Fall Is For…Birding

Seasons, to me, have always been less about a date on the calendar and more about the weather, the light and the general “feel” of things.  I’m sure that’s because I’ve always lived in a place with 4 seasons.  I don’t know what might happen if I lived in Hawaii–although I know the quality of light changes there with the seasons as well, and they do have “seasons,” just not the ones I’m used to.

So as the weather got dramatically cooler this autumn (it’s already cooler this year than it has been in  4 years–I’m not sure what that means for the winter.  We’ll have to watch the North Atlantic Oscillation and its interaction with El Nino, which, for the moment, is still fairly weak), and as the light continues to fade as we head toward the winter solstice, I think less and less about plants.

But that doesn’t mean I stop thinking about nature, or even about being outside.  Autumn in New England is a glorious time and even on cloudy days it’s something to celebrate.

It also helps that the birds are in transition so there are more of them to see, or notice, if you pay attention.  This is the time when the large flocks of “black” birds–the starlings and grackles–congregate to feast on remaining berries to fuel up for their migration.

Crows, too, form large groups for their winter roosts–sometimes thousands or even tens of thousands (there are some great YouTube videos on these roosts and the accompanying cacophony).

Most folks try to go find a hawk watch somewhere to see hundreds of these raptors on their way south.  I haven’t done this.  Maybe someday.

I tend to be content with my “local” birds and trying to know more about those.  That’s why I signed up for Project FeederWatch again this year, even though I rarely get to watch the birds long enough to submit a checklist that meets the criteria.

I like to think that I can learn something about the birds that come to my own yard–and feeders when I can put them back out (if I can put them back out.  The bear population is getting to be so great that we really need to be careful about our feeders!).

Meanwhile, I watch the blue jays peck through the falling leaves in search of–who knows what really?  Fallen acorns?  The last bits of a crab apple?  A beetle?  It’s still quite a show.

Happy Columbus Day!

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