A chickadee feeds nearby. Two turkey toms fight over a hen, while three other toms look on. It strikes me that I have seen almost no migratory birds this fall. Even casual observation in years past has enabled me to observe at least a few.

Now I must acknowledge that I am not a dedicated bird watcher. I don’t go out regularly on the Audubon bird hikes.

However, even one dedicated Audubon watcher this year has said the same thing to me; almost no migratory birds has he seen this fall.

Usually I can spot at least a few migrators even on the home bird feeders.

This year, none.

I have kept my usually fairly careful listing of bird species seen in  October, which includes 10 species this October. Not one of them is migratory.

You might argue that the Canada goose (which is on the list) is migratory. I would probably have to concede that.

However, if there are open city lagoons nearby, the Canada goose appears regularly on the Christmas Audubon bird count. She doesn’t seem to mind extremely cold weather, as long as she can enjoy her swim on some open water  now and then.

She may feed in that water in some seasons, but I seem to find her feeding in upland areas like harvested grainfields. I recall seeing thousands of them standing in an open field in a game park outside of Winnipeg. They were likely migrating, but they seemed to be in no hurry to be on their way.

I recall a half century ago, when we lived in a small town in northern North Dakota called Warwick, that we had a small lake next to the town; a lake that was so shallow that we called it Shin-Bone Lake. It wasn’t much of a lake, but it was water on the prairie, and it attracted waterfowl. We could see this lake out of the window from our breakfast table. As winter crept in we watched the water on the lake gradually freeze from the  lakeshore on out toward the center of the lake. As it did so, the geese and ducks gradually moved out of the lake and began their hereditary journey from the northland to warmer climates.

Gradually the space of open water became smaller and smaller as the ice advanced, until at last only a few water foul remained, including a swan or two. We use to debate around the breakfast table whether a last water fowl or two might actually freeze into the ice and we would have to walk out and rescue it. (In Shin-Bone Lake you didn’t worry about falling in over your head). The birds actually kept the water open a little longer than was usual, and at last, in their own good time, some night they rose up and departed, and at breakfast we saw them no more.

So, you vote. Do you wish me to include them among the migratory birds, or not?

James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.


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