When we last signed off for the summer, in the midst of a global pandemic and with spring migration well underway, many of us were trying to sort out how we might be able to safely bird outside our own backyards. Thankfully, our public lands were beginning to open, and they’ve remained open so we have been able to safely venture out to find some of our summer birds and to check up on our year-round residents who are also raising their young. Warblers, tanagers and Evening and Black-headed Grosbeaks are just a few of our colorful summer visitors.
Now as the days begin to shorten, our summer visitors are finishing up parenting duties in preparation for the journey southward. Some of our spring migrants have already returned from the north – I saw the first Greater Yellowlegs at Hayton just after the 4th of July – and more shorebirds are arriving daily. In recent days a flock estimated at 1,000 Western Sandpipers was feeding at Hayton, and Wiley Slough has been hosting Long-billed Dowitchers, Least Sandpipers, Western Sandpipers, and both Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs.
If spring migration offers the promise of the next generation, fall migration fulfills that promise as juvenile birds drop in to rest and feed. Some of these birds travel thousands of miles using navigational methods not yet fully understood by scientists. For birders, these are exciting times and an unexpected or rare visitor is always possible. We are still in the midst of a global pandemic but our public lands are open and birding is an activity that can be enjoyed with the appropriate precautions and social distancing. The birds are here and more are on the way!