The Nature Writers of Texas

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

A Morning Walk Through the Neighborhood
by Ro Wauer

We sometimes walk early before the sun really heats up the neighborhood. Early morning is a marvelous time of day, when the yard birds are in full song and a few larger birds are passing overhead. Although early fall is not the best time of the year to experience birds at their territorial peak, far from it, but early morning is the best time of day to hear what probably are the last of the territorial songs. The oak woodland habitat where we live contains a number of resident birds that are through nesting. But some are still in song, at least during the early hours: cardinals, Carolina wrens, Carolina chickadees, tufted titmice, white-eyed vireos, and mourning and Inca doves.

Some of these resident species may nest again, depending on weather conditions. And some of those may not have nested yet this year due to the extreme drought. Many birds simply postpone nesting until conditions are appropriate so that they can find adequate food for their young.

A few early fall migrants are already passing through the neighborhood. Upland sandpipers and golden plovers from the far north and dickcissels have been heard overhead. And a few orchard orioles, several blue-gray gnatcatchers, a summer tanager, a female indigo bunting, and a couple warbler species have been seen in the yard. Black-and-white warblers are most numerous so far, walking up and down the tree trunks, searching for whatever insects and other invertebrate foods they can find. And a lone Louisiana waterthrush spent a few minutes at one of our birdbaths, chipping loudly and bobbing on its two long legs.

The hummingbird population has already increased considerable during the last couple weeks. It has gone from a half-dozen individuals to several dozen. I put out two more feeders to accommodate these little gems, and now I am refilling the feeders every other day. I know that within a week or two I will be refilling feeders at least daily. Although I am limiting my feeders to seven this year, four or five years ago, when I had hung 17 feeders, and was refilling each twice daily, I had an unbelievably large number of hummers. On one occasion I estimated that my yard contained 300 or more individuals. The hummers buzzed around each feeder, fighting for a chance to feed, and the trees were filled with a constant roar of hummer wings. The Hummer/Bird Celebration in Rockport is coming up September 17 to 20, but more about this marvelous festival in next week’s nature note.

I am unsure what to expect about the fall bird migration this year. Southbound birds are significantly affected by weather. And our extremely dry conditions this year may suggest that the bulk of our migrants will pass around us. More than the normal numbers may take a route across the Gulf. Others may pass us to the west where there has been a more normal rainfall pattern. Most migrants depend upon a daily supply of insects to provide them with adequate nutrients. The drought conditions we are experiencing in the Golden Crescent have severely limited that necessary food supply.

But nevertheless the few migrants that do enter the Golden Crescent will be most appreciated. Some of my favorite fall migrants include the gray catbird, brown thrasher, yellow-throated vireo, and golden-winged, chestnut-sided, and black-throated green warblers. Enjoy whichever migrants that visit your yards.