The Fall Rhapsody
By Jaya Ramanathan
Fall is finally here after a summer that seemed endless. Before I got into birding, every Fall, I eagerly anticipated the change in color of leaves on trees. I even visited national parks such as Zion in Fall to experience colors. Now, I look forward to not just trees changing colors, but also migrating birds, butterflies, and blooms on shrubs.
Birds display the characteristic orange, red, and yellow Fall colors, but also blend in other colors. Baltimore Oriole pair visits, the male’s orange plumage catching our eye. Male Ruby-throated Hummingbird displays its red gorget, while female, not to be left behind, surprises me with its gorget’s orange spots.
Nashville and Yellow Warbler, Yellow-bellied and Great-crested Flycatcher, and Eastern Phoebe, all add a splash of yellow, with gray, reddish or dark brown accents. Black-and-white Warbler brings a striped contrast to Carolina Chickadee, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and Blue-headed Vireo sport a variation on Blue Jay’s white with blue.
Out of all the birding colors we enjoyed this Fall, Wilson’s Warbler, hands down, is the most exciting. I had mused just days earlier that it would be cool to see it in our backyard, when reminiscing about spotting one in the Willow Flats area in Grand Teton National Park. A few days later, one morning, I spot something yellow on our Elm. I crane my neck to photograph it to no avail. I give up, telling myself it was just Yellow Warbler which I had photographed this past spring. Then another yellow bird visits the same Elm, in clear sight. I click away, taking almost two dozen photographs. I am ecstatic to see through the viewfinder that it has a distinct black cap. BirdID confirms it is indeed Wilson’s Warbler.
Butterflies and shrubs also display typical colors of Fall. Monarchs are orange, Giant Swallowtail yellow, while the many red blooms of Turk’s cap frame our bath.
Birds also treat us to new calls in Fall as migratory birds join all-year residents. Eastern Phoebe’s raspy call, Great Crested Flycatcher’s emphatic rising whistle, whisper of Warblers and Lesser Goldfinch, Red-bellied Woodpecker’s rolling churr when it comes by our seed feeder or to feast on our patio tree’s fruits, Blue Jay’s hassling call to Red-shouldered Hawk’s kee-aah, Ruby-crowned Kinglet’s two-parted scold, Ruby-throated Hummingbird’s skirmishing chee-dit, House Finch’s sharp cheep, Northern Mockingbird’s single chirp or long mimicry, all serenade us (these call descriptions are from AllAboutBirds).
Perceiving both birds and Fall colors together, renders us a more holistic experience. When White-winged Doves congregate, we observe their wings contrast with leaves turning yellow. We notice the matching orange, a common Fall color, when Red-bellied Woodpecker and female Northern Cardinal share our seed feeder.
Birding has enriched our anticipation and enjoyment of Fall. Previously, we would only observe the colorful leaves on our red oak glowing in morning sunlight, and our Elm leaves changing color. Now we immerse ourselves in a broader canvas that nature paints and sounds for us – a colorful and melodious Fall rhapsody.
All Photos by Jaya Ramanathan