By John Brush, Quinta Mazatlan
There is a special joy that comes with reunions. It is a mix of happiness at picking up where a friendship left off and a delight in seeing growth and change; nostalgia blended with the prospect of new memories to be made. People coming together again. Connections re-established.
I think that reunion joy goes beyond just people, extending to include the plants and animals that share our spaces; the huisache flowers that welcome us to spring, the toads that trill after heavy rains, the birds that return to us each fall. That is why I consider bird migration to be more than just a chance to see dozens of colorful species. It is an opportunity to see old friends returning for winter and to become more connected to acquaintances only met in passing.
Fall migration feels different than spring migration. In the spring, birds are in a rush to return to their breeding grounds. They need to find and claim a territory, find a mate, and build nest all in a short span to capitalize on the spring’s burst of productivity. Because of that, spring migration feels condensed, with dozens of species passing through the Valley over the course of a month or so; temporally compact.
In fall, migration feels more relaxed (though I am not one of the birds making a stressful, long-distance journey). As early as July we start enjoying familiar feathers returning south – Orchard Oriole, Louisiana Waterthrush, and Least Flycatcher in the same trees that our Green Jays are feeding the latest fledglings. More species trickle through in August, and then, as summer percolates into fall in September, there is a burst of flycatcher, hummingbirds, vireos, and warblers on their way to Mexico, Central America, and south America.
But that is not all.
October and November bring more of the migrants that are returning for a seasonal stay. Sandhill Cranes rattle over agricultural fields, joined by the honking of thousands of Snow Goose and Greater White-fronted Goose. Orange-crowned Warblers will oftentimes return to the exact same spot they have stayed before; a five-inch bird that can make a migration of thousands of miles, not only surviving the flight but showing off incredible navigation skills.
Behind each arrival, a thrush here or a sandpiper there, there is the intricate and wonderful science of migration. Birds need to know when to leave their summer grounds, have to stock up on fat (their fuel) for the journey, and then navigate vast distances to their winter homes. I marvel at the biological spectacle of migration and scientific articles about the process. But perhaps more meaningful for me is the return of friends I have not seen in months. I hope you will go, meet them, and form friendships of your own.
Join Quinta Mazatlan in celebrating and welcoming back our fall migrants during World Migratory Bird Day, Saturday, Oct. 9. A guided bird walk at 9 a.m. is followed by a special presentation at 10 a.m. For more information, call (956) 681-3370.