20 Oct 2011

Four benefits of fall

Although the arrival of fall means the coming of winter, when I want to  head for the nearest cave and do what bears do best and sleep, it does offer up four very good benefits for birdwatchers.

The first of these benefits, is that the many colors that are produced by the leaves of bushes and trees just before they fall, serve to reduce and even negate the natural camouflage of many bird species.   Green, gray, yellow or brown, or shades and patterns thereof, blend in very well with the various green shades of summer leaves but not quite so much with red, gold, orange,or maroon.  The chances of spotting an unknown bird species, or a species that is expert at avoiding detection is thereby increased.

White-throated sparrow
Oven bird

The second benefit is that you can hear many birds even when they don't sing.  Birds that prefer to forage on the forest floor, for example, now can't help but make rustling sounds as they move along the forest  floor through dry fallen leaves.   Other birds, as they hop from branch to branch, cause dry leaves to rub again each other and dry branches to crackle.  This is how I spotted the Ovenbird in the photo above.  A first encounter for me.

Yellow rumped warbler
Dark eyed Junco
Another benefit that I find very convenient, once the leaves have fallen is that you can actually see where you put your feet as you move over the forest floor in search of birds.  I don't always follow trails when I head out on bird watch and I like to go where the birds might be.  This means I often look for tiny little clearings with many bushes, tall trees that are in full view, or simply any little spot where other people are not near enough to startle birds into flight.  I have also sprained my ankles several times and don't wish to repeat the experience.

White-breasted Nuthatch
Black-capped Chickadee
The last and best benefit of fall, is that at this time of year birds will perch or land near you on a naked branch to feed, in full light and uncaring of your presence.  As long as you don't make any abrupt movement or excessive noise that is.  This makes for great opportunities for photographers and birdwatchers alike.  I got these last two photos above by moving off the trail and into the forest and then simply standing relatively still.  When I moved I did so without any hurry, but I was not overly cautious either.  These birds didn't mind at all.


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