In terms of our area birds’ year, summer is about over and fall is set to begin. In just a week or so fall migration for many songbirds will really begin to pick up.
Some are filtering through now but are tough to detect. As the numbers grow it will be worth the time to get out and actually look for some species that are passing through.
Territorial singing is done for most neotropicals and is much reduced in resident birds. I still hear the persistent lively, musical songs of American goldfinches every morning but they are notoriously late nesters. When goldfinch song becomes the most dominant bird sound, it signals the nesting season is coming to an end.
While serious and experienced birders are waiting for the first real rush of land bird migrants, there are a few things the casual observer can take note of right now.
Keep an eye to the sky. Every August Mississippi kites and swallow-tailed kites disperse northward. This year there have been many reports of kite flocks that include the swallow-tailed, considered to be one of the most graceful raptors in the world. They enter the Piedmont and mountains in small numbers every year but the numbers thus far indicate a larger influx this year.
You might notice flocks of chimney swifts starting to form and appearing out of nowhere at dusk. If you live in an area with old buildings with large chimneys you might be able to observe large numbers of them gathering and funneling down into a spacious chimney for a night roost site. Sometimes hundreds of birds can be involved. It is a spectacular thing to see.
By this time next week the first common nighthawk migrants will likely have started to appear. You can observe this migration by simply stepping outside your front door at watching the sky for a few minutes before dusk. Nighthawks migrate in loose flocks so you could see a dozen or so. If you really hit it right you could see several dozen. Familiarize yourself with their silhouette of long, angled wings and stiff wingbeats.
I’m expecting to welcome cooler temperatures next week, and along with them the opportunity to get out and really search for some moving birds.
Taylor Piephoff is a naturalist with an interest in the birds and wildlife of the southern Piedmont: PiephoffT@aol.com. Check out his blog at piedmontbirding.blogspot.com