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September 28, 2013

Autumn brings migrants to fields and feeders

With this crisp, cool weather that we have been having, it certainly makes you want to get out and enjoy the nature around us. The shorebird migration is just about over, but the songbirds are moving through on their way south. Warblers, vireos, thrushes, and flycatchers are all moving through our shrubs and trees. Sparrows and pipits are passing through our fields. If you are out enjoying the weather, be sure to look up as the hawks are migrating now as well. You may see a small kettle of hawks circling above, catching the midday thermals to give them lift and, thus, minimizing the effort that they need to expend to make their journey to Central and South America.

Look for an occasional black vulture among the turkey vultures. A few bald eagles will be on the move and even a golden eagle or two later in the season. The swallows are mostly gone. I saw only a couple of tree and barn swallows last weekend. Most of the orioles have left, and many of the hummingbirds as well. A few hummers are lingering, but most will be gone, and the remaining migrants should pass through by the end of September. Occasionally a few strays show up at nectar feeders past October and they should be checked carefully, as they could be a different species from our ruby-throated hummingbird.

The male goldfinches have lost their bright yellow and black coloration and are now an olive green, like the females. There seem to be more finches around now than there were a month or two ago, so you’ll want to offer them thistle seed or sunflower seed to keep them around all fall and winter. If you do put out thistle, keep an eye out for migrating indigo buntings the next couple of weeks. Now is a good time to carefully check over those sparrows that are at your millet or mixed seed feeders. I know that we think of sparrows as “little brown jobs” and they are challenging to tell apart, but fall is the time when more unusual birds show up with them.

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