Hummingbirds? A Rose-breasted Grosbeak? Flamingoes?!
(Listen to the radio version here.)
I wake up every morning while it’s still dark, make a cup of Bird Friendly coffee, and head out to my front porch. I keep my porchlight off, and the streetlight across the road is filtered by the foliage of two large trees, making it perfect for easing myself awake in the quiet new day. The season of bird song is long over, but sometimes I hear migrants making soft flight calls from overhead as I play my daily Wordle.
On Sunday, October 1, my ears picked up soft chittering notes and whirring wingbeats, and there in the dawn’s early light was a hummingbird feeding in the blossoms of my fuchsia, darting in and out, the blooms and foliage making it impossible to see the entire bird at any one second. Within a minute it vanished.
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds were still showing up daily in my yard through September 19, which is very late. My neighbor Jeanne was seeing one on and off the last week of September, and this one was spending much more time in her yard than mine. I got pictures of her on October 2nd to confirm that she was a ruby-throat, and also saw her briefly on October 3.
Even beyond late hummingbirds, October 2023 is shaping up to be an outlier in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Some trees in Duluth have changed colors, but most are still quite green, making it look like early September. At least through the third, Nashville and Tennessee Warblers were still mingling with Yellow-rumps and Palm Warblers, and White-throated Sparrows still vastly outnumbered juncos. On September 30, a beautiful male Rose-breasted Grosbeak showed up, and he was still in my yard October 2.
Blue Jays continue to migrate in record numbers past Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve in Duluth. Usually only dozens or a few hundred pass over the ridge in October, but not this year—over a thousand flew by during the first three days, bringing the season’s total to 78,475. Yesterday, October 3, an astonishing 25 Peregrine Falcons flew by, too!
Starting in late August, Hurricane Idalia sent American Flamingos from the Caribbean to a huge number of places in eastern North America. Sightings in Texas, Louisiana, and Alabama were not too unexpected, and flamingos appearing in the Carolinas, Virginia, and Tennessee were also easily explained by the hurricane action. But there were also unprecedented flamingo movements into Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Maryland, and Pennsylvania.
Then, on September 22nd, flamingos appeared in Port Washington, Wisconsin. I was babysitting for Walter that weekend, but I couldn't possibly have made it down in time anyway, because they only stayed there a few hours. The next day, one birder saw them flying over central Wisconsin, but being in flight, no one else managed to see them.
On September 30, the same 5 flamingos were reported in Adams County at Lake Petenwell. Those birds hung around through at least October 3, which has been wonderful for a great many birders, but not for me—the cast on my right hand makes driving sketchy.
Saturday, Russ and I will be driving through Wisconsin on our way to Florida to visit our son. The weather is supposed to get cold this week, so it's doubtful any flamingoes will still be around, but we do plan to make a side trip when we get to Florida. One individual wild American Flamingo, nicknamed Pinky, turned up in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in 2018 after Hurricane Michael and is still there! If we don't get to see him, we’ll still have some hope—since Hurricane Idalia hit, flamingos have been turning up in the Everglades, Keys, and several other Florida places.
Meanwhile, during this bizarre "Odd-tober," one thing is back to normal. My dear BB the banded Pileated Woodpecker's babies have dispersed, and he's again the only pileated turning up regularly in my yard, appearing at least one or two times each day. Birdwatching really is like a box of chocolates--you never know what you're going to get, but it's certain to be sweet.