The reports are beginning to filter in from the coast. Shorebirds are passing through the area. Each day brings reports of good-sized flocks of sandpipers, plovers and others moving south as they begin migrating to their wintering grounds in the Caribbean and points south.
Begin their migration? Weren’t we only a few weeks ago bemoaning the late start of the spring migration (see 2014-04-21 UV Blog “Finally”)? Now we’re saying good-bye.
Of course, shorebirds are the first to get moving. They have the farthest to go. Some, like the arctic tern, will cover in excess of 10,000 miles as they make their way to their southern breeding areas.
Sometime in early August swallows will begin to gather in preparation for their journey. In particular, the tree swallow is known for flocking up as it travels. Take a drive down to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge in a couple of weeks to view the astounding sight of thousands of tree swallows moving down Plum Island in enormous, undulating swarms
Shorebirds and swallows are among the most visible migrants owing to their moving in large flocks. Others species leave more surreptitiously. At some point in mid-August I will begin to notice, in Sherlock Holmes fashion (“Look Watson, and tell me what you see.” “Why Holmes, I see nothing.” “Exactly Watson, you see nothing.”) that I don’t hear their songs around the yard anymore. The warblers will be gone, as well as insectivores like the eastern phoebes and other members of the flycatcher family. They will have begun their journeys while their preferred food sources – insects and caterpillars – remain plentiful.
Those departures might be cause for despair, but there is plenty of migration to see well into September and on through into November. There will be flocks of blackbirds and robins. And of course, there will be the spectacle of waterfowl, like Canada geese and snow geese, noisily honking their way south in great “Vs.” It is something I await with eager anticipation every fall.
In fact, fall migration is a time for celebration not mourning. This vast, avian movement is a re-affirmation, an assurance that the great breeding cycle continues. The young have been raised, and now all the birds head for their winter nesting grounds, and through winter’s drear, we will await their spring return with keen expectancy.
Photo credit: A swarm of tree swallows in migration; Coastal Georgia Birding/Lydia