A reluctant autumn

2007 November 15
by David J. Ringer

DALLAS, TEXAS — Yesterday, the wind changed. For days, the wind had been hot, coming from the south. By noon, all the flags were pointing east; by 4 p.m., the air felt different, cooler, and the wind rushed down from the north. Crunchy leaves skittered over asphalt. It felt almost like autumn.

This morning, I found several hundred winter-plumaged Franklin’s Gulls at Joe Pool Lake. Most floated in a tight raft on the water. When something sent them swirling into the air, it was like looking into a snow globe. According to eBird graphs, huge numbers of Franklin’s Gulls pass through between mid-October and mid-November in a spike that trails off sharply by Nov. 15.

Thousands of coots feed on the hydrilla in the coves, and slowly the numbers and diversity of other waterfowl are building. I had Canvasbacks, Lesser Scaup, and Ring-necked Ducks for the first time this season, plus wigeons and Blue-winged Teal. Cormorant and Ring-billed Gull numbers are picking up too.

I heard American Goldfinches for the first time this season, and pipits and Savannah Sparrows are around. Otherwise, though, wintering passerines are just not around. I have yet to encounter a White-throated Sparrow this year, and Yellow-rumps are very sparse. Where are the flocks of juncos? Or the flocks of kinglets? The brush is silent and still.

People in other parts of the state are also complaining about the lack of wintering birds, and some have theorized that the mild autumn hasn’t yet pushed them south this year.

This is our third or fourth cool front this fall, but we’re still nowhere close to a frost. So far, seven days this month have hit 80 degrees or higher. Before the cool front came through yesterday, we reached a high of 82. Wow.

Related posts:

  1. Hoping for autumn
  2. Rainbows in the Blacklands
  3. Chilly evening on the dam
  4. Migrants before the storm
  5. I think it’s autumn

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