Discover more from Bird Mountain
--Sun & Mon, Sept 10/11 2023
A Sunday morning trip to Fallingwater leaves us exhausted, so I while away the fading hours of the day on the balcony, staring into a bleak sky. The sit starts around 4:15 PM and ends when the Chimney Swifts depart, about 7:40. In all that time, only 16 species suffer themselves to be detected. If one didn’t know better, it would be nearly impossible to know that the migration was ongoing.
Background activities on this languorous Sunday evening are the occasional explosive returns to town of Rock Pigeons and the frequent high-pitched crying of Cedar Waxwings. The first drama happens at 4:30, when frantic rattling in the confluence alerts me to the presence of a Belted Kingfisher. As it flashes by, going upriver, an Osprey explodes from the same spot, straight up over my head and out of sight. I would like to imagine that the two were quarrelling over a fish. The excitement seems to trigger a couple Blue Jays up Bald Eagle Creek somewhere. Then everything lapses into quiet again.
Soon, rain comes down softly, not deterring an ever-growing flock of swifts spread out across the Gap, high up, at least 150 of them.
At 6 PM sharp, church bells ring out, perhaps the spark for the first calls of nearby House Finches.
Half an hour later, a Common Raven flaps past, croaking on an even register, without any touch of excitement. Then a Carolina Wren announces the beginning of the end, singing nearby after a lapse of a couple hours, at least. At 6:40, a sweet song I’ve not heard in many weeks: male House Finch, from a nearby sycamore.
Minutes later, two ravens fly out of Plummer’s Hollow toward town, calling softly. One maintains a straight course while the other, to its left a wingtip away, executes several sideways rolls, like a bullet. They eventually bank in tandem and head back to Brush Mountain.
Once again before seven, the wren breaks the silence and an American Crow calls briefly. At three minutes to the hour, 11 American Robins coast back over the north side of town from Bald Eagle Mountain somewhere. Seconds later, two groups of five each follow. The leader of the nearer group abruptly plummets in a half-spiral into the tall poplar along Bald Eagle Creek at my 11, and the other four follow. They stay there for around half an hour until proceeding to their night roosts somewhere to the west and out of sight.
The 7 o’clock hour is a gradual descent into oblivion as the first katydids start up. The activity centers on the convergence of swifts over the confluence, a nightly occurrence this time of year. Around 50 are present for 30 minutes until departing for their respective chimneys. How much of their activity is social and how much is focused on catching bugs is hard to tell, but the predictability and repetitiveness of this event suggests that something more than a feeding frenzy is taking place. I would suspect these are some of the same swifts I saw earlier, but from my vantage point I can’t tell how many in the group are the same individuals minute after minute and which are new dusk arrivals from out of the Gap. Most likely, several hundred swifts are roosting in town right now, but unless and until I can get a good morning flight count, I can’t really determine the local population size right now in this chittering crowd.
Swifts may be the big aerial show of the night, but the Carolina Wren gets the last word in, singing for the final time at 7:36 PM.
September 11th on a Monday: glum anniversary, low light, thick clouds, and a screaming power tool already by 6:30 AM over in the junkyard. The Carolina Wren can barely get a word in edgewise. A bulky Green Heron comes up high over the river from some feeding spot downstream, banking around the junkyard and flying on rapid wingbeat over town, not making a sound that I can hear.
No early hummer at the feeder today for the first time in a long while. The Bald Eagles are about, though: first, a juvenile from the north, then an adult overhead, both soaring east through the Gap.
Thanks for reading Bird Mountain! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.