OK, the warblers have moved out, no more tanagers or flycatchers and the woods are quiet now other than the occasional junco calling, do we have to wait now just for the ducks and gulls? Actually late fall is one of my favorite times of the year and why is that you may wonder stuck in the quiet woods. It’s rarity time!
For some or many reasons the first week of November plus or minus a week is often a great time to find the biggest surprises of the year. It may be the severe storms that are common and the first hard push of cold weather or it may be the signs of desperation in the birds that have taken a wrong turn or lingered too long in some late fall oasis of food and shelter.
I love to check out sheltered areas along the lake-shore now that are full of wild grapes, dogwood, or raspberries. What may turn up? There have been many records of Townsend’s Solitare this time of year. Michigan’s first Ash-throated Flycatcher showed up near Manistee’s Lake Bluff Audubon Center at the start of the birding trail one early November day feeding on Mountain Ash berries and Multiflora Rose.
Jaegers and phalaropes are still possible along the lake-shore. Many of Michigan’s records of Say’s Phoebe and Western Kingbird have been late birds in the dunes along the lakes. In addition to rarities it’s often this time of year that you can spot the first siskins, Pine Grosbeaks, and Redpolls winging south from the Boreal forests.
Keep the hummingbird feeders up too. Keeping them out late will not prevent hummers from moving on but may be a lifesaver for a late bird or rarity moving through. Rufous Hummingbirds have almost always been seen at homes with feeders still up in late fall.
This time of year may often seem slow for birding but once in awhile, the rare bird you find makes it a great time to be out. Good luck!