People often think of the birds that we see here in the Lakes Region as OUR birds or native species that live here. But most of the birds in the area only spend part of the year with us. We are at the peak of bird migration right now, you can still catch the tail end of warbler migration, and night hawk migration, but sparrows are the birds that are migrating in huge numbers this week. Many species of song birds and their allies migrate at night. According to doppler radar from NOAA (that picks up migration of many species including monarch butterflies) on any given night during migration there are billion birds in the skies over North America. Northern New England is one of the best places to witness migration- because birds are migrating from Canada through our region as they head to the southern US and in some cases all of the way to southern South America.
According to ornithologists, Phil Brown and Eric Masterson, who gave a Facebook Live presentation on Fall bird migration for NH Cooperative Extension, if you go outside on a clear night in a quite place, use your hands to cup your ears towards the sky. You should be able to hear birds vocalizing as they migrate. They also shared a tip about putting on sunglasses (to protect your eyes from light) using binoculars and looking at the moon; you will see specks or small birds zoom though the light of the moon. I know I will be out there tonight! Here is a condensed recording of migrant bird sounds from Eric Masterson’s backyard on September 18th in Southern New Hampshire so you know what you might hear.
Birds that are currently coming through include herons, plovers and other shorebirds, thrush, rails, cuckoos, flycatchers, and sparrows in spades. During the day you should also look high in the sky to witness hawk migration. At the Harris Center in Peterborough NH, where they have been monitoring raptor migration for 17 years, over 12,000 Broad Wing Hawks fly over their viewing platform annually. That doesn’t even account for Eagles, Redtail Hawks, and Falcons that they count.
If this all feels like too much for you, and you just like to notice birds or are new to bird watching, don’t get fixated on identification during migration. Just enjoy the diversity and abundance of migrators.
There have been a couple of article in the NY Times and other national news outlets about song bird and other migrant fatalities in cities due to window strikes. Birds numbers are in decline globally because of human factors. Cats and windows kill billions of birds annually in the US. Please keep cats inside. This is only way to keep them from killing birds. At the very least, put a bell on them so that the birds might know they are coming. Additionally, put anti-strike tape or decals , or an awesome product called Feather Friendly Tape or paint on your windows- birds don’t care about the patterns the key is spacing so that bird doesn’t think there is a way through the window- 2 inches in any direction is the best way to keep them safe. Please also turn off your outside lights at night. All of these are simple ways to help our winged friends.
Want to know more? Here are several of the resources that were shared during the presentation:
Check out this short documentary (5 mins) “Nightsongs” that ornithologist and presenter Eric Masterson helped make possible.
If you want to know more about Hawk Migration check out HawkCount
If you are up for a field trip go visit our friends at the Harris Center for Conservation Education’s Pack Monadnock Raptor Observatory
For more information on NH’s Birds visit NH Audubon
To see predictions of the number of migrant birds expected nightly check out this tool Bird Cast
The best place as a first stop information center for birds is Cornell Lab of Ornithology