Nighttime Migration

Many species of birds migrate at night. You may have been observing a sizable number of a particular species one day, only to wonder the next day where they all went to. The birds obviously migrated during the night. Tanagers, orioles, thrushes, thrashers, buntings, warblers, and wrens are some of the special birds you may like to watch that use the nighttime sky in their movements.

Most fly at altitudes from 1500 to 5000 feet, but there are records of some that have cleared mountains as high as 20,000 feet. Star patterns and constellations are used for navigation purposes – especially the North Star. Birds will also take advantage of a weather front to help push them along their way. The moon, however, is not used. Its brightness may even interfere with navigation – as will the lights of a large city.

To be aware of migratory movements, pay attention to weather forecasts (such as a northern moving front in the spring or a southern moving one in the fall). On a moonlit night, birds can be detected flying across the moon’s face.

The bird pictured, TOWNSEND’S WARBLER, is a small yellow bird that is strikingly arrayed in black, white, and olive-green. It is one of the most interestingly colored birds in western North America. It nests in coniferous forests from Alaska to Oregon and winters in Central America. It feeds mainly on insects, but on wintering grounds it will consume honeydew, a sugary liquid excreted by insects.

This is the only warbler to have such a distinctive face patch. We don’t see this bird very often, but it’s a treat when we get lucky enough to do so!

A Townsend’s Warbler, a night traveler, clings to the side trunk of a tree

Townsend’s Warbler, a night traveler

Nighttime in the Woods

Daylight slowly releases its grip 
          And the dark becomes the master.
The woodland visitor now escapes this alien realm 
	To seek the security of his bed,
Whether sleeping bag, or a more protected recluse.
	But when the sun goes down
The creatures of the night venture forth,
	Creeping so quietly and masked in darkness.
Sleep locks the drama safely away,
	But insomnia can at times provide clues
Clues that something is about;
	A scratching, a soft bang, or muted growl;  
Can tempt one to leave that comforting warmth
	To sate newly aroused curiosity.
A rich moment to be captured   
	As flashlight beam reveals pairs of glistening eyes!
Fat, furry bodies or sleek ones with enormous tails,
	Respond with silent retreat only to reappear
As campground attractions prove too irresistible.
	Normal fear is over shadowed by visceral necessity.
I have lived these special moments.
	Though somewhat painful to leave one's bed,
So carefully heated with body warmth and position snugly found,
	The effort well worth the reward.
Moments treasured long after discomfort of rising
	Has been erased when once the deed is done.
Experience with earth's wild creatures:
	A never ending source of excitement and wonder!  

Eyes in the Night