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Fall Birding at Its Best

How to get in on the fall migration action

This could be you!

Fall is an exception time for birding on Nantucket. Thirty miles out to sea makes us a great stopover for migrants. Fall storms can also bring unusual birds from afar – a treasure for local birders adding to life-lists.

With fall upon us and migration underway, how can you attract more birds to your yard, feeders, and other favorite viewing spots? How can you have a good chance of seeing more birds this fall? Here are five ideas to naturally increase your chances of seeing some great birds without having to spend thousands of dollars on new optics.

  1. Let the weeds be. As the fall flowers and grasses begin to fade, the seeds, fruits, and other reproductive structures are delectable bites for our feathered friends. Don’t be tempted to mow that lawn or weedy patch. Let it whither until winter. As many birds begin or are in the throes of migration, these weedy tidbits become important food resources. And, you want any excuse to be a bit lazy, right?
  2. Water, water, everywhere? Make sure your bird baths or other water features are clean and full. Remember, we’ve just come out of drought conditions. While the weather has been rainy of late, double-check that the water that remains in baths is clean to reduce disease transmission!
  3. Don’t clean the beach! If you’re a shorebird, fall is the perfect time to snag invertebrates from piles of seaweed washed up on the beach. Keep the eel grass and other seaweed piles intact as they remain another tasty treat for Sanderlings, Willets, and other shorebirds.
  4. Create, don’t remove, brush piles. Similar to #3, rotting leaves and other brush make great habitat for arthropods, worms, and insects that many birds eat. Birds that prefer habitat on the ground, such as dark-eyed juncos, tree sparrows and white-throated sparrows, will use brush piles for roosting at night and for protection from predators. Just put fall trimmings, branches, twigs and leaves in one corner of the yard where it is less intrusive, but will create some cover for the birds.
  5. Get to know a few good birders. The best thing I ever did to increase my own bird list was to get to know some really good birders. They keep you motivated, take you to the best, secret spots, and may teach you a thing or two about identifying all of those “confusing fall warblers” as Peterson puts it. Between October and May, birding friends also help you forget how cold your fingertips are while trying to spot a Glaucous Gull or a Snowy Owl.   

Need help meeting some great birders? How about some local and regional experts? It’s time again for the annual Nantucket Birding Weekend held this year October 16th to the 18th. The Linda Loring Nature Foundation puts on a great event with amazing leaders, delicious food, and generally beautiful weather.

There’s still room to sign up with additions of this year being two workshops held on Friday: Little Brown Jobs (tiny brown songbird identification) led by Mark Faherty and The Marsh Wren, where keynote speaker Mark Robbins will teach some unique facts about this interesting genus.

Details on the program, trip descriptions, and how to register can be found at the LLNF website here.