Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Forests and Fall Migration

At this time of year, Virginia’s forests are changing in ways beyond the obvious fall color display. Forest dwellers are changing their seasonal habits as well. Birds and waterfowl, noticing the drop in temperature, shorter days and dwindling food supply, are beginning their annual migration.

A streamside forest is a great place to observe birds and waterfowl migrating from September through January. Follow the trails along rivers, streams and forested shorelines. These riparian buffer zones, with habitat and food for a variety of ducks and birds, are great places to watch the activity.

Migratory species require frequent meals to sustain their energy. Favorite foods include insects, small fish, fruits, small nuts and seeds.

Migrating finch are on the lookout for small seeds. River Birch, Sycamore, Sweet Gum, Cottonwood Poplar and pines all have smaller, nutrient-rich seeds to boost the energy level of migratory species. Turkeys scour for acorns. After a frost, fruits such as soft persimmons, holly berries and dogwood berries have high sugar content, making them a good migratory snack. Some fruits remain on trees throughout the winter, providing forage for the year-round residents that don’t migrate, such as cardinals.

To learn more about migratory species that frequent and live in riparian forests along waterways visit the following websites:

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

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