Not all birds go south for the winter

A golden-crowned sparrow in Cannon Beach.

Who hasn’t noticed the migratory movements of our feather friends? Thought to happen in spring and fall, this phenomenon happens pretty much year round!

It’s easy to spot the V’s of migrating geese and ducks. Worldwide it is believed that 5 billion birds migrate, some taking on amazing feats of stamina across oceans and other nonstop distances. And some are short. Like the blue grouse, that migrates on foot (up and down a hillside)!

I am reading and highly recommend the book “Living on The Wind, Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds,” by Scott Weidensaul. His writing is crafted beautifully which makes the topic even more fascinating. Weidensaul presents ideas and research about migration, timing and other specifics about types of birds and personal experiences. I would tag along with him on a bird adventure any day!

Our beloved tufted puffins have headed out to their wintering “grounds.” Puffins migrate a little differently from the “normal” movements — north in the summer and south in the winter — we often associate with these yearly departures and arrivals. Puffins head out to the ocean in August, usually north of Oregon, spending their winter about 200 miles off shore. My husband Scott says the fish puffins eat swim more slowly in cold water and they seek that easy meal.

And what about the birds coming into our region for the winter? This week, I have started to see golden-crowned sparrows. This species’ migration can be long or short. Did they fly in from nesting in Canada or Alaska or did they spend the breeding season in the forest just outside of town? Dark-eyed juncos whose migration is similar, are showing up in numbers too. My husband and I always enjoy the return of buffleheads. Have you seen one recently?

Then there are the birds that stop by for a quick rest and refueling. Sharp tailed sandpipers are causing quite a stir at the Astoria Mitigation Bank this week. This species nests in Siberia and usually takes a flight path south along the Russian coast. The book “Birds of Oregon” says sometimes juveniles take this alternative route along our Pacific coast on their way to south Pacific islands or Australia.

Please join a group of people on the first Sunday of the month for birding in the Cannon Beach area. We will meet at the Lagoon Trail parking lot on Second Street at 9 a.m. and bird until about 11. Bring binoculars and wear appropriate clothing. Everyone is welcome!

Susan has spent her life enjoying the great outdoors from the lakes and woods of Northern Minnesota, Mt. Adams in Washington and now the Oregon beach environs. After spending many pleasurable hours driving her avid birder parents around, she has taken up birding as a passion, to the mixed emotions of her husband Scott. The Boacs reside on the Neawanna Creek in Seaside where their backyard is a birder’s paradise.


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