There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter. –Rachel Carson
These words of biologist and writer Rachel Carson (1907-1964) have been on my mind as the fall migration proceeds all around us.
Those of us who watch and love birds can see the changes day by day, starting in late July, as shorebirds, then swallows, then songbirds, hawks, herons and all the rest begin their pilgrimages to warmer climates.
The population of birds in and around my own backyard changes day by day, too.
The neighborhood’s young hawks are growing up. Our young Red-Tailed Hawk was soaring over the area yesterday, and has gained enough confidence and panache that he no longer calls, calls, calls, calls to his parents as he did when he first took flight in July (as I wrote about HERE). A young Sharp-Shinned Hawk strafed the feeders the other day, and I saw the young Cooper’s Hawk over our favorite meadow nearby. I’ll expect to see those last-named two at the feeders all winter.
The orioles and robins are mostly gone, and I haven’t heard the tanager for many weeks. A few phoebes are still around, snapping up flying insects with a sharp snap of their beaks. The catbirds are still mewing from the hedgerow, but the last of the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds seems to have departed just two days ago (but I’ll leave the feeder up for a while in case a late straggler passes by).
I’ve been lucky to spot a few migrants as they pass through (or over) the yard, including Ruby-Crowned Kinglets, a Black-and-White Warbler that investigated the suet, and three Broad-Winged Hawks that passed high overhead.
Some of the migrants stay with us for the winter. As fall comes on apace, I’m keeping an eye out for the White-Throated Sparrows and Slate-Colored Juncos which come to our feeders every day between October and May. And each day I look for a Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker at our suet feeder; two years ago, a juvenile came pretty often, starting in mid-October, and last year a stunning adult male took up residence and dominated all the other woodpeckers (read about it HERE). Perhaps it was the same bird, and perhaps he’ll come back again. (I have a third suet cage ready so that the other birds can stand a chance!)