David & Marianne Book have been volunteers, supporters & contributors on many levels for Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge. His children's books are a popular item at the Nature Store, and his history book on the Refuge was a particularly challenging puzzle to pull together. I look forward to his blog for bits and pieces to be brought to life among other topics regarding the habitat and conservation efforts of Laguna Atascosa.

Migration Time

Fri, September 29, 2023 8:28 PM | David Book (Administrator)

We know it is Fall in Vermont where we live when the leaves start to color and flutter to the ground. It is a spectacle. There are two interesting seasonal signs that effect LANWR and South Texas. Both have an impact on the economy and the culture. Beginning in October a hundred thousand or more, mostly retired, folks from Minnesota, Iowa and other states north of the Rio Grande Valley, descend upon the Valley to escape their harsh winter climate. These "Winter Texans" give the economy a boost, bring a throng of visitors to the abundant nature preserves, and also boost the pool of volunteers that are available to serve at these places. In April most of them head back North to clean the snow out of driveways and get ready for the summer. Some of them eventually become permanent residents of the Valley.

That is not the case with another animal species that make an annual trek south in the Fall and reverse in the Spring. More than 350 species of birds make the roundtrip in North America alone; 4,000 plus, worldwide. Those migrations vary greatly in distance. Oftentimes by pure numbers they bring some excitement and challenge to those who enjoy seeing their beauty. A Spring "fallout" is an experience to be long remembered by those fortunate enough to observe one. Thousands of songbirds and warblers weary from crossing the Gulf of Mexico seem to rain from the sky as they reach the first land mass, often South Texas, which just happens to be at the juncture of the Mississippi and Central Flyways. These migrations often bring vagrant species that are off-course for reasons usually related to the weather. The citizens of Wisconsin recently were astonished to see a group of five Flamingoes wading in Lake Michigan just north of Milwaukee, blown off course by a hurricane. LANWR has had its share of such visitors, even a Flamingo or two usually only seen in Florida. In 1978 a very rare species from the Bahamas, a White-cheeked Pintail, spent a few days at the Refuge. In 1985 a Gray Silky Flycatcher, a resident of the mountain region of Mexico, appeared near the Visitors Center. The first confirmed sighting of this species in the United States, he stayed around for more than a week, being observed by hundreds of birders, including one avid observer who flew down from New Jersey twice before spotting the bird. Another first record for the United States was caught in a mist net on the Refuge in 1996. The Orange-billed Nightingale Thrush is normally a resident of the tropical foothills of Central and South America.

All of these species were observed in the fall migration season. Be a keen observer of the avian species for the next few months. You never know what rare and exotic species you may discover. And be thankful for those out-of-state license plates bringing some spice to the melting pot. You may even see some plates from Delaware, Hawaii or Vermont.  


  • Sat, September 30, 2023 11:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Eternally grateful to David & Marianne for this blog! I will add some appropriate images & post a link in the newsletter!
    Link  •  Reply

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