Fall Migration Notes

Fall Migration is underway and while your birdfeeders will slow down as we approach October birdwatching will only get more interesting.  Have your binoculars with you and ready because warblers are pouring through middle Tennessee stopping to feed in the early mornings on insects and berries.  Mornings are the best time to see lots of different species of warblers.  And mornings after a storm tend to be even better.  Make time to visit one of the many great local birdwatching areas this fall to see some of them.  For information about great places to birdwatch click on the links below…


More on bird migration

A recent article in Birdwatching magazine describes studies of birds that make impressive journeys during migration.  Researchers have found that the Connecticut Warbler is one of those birds.  Scientists fitted 29 male Connecticut Warblers with geolocators at their breeding sites in Manitoba, Canada.  A year later, they recaptured four of the birds and studied the data stored on their devices. The trackers provided clear evidence that the birds migrate nonstop over the Atlantic for at least 48 hours from the eastern shores of the U.S. to landing points on Cuba or Hispaniola.  They fly for 48 hrs. without rest!  That’s a total distance of 1,050 to 1,490 miles.  After a stopover of five to seven days, the warblers flew over the Caribbean Sea in a single flight, covering 375 to 500 miles, to South America.  They then continued into the Amazon basin.  Another diminutive bird but a big time traveler is the Blackpoll Warbler.  It currently is known to have the longest migration of any North American songbird.  They make a nonstop flight south over the Atlantic Ocean each fall, from New England and eastern Canada to Caribbean islands.  The marathon flight ranges from 1,410 to 1,721 miles and takes two to three days. Imagine that incredible journey.  Both these birds measure less than 6” in length.

Connecticut Warbler This is a large warbler measuring around 5.5”.  Males have a gray hood while the hood of female and juvenile birds is more of a brown. It has a yellow belly and undertail coverts. They, of course, are not feeder birds and consume primarily insects and berries. Click on the picture to learn more on the Connecticut warbler on allaboutbirds.org

Connecticut Warbler

This is a large warbler measuring around 5.5”.  Males have a gray hood while the hood of female and juvenile birds is more of a brown. It has a yellow belly and undertail coverts. They, of course, are not feeder birds and consume primarily insects and berries. Click on the picture to learn more on the Connecticut warbler on allaboutbirds.org

Blackpoll Warbler This is a large warbler measuring around 5.5”. Males are striped gray with a black cap and white cheeks. Females in breeding plumage are greenish gray above, streaked and whitish below. Click on the picture to learn more on the Blackpoll warbler on allaboutbirds.org 

Blackpoll Warbler

This is a large warbler measuring around 5.5”. Males are striped gray with a black cap and white cheeks. Females in breeding plumage are greenish gray above, streaked and whitish below. Click on the picture to learn more on the Blackpoll warbler on allaboutbirds.org 

Nikon_Binoculars.jpg

BINOCULAR SPECIAL  $10 to $40 Off All In-Stock binoculars.  Whether you need new binoculars for birding or for football games Nikon has a choice to fit your needs.  September 22 thru September 28 stop by the shop and take advantage of these deals: 

  • Monarch 7 8x42 and 10x42     $40 Off                Prostaff Compact 8x25 and 10x25 $10 Off
  • Monarch 5 8x42 and 10x42     $25 Off                Travelite Compact 8x25 and 10x25  $10 Off
  • Prostaff 7 8x30 and 10x30      $15 Off                  Trailblazer Compact 8x25  $10 Off
  • Prostaff 3 8x42 and 10x42      $10 Off                  Aculon 7x35  $10 Off

And About Hummingbirds

Hummingbird migration is definitely at, or on the back side of, its peak.  Just two weeks ago hummingbirds were consuming nearly a gallon of nectar per day at my home in Pegram.  After last week’s cool front and rain the numbers of hummingbirds at my feeders dropped to just a few.  Interestingly, the hummingbirds we are seeing are choosing the big bunches of Salvia in the garden over the feeders.  We may see Ruby-throated hummingbirds well into October so keep your feeders out with fresh nectar as there may be several waves of hummingbirds still coming through TN on their return to Central and South America. The belief that feeders should be taken down to cause the birds to migrate is incorrect.  They will leave when they are ready whether there is a feeder present or not.  

First annual hummingbird happy hour

Art by Anne Goetze. This and many others will be available during this event! 

Art by Anne Goetze. This and many others will be available during this event! 

The Wood Thrush Shop is proud to be a sponsor of this event put together by Friends of Warner Parks and The Warner park nature center. Come celebrate the first annual Hummingbird Happy Hour. Join us on Thur. Sept 14th from 6-9pm for a beautiful evening in the Warner Parks for cocktails & hors d'oeuvres, hummingbird viewings, a Bird art/photography exhibit by Nathan Collie & Anne Goetze and live music on the patio by local well-known Jazz duet Annie Sellick & Pat Bergeson. Ticket and art sales will support the Bird Information, Research and Data (B.I.R.D) programs, keeping these programs free and available for schools, families and Park visitors.

CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS!

Summer Hummingbird Celebration

Join us and the Warner Park Nature Center staff Saturday August 26th for a day all about Hummingbirds. We will have a booth set up so stop by and and say hello. 

