A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Wave Hill Birding: Summer Memories

An expert birder and naturalist, Gabriel Willow leads walks and excursions all over the world, yet he has an easygoing and accessible way of encouraging new birders without overwhelming them with information. His walks are a regular feature of each season at Wave Hill.

With only a few days of summer left, it seems like a good time to reflect on the wonderful season of nature tours we had at Wave Hill over the past few months.

One of my favorite aspects of leading monthly walks at Wave Hill, year-round, on the second Sunday of every month, is seeing a place as beautiful as this change through the seasons—the way the light looks so different on the Palisades on a clear winter day, compared to a hazy summer afternoon;  the way the diverse plants of Wave Hill’s gardens and forests reflect the seasons in their shifting buds, leaves, flowers, fruit, seeds or bare stems.  And, of course, the migratory birds and other wildlife that come and go with the seasons!

Osprey in flight, taken by Jim Wright

Summer is actually a slow season from a bird-watching perspective.  Of the 200 or so species of birds that can be seen around Wave Hill, only about 10% stick around to nest in the summertime.  And those that do stay to raise families often keep a low profile while tending to their eggs or young, so they can be surprisingly hard to spot.  There are, however, some charismatic local nesting species, such as the bald eagle, osprey and common raven, that we regularly spot at Wave Hill, although they don’t nest directly on the grounds.

A locust borer beetle perches on a goldenrod branch. Credit: Gabriel Willow

Luckily, the relative paucity of birds is more than made up for by an abundance of flowers and insects that can be seen in the summer months.

Showy asters! Credit: Gabriel Willow

Milkweed bugs at work. Credit: Gabriel Willow

Later in the season, as fall nears, there seems to be a particular frenzy of wildflowers—goldenrod, asters, snakeroot and more—as well as a profusion of seeds and berries.  The many flowers are visited by a remarkable diversity of pollinating insects.  Lately, migrating Monarch butterflies have been passing through, and we have also seen their milkweed-munching neighbors such as oleander aphids and milkweed bugs.

Soon, the insects will disappear as the temperatures drop.  Flowers will fall and set seeds.

But don’t feel sad about the passing season!  Fall brings a much greater diversity of migratory birds, so I hope to see some of you on the October and November walks.

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