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take a spring

migration walk by Sue Freeman

Honk, Honk, Honk ... you hear it first and look up into the sky to see a V of Canada geese flying overhead. The annual spring migration has begun, with birds heading north—some to the northern reaches of Canada. We sit midway between their summer and winter nesting grounds on part of the Atlantic Flyway.

That’s why in early April we hear the honking and watch places along Lake Ontario fill with thousands of birds. Waterfowl like the Canada geese rest on the ponds, lakes, and swamps and feed during the day on nearby grasslands and winter wheat sprouts in spring fields.

Blackbirds, warblers, and others arrive—their times may be different, but their purpose is similar. Males often arrive first in spring to establish and defend good territory. Then the females come to choose their territory to rear their young.

Canada geese are our noisiest migrators, but they aren’t the only ones by far. Robins, hawks, blackbirds, and swallows migrate during daylight hours. Wrens, vireos, woodpeckers, owls, and warblers migrate at night. Ducks, geese, loons, and shorebirds migrate day and night. Migratory distances vary from a few miles to 11,000 miles. Even bats and some butterflies migrate hundreds or even thousands of miles.

No one knows what originally caused birds to migrate. Explanatory theories abound, including glacial

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surges, overcrowding in tropical areas, and others. Today, migration is a built-in behavior driven by internal and external stimuli. These include length of day, temperature, food availability, other birds, fat deposition, hormone secretions, and the biological urge to breed.

Regardless of the reason, bird migration creates a spectacle to behold. In the Rochester area, we have ringside seats. Using local trails, you can stretch your legs, shake off the cobwebs of winter, and witness the spring migration spectacle. One of my favorites is the Owl Migration Trail off Manitou Beach Road. Here, you pass through a pine forest where migrating owls sleep, then proceed to a bird banding blind where you may get an up-close look at birds as they’re being banded. Another is the Beatty Point Park Trail off Long Pond Road. The easy, level trails lead through grasslands into Buck Pond, both migrating bird habitats. Likewise, Cranberry Pond Nature Trail at Braddock Bay Park winds around Cranberry Pond and is near a bird watch tower that overlooks Braddock Bay.

Maps and details for each of these trails can be found in the new third edition guidebook “Take A Hike - Family Walks in the Rochester Area.” With the trail guidebook, a pair of binoculars, and possibly a bird identification guidebook, you and your family can have many hours of enjoyment watching our spring bird migration spectacle unfold.

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