There have been a few mornings recently that have felt an awful lot like fall. Cool temperatures, low humidity, the occasional falling leaf.
The bird world is following suit in New England, ever so slowly. I’ve seen a few passing warblers in the backyard over the past few weeks and the hummingbirds are feeding with an added urgency to fatten up for their journey south.
I’m not trying to rush the end of summer, and we still have a few weeks until it is officially over. The end of August and beginning of September is a fun transition time in the bird and nature world. A walk through a New England meadow this time of year yields butterflies, dragonflies and all sorts of crazy-looking insects that make you think of summer. Then, you notice the goldenrod in bloom and a hawk soaring overhead reminiscent of fall.
The fall migration starts as early as July when young shorebirds work their way southward along the New England coast. It really begins in earnest in the middle of September when the hawk migration gains a head of steam. September is when a visit to a hawk migration hot spot — such as Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory (Miller State Park) in Peterborough — may yield thousands of broad-winged hawks in a single day. Wind and atmospheric conditions need to be right for those banner days, so check out the hawk-watch locations’ websites for updates
The fall warbler and songbird migration has started as a trickle. It, too, will gain steam as the weeks progress. An ovenbird and black-and-white warbler passed through my yard the other day. Late September and early October will be the prime time to see these little birds pass through. By November, it slows considerably. Kinglets, particularly ruby-crowned kinglets, seem to linger a bit longer than most other birds.
As I mentioned previously, hummingbirds are gearing up for their trip south. September will see many of these little dynamos passing through New England. By October, most of them will be gone, not to be seen again in our region until next spring. The odd hummingbird may pass through a little later than the rest and, of course, there is always the possibility of a different species of hummingbird being seen into winter. The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species of hummingbird to regularly occur east of the Mississippi River. In fall and winter, species such as rufous or black-chinned occasionally show up in New England. When to bring in feeders is a personal choice, but many people choose to keep their hummingbird feeders up well into winter to help out any stragglers.
Last week I wrote about the thrill homeowners and birdwatchers get when a bird eats seeds from a flower patch in the yard. I focused on goldfinches on coneflowers, but late fall brings kinglets to dead sedum heads. Sedum is a hardy perennial and the heads last well into winter, offering a rare food source for birds.
COVID-19 has made this an unusual summer, to say the least, but it is still summer nonetheless. Enjoy what is left of it and get prepared for the exciting fall season in the bird world.