Looking up and seeing the 7-foot wingspan of a Great Blue Heron flying above, heading off on its journey south, makes us realize fall migration is in full swing, and summer is officially over.
Even though some parts of the country enjoyed unseasonably warm weather in October, it’s only a matter of time before the white demon (snow) becomes part of our daily lives. Here where we live in New York, we’re on snow standby.
On the bright side, with the change of seasons, it’s time to welcome new backyard birds enjoying a fresh change of scenery too.
The Birds are Leaving for Fall Migration, But Don’t Worry
Fall migration is like celebrating a new bird year.
Just like the leaves turn from vibrant green to an orangey, reddish, yellow, our summer birds take off for warmer parts, and winter birds arrive to take their place.
Out with the old and in with the new. Not really new, but winter migrants to welcome to our backyard over the next 6 months to engage with, feed, make the center of our universe, and photograph for our Instagram and Facebook pages.
We miss seeing, if only for a few months, the colorful songbirds, warblers, shorebirds, wading birds, and birds of prey like the Broad-winged Hawks and Osprey from spring migration.
What’s not to love about Luigi, our backyard Gray Catbird. The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and their rich, melodic song. The Carolina Wrens performing wren opera. And the American Robin doing its stop and starts across the lawn in search of the perfect worm. And oh, all those beautiful songs serenading us throughout the day.
Fall Migration Brings the Whistlers of the North
The White-throated Sparrow, one of our winter migrants, can hold its own against spring songbirds with its simple yet beautiful clear, pure whistled song. It’s the beautiful Whistler of the North, and it stands out against all the other little brown birds stopping by our feeders.
This handsome bird sports a black-and-white pattern on its head with a fashion-forward bib of white feathers covering its throat.
But their most exquisite feature is the bright yellow lore between their eyes and the bill. They provide that pop of color we enjoy seeing during the drab, colorless winter months.
Enjoying backyard birds perks up even the drabbest winter days. Here are a few tips to attract more birds to your backyard bird sanctuary so they’ll thrive during their winter stay.
Cold Weather Welcomes Our Favorite Birds of Prey
Fall migration isn’t just about songbirds. Colder weather welcomes some of our favorite birds of prey.
You never know where a Snowy Owl might visit. We see them at beaches, airports, prison yards, and even on top of a local Walmart. They’re such enchanting owls, and their visits are pretty memorable.
Our favorite winter migrant birds of prey include the Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls that frequent the Shawangunk Grasslands. The grasslands are a national wildlife refuge in Wallkill, N.Y., and the viewing platforms and bird blinds are often packed with birdwatchers at dusk when the magic happens and the owls come to life.
If you can’t get to an open space like a field or grasslands, then looking for owl tracks in the snow is another way to learn what owls or other birds of prey live in your area.
There’s something magical about seeing owls in the wild, and many think these enigmatic birds aren’t their neighbors because they rarely see them. But think again.
Soon snow will blanket many parts of the country, so you can get outside and look for tracks to confirm what species are nearby.
It’s fun examining the tracks in the snow and seeing wing marks where birds make snow angels.
Wintering Bald Eagles
We can’t forget about the fabulous Bald Eagles wintering along the Atlantic Coast from Maine and New Brunswick to the Chesapeake Bay.
The weather outside might be frightful, but seeing wintering Bald Eagles is so delightful.
So we look forward to seeing Bald Eagles December through March at one of our favorite places, the Shepaug Hydroelectric Station on the Housatonic River in Southbury, Connecticut.
We live so close to the Hudson River in New York and enjoy seeing eagles up and down the stretch of the Hudson from New York City to Albany. So on any given day, you never know what you might see. And that, of course, is what makes birdwatching so magical.
Even if we’re in a deep freeze, we never let the frigid temps or a little snowfall stop us from birdwatching. As a matter of fact, winter is one of our favorite times to see birds.
The bright white, untouched snow is the perfect canvas to see and photograph birds, and what you really see is the bird and its finer details, and the crystalline silence is the best way to learn their calls.
Making the Most of Fall Migration
Make the most of the fall migration by knowing when the peak of migration happens in your area. Then get outside and experience it.
Instead of talking about the birds you’re losing birds to migration (don’t worry, we promise they’ll be back), instead, reflect on all the beautiful birds you’re seeing during fall migration and the new visitors you’ll see through the winter months.
This is a spectacular time of the year all birdwatchers live for, so grab your binoculars, enjoy seeing flocks of amazing high-flying travelers, take lots of photos to share over social media so everyone can enjoy them. And don’t forget to share them with us on Instagram and Facebook.