This has certainly been one of the more unusual spring migrations here. I mentioned last time that many of the insect-eating species of migratory birds seemed to be holed up in the Twin Cities area, their movements stalled by an extended period of cold weather and unfavorable winds.
Before getting into this topic, I want to note that many of us have been seeing more than the usual number of orioles, grosbeaks and some other species recently. I think the unfavorable winds for migration have resulted in these species piling into our area without an opportunity for continuing on.
My wife and I left our wintering grounds in Arizona by car about two weeks ago, following the route of many migratory birds north through the central plains to Minnesota. Various early migrants — like robins, grackles, red-winged blackbirds and western meadowlarks — were evident through much of the journey.
I must confess to being an Arizona "snowbird," so I have not been experiencing the local Minnesota winter firsthand.
If you're serious about birding, all you need is a good pair of binoculars and a good guide to identification of all the bird species apt to occur in your area. Let's begin with binoculars. I can't overstate the importance of having a good quality pair to maximize your birding experience. Plan to spend between $150 and $1,000 (or more if price is no object). Most cheaper pairs are poorly made, so they don't stand up to wet weather or being dropped. Their image clarity and light transmission are also inferior and will lead to unnecessary frustration.
Right now, our fields, forests and feeders are populated mainly by the usual suspects: the permanent bird residents like chickadees, nuthatches and woodpeckers. So far, there is little evidence of irruptions of winter finches and others I spoke about last time. There are some pine siskins here and there, and today the first Bohemian waxwings were spotted not far away at the Deep Portage Learning Center, near Hackensack. We can certainly hope these are signs of things to come.
As November approaches, we are on the cusp of the season in which our local bird populations, both species and numbers, become much less predictable. During the summer nesting season, our local species are virtually the same from year to year. Permanent residents like chickadees and nuthatches are supplemented in summer by migratory species, whose individuals usually return to the precise locations where they nested the previous year. Densities are determined by each species characteristic territorial behavior.
Autumn struck quickly here. On the heels of last week's unusually cool temperatures, a number of songbird species typical of early fall migration began showing up: ruby- and golden-crowned kinglets, brown creepers and yellow-rumped warblers. The latter is always the last of the warbler species to depart, and you can expect them to become abundant in the first half of October.
Cool breezes and colorful foliage of autumn are taking hold now as summer 2018 fades into the background. In thinking back over the summer, there are several things that struck me about the seasons' birds that may also be of interest to you. For one thing, ruby-throated hummingbirds persisted for at least a week longer than I expected. I was still seeing several at our flowers and feeders on Sept. 15, though they became suddenly scarce after that, once the heat broke and colder days arrived.