The fall migration’s not over yet

It is true that much of the fall migration has already taken place. It began with the shorebirds that bred in the Arctic and approached Connecticut in August.

During those sharp clear cool days of September, when the skies were so perfectly blue, hawks floated south on the thermals along escarpments - but in October many land birds travel through the region, and sometimes we can entice them to our feeders.

So now is the time to make sure all of your feeders are full and you offer variety. This means food for all types of birds - the fruit eaters, insectivores and seed eaters. In doing so, you increase your chances of attracting these migrants.

Begin with the fruit-eating birds by keeping the platform feeder well supplied with grape jelly, diced apples, raisins and berries. I know a birder who asked a local farmer if he could take discarded apples and use them for the birds. He now enjoys flocks of robins.

Many insectivores revert to a fruit diet during the winter and will not hesitate to make quick work of fruit especially when it is mixed with suet. This mix may lure in a rare thrush such as a Swainson's or a hermit thrush. The eastern bluebird, a member of the thrush family, might discover your feeder, too.

Suet might attract a shy warbler that would have otherwise traveled through undetected. Many warbler species have already made their way past Connecticut and into the southern states by now; however, some, including the yellow-rumped warbler, take their time, flirt with the cold weather and linger along the coast. If they find your suet feeder, they may keep you entertained for awhile.

A few companies make suet cakes with insect parts mixed in. Meal worms are another way to attract insect eating species. Warblers, orioles, tanagers and vireos might come in for these tiny worms. Some birders have more luck than others with these evasive birds.

Sparrows are on the move now, too. White proso millet is a sure way to entice them into your field of view. Scatter some beneath the hopper feeder and be on the watch for the fox sparrow, a large rufous-colored sparrow that searches the ground for insects and small seeds. Don't be surprised if an eastern towhee appears to fuel up before continuing south. They too feed on the ground, tossing leaves aside with a swift kick backwards.

For the other seed eaters, try a mix of black oil, safflower and shelled sunflower mixed with white millet on the platform feeder. Fill tube feeders with any kind of sunflower seed. If you want to keep things simple remember research has shown that black oil sunflower seed attracts the widest variety of birds.

Thousands of birds are migrating over us each night, and they are eager to find quick food sources when they rest. It is possible some of these birds just might decide to winter over and take a chance on making it with the help of your handouts. Imagine the chance sighting of a rare or seldom seen species up close at your feeder.

Robert Tougias is a birding author in Colchester. He is available for slide lectures, and he can be reached at rtougias@snet.net

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