By Jackie and Darryl Speicher
“One of these mornin’s. You gonna rise up singin’. And you’ll spread your wings. And you’ll take to the sky” –Summertime, from “Porgy and Bess” (1935)
In the lives of many Neotropical birds, the fall migration has already begun. The sounds of the forests and fields have changed from the boisterous songs of courting birds, to the rasping buzz of insects in love.
We have so much still to learn about the dynamics of migration. So many mysteries still to uncover. How is it that the exquisite Canada warbler, no bigger than a roll of quarters, but weighing less than a first class letter, can survive such an arduous journey down to Peru for the winter and back again to the same place on the Pocono Plateau to breed? What is it that compels them to make the trip?
Some birds―like the indigo bunting―will continue to serenade us well into the dog days of summer. For most birds, however, vibrant mating song left their lives weeks ago. In fact, the end of breeding means it is time once again to leave the Poconos and return to their home in the tropics. By the middle of August the orchard oriole and yellow warbler have already gone. Their reproductive cycle is complete, and they find no reason to stay until autumn. They pay no heed to calendars.
Could the Gershwin brothers have known how ecologically accurate their song was when they penned it nearly a century ago? It is still summertime for us, and we hope the ‘living is easy,’ but for many of our migrating birds, there is no time to tarry. They have to move southward in the coming weeks, and so must take to the skies.
For the Speichers, it is a time to catch our breath. The demands of our research no longer call on us to get up and out of the house before dawn. In August, the MAPS (Monitoring Avian Productivity and Survivorship) season draws to a close. Now we can relax and look forward to the fall when we take to the night in search of saw-whet owls on migration.
• Summer Nature Series for Children -‘Birds, Birds, Birds’, August 16 (10am-Noon). Call PPL Wallenpaupak Environmental Learning Center at 570-253-7001 to register.
• Naturalist Guided Hike, August 26 (3-5pm). Call Friendly Community Center at 570-481-4330 to register.