By Derek Stoner, Education Program Assistant
Scanning the skies at Ashland for birds, butterflies, dragonflies and other "things with wings" that come by. Photo by Derek Stoner.
If you’ve looked up at the sky during the past week, chances are good you’ve seen a bird flying. The spectacle of mass migration is a key event of fall, and not to be missed.
The battle between summer and fall tipped heavily in favor of autumn last weekend, as a cold front streaming down from Canada pushed a wave of birds southward. Then this weekend, another front brought yet another fusillade of feathered travellers.
Scanning the skies can turn up a lot: Monarchs, Green Darners, falcons, swifts, airplanes, and plenty of wayward helium balloons!
These blasts from the north ushered in hundreds of Canada Geese, Tree Swallows, warblers and other neotropical migrants, and an impressive array of dragonflies. And of course, the raptors. For the past week at Ashland, it was difficult to swing the binoculars without hitting a Broad-winged Hawk. Over 8,000 of these raptors were observed during the last week!
The familiar V-shaped flocks of Canada Geese are once again gracing our skies.
Fall migration is in fine form, and eager observers at the Ashland Hawk Watch turned up some neat sights in the past week: dozens of Common Nighthawks sifting insects from the air, groups of cormorants soaring like hook-billed vultures, diminutive Ruby-throated Hummingbirds motoring through at 40 mph, and the all-too-uncommon Red-headed Woodpecker flying by(3 seen migrating past Ashland in the last week!)
Just another few Broad-winged Hawks heading to South America.
Animal populations are at their highest of the year, and migratory birds, insects, and bats are moving on to favored wintering grounds.
The efforts of sky-scanning are rewarded by the discovery of all manner of flying creatures. Who knows? Perhaps even Superman will be spotted some day!