October 28, 2008
Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the cool weather and the colors of the leaves as they change. But mostly, I love to watch the bird migration taking place all around us.
I’ve been hearing the singing of White-throated Sparrows in my yard just after dawn each morning for the past few weeks. These little birds are common in Iowa during spring and fall migration. In spring they head north to breed and in the fall they move south for the winter. Their song is very distinctive. You can listen to it here: http://www.mbr-pwrc.usgs.gov/Infocenter/i5580id.html and click on the Song link on left side of page.
The “snowbirds” – the Dark-eyed Juncos – have arrived in Iowa to spend the winter. I can’t help but enjoy a bird that thinks Iowa is a great place to spend the winter. How bad does winter have to be where this bird came from!
My favorite bird of the autumn skies is the raptor. Raptors are on the move in the fall. Many of them, such as the Broad-winged Hawks, leave the U.S. to winter in Central and South America. Others, such as Rough-legged Hawks, may find Iowa is as far south as they need to go.
Have you ever noticed how many Bald Eagles you see along the open rivers in Iowa in the winter? Those eagles move north in the summer to raise their families (although a few do stay and breed here in Iowa), then move south again in the winter following the open water. Fish are a primary food source for the Bald Eagle.
So while you’re out enjoying the fall weather, listen for the chips and tweets of the small migrants as they pass through Iowa on their way south. Watch your trees and bushes for the frenetic movement of the tiny Ruby-crowned Kinglets, check under your feeders for the Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows scrounging seed off the ground, and most importantly, remember to look up and watch the skies for the magnificent raptors moving overhead.
Upcoming opportunities to learn about birds:
The Rivers & Bluffs Fall Birding Festival, held in Lansing, Iowa on Nov. 7-8-9, provides an excellent opportunity to learn about birds, meet other bird-watchers and have a fun weekend in a beautiful part of Iowa. Contact Ric.Zarwell@mchsi.com or check out this website http://www.lansingiowa.com/ and click on the Birding Festival button for more information.
You’re also welcome to participate in the Iowa City Bird Club outing on Saturday 11-1-08. The website is http://icbirds.org/ — you can find more information here. Saturday’s outing begins at 7:30 a.m. Meet at the Dodge Street Hy-Vee in Iowa City, southwest corner of the parking lot near the recycling bins. You do not need to belong to the bird club to participate in the outing.