Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The Arrival of Autumn

While the calendar still reads summer, there are two groups of people who have already shifted into fall mode. Students, who know the end of August means the beginning of classes, and birders, who know that the second round of yearly migration doesn't wait until summer officially ends. Birds have already begun moving south to escape the cold that is quickly approaching. Shorebirds began moving last month, and now songbirds are starting to trickle through New Jersey on their way to the southern United States and the neotropics. Migratory warblers are being seen more and more, and in the coming weeks their numbers will continue to rise.

Raptors have begun to migrate as well, although the spectacle that is hawk-watching won't peak until October. It is then that thousands of raptors can be seen in a single afternoon. Hawk-watches around New Jersey, such as Chimney Rock, Raccoon Ridge, and Cape May Point State Park, offer extraordinary views of Peregrine Falcons, Broad-Winged Hawks, American Kestrels, Merlins, Bald Eagles, and even the occasional Golden Eagle.

Migration always brings some interesting and often unusual birds to the state. This week a Swallow-Tailed Kite has been viewed reliably at Wallkill National Wildlife Refuge. Although a few of these birds usually turn up in NJ each year, it's always a treat to be able to watch a kite in the Garden State.

Photograph by Derek Bakken

Baird's Sandpiper, Loggerhead Shrike, Franklin's Gull, Black Terns, and Little Stints are some other recent sightings. There are certainly more rarities to be discovered, and even more that haven't yet arrived but will shock us all when they do end up showing up.

Autumn is really an exciting time to enjoy the outdoors. Not only do you have great birding opportunities, but the weather is perfect for hiking, kayaking, or just tossing around the ol' pigskin. When the leaves turn the rich colors of the season become impossible to ignore, and it's always fun finding a great roadside market to buy some warm apple cider.

1 comment:

cindyzlogic said...

Great post, Bill! I am looking forward to the Fall migratory birds in Kansas.