The Fall Rhapsody

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.

Baltimore Oriole and Female Ruby-throated Hummingbird, both display orange color

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 Warbler and Yellow-breasted Flycatcher, both display yellow color

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.

Blue-headed Vireo and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher

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.

Yellow of Giant Swallowtail and Red Blooms of Turk’s Cap

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.

Eastern Phoebe and Great-crested Flycatcher, both display yellow color

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).

Northern Mockingbird enjoying American Sweetberry, White-winged Dove’s wing contrasts with leaves turning color

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.

Female Northern Cardinal and Red-bellied Woodpecker match in orange color, Red Oak Fall colors lit by morning sun

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