Seasonal bird life in Western New York
Autumn is beautiful in Western New York because of the colorful leaves and festive pumpkins. But autumn in our area is special for yet another reason—migratory birds. Each spring and autumn, many species of birds migrate thousands of miles in response to changes in climate and food availability.
In Western New York, we are privileged to temporarily host migratory birds that are uncommon to this region, as well as birds that travel from further north to spend the winter here, and these birds make our area internationally well-regarded in the birding community.
To get started, you will want to read up on birding basics and inexpensive equipment that can greatly enhance your experience. Take a look at the Audubon Society’s Birding Basics page. This site provides information on how to find and listen for birds, purchase inexpensive binoculars and select an appropriate field guide. Field guides, in particular, are crucial to assisting you in identifying birds. A good field guide will detail each bird’s physical appearance and calls, as well as provide a range map of where each species resides during the year.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Online Bird Guide can assist as well. You may view photos, learn “cool facts” and listen to bird calls. Cornell also links to birding-related news items, such as a recent feature on Hurricane Ike’s migration impact. For lighter fare, check out the Round Robin blog.
Although the fall migration season is nearing its end, break out your binoculars to spot some migratory birds still passing through this region. You might spot warblers and other neotropical songbirds en route to Central America. You also may see juncos, kinglets and white-throated sparrows, all birds that travel here from the boreal forest to spend the winter. An excellent spot to view these birds is Amherst State Park in Williamsville; the access point is at 400 Mill St.
Other outstanding birding venues within short driving distance are Buckhorn Island State Park on Grand Island and Tifft Nature Preserve in South Buffalo. If you do not mind a 40-minute drive, you cannot miss the spectacular Iroquois National Wildlife Refuge. I recently was privileged to observe a bald eagle at this location. Also, be on the lookout for local rare bird sightings through the Buffalo Ornithological Society.
When the snow starts to fly, take a short drive up to Niagara Falls State Park. The Niagara River is home to a wintering population of gulls that is internationally sought after. I am certain that everyone is familiar with the white-and-gray gulls that often circle our heads in parking lots. These are ring-billed gulls, very common in this area year-round. Their cousins, however, are much less common and travel to the unfrozen Niagara River for winter nourishment. Impressively, 10 percent of the world’s population of Bonaparte’s gulls winter here. Take a look at the Niagara Parks page for more information.
—Tiffany Walsh, Arts & Sciences Libraries