Sunday, September 26, 2010

Strange combinations

Like many other birders, I mostly show up during spring migration. The charismatic avifauna of April and May are the allure. Fall migration, on the other hand, is mostly as boring as a nondescript sparrow. It's the Little Brown Job, if you will, of bird seasonality. Fall warblers are just not as colorful.

So I'm still learning things about fall migration. Yesterday, we had a nice view of several golden-crowned kinglets, a swainson's thrush and a black-throated green warbler in crab apple trees near our house. This morning, several more golden-crowned kinglets at Montrose Point. It's funny because last spring I recorded only ruby-crowned kinglets, not a single golden-crowned. So if this is a plague of golden-crowned kinglets, that's just fine by me.

What's strange is the timing of bird species in fall. This morning, there were reports of Baird's sandpiper, lapland longspur and horned lark on the beach at Montrose. And yet I also saw an eastern phoebe today, a warbler yesterday and a chimney swift a few days ago. These species would be less likely, in total, to occur together in spring. The longspurs and larks are typically winter species at Montrose that leave by March--before most phoebes arrive, before the kinglets, swifts and warblers arrive for sure.

Fall migration also seems to take place in reverse order of spring migration. So the last species to arrive in spring are generally the first to leave in fall. Sandpipers always seem to be on the move, passing through around May on their way to the Arctic and leaving by mid- to late summer.

I could probably clear all this up by talking to a veteran birder, but it's fun to discover on your own!

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