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Fall Migration Part III
October 17, 2011

(Frankfort MI.)

I like the way small towns decorate for the seasons, don't you?

Fall weather returns to Southwest Michigan.

Cool and rainy days have slowed down my time outside and with fall clean up.

Thank our good Lord .....

We were able to take advantage of the warm weather early last week.

A spur of the moment short trip 'Up North' to enjoy some of Autumn's colors and 'Nature's' beauty.

That also includes 'Sleeping Bear National Lake shore', Lake Michigan, The Grand Traverse Bay, and the surrounding landscapes.

It is truly amazing how the Big Lakes affect the colors as well as alter the weather.

Patches of color were only beginning along the lake, while many spots were past peak miles inland.

No matter, there is always something special about 'Up North'.

I'm sharing a few (color tour) pictures with you this week.

Continue to groom your flower and veggie gardens.

Enjoy color and harvest veggies as long as you can.

I picked my last three zucchini of the season, but peppers and tomatoes are still active.

Remove diseased foliage and throw it in the trash.

As time goes on, turn over your vegetable gardens and feel free to add some good organic matter
like grass clippings, leaves, manure, etc.

Feel free to cut back or pull flowers and veggie plants and leave them in your gardens and beds (Disease Free) to decay over winter.

Organic Matter.

By Spring, the matter will have decayed or composted into the soil making in richer and more workable.

I've been doing this for several years, now.

It may not look so attractive, but this time of year, it isn't an issue for me.

I like to keep flowers blooming as long as possible.

Besides annual red salvia and some marigolds and zinnias, and others, there are several perennials that are late summer and fall bloomers too.

Fall asters, Chocolate Eupatorium, Cimicifuga, and other perennials wait to bloom or peak, just for this time of the year.

Yes, I will have hardy bloomers well into November.

Not only for our enjoyment, but for the bees, butterflies and whatever is passing through, or still active.

Yes, the occasional Monarch still flutters through.ron

It is always a sad day when a hard frost or freeze takes care of the last flower.

Bird Migration Continues.....................


I must hand in my Naturalist Certification..........

One day last week. I came across a medium sized toad that was slowly being consumed by a pretty good sized Garter snake.

The right rear leg of the toad was in the snake's mouth while the rest of the toad assumed the standard posture of bloating up and extending all other limbs.

This must have been going on for some time, as the toad seemed to be in shock and showed no signs of fighting.

Disruption, forced the snake to dislodge the remainder of the the toad's right leg.

The snake slithered off and there sat a toad with three and one half legs.

From the knee down were now in the belly of the snake.

Yes, Garter snakes have teeth, but no fangs.

The teeth are small and very sharp to hang onto prey, and too saw off limbs and other bite sized pieces.

They will bite when first picked up.

Well, My heart for toads won out.

It was almost instinctive for me to come to the toad's rescue.

I suppose a good Naturalist would have allowed nature to take its course.

Me, I like toads and only tolerate snakes,

Yes, I clearly prefer toads over snakes.

I cleaned off the toad and put it in a different location.

For all I know, the became a meal for some other creature.

Bird Migration Continues.....................


It's now mid October and migration is in full swing.

You may have a handful of Warblers visiting for a couple of days.

You may see an open field or marsh alive with thousands of birds.

Or, migration may be a few Turkey vultures circling above as they catch a thermal heading South.

It may be a single hummingbird heading for its winter home.

You can see (and hear) migration just about everywhere this time of year.

On a calm, quiet night, step outside and you may hear the sounds of wings or the chirps of birds in the night sky.

Fall migration is a busy, yet a sad time of year for many of us.

Yes, we lose many of our feathered friends.

Colorful friends with songs that bring smiles to your face.

Sure we get winter migrators that help to liven up the winter landscape, but they aren't as pretty and the songs seem to lack that certain something.

As you may know by now, migration is a mix of internal stimulus dictated by the length of day or lack of daylight hours.

This results in a feeding binge to put on fat to survive the journey and then the tendency for most species of birds to aggregate into flocks.

Once the pre-migration flock is gathered, the feeding continues while the birds wait for suitable weather conditions.

Something interesting happens:

Some birds molt before migration.

Other birds molt once they reach there winter homes.

And still other birds like Barn swallows, molt during migration.

You wont see dust settling on swallows that's for sure.

They eat on the fly and have no time to wait for a molt.

I digress..................................

A bird's internal clock releases the hormonal triggers at a fairly accurate date each year.

Availability of food and the presiding weather conditions will, and sometimes do, decide when the migration starts.

