Birder’s Almanac – October

Early in the month we must say goodbye to the flycatching species like pewees, phoebes, and kingbirds. Swifts, tree swallows, and a few warblers hang on into October, as may a handful of vireos, mostly blue-headed. Flitting hordes of kinglets hover and glean insects, a few of the golden-crowneds staying on. A good variety of ducks and geese arrive in numbers during the month’s second half. River and pond waterfowl species which had been numerous during the last half of September persist through most of Oct. Blue-winged teals, shovelers, and wood ducks move out first, and more black ducks arrive. Diving ducks prefer Lake Erie to ponds, and rivers, but they find some reservoirs inviting as well. With the first big cold front after mid-Oct, snow geese, diving ducks, loons, grebes, and cormorants touch down in good numbers.

Absent the big numbers put up by September’s broadwings, hawk-watching is probably even better in October, with a bigger push of falcons, sharpies, and harriers, and the arrivals of rough-legs, golden eagles, and a few goshawks. Shorebirds set down wherever food is available, their flocks diminishing except among some of the plovers, dowitchers, and dunlins. October is sparrow season, with movements of white-throated, white-crowned, fox, song, Lincoln’s, vesper, savannah, field, chipping, tree, and swamp sparrows, along with towhees, juncos, and longspurs passing through or arriving to winter. Blackbird flocks are now conspicuous and widespread. Many feeder-watchers keep hummingbird feeders up through this and the following month, in hopes of attracting the rare western hummingbirds that have been seen more often in recent autumns.

—Bill Whan

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