Autumn is an exciting time to observe the world of birds as some prepare to migrate. We have the opportunity to spot new bird species in our local areas if we are alert and observant to the signs and clues.
Our interactions with migratory birds can be predicted with a basic knowledge of the weather and bird behaviour, as many birds wait until weather conditions are favourable before initiating migratory flights.
There are two groups of migrants; diurnal migrants like raptors who rely on thermals to generate lift to soar and nocturnal migrants such as sparrows who ‘drop out’ of flight during the day to refuel. It is when these land birds ‘drop out’ of migratory flight during the day, that we have the opportunity to spot them.
Migratory birds are tuned into seasonal changes that initiate their flight from breeding grounds to wintering grounds, and if we are aware of these clues, our autumn bird watching adventures will become extraordinary experiences.
Some clues that hint at the start of the migratory season are:
- Decreasing daylight as winter approaches and the angle of the sun shifts signaling a change in season.
- Cooler temperatures.
- In some climates, rain may be an indicator of shifting seasons.
- As summer crops are consumed, fewer seeds and insects are accessible.
- Birds will migrate once their offspring are mature enough to undertake their first migratory flight.
- Their location is also a factor to consider as birds who have shorter distances to cover may leave later in the season than those who travel further.
- Weather patterns play a major role in bird migration as the birds will rely on favourable tailwinds blowing in the right direction. Passages of strong cold fronts and movements of low-pressure centers encourage large flights of migratory birds in Autumn. Birds who are waiting for the right weather conditions will often congregate in one geographical area until they can ‘fall-out’ together.
Bird Watching in the Field
In order to prepare for the migratory season, let’s turn our eyes to the sky so that we can spot our local backyard or bush bird species. We’ll notice the birds that adapt to the cooler change, and later, those who will stop by on their way to wintery feeding grounds.
Sharp hearing and eyesight are essential to birdwatchers as they listen to the calls of birds and identify them. As you listen for their sounds you’d want to stop, be still and locate them so you’re able to combine the call with the bird and identify it within a field guide.
Once you’ve found the bird, observe it quietly and notice its colouring, size and special features. Watch the behaviour of the bird and make notes about its movements.
Is the bird:
Take further notes on the:
• Day and time
• Numbers. Is the bird found alone, in twos, small flocks or large flocks?
• How shy, tame or friendly is the bird?
After you’ve observed the bird, make a quick field sketch. This is not an art assignment so scribble the sketches and make notes about your observations.
Field sketching is an important skill for any scientist who is learning about a topic of interest. If you’d like to, and it’s not necessary, you can improve on the drawings and add colour later.
Once you’re intimate with the birds in your backyard, consider investigating birds further afield and in different habitats. There are rural birds, bush birds, and shorebirds waiting to be discovered. As your understanding of birds deepens, you’ll begin to appreciate how intricate and complex God created these creatures, which tells us how unfathomable He is.
“How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.”
~ Psalm 104:24
Items needed for bird observation:
• Keen eyes!
• And ears 🙂
• Field Nature Journal and Stationery
• Bird Field Identification Guide
Or download the Autumn Birding Notebook Pages that include:
- A Notebook Page for Upper Primary
- A Notebook Page for Lower Primary/Preschool
- An Autumn Bird Census Chart
- A Bird Profile Page
WOULD YOU LIKE TO LEARN ABOUT BIRDS AND WILDFLOWERS?
Dig deeper with the handbook to Amy Mack’s Bush Calendar.
Amy Mack is a favourite Aussie author who captured the Australian bush through the seasons. In this guide, we walk alongside Amy as she identifies wildflowers and observes nesting birds through the year. We can choose to investigate Amy’s nature finds with field guides indoors or explore a local park for wildflowers and wildlife while recording our own sightings in a year’s cycle.
Listen to bird melodies while enjoying an outdoor breakfast or take a sunset walk and collect nature treasures to journal. Learn to identify birds with song and field marks while bird stalking. Observe wildflowers bud, blossom and seed while examining their flower and leaf arrangements.
Capture birds and wildflowers within a nature journal with sketches and paintings, or a nature scrapbook with photographs on a weekly basis. Alternatively, explore the bush once a month and create a Penology Wheel to record your sightings.
A Handbook to A Bush Calendar by Amy Mack is a year’s nature study curriculum that is flexible; explore indoors or out, weekly or monthly. The guide features poems from C.J. Dennis and optional literature from Nuri Mass and Amy Mack. Explore the outdoors with living books.
YOU MAY BE INTERESTED IN:
EARN YOUR NATURE CLUB BADGES WHILE EXPLORING BIRDS BY OBSERVING, COLLECTING DATA, OR NATURE JOURNALING AT NATURE CLUB.