For most birds, migration South is at a more leisurely pace than heading North.

Birds stop to feed and rest, and maybe make a few new friends along the way :-)

Robins for example may travel an average of 12 to 15 miles a day, or as needed.

In my yard, White-crowned sparrows will hang out around here from two to four weeks (depending on the year), before moving on.

Still when the time comes to migrate, Snow geese will make a non stop flight from northern Canada to the Gulf and South Atlantic coasts of the United States.

Most migration flights occur at between 600 and 5000 feet above sea level with an average height of 1525 feet. (Now how do they figure that out?)

However, mountains may mean greater heights of several thousand feet.

Weather Influences Bird Migration:

Birds respond to weather conditions as well as light and darkness, when deciding when to depart a summer or winter range.

An early spring with unusually warm temperatures can trigger early departure and early breeding.

Likewise, extended bad weather or a cool spring can delay things.

Visa versa for fall travel.

Birds generally wait for good weather with favorable winds.

They avoid rain, overcast conditions, and winds that might blow them off course.

As a result, good weather triggers a wave of departures, with large groups of birds leaving at the same time and arriving at a stopover or destination together.

Most will stop to feed or wait out bad weather before moving on with another wave of migrants.

Climate and location also heavily influence fall migration for birds in the higher latitudes.

These birds arrive later, breed later, molt later, and leave later than the rest of the population.

(Boardman Park, Traverse City, Mi.)

Although most of our smaller birds make their longest flights at night, close observation shows travel is continued to some extent by day.

At this time flocks of birds maintain a movement in the general direction of the seasonal journey while feeding on or near the ground.

Sometimes they travel hurriedly, and while their flights may be short, they can cover an appreciable distance in the course of a day.

Scientists have been studying how birds find their way along these routes.

To successfully migrate from breeding grounds to winter grounds birds must be able to navigate (judge their position while traveling) and orient (determine compass direction).

(Amazing the gifts the 'Nature' has given to our birds.)

Birds do this by using a variety of different cues which allows them to find their way in different weather and habitat conditions.

There are five main ways that scientists believe birds use to navigate and orient themselves:

(Looking across a hazy Torch Lake from Alden, Mi.)

1) Topographic features (things like mountains and rivers that can also influence wind direction).

2) Stars. (the moon and planets differ each year and wouldn't make a good guiding light).

3) Sun.

4) Earth's magnetic field.

5) Sense of smell.

Night migrators that use the stars to navigate have been known to spend a night or two grounded, if the sky is to cloudy.

Experiments show that most migratory birds have a God given, built-in sense of direction and know innately which direction they need to travel.

First year Starlings in Europe kept in a covered cage and away from birds which have already migrated once or more, still move to the South side of the cage when the time comes for them to migrate.

Some birds appear to use landmarks and obviously at a height of several thousand feet they can see a considerable distance.

Here is another test.

Young crows born and raised in Alberta, Canada and then kept caged until after all the population had flown South

and the first snows had fallen, flew straight to Oklahoma where the rest of their flock was.

Pretty amazing, and some strong instincts.

How about this test?

Is migration strictly instinct?

Mallards are migratory in Finland, but not in England.

Young hatched from eggs taken from English Mallards and put under Finish females had no problems migrating with the rest of the population.

No hard wire here.

For many species of birds, migration is indeed a learned thing.

(Migrating Whooping Cranes and the
Ultra light planes fly from Wisconsin to Florida that teach these birds to migrate south. They find their way back north.)

Look at the survival instincts an adult bird has.

And how about the "GPS"?

If we had that ability to navigate, we wouldn't have little need for road maps or a compass

The next time someone calls you a bird brain, thank them for the compliment.

The world of birds is truly amazing, and we should feel privileged to witness these miracles of flight.

(Bottom photo is a vineyard on 'Old Mission Point' near Traverse City, MI.)

Well, it is time to fly for now.

Before I go, here is your positive thought for the week.

God Bless.

Those who love deeply never grow old;

they may die of old age, but they die young.

A.W. Pinero

Love is everything my friend.

Love is life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,

that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world,

but to save the world through him.

John 3: 16-17 (NIV)

"Treat the earth well:

It was not given to you by your parents,

It was loaned to you by your children.

We do not inherit the Earth from our

Ancestors, we borrow it from our Children."

Ancient Indian Proverb

Your friend indeed,

Ron Patterson

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Better yet, have them sign up so they can receive their own letters.

Gardening For Wildlife.

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