Five steps out the driveway on our morning walk and I stopped suddenly, hearing a bird I couldn’t put a name to. I froze, hoping to hear it again, but no. But I knew that I knew what it was, I just couldn’t come up with the name. (Does that ever happen to you?) We’re at the beginning of fall migration, and when “new” birds move through the neighborhood I often have to refresh my memory of their calls.
Luckily today, it didn’t take long. YELLOW WARBLERS were passing overhead headed west, and keeping in contact with each other with their raspy zeets. Within the next 45 minutes, Bob and I had counted ten of them, bright yellow flecks way, way high and all headed west.
Closer to the ground, but still in the tops of the trees were migrating ORCHARD ORIOLES and an INDIGO BUNTING, and even lower, a yellow flash darted across our path and Bob saw it – a PRAIRIE WARBLER.
Once we were home there were four more Yellows at our pond along with a HOODED and a BLACK AND WHITE WARBLER.
Friends in Pensacola on the mainland are starting to see hummingbirds, and it’s time to be out looking for shorebirds too. August is almost here, and that means it’s almost time for an OLIVE-SIDED FLYCATCHER to show up. The earliest record for it is 8 August.
They typically migrate well to the west of us, so finding one is always special. Usually, when one is found in the early morning sitting high on an exposed perch, it will feed all day from that perch or nearby perches, and take off headed to its wintering grounds at dusk.
Migration is well-underway! When we first began birding we thought that fall migration began in September since that was the month we perceived as the beginning of Fall.
How wrong we were! Shorebirds, for example, breeding in the high Arctic tundra, start southward as soon as their youngsters are independent. Those parents take off and head south for “vacation” leaving their brood to find their own way, and that starts by early July! Not a bad idea.
As Dr. Seuss said in his very first book, And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, keep your eyelids up! You just never know what you might see.
By Lucy Duncan
Photographs by Larry Goodman