I’m not looking forward to the day when the young Mannion men leave the farm, but I am looking forward to something the blonde and I will be able to enjoy when they do---long fall weekends on Cape Cod when the shore birds on are on the move:
A variety of factors work to make this time of year exceptional. The first is that bird populations of all species are at their highest point of the year because of all the young birds produced during the breeding season. They are making their first migration. Second is the rapidly decreasing photoperiod (shortening time of daylight), accompanied by decreasing temperatures (especially inland), which causes a decreasing food supply as plants and their attendant insects begin to shut down for the approaching winter. This all combines to trigger the instinctual, inherited migratory urge that so many of our North American breeding birds have evolved. This "perfect storm" of factors combines to make this far and away best time of the year to see many birds of many species.
All migratory birds are on the move in mid-September. Each and every day holds promise, excitement and a bit of mystery as one heads out to scan a favorite spot. There is no way to know what one is going to see or hear and the only way to find out is to go out and do it. A "bad" morning birding in September (does not exist) is better than almost anything except a great morning birding in October. Enough already about how great the birding is on the Cape and Islands at this season-if you don't believe it just go try it and see for yourself.
The unexpected is expected, almost commonplace, on the Cape and Islands in September. It continues to be a good year for seeing buff-breasted sandpipers and Baird's sandpipers all over the northeast. These long-distance migrants are not seen many years, and when they are, it is in a very brief window that runs from late August thru mid-September. The American golden plover, another scarce long -distance wader, has been widely reported from farm fields on Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard and in southeastern Massachusetts as well as from a few beaches. These lovely plovers are on their way to South American wintering grounds and are always a treat to see.
Ah well. For now it’s just vicarious bird watching for me. You too, if you read E. Vernon Laux’s whole article, Watch for migratory birds on the move, at the Cape Cod Times.
That’s a buff-breasted sandpiper in the photo, by the way. Laux reports it’s a good time to see these birds, which implies they’re plentiful, but according to my National Geographic Society Water, Prey, and Game Birds of North America, once upon a time, “Market gunners nearly wipe out the species during its migrations, for the dense flocks would return again and again to its wounded members.” I guess they’ve bounced back since whenever those market gunners did their dirty work.
Photo by Tim Lenz via Wikipedia.