Well, the fall migration is well under way and ramping up weekly! Actually, some of our shorebirds started south late in June, and some land birds a few weeks later ...... a lot of us don't like to think about that fact too long as summer has just begun....birds however, are on a different schedule than humans. In spring they start flying back to our northern areas as soon as the daylight starts to extend itself and the greenery starts to pop up.....because along with that greenery comes the insects and that means a buffet for the birds and food for future nestlings. And I mean EARLY spring...March,April....by May, spring migration is pretty well completed and nesting starts .....the birds that are moving out again by June have already landed, laid eggs, reared young and are leaving for better climes. And so it goes...one group of species finishes their breeding and another starts, and this pattern goes on until the light starts to change back to shorter days and then cooler temperature move in. The reverse of spring...less light, less food and less warmth as the fall advances. Fall Migration.....the time of year when there are many species and large numbers of our avian friends to be seen feeding, resting, flying, and moving steadily southward again in search of sustenance and warmth .
It is a great time for new and expert birders to see birds as this migration is slower-paced and lasts longer ....but there are challenges! The birds lose their brilliant plumage and exchange it for duller and more monotonous tones...markings are not as noticeable as in spring.....singing is almost never heard....lots of chipping though!
Weather systems affect birding...strong cold fronts passing through cause dry cool air that can last for days and this produces lots of migrating birds...the first day after a cold front has passed, is the day to get out in the field to see lots of birds. If there are adverse weather such as low overcast, foggy conditions or rain, there is a phenomena that occurs which is called a "fall-out" of birds. When birds meet these systems they literally drop from the sky to seek shelter and wait for better flying weather! Great time to spot birds even if the weather is not ideal for us.
There are two basic types of migration...diurnal (day) and nocturnal ( night). Birds that rely on thermals to lift them such as Hawks and waterfowl, fly by day....most small birds such as warblers, sparrows and thrushes fly by night. Night birding?...Sure. Just use your ears and you can ID their chirps and peeps flight calls!
Warblers weigh about as much as a stack of 12 business cards and they fly thousands of miles across the Atlantic non-stop once they start to migrate. How do they do it? First they fatten up to about double their weight 0.4 oz ( 12g) to 0.8 (16g) then they absorb any organs not needed for the trip such as their intestines then they forgo eating and drinking for three days while they fly south! One birder named them "little meatballs with wings!"
And where do you see these winged wonders as they fly by? Where there is an abundance of food, cover and resting areas....clearings, cliff edges, treed areas, ponds or river areas..... Or as I often say.....where you like to stroll !
So get your binoculars polished, your boots ready, rain gear in order folks and prepare to astounded by nature's big fall extravaganza!
Natural Grassland.....this commodity is getting scarcer year by year.
And it is a commodity that is very beneficial to both economy and nature. For example, farmer's used to leave several fields fallow (not used for agriculture) every year....pastureland grew naturally and cows, sheep, goats and horses all grazed from these fields and the benefits were myriad. Fallow fields that were allowed to grow wild produced native grasses and plants (and yes, weeds too!) without any artificial means or assistance from Man and these plants replaced a lot of depleted nutrients in the soil. ...they helped stop erosion, they filtered water and they especially benefited wildlife. Little critters could hide in and live in the long grasses, bigger critters ate them and man often hunted all the critters to help supplement their table. This cycle brought economic value to the farmer because his crops were grown in a healthier environment thus increasing yield and bringing in some well deserved money over time which in turn benefited our society. One person can make a difference but when lots of folks live well, it has a huge impact on our society.
Well, times have changed....now we have large mono-culture fields of plants grown over many acres....hedgerows are removed to increase field space and many chemicals are necessarily used to grow the crops. Another modern practice is cropping grass several times a season so as to get moist and nutritious grass for silage ....so hay fields are cut early. Profits are definitely higher with these practices and benefit not only the farmer but all the urbanites too....more money, better economy but not necessarily nature friendly.
Home owners do their part in changing the friendliness of our local environments too! They mow their patches of land no matter how big or small assiduously and also include roadsides now. There seems to be a competition as to who can mow the most or most often and shortest.....I have a feeling that if we left a little grass around, a lot of bugs would live there, which would take on the pest bugs that bother us.....but that theory would need a scientific study to prove and the problem is now.
There is one big drawback however to these changes where birds are concerned. Removal of miles of fencerow habitat reduces many songbirds breeding and feeding ground....mono-culture discourages varieties of species and nesting areas are greatly reduced for grassland species especially when fields are cropped early ....a few weeks of uninterrupted grass land growth makes a life or death difference to species such as Killdeer, Plovers and most particularly Bobolinks and Meadowlarks. Short grass on lawns and roadsides has no cover or food for our birds. So when we have fields and other grassy areas that are allowed to go fallow we need to preserve them for these birds....their happy presence, beautiful colours, and cheerful songs gladden our hearts and balance our natural lives.
We in the Ingleside and Long Sault area are blessed to have the St Lawrence Parks in our area because there ARE fallow fields on our doorstep...or right across the road! In the last few years those fields were mowed early but THIS year the St Lawrence Parks have listened to the pleas of those of us who love our birds (and native grasses and plants) and have agreed to wait until our grassland birds have nested and raised their young. And because they (the St Lawrence Parks Commission) are responsible for the mowing, they have said that the trimming of grass won’t start mid July in order to preserve the habitat. HURRAH!! Hurrah for the effort! The sounds and sights of the Bobolinks and Meadowlarks, Bluebirds and swallows are about to return!!!
Let’s get behind this idea folks and support this move. Does it benefit us? YOU BET!! In all the ways I mentioned earlier ...soil adhesion, water filtration, safe habitat for birds and other critters, including humans...More birds in the area, more bugs eaten....more natural grass growth, less pesticides and herbicides (which often wind-drift over human areas used). Economics are positively affected too because whether we notice them or not, a lot of locals and tourists are birders....and they spend money right here on our doorstep too! Educationally, children ( and adults) have a living lab to learn in as they watch nature unfold....fireflies, frogs, birds, bugs, .the "stuff " of real life that works around us daily to make life fascinating and beautiful is right here in our front yard.