Posted by: Dan | September 18, 2007

Sojourns: Glimpses of the Fall Migration

Though it’s been a while since I’ve had the time to get away for a weekend morning to go birdwatching, it is a migration time of year again. Natalie Angier (whose recent Cornell talk I missed, sadly) has a nice piece on the wonder of bird migrations at the NY Times:
Songs and Sojourns of the Season. A snippet that appeals to my love of birds:

Now is the time of the great fall migrations, and in truth the whole world seems built for birds on the wing. Thousands of species of shorebirds, songbirds, raptors and water fowl are flying in successive waves that began last July and will continue through early November, as they abandon summer breeding grounds grown cold in favor of more clement winter homes down south. For some birds, that translocation may be nothing more than a move from New Jersey to Georgia. For others, like some sandpipers and plovers, migration means flying from as far north as the Arctic circle to the tip of Argentina, roughly 10,000 miles away.

Though this isn’t news, it catches the imagination to say it again at certain times of the year; to remind us of the wonder of migration.

At the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, bristling arrays of microphones eavesdrop on the nocturnal bird banter and so keep a tally of aerial traffic. The numbers are perpetually astonishing.

“Last night,” Miyoko Chu, director of publications at the lab, told me on Sept. 10, “a million Swainson’s thrushes” flew over central New York.

Wow. A million birds passing overhead, with so few of us even aware of it. How can you not be awe-struck by something like that? Even though much of the time I’m too busy in my obligations as a scientist, too caught up in my worldly responsibilities, to witness such observations myself (and thus I must experience such things vicariously), nature offers an endless supply of surprises.



  1. Hummingbirds seems to have departed Dallas over the last five or six days – I have one feeder in front of my house and one in back and have not seen a hummer at either in days. Recently I increased the concentration from 4 parts water, 1 part sugar to 3 parts water, 1 part sugar, to give them some extra calories for the journey.

    Coming up this month in Rockport, Texas is the hummingbird festival. I wish I could go and see all those birds frantically feeding around Rockport before they head out across the Gulf of Mexico.


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