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Feathered friends on the move

Northwoods Notebook

Sandhill cranes gather in a field east of the Dickinson County Road Commission site on M-69. Given enough food, they might linger into November. (Betsy Bloom/Daily News photos)

The signs continue to point to many of the North Woods’ summertime avian residents getting ready to relocate.

Ryan Brady, Natural Heritage Conservation biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources office in Ashland, posted a radar image this week that showed some serious bird movement through northern Wisconsin.

As he put it, “it’s raining birds!”

Just in the backyard at Six Mile Lake, the warblers have picked up in number and variety, with black-and-white, the thrush-like ovenbird, redstart and Nashville all hanging out in the same trees.

Ruby-throated hummingbirds have been draining the feeders. A half-dozen Northern flickers forage like robins across the lawn.

Indigo buntings have likely started their journey south.

But some of the neotropical favorites such as rose-breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore orioles, scarlet tanagers and indigo buntings all likely have begun their journey south, Brady advises, adding that peak migration for this region can be expected to happen no later than mid-September.

Other species, thankfully, will take their time making the trip. Spring migration tends to be a rush, especially for the birds that breed far to the north, as the window of opportunity to nest in the arctic is brief. But the move south can be done at a more leisurely pace, with time to feed at each stop along the way.

Though they might not depart until October or even November depending on conditions, cranes already are congregating in a farm field just east of the Dickinson County Road Commission site on M-69. The number seems to grow daily, as juveniles for the year now are able to fly with adults. Feeding in the field alongside the cranes are Canada geese by the dozens, some bedding down.

They, too, are in no hurry as long as food continues to be easy to find.

It makes now perhaps the best and worst of times for birding, as the opportunities to see many species should be ideal in the next week or so — and then they will be gone until the spring.

Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 40, or bbloom@ironmountaindailynews.com.

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