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Flying Fall Migration – Birds and Butterflies

THE HILL COUNTRY STEWARD
BY CENTRAL TEXAS CONSERVATION PARTNERSHIP

Something’s in the air! Recent rains and temperature drops have brought about greener fields, flowering native plants, and a promise of the coming fall. September is a time of migration and we can all do something in our own homes to make the journey easier on traveling wildlife

Beginning last month, monarchs from the Rocky Mountains to the Atlantic Coast started their annual, 2,500-mile trip south to Mexico, by way of Texas. These migrating pollinators spend their winters in the forested mountains of Central Mexico after the cross-country journey of a lifetime. 

Many land stewards already know about monarchs and milkweeds… but did you know adult monarchs need only nectar to fuel their fall migration? Though milkweed plants are critical to growing monarch caterpillars in the spring and summer, adult monarchs need diverse nectar sources from blooming plants in August through October to survive the coming winter. If you’re looking for a way to give them a boost, plant native, late-blooming plant species like Texas Lantana, Cenizo and Autumn Sage, or Turk’s Cap. 

Fall is an excellent time for planting, so if you’re looking to get into your garden – or if this year’s drought taught you to plant something more accustomed to the Texas heat – check out your local plant nursery for the best native plants to start growing this season. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center has excellent lists of native plants on their website (www.wildflower.org). Doing a little research before you start planting can make a huge difference for migrating species. 

In addition to the annual monarch migration, fall brings billions of birds from their breeding territories in Canada and the US to wintering grounds in Mexico, Central, and South America. During this incredible flight, individuals endure harsh weather conditions, potential food shortages, and hungry predators – all while navigating using the night sky as their “guide.” Though birds have been making the long trek in the dark for hundreds of thousands of years, it was not until recently that they faced another serious threat during this journey: light pollution. 

Any form of ambient light (urban centers and rural residences all the same) can disorient migrating birds and cause them to veer off-course or collide with windows. However, with a few small and simple gestures, you can help minimize these feathered casualties by going #LightsOutTexas, in partnership with Audubon Texas and many other supporting organizations (https://tx.audubon.org/urbanconservation/lights-out-texas). 

During the peak migration period of September 6th – October 29th, help migrating birds by turning off major lights, installing dimmer bulbs, or using black-out curtains between 11pm-6am. Audubon Texas also provides businesses with signs to display how the company is participating in the campaign – a great way for everyone to get involved in stewardship of our region’s birds and night skies. “It’s an incredibly easy and effective way to protect our migratory songbirds,” said Rebekah Rylander, Science Coordinator for the Rio Grande Joint Venture through American Bird Conservancy. “If everyone participated, we could make a huge impact.” 

Learn more and connect with folks who care about your piece of Texas just as much as you do at www.texasconservation.org. If you have questions related to stewardship or conservation, email them to DearStew@texasconservation.org. Come back next month as we dive into stewardship of river, stream, and creek-front property. Looking forward to learning more with you. – The Hill Country Steward 

 

The Hill Country Steward – not a person, but a partnership of local experts dedicated to sharing the best information, tips, and lessons learned. Got questions? Send them to DearStew@texasconservation.org. Learn more at www.texasconservation.org.

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