Lately I’ve been considering why it is I find birding so continuously fascinating, and even addicting. Of course there’s the beauty of the birds, the thrill of finding them (especially rarities), and the challenge of learning to identify them.
I also have great interest in learning about their behavior–why they act the way they do. It’s a fascinating endeavor.
But recently I’ve become more aware of another reason why I’m fascinated by birding–the rhythms of nature.
I’m growing in my appreciation and understanding of this aspect of birding–I certainly have not arrived. But year after year, I’m starting to at least appreciate the rhythms of nature in Florida and how it affects my birding.
Peninsular Florida has a rainy and a dry season. We talk about the four seasons, and I suppose you could say we experience them to some degree, but October to May is our dry season and June to September is rainy. So our summers as hot and wet and our winters are relatively cool and dry. As you might imagine, our dry season is my favorite time for birding.
Interestingly, I’m learning that at least some birds are migrating to or through Florida throughout most of the year. Warblers begin to arrive here in February and continue through May, with a few staying to breed. Then as early as July, Fall migration begins. Shorebirds start coming through in July, and warblers begin to trickle through. By September, migration is in full swing. Here on the eastern side of the state, there’s almost a predictable order for when you can expect to see certain species. Some come over a wide range of dates, like American Redstarts, and others seem to come through very quickly, like Bay-breasted Warblers; if you blink, you might miss them. Flycatchers, tanagers, thrushes and other songbirds also come through during this time.
As October draws to a close, we see far fewer warblers, but then we have the fun of seeing more and more sparrows coming through. And then in November and December we can look forward to ducks and finally gulls coming through to spend the winter here. This is also the time that we can look forward to vagrants coming here to spend the winter with us.
From mid-May through July, I can devote a great deal of my birding time to searching for breeding birds. June is probably the quietest month of the year, and one of the hottest, but it’s still fun to see what may have decided to breed in the area.
The winter months though are also a great deal of fun. It’s dry, and you can walk around without sweating. And it seems like there are always vagrants to be found. Sometimes the same bird comes back to the same general area every year.
The rhythms of nature now fill and inform my birding calendar. They tell me the places to visit and the species I should look for. These rhythms also give me a greater a greater appreciation for the place I live. It’s a beautiful world we live in, and birding helps me see that more and more.