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Natural Awakenings

The Fall Line-up: A Guide to Wildlife Migration

Sep 02, 2010 04:01PM

Here are some tips for enjoying the passing wildlife this season.

Birds — Early morning often provides great views of birds just finished with all-night flights. As the sun starts to rise, some birds that find themselves out over ocean waters or above the Great Lakes will suddenly head for the nearest land. Hundreds of birds can come pouring inland at these times, among them thrushes, warblers, vireos and tanagers. During daylight hours, the skies can be filled with everything from white pelicans to bobolinks. Expect lots of shorebirds, cormorants, terns and gulls at the seaside and hawks, swifts, flickers, jays, swallows and robins overhead almost everywhere.

Butterflies — Most people have heard about monarchs and their fall migrations to the mountains of southern Mexico, but lots of other butterflies travel in autumn. Some even head north. Watch in the same places that bird migrants concentrate for American ladies,  question marks, red admirals, and the more abundant monarchs—all moving southward. By contrast, cloudless sulphurs may be headed north in the fall, as their southern populations expand, and painted ladies and common buckeyes may be flying north or south.

Dragonflies — Dragonfly watching is coming into its own on the North American nature scene. Several books have appeared to help folks tell these handsome creatures apart. A small number of dragonfly species migrate in substantial numbers during the fall. Look for the monster green darner in particular and the world’s most cosmopolitan dragonfly, the wandering glider. Others include the black saddlebag and the Carolina saddlebag.

Mammals — Mammal watching is not nearly as easy as bird or insect watching. It usually involves some trekking, and they’re not terribly cooperative subjects. Still, the rewards can be considerable. Among the migratory mammals worth watching are some species of bats (hoary, silver-haired and red), which can occasionally be seen flying south during daylight hours along shorelines or even over bodies of water. Marine mammals may be observed from boats or coastal promontories. The large baleen whales are evident in good  numbers on their southward migration and delight watchers even from a distance.

Source: National Wildlife Federation

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