August Lessons

It’s been hot, folks. Duh! But the juvenile Swainson’s at Dyess are learning their lessons well. After all, it’s a matter of life or death.


The adults initiate hunting lessons by calling to the young. Once the parents are satisfied the young will follow, they both rise into the air to soar overhead and look for prey. One of the young hawks came back with a rodent and John captured the dining experience. At other times the young hawks will run on the ground and catch their prey. After feasting on birds and mammals during the summer, Swainson’s Hawks will switch to eating insects as they migrate south. Yeah, road food never does taste as good as home cookin’.

August also signals migration and molt in birds. Dowitchers and Lesser Yellowlegs were seen in breeding plumage this past week. As the days grow shorter more shorebirds will stop over and refuel before heading south. Some birds molt before they migrate; others molt after reaching their wintering grounds. Painted Buntings are leaving now and they will molt when they reach Mexico.


A Lesser Goldfinch (above) was photographed molting all at once. It better stay in the shade or risk a bad sunburn. The flycatchers (also fondly known as Empids: short ornithological word for can’t-the-heck-figure-out-what-the-bird is) are beginning to show up along with a few warblers. The best place to see fall migration is around water, either riparian habitat, ponds, or lakes. Check on your favorite spot from time to time and you may catch a glimpse of migration. It’ll only get better as the days get shorter and the wind shifts out of the north. In no time at all we’ll be wondering when it’s going to warm up. In the meantime, August Lessons are in session. Take a look!