights.
September is the official start of the annual fall migration. This is the time of year during which, by months end, we will be bidding farewell to all our summer friends from the tropics. The Orioles, Tanagers, and Thrushes along with many others will be on their way to warmer climates in Central and South America. Many of our other summer resident birds that do not leave the continent will be drifting to the warmer southern states as well. One of those bird species that will be heading to the Gulf States this month is the Common Grackle. These boisterous black birds will hardly be missed. But rest assured that as our summer birds depart, they will be replaced with our winter resident birds. This includes the Juncos, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Pine Siskin, crossbills and Redpolls.
Another early migratory species of birds that is on the move are shorebirds. Already we have seen numerous reports of shorebirds and those numbers along with species will increase. These migrants nest from the Great Plains to the sub-Arctic. It is exciting to see them and they can be a bit challenging to identify. It is recommended when viewing shorebirds to have a good pair of binoculars or a spotting scope. The same goes for viewing ducks, geese, or other aquatic birds. But watching shorebirds is an area of birding that can really be exciting and fun.
The Warbler migration will ramp up in September and you should test yourselves at identifying them. Remember, some fall birds do not look like they did in the spring and it will challenge you to sort them out. The saying “confusing fall warblers”, presents a problem at times for even the most experienced birders. This is one of several reasons to have a good field guide and familiarize yourself with it. More than 26 species of warblers migrate through Nebraska, primarily in the eastern third of the state. And quite often there are a few others that strayed off course and show up in our area. The fact that one never knows what bird or bird rarity might show up in any given area can create a lot of excitement.
There will be many bird species on the move beginning in September and into early November. Once you see the Snow Geese flying overhead you’ll know the migratory songbirds have reached the winter ranges. Watch your yards for these new visitors. Native sparrows, thrushes, warblers and others. While some birds may stop by and take advantage of the food in your bird feeders, others may spend time foraging for insects in the trees and shrubs in your yard, or for a quick bath if you have a water source available.
If you enjoy hawk watching, this is the time of year to keep your eyes on the skies. Sometimes we are fortunate enough to see huge flocks of migrating hawks soaring high above us. These are called “Kettles” and there can be several varieties drifting on the thermals in lazy circles, slowly and effortlessly heading to warmer climates. Although hawk migration can be seen just about anywhere, one of the best places is at the Hitchcock Nature Center in Crescent, IA just minutes north of Omaha. Hawk Watch runs through October. In 2012, 10,140 birds of prey were counted. This included a variety of hawk species, eagles, falcons, Ospreys and others. The hawks will be following the songbirds that are on the move. After all, this is how they make a living. Google <Hitchcock Nature Center> for more information or ask us at Wild Bird Habitat.
Our late nesters, the Goldfinches, Waxwings, and Mourning Doves, will be winding down the nesting season. The first two birds always wait until late June and July to start nesting. The Doves on the other hand, just seem to keep on nesting almost into the fall months. They only lay two eggs at a time, but they seem to be keeping their numbers up in spite of the hunting seasons in several northern states.
I’ve mentioned how birds are becoming restless as we move closer to a changing season. Well I can assure you in late August and the first few weeks of September many birders are becoming restless as well. It’s getting to be time to get out birding and enjoy the birds that will be moving through on a pilgrimage that has been going on for millions of years. But by the middle of the month to early November we encourage you to take a day once in a while during the fall bird migration and venture out to a nearby wetland, lake, or wildlife management area. Take a hike through the woods. And when you’re not out looking for birds keep a good eye on who is visiting your backyard. You might just be surprised and what you might see.