Friday, July 27, 2007
First Migrant of Fall!
As the birders among the readers to this blog will know, fall migration has already begun. Shorebirds, who stay in the north only long enough to breed, are already heading southward again. I was reminded of that this morning when I saw the first Great Blue Heron since spring migration at one of Roundtop’s snowmaking ponds. It was still nearly dark, and the bird was little more than a silhouette in the gloom. Great Blues are kind of ungainly, very Ichabod Crane kind of birds, especially as they are taking off and until they get going.
I’m not a huge shorebird fan—no disrespect is meant here, but as I live on top of a mountain that’s over 100 miles from the nearest ocean, my opportunities for shorebird watching are a bit limited. Still, in some years, I get to see a fair number of shorebirds or wading birds like this morning’s egret. I’m not that far from the lower Susquehanna River, which is quite a migration corridor. And the snowmaking ponds, while not ideal habitat, do offer some advantages for migrants.
Have you ever noticed how warblers often drop onto the top of a mountain during migration and then work their way down the slope? I’ve always thought that was because they used less energy by landing first on the top of a mountain, which after all is closer to the altitude at which they migrate than is a valley. I suspect it’s the same kind of thing with the shorebirds I see at Roundtop. To them, it might not look ideal but it’s a pond with an easy on/off just off the migration interstate so it’s worth checking out.
In some of the drier years, Roundtop even has a few mud flats, and then I’m likely to see more shorebirds than average. So far, I don’t have any mudflats, though it’s still early. For now, let me just say that fall migration has begun!