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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

migrating birds need "waystations"

Just passing through: 
Black-headed Grosbeak & Lazuli Bunting
Every year many, many unusual birds from all over this continent stop awhile in north Texas during the fall migration period. These are birds like the Lazuli Bunting and Black-headed Grosbeak (pictured) etc. that are flying south from up north. They want and need breaks from a long migratory flight.

 Almost all birds fly in stages, stopping several times along the way to rest and refuel. What they want most is fresh food to get their energy back up. You might see something like a Rose-breasted Grosbeak that departed from, for instance, Ohio. Some species (like Goldfinch and Junco) come to this area, and stay for the mild winter (this is the south after all).

Setting up a waystation for migrating birds is amazingly simple and  very productive.  Several people have had Baltimore orioles visit their waystations. They’ve seen warblers that aren’t normally here too.

You probably have some parts of a waystation already. It can have any number of appearances, but a proper waystation is simply a grouping of at least three feeders (each offering a different kind of seed), safe cover and water (yes, even in cool weather) for birds taking a break. You could even add orange-halves for orioles. Plants that stay green well into winter should be in abundance. All should be within an area about 10 ft. by 10 ft. Migrating birds look for all these things, together.

The period of fall migration extends from early September to mid-December. Many migration routes pass through north Texas. A group of birds may take a slightly different route each year.  One thing is certain however. Each bird appreciates “waystations” enroute. The size of the yard a waystation’s in doesn’t matter much. He or she can use even tiny waystations to fuel up, get much-needed water, and rest up (perhaps for a few days) before continuing.

For most birds, the actual migration flights occur in the cool of the night, since birds navigate by the stars, so we may not see them in flight. Also at night, there are few predators and the winds are more predictable. Their migration is governed entirely by the changing length of daylight, the sun's angles along their flight paths and the position of the stars.

So, put out a well-stocked waystation during migration periods. Then sit back and look for some “non-Texas” birds as they migrate through north Texas.

OWEN YOST, in addition to being a blogger, is a licensed Landscape Architect emeritus who has lived and worked in north Texas for over 30 years. He is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA), International Federation of Landscape Architects, National Wildlife Federation and the Audubon Society. His office is at in Denton.

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