Finches with Eye Disease

We’ve been seeing some reports on TN birding sites of House Finches and Goldfinches with an eye disease known as Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, or House Finch eye disease.  And just yesterday a customer inquired about a bird that seemed sick.  It did not move away as she approached, as if it was not really aware of her presence.  The bird turned out to be a sick House Finch.  We hear reports and see evidence of this every year that range from sparse to wide-spread. 

Birds infected with House Finch eye disease have red, swollen, runny, or crusty eyes. In extreme cases the eyes become swollen shut and the bird becomes blind. House Finch eye disease is caused by the bacterium Mycoplasma gallisepticum. This bacterium has long been known as a pathogen of domestic turkeys and chickens, but it has been observed in House Finches since 1994. The disease has affected several other species, including American Goldfinch, Evening Grosbeak, and Purple Finch

You might observe an infected bird sitting quietly in your yard, clumsily scratching an eye against its foot or a perch. While some infected birds recover, many die from starvation, exposure, or predation.

The House Finch eye disease has affected mainly the eastern House Finch population, which is largely separated from the western House Finch population by the Rocky Mountains. Until the 1940s, House Finches were found only in western North America. They were released to the wild in the East after pet stores stopped illegal sales of “Hollywood Finches,” as they were commonly known to the pet bird trade. The released birds successfully bred and spread rapidly throughout eastern North America. In 2006, however, the disease was found west of the Rocky Mountains, and researchers are using FeederWatch data to monitor the spread west.

Whenever birds are concentrated in a small area, the risk of a disease spreading within that population increases. Research suggests that House Finches that spend large amounts of time at feeders spread the disease more effectively.

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, House Finch Disease Survey data tell us that the disease has decreased from epidemic proportions and is now restricted to a smaller percentage of the population. It’s estimated that 5% to 10% of the eastern House Finch population has this disease and that the dramatic spread that occurred a few years ago has subsided. This means that it is still an important and harmful disease, but that House Finch populations are not currently at extreme risk of wide-spread population declines.

What To Do

If you detect a sick finch at your feeders the standard procedure is to take down your feeders for a few days to a week and give them a very thorough cleaning.  Cleaning your feeders is always a good idea and is recommended it be done on a regular basis.  Clorox wipes are very handy to give your feeder a quick clean particularly around the feeding ports.

The Hummingbird Wave is Coming

Soon hummingbirds will ramp up their interest in feeders and the action will be fast and furious.  August through mid-September is peak time for us to see hummingbirds at feeders.  Based on frequently asked questions at the store there's a lot of confusion surrounding Ruby-throated hummingbirds and the first few months they are here.  It is true Ruby-throated hummingbirds begin migrating through and into TN as early as mid-March.  This year the first reported sighting by a customer was March 30.  My first sighting was April 6th.  By the way, I've recorded first of spring (FOS) hummingbird sightings for over 20 years and it's always between April 3 and April 12.  And it's always been an adult male. 

Although all Tennessee, summer resident hummingbirds are here by mid-May, most people will see very little of them and activity at feeders will be minimal and infrequent until at least early to mid-July when  there is a sudden surge in activity.

It is thought by many the reason for this sudden surge is they have just "come back" from where they've been.   Actually, it is that the summer resident hummingbirds have concluded raising one or even two broods of offspring and are ready to begin taking advantage of the free nectar in the feeders you've provided. Also, the added activity is indicative of recently fledged hummingbirds beginning to understand and visit the feeders.  Then hummingbirds that have been north of us, as far as Canada, will begin their migration south and stop at feeders along the way. 

It must be remembered hummingbirds don't travel all the way from central and south America because there are hummingbird feeders here.  They DO NOT NEED the feeders but will take advantage of them when they are ready.  Hummingbirds have been migrating here for thousands of years to breed and to take advantage of the abundance of insects, which is their primary food source.  They would come here even if hummingbird feeders did not exist.

Since hummingbirds feed on small insects an alternative way of feeding them is available.  Try placing some fruit in a mesh sack and hang it near your hummingbird feeder.  The fruit will draw fruit flies which the hummingbirds will readily devour.  It is quite interesting to see a hummingbird dart its specialized tongue out to snag the flies. We have a new feeder in the store this year called the Humm-Bug that is designed to hold fruit and draw fruit flies.  Check it out.

Hummingbirds and Nectar

A question frequently asked at The Wood Thrush Shop is “what nectar is best for hummingbirds”? 

The best nectar you can offer hummingbirds is a simple 1 part sugar to 4 parts water solution.  It is not necessary for the water to be brought to a boil before adding sugar.  The nectar is ready after the sugar has been stirred in and fully dissolved.  Do not add color. Color is absolutely unnecessary and potentially harmful. When hummingbird feeding activity is slow, like it tends to be in early spring to mid-summer, make small amounts and avoid refrigerating large quantities.  Think in terms of making fresh nectar each week in small amounts until feeding activity becomes vigorous, like it does in the latter summer months.  This is when it makes sense to make larger batches and refrigerate extra nectar.  Remember, nectar is only good for about 3 days in summer heat.  Fill your feeder according to the activity level and you will waste less nectar and reduce your maintenance on the feeder.  The peak time for hummingbird feeding activity typically starts mid-July and lasts through September, and even into October.

So, if you’ve been disappointed because you haven’t seen much of hummingbirds now is the time to make sure your feeders are clean and the nectar is fresh.  It’s going to get very busy!

Stop by the Shop!

All Hummingbird Feeders and Accessories 20% to 30% Off  

Friday July 21 thru Wed. July 26th