Days get shorter, fall migration begins in earnest
Now that September has arrived, the avian departures will pick up steam.
Already this past week I could hear twittering from the darkness overhead as I got home late at night. In northern Wisconsin, Ryan Brady of the Department of Natural Resources in Ashland noted that birds seemed to have taken advantage of “an unusually good string of conditions” — such as west-northwest winds and dry weather — to get a jump on going south.
In his weekly statewide birding report, the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program biologist predicts the warblers, vireos, thrushes and flycatchers all will reach peak movement this week, with points to the north seeing the last lingering stragglers.
“Likewise, many of our favorite backyard birds are departing as numbers of Baltimore orioles, ruby-throated hummingbirds, indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks and gray catbirds are declining daily,” Ryan stated in his report.
At Six Mile Lake, hummingbirds continue to come in for nectar but the adult males — which had perched atop the feeder or in nearby trees to drive away any others that might try to sneak a drink — no longer seem to be around. They usually are the first to leave. Still, keep the feeders up as long as possible, to help fuel the fledglings hatched this summer and for hummingbirds from farther north or west that might still be to come.
Multiple robins and northern flickers are forging on the lawn. The sandhill crane pair that regularly could be seen along Six Mile Lake Road with their two fuzzy colts for the year now are flying in formation, building up wing strength in the fledglings.
Though many of the songbirds will soon be absent, plenty of birds remain that will be worth watching for, Brady said in his report. Broad-wing hawks, which migrate in great, soaring groups, should turn up later in the month. And most waterfowl have yet to begin moving in earnest, though some flocks of northern Canada geese have arrived, he said.
Other local natural signs of the approach change in the seasons: butterflies have almost vanished, save for the occasional monarch still passing through; deer are brindled as they go from russet to gray coats; dragonflies are down to the hardy little meadowhawks — in appropriate shades of yellow-gold and red — and the larger mosaic and green darners; and snakes and turtles likely will stop feeding soon in preparation for going into torpor for the winter, when they can’t have a gut filled with anything that would decay rather than be digested as the metabolism powers down, said James Harding, an adjunct wildlife specialist at the Michigan State University Museum.
Parts of the region got a touch of frost overnight Tuesday and Wednesday, which should help the colors develop — and apples ripen, for those who have trees.
Another reminder of the season: the rapidly shortening days. After starting the month with the sun still visible at 7:30 p.m., this Wednesday’s sunset will come at 7 p.m., and by month’s end daylight will be done by just after 6:30 p.m. For the Iron Mountain area, the autumnal equinox will arrive at 8:30 a.m. Sept. 22.
So take time this week to savor the waning hours of summer.
Betsy Bloom can be reached at 906-774-2772, ext. 240, or email@example.com.