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2017 Fall in Love with Grafton

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By Bill Hobbs Bill is a resident of Cedarburg and a lifelong birder. For comments, he can be reached at whobbs246@gmail.com. Bird watching is one of those delightful year round pastimes. But for me, it's especially fun in the fall. Here's why: First, it's fun to notice how long the familiar migratory birds, like hummingbirds, house wrens, robins, wood thrushes, brown thrashers, cat birds, red wing black birds, and grackles, to name a few, stay in our Ozaukee County fields, forests and backyards, before flying south. For instance, I've seen - and probably you have, too - robins hanging around when there's snow on the ground. What's happening there? Look carefully and you'll see they're subsisting on dried fruit and berries from the trees, rather than worms. The shortening of the days and chilly weather usually trigger migratory impulses for many migratory birds, but if the weather is mild and there is food around, some species will linger longer. Of course, our well-known non- migratory birds, like chickadees, cardinals, blue jays, nuthatches, woodpeckers, purple finches and gold finches stay year around, and greedily eat suet (my favorite is "woodpecker suet") and black oil sunflower seeds, if we put it out for them. Some migratory birds, however, like barn swallows and purple martins, leave our Badger state like clockwork, usually no later than end of August. Why? They have a long way to go, flying to South America. Second, on those crisp, glorious early fall days, I like to visit nearby birding outposts, like the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve in Saukville or the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center in Milwaukee to join other birders and help count various migrants that hug the Lake Michigan shoreline and sail by on the thermals. You learn quickly from others how to identify these birds, and it's a lot of fun. One of my favorite birds to watch on these outings is the merlin hawk, considered a small version of the peregrine falcon. They zoom by you, twisting and turning like a little jet fighter, ultimately wintering in northern South America. Other beautiful migratory birds to watch in the fall include the warblers, small song birds that breed in Canada's boreal forests and the upper Midwest and winter in Central and South America, and other birds of prey, like ospreys, red-tails, sharp-shined and cooper's hawks. The important thing is to be active. Take advantage of the good weather and go for a walk. Bring a pair of binoculars, a Peterson field guide book and enjoy these stunning birds. Birding is fun. Some Great fall bird observation areas to check out in Grafton include the following: Bratt Woods (Woodland Habitat), the I-43 Trail Bridge Woodlands (Woodland Habitat) and the Ridgewood Wetland (Wetland Habitat). Riveredge Nature Center in Saukville also has excellent fall bird watching trails. Promote the welfare of birds and other wildlife by observing and photographing birds without disturbing them in significant ways, keeping an appropriate distance from nests so as not to disturb them and respecting their habitats. Please stop by the Grafton Chamber of Commerce to pick up your FREE copy of the Ozaukee Birding Guide then pack your binoculars and head out to see your favorite species! Grafton Area Chamber of Commerce • 262-377-1650 • www.grafton-wi.org News Graphic • September 12, 2017 • 9 Fall Bird Watching: What to See and Do Photo by Bill Hobbs Purple finches, like the one in this photo, are non-migratory birds, and can be easily attracted to your feeders in the fall and winter by black oil sunflower seeds.

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