Ahh, the early signs of fall - who can fail to notice? Maybe I notice a little sooner than most because it’s my favorite time of year. It's when the nights get cooler, the Canada geese begin gathering on our nearby lake...
...and large flocks of blackbirds begin to roost and feed together.
I've been especially noticing the blackbirds as they fly over in the late afternoons. These flocks are sometimes comprised of a single species, but more often consist of several species mix together; consisting mostly of red-winged blackbirds, with a mix of grackles and sometimes European starlings. Like many blackbirds — grackles and cowbirds included — the red-wing has a strong flocking instinct in the non-breeding season. Winter concentrations of red-wings can number in the several thousands.
As more birds begin their passage through our area this time of year, others who called our area home this spring and summer leave. Most notable of these to me are the purple martins. Below was once a common site in my backyard up until a month ago:
These martins are now well on there way to their winter home in South America.
At least I still have my bluebirds. Eastern bluebirds here in my area (SE Virginia) are present year around. In many northern states where their breeding range extends, they will migrate south for the winter months.
It's hard to believe that this was the scene in one of my nest boxes less than a month ago:
These young bluebirds have since successfully fledged their nest box. I see them occasionally gathered at the nearby birdbath.