Here is the latest For the Birds columns, which runs weekly in several New England newspapers.
Last week I wrote about the disappearance of birds in people’s backyards. I had received a lot of letters from people concerned that their feeders were not getting visited any longer.
Although there are several possible explanations, I had concluded that the warm and dry fall made for a bounty of natural foods on which the birds were feasting. Therefore, the birds did not need the supplemental food offered from feeders. That was my conclusion, anyway, not necessary the real reason.
I stick to that assertion, however I also visited a park the other day that was rich in natural food sources and guess what? Hardly any birds. The birds I did see were all fairly ordinary species. Not that I don’t appreciate the ordinary species too, but a song sparrow or two and a mockingbird was about the extent of my bird sightings that day.
Mid to late fall can be a tricky time for birdwatching. The feeders, as my readers pointed out, can be scarcely visited and the woods can be very quiet as well. The migration, for the most part, is finished and we are waiting for our winter birds such as juncos and white-throated sparrows to arrive en masse.
I have been lucky that my feeders, as long as I have seeds in them, have been active with titmice, nuthatches, chickadees, and downy woodpeckers. I suspect that will be the case throughout the winter months.
My birding ventures beyond the yard have been met with mixed results lately. But that is all part of birdwatching, especially during the fall migration.
While birding this time of year, whether in the yard or in the field, can be hit or miss, it is also an exciting time of year as rarities tend to show up around in the fall. Whether blown off course by a storm, or confused on their migratory journey, birds that aren’t typically seen in New England tend to show up in the fall. That is why it is important not to get lulled to sleep by the relative inactivity in the birding world. Keep your eyes open and you never know what you’ll see. Don’t keep your eyes open and you are assured of seeing nothing.
The lull goes beyond backyard birds and other song birds, as the hawk migration is winding down as well. Watches are still active through November, but the action peaked weeks ago.
One type of birdwatching that is just gaining steam now is the waterfowl migration. Watch the lakes and ponds and rivers for your favorite ducks around now. Once they arrive in fall, as long as the water doesn’t freeze, they will remain with us into next spring.
Duck watching, of course, is one of my favorite parts of birdwatching, so I do not mourn the loss of the long, warm days of summer. Rather I adjust and look forward to what the new season has to offer.
Good luck out there and let me know what you are seeing.