Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Fall migration is underway

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird migration Updated: July 27, 2013 - 10:09 PM

Fall migration of birds is underway, although it might not look like it. Migration in this season lacks the breeding imperative of spring. Shorebirds are being reported on muddy lakeshores and in flooded farm fields (we still have some of those). Migration traffic will increase as we move into and through August. Spring migration is much more concentrated. Great numbers of birds move at the same time, all in a rush to get to breeding grounds, to court and nest and raise young as quickly as possible. Late breeders can run out of time, leaving their young with insufficient time to mature to migration strength. You could almost say that fall migrants usually have time to wander south.

Waterfowl also migrate on a looser time schedule. Many of them, geese in particular, are driven south by foul weather and open water closing with ice.

Our neighborhood has seen many more robins in the past few days than in the past few weeks. Breeding is done, young birds are out of the nest; there are more robins to be seen. They do form small flocks as fall progresses, moving south together. They’ll be here until true fall, however, or sometimes until snow. Some mornings you might find dozens of them spread out across a grassy plot, as good as colored leaves at announcing change.

Blackbirds sometimes form flocks of thousands as they prepare for migration. Watch for them in harvested farm fields. You often see them first as they rise in a cloud only to circle and return. 

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