by Nate Swick
By Lynn Barber
When you hear the word “August”, what do you think of as a birder? I grew up as a northerner (Wisconsin), but that was a long time ago and it’s hard to remember the Augusts of those days. More recently for nearly half of my life, as a southerner (North Carolina for 21 years and Texas for 11 years), August was the hot, will-summer-ever-be-over, time of year. Winter could barely be imagined as 100-degree days followed 100-degree days.
Now I’m back to being a northerner in South Dakota. August is once again a month when the feeling of fall is often in the air, particularly in the Black Hills. Birds are on the move. Blackbirds are forming large flocks, warblers are arriving and departing from the wooded areas and many of the shorebirds are long gone to the south.
The difference in the seasons makes planning a big year in Texas very different from planning one in South Dakota. I’m unlikely to find many fall warblers in October here, a month that I was looking for and often finding them in Texas. Birds that come through South Dakota in late summer and early fall come through and keep going– they usually don’t stay around. In Texas it was much easier to find lingering birds or birds that just forgot to leave, like my annual overwintering Rufous Hummingbird in Fort Worth. Here the Rufous Hummingbirds are few and far between and most likely all gone already.
As a person who possibly inherited some of the genes for becoming sad as the days grow shorter, I find myself bemoaning the inevitable departure of most of the birds. To some extent the sadness causes me to want to curl up so I can’t notice what’s happening outside, but at the same time it makes me want to be outside all of the time, soaking up the last rays of summer and seeing as many of the fleeing birds as I can. Of course, doing a big year, it is important that the latter impulse governs me.
So, my plan is (and needs to be) – go look for warblers, go look for end-of-the-flow shorebirds, go out there and look, anywhere and everywhere. And remember, when all these lovely migrants are gone, maybe some really “good” ducks will arrive. There are, of course, a few more that I still need to get for my big year.
Happy late summer/early fall to all of you and good birding, whether or not you are doing a big year!