As autumn progresses in the upper Midwest, birds appear and disappear, group and spread out. Pileated woodpeckers have returned to the suet feeders. Chickens help grind up the garden residue and eat the bugs. White-throated sparrows sing a different tune on their way south. Juncos suddenly appear. Bluebirds sit on branches surveying the yards. Hawks send everyone scurrying. Vultures wing one more time overhead before catching the north winds and head to warmer climes.
All summer we’ve watched and listened to wren couples who built nests and raised young in our yard. An Indigo Bunting welcomed each summer morning with his song and serenaded the evening until dark. Early this spring, we marveled at the brilliantly colored orioles and grosbeaks who visited. During warm months, hummingbirds flitted up and down and all around outside our windows.
When a long-absent bird suddenly makes its springtime appearance in full breeding color, it’s exciting and easy to spot. We greet spring’s migrants after their long journey north with a hearty, “Welcome Home!” and some seed.
With fall now in the air, our vivacious summer bird friends are drifting away, pushed southward by vigorous north winds. Departure is different from arrival. When they appear in spring, birds are in their glorious mating colors and sing with gusto. They’ve been absent for months until one morning we look out the window – and there they are! It’s magical.
Indigo Buntings and Wrens Leave…
Arrivals are easy to mark. No so departures. By fall many birds have molted into their more subtle nonbreeding colors and just seem to evaporate. No singing marks their departure and figuring out just when they leave is challenging. More often we just say, “Gee, I haven’t heard the indigo buntings for a few days. I bet they’ve gone.”
…and Juncos Arrive
We wish we could help migrants on their departure evening by saying, “Have a safe trip and pleasant winter. See you next spring!” Since we don’t know exactly when they’ll be winging south, they depart without our good wishes. The parting is sad, but we know we’ll soon look out the window and almost miraculously spot the fall’s first juncos nosing around on the ground looking for a few seeds to enjoy for breakfast.
Orioles and grosbeaks drift south starting in late summer and our bunting was gone by August 20. Hummingbirds and wrens disappear by late September. Juncos usually appear from northern breeding grounds in October and stick around until April. Then they seem to vanish overnight. But, that’s just before spring’s colorful songsters arrive
What is a Synanthrope?
People are surrounded by synanthropes. It’s a long and obscure word that is descriptive of hundreds of wild plants and animals.
A synanthropic species is one that benefits from and lives close to people. Essentially, if people disappeared these plants and animals would struggle to survive and, perhaps, disappear themselves. They need us! Other species are semi-synanthropic and live close to people or benefit from human action but might live in lower numbers in wild places.
At Winding Pathways, we strive to restore species native to our area of Iowa. We’ve had success, but we’re still surrounded by synanthropes that require our presence. Fortunately, we don’t have Norway rats or rock pigeons but these and other species are common in the biggest cities worldwide. They are wildly successful in the grittiest urban areas.
House mouse and Norway rat
House Sparrow, American Robin, House Finch, House Wren, Rock Pigeon, Canada Goose, and Ringneck Pheasant
Raccoon, Opossum, Woodchuck
Dandelion, Purslane, Lambs quarters, Kentucky bluegrass, And many common weeds.
We encourage everyone to look around and notice plants and animals in their homes and yards and learn whether they’d be there without human presence. Expand our list! If they would disappear should the yard be a virgin wilderness and people were absent, then they are synanthropes.
Summer in the upper Midwest has been pleasant and we are out and about!
And, Terry Pitts shared this video of an industrious bird making its nest. Likely a second brood.
Reminiscing on some Haikus from the past. These seemed a good way to honor spring and welcome summer.
Quivering seed pods
Last year’s fruit, This year’s promise
Red buds produce life.
April ‘to Open’
Birds beckon, flowers unfold
Hope, re-birth, re-new.
Slow green shoots appear and grow.
Spring bursts in splendor.
How goes butterfly
So gaily in morning dew.
Surf booms, with great roar.
Coquinas ride waves to rest
On white, clean beaches.
Spring aerial art.
Wheeling, gliding all in sync
Spring aerial art
Banks, wheel. Dive. Glide in sync
Mountain tall, distant
Shelters small creatures that live
In harmony there.
Laughter tumbles free,
From souls to the earth.
Children, living gifts.
Begin where we are
Plain talk ease nerves.