Yes my friends, October is here in Cleveland and it's one of my favorite months. The Dog Days are disappearing and we can finally open our windows again to let some of that deliciously cool night air in! And speaking of night, take some time to step outdoors where it's quiet and listen...the sky is full of birds!
By Chuck Slusarczyk Jr., Member, Western Cuyahoga Audubon Society
Yes my friends, October is here in Cleveland and it's one of my favorite months. The Dog Days are disappearing and we can finally open our windows again to let some of that deliciously cool night air in! And speaking of night, take some time to step outdoors where it's quiet and listen...the sky is full of birds! Most of our songbird species are night migrants and you can hear them calling to each other as they pass overhead throughout the night, invisible to us.
By October, bird migration is in full swing and while there are still some warblers around, they will be fewer in number by the time the sparrows arrive. Yes...sparrows! LBJ's..."Little Brown Jobbies" as some call them. I'm not talking about the ubiquitous non-native House Sparrow which we have year round, or even some of our native species that stay with us throughout the summer, but the ones that come in great numbers with the cold fronts of October.
White-throated and White-crowned Sparrows are among the most obvious along with American Tree Sparrows. These are primarily the ones we never see during the summer months, but they will be here in great numbers in just a week or so, usually arriving en-masse after the first real cold snap.
Along with those sparrows already mentioned, you will see greatly increased numbers of the sparrows that do nest here as they are joined by the multitudes that nested further north. Song Sparrows, Chipping Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows, Savannah Sparrows, Field Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos (yes, they are sparrows too)...they will all be here soon and many will stay for the winter. But I'm not done yet...we also get some not-so-common sparrows that visit the Flats each October...Vesper Sparrows, Fox Sparrows, Clay-colored Sparrows, and even the occasional Nelson's or Grasshopper Sparrow.
Sparrows are often ignored by beginning birders because they just seem too difficult...trust me, I know...I was once the same way, but once you get to know them and see their subtle beauty you will fall in love with them. Since our most common native sparrow around here is the Song Sparrow, I always tell new birders to start with them first, they're here year-round so you have plenty of time to study them! Taking time to observe their plumage and study their movements will go a long way with helping to identify what is NOT a Song Sparrow!
But don't be stressed over sparrows...there are still plenty of other birds to observe as the leaves change.Late migrating warblers such as Orange-crowned, Tennessee and others will be around. You can look for these in fields as the goldenrods go to seed. Scranton Flats is a good place for these. October is also the month of Kinglets, with Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets arriving. These delightful little birds will often come up and check you out as you stand there mesmerized and if you're lucky, they might even raise their little crowns for you.
I've never been a fan of hot weather and October is when I start to feel good again, and the birding just gets better from here in my opinion. As a Flats junkie, I'm always amazed at the variety of birds I can find even in the most incongruous of places, so keep your eyes open, you never know what you'll see!
Happy October Everyone! ~ Chuck :-)
Photos by Chuck Slusarczyk Jr.
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