Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Hummingbirds and Fall Migration Madness plus!

If you're a birder and you're not salivating right now at the prospect of fall migration, WELL YOU SHOULD BE. Look what's going on and what's to come.
1. Hummingbirds are still migrating big time. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and other hummingbirds are making their way down the sugar-water and flower nectar filled flyways to their destiny with warmer climes. Here's a map where teachers have reported their sightings of fall migrating hummingbirds. Help the hummingbirds on their journey by maintaining clean nectar feeders and planting lots of red, tubular flowers. The young Ruby-throated Hummingbird above likes the Lady in Red Salvia we planted for it in our yard.
In the East, you may even see a rare hummingbird, such as this Rufous Hummingbird, a western species whose breeding range extends into Alaska, but who increasingly is showing up in fall in the eastern half of the country. I photographed this one at a feeder in NH in October 2009 where it was banded. This young bird has rufous on the sides and the arrow points to the rufous on the tail feathers. If you find a rare hummingbird report it to your local biding organization as soon as you see it.

You can even follow the hummingbirds and go to the 24th Annual HummerBird Celebration birding festival in Rockport-Fulton TX, Sept. 13-16, 2012. Take one of their birding tours to hummer homes, where sugar water feeders provide for hundreds of hummingbirds who stock up before they make their way across the Gulf Of Mexico. They also have hummingbird banding demonstrations and much more.
2. Common Nighthawks are migrating. We just saw a record number, for us, of 1,026 last night flying by us in southwest NH as we viewed them from out deck from 5-7:30 pm! Be on the lookout for nighthawks.
Broad-winged Hawk

4. Oh and the hawk-watching season is just beginning!!! Raptors, raptors and more raptors will be on the move. Peak migration time for Broad-winged Hawks, who get the heck out of the U.S. while the weather is still warm, is mid-to late Sept., when they have a mass exodus out of New England and other areas and travel south, to their wintering areas in Central and South America.
Broad-winged Hawks in a "kettle"

Broad-winged Hawks migrate in large groups (a "kettle") by soaring up in thermals of rising hot air. We have been hawk watching each fall for over 30 years. The place we go to help count migrating raptors is Pack Monadnock Raptor Migration Observatory in southern NH. Last year was phenomenal and we saw 5,290 raptors in one day on 9/18/11.
At hawk watch sites, Ospreys fly right over you.

There are many excellent hawk watching sites you can go to, (many with official counters), especially in the East. Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, PA, Cape May Bird Observatory, Cape May, NJ are legendary places to go hawk watching. Down at Corpus Christi Raptor Migration Project in Corpus Christi, TX, they have had season counts of over a million raptors passing by. To find a hawk watch site near you, go to the Hawk Migration Association of North America website. Here you will also find the official count numbers from each hawk watch site for each season.

You can also just watch in your own yard or any nearby place that gives you a clear view of the sky to the north or northeast. Hawks prefer to migrate on a high pressure front with mild north, northwest, or northeast winds.
Yellow-rumped Warbler. Learn this bird well, it is often the most abundant and conspicuous warbler you will see in fall.

Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1st winter f.

Prairie Warbler, 1st winter f.

5. Warblers! Those charismatic gems! Warblers are migrating big time now. Go out with your binoculars and look in your favorite birding spot, or you can even see many even in your own yard. We just had 10 species of warbler in our yard two days ago, including Yellow-rumped, Tennessee, Black-throated Green, Chestnut-sided, Pine, Magnolia, Common Yellowthroat, Nashville, American Redstart, and Northern Parula. Don't get crazy and hyperventilate, thinking all warblers are "confusing fall warblers." Most are not confusing. Quoting from our Stokes Field Guide to Warblers, "You may have heard some birders talk about how confusing it is to identify "fall warblers". What is challenging about fall is that you have both adults and their young of that year (the immatures) migrating through. Immature male warblers most often look a lot like adult females, but immature females are usually quite a bit paler than immature males, sometimes with just a suggestion of the colors and patterns of the adults. The challenges in identification arise with a few immature females that look both very dull and quite similar. Only a handful of these are the most problematic...Yellow-rumped, Palm, Pine, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, Cape May, Common Yellowthroat and Black-throated Blue. By far the most common dull species will be the immature Yellow-rumped Warbler."

Many other bird species migrate in fall also. Fall is an awesome birding time, get out and have some birding fun!


  1. each of the bird types fantastic, though I especially love that Prairie Warbler

  2. Thanks, Carole. I photographed that Prairie Warbler in our yard, it's special around here, we don't get to see them that much.

  3. Fantastic post Lillian. Fall migration excitement is coursing through my veins! Shorebirds are more great reasons to be out birding right now too. You just never know what will turn up at a mudflat nearby.

  4. Yes, Robert, people do not realize you can still see shorebirds. We went to the NH coast recently and had lots of Semipalmated Sandpipers, Semipalmated Plovers, Least Sandpipers and more. Lots more migration is to come including waterfowl.

  5. And the cooler temps aren't bad either! Looking forward to it! Nice post Lillian.

  6. Wonderful photos and informative post, Lilian.

  7. Fantastic photographs, such views it is very joy. I am greeting

  8. I love fall migration! Stunning photographs! We've got too many to count Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at our feeders right now. I can't imagine what it must have been like to see 5,290 raptors in one day ... incredible! Happy migration birding to you! Terrific post!

  9. Lillian, what wonderful information! I just moved back to Tucson so I will be watching birds here. I know a spot in Rio Rico where hundreds of Swainson's hawks gather in October. I hope they are there this year! How amazing to see all those nighthawks! I hope their numbers continue! Great post!

  10. Great post Lillian. Sorry to lose my hummingbirds :-(

  11. Very informative ... and love the photos, too!