Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Autumn's birds are arriving, summer's birds are going, going...

Dark, heavy, rain-laden clouds—a real sign of fall here—made evening photography no better than the morning yesterday. Last evening I heard the first truly migrant flock of Canada geese heading south. I never did see the birds, but that constant, overlapping honking, high above the clouds, isn’t a sound the locals make on their routine evening flights. No, this sound is the sound of fall, when the birds have flown for hours, honking as easily as they flap their wings. The honking is constant; I can hear it coming from the north, loudest when the birds are overhead and then diminishing into the south. When I think of fall, in my mind, that’s the sound that accompanies the visual image of golden tree-covered hills.

I’ve been seeing flocks of sparrows, too, flittering half a dozen at a time, never stopping long enough for me to identify them. Sometimes I think they are all chipping sparrows, but they can’t all be chipping sparrows, can they? The light is so dull and dark at the edges of the day and the birds are so flittery that I never get a good look at them. I simply see them, never pausing very long, little bundles of motion. I keep checking their tail feathers for signs of juncos. The light is just barely good enough to distinguish that white outer tail feather against the juncos’ slate gray, but so far I haven’t seen them either. Soon, though, perhaps this weekend, the first of them will arrive.

Red-breasted nuthatches are moving south this year after mostly staying up north last year. I’ve seen several already and heard more. They’ve come to my dad’s feeders, my own. I’ve heard them on Waggoner’s Gap hawkwatch and heard them in my own woods. This year's winter finch forecast also predicts purple finch will head south this year, but I haven’t seen any of those yet. Once, a few weeks ago, I thought I might have heard several of them, but I wasn’t sure enough to record them as such.

Other predictions from Ron Pittaway’s winter finch forecast, which is based on the supply (or not) of cone crops in Canada, are that the crossbills will likely stay up north. Common redpolls are predicted to head south, but pine siskins will likely stay up north. The Yukon apparently has a bumper crop of white spruce cone this year, which will keep the siskins, bohemian waxwings, pine grosbeaks and especially the white-winged crossbills happy in the north.


Cathy said...

I one those red-breasted nuthatches at the feeder last Sunday. I honestly thought it was a regular nuthatch with one very dirty belly. I honestly don't remember seeing them at the feeder before.

Pablo said...

Autumn migration always seems so bittersweet to me.

Carolyn H said...

Cathy: I love those silly little red-breasted nuthatches with their "tin horn" sound. They do come to feeders, but they don't come south all that often, unfortunately for us.

Carolyn H.

Carolyn H said...

Pablo: Yes, autumn migration is a bit bittersweet, as it won't be long before there's few birds to see before spring rolls around again. But fall hawkwatching is far better than spring hawkwatching. That's not bittersweet at all to me!

Carolyn H.

Carolyn H said...

So, pablo: Do you miss your blog? I miss reading it. In looking back over your posts from your last week or so of posting, I think you were planning then to stop. I just didn't realize it at the time.

Carolyn H.