The strong October cold fronts will often sweep the trees clean of most of the migrating species, leaving us with birds that stay throughout the winter.
Such a front came through Oct. 12 and, from a birding perspective, ushered in an immediate change of seasons.
I was up early Saturday morning, ready to check the changes along Four Mile Creek Greenway in Matthews. Almost immediately I began hearing the extremely thin, high-pitched whistling of golden-crowned kinglets, tiny winter residents here. Flocks of them were moving through the canopy.
I moved into an area of dense undergrowth and thickets and began to hear the familiar calls of white-throated sparrows, again just arrived the night before. A few feet over my head, a ruby-crowned kinglet greeted me with its nasal staccato scold.
Yellow-rumped warblers, winter residents, had replaced the visiting warbler species of just a week earlier.
At the cattail marsh, the common yellowthroats from the summer were gone, giving way to the wintering song sparrows and swamp sparrows. They were not as perky as they can be later in the season, perhaps because they were still exhausted from their overnight flight.
I heard a loud cat-like cry later in the day from a large sugar maple and knew a wintering yellow-bellied sapsucker was claiming it as its own.
Not all of the neotropicals were gone, but where the same walk 10 days earlier would have revealed perhaps 15 or 16 species just passing through, that day’s walk showed me only four: Eastern wood-pewee, black-throated green warbler, Cape May warbler and indigo bunting.
Look for more of the familiar winter feeder birds to show up for as more fronts push through.