Thursday, September 06, 2012
..Or at least they are passing through. This morning as I stepped out the door of the cabin, I was greeted by the familiar tin horn sound of a red-breasted nuthatch! I didn't get to see the bird but it was nearby and I heard it clearly. If that's not a harbinger of fall, I don't know what is!
A few weeks ago I was at the Hawk Mountain-sponsored Kittatinny Roundtable, which brings together hawkwatch site coordinators from Pennsylvania and New Jersey. There, we speculated that migration might happen early this year because of the drought. So far, that hasn't really been the case with raptors, though this stuffy, humid weather is likely as much to blame as anything. Without this constant layer of clouds and humidity, the birds may well have started to move. Raptors prefer better weather for migration, preferably the day after a cold front passes, when they will have a tail wind and the higher pressure makes flying easier. They may well be sitting up north, eager enough to move south but held up by the rain, clouds and humidity.
Smaller birds, like the red-breasted nuthatch, migrate a bit differently. They often fly from treetop to treetop, not always moving at much altitutde, so weather can be less of an issue for them. They may also be hungry enough to have to move now, while the raptors are still well-fed enough to wait for more typical timing. And yet, the signs are there that birds would like to be moving; a fair number of Northern Goshawks have already been seen, and those are a late-season migrant normally. Red-shouldered hawks, a mid-season migrant, are also starting to show up as they pass hawkwatch sites.
I fully expect that the day this weather truly clears to be an outstanding time to be on a hawkwatch. And not just for raptors either, as most raptor sites also see lots of songbirds and other avian migrants. Right now that nice clear day might be Friday, but the jury is stil out on that. Maybe it will hold off until the weekend, when I could share in that fun.