September, Swoope, Virginia: I live in such a beautiful place – It’s mostly grasslands and forests. In some places, one cannot see another dwelling in any direction. On most mornings in September, mist hugs the hollows and heavy dew blankets the ground. Cool nights and shorther days get things in the natural world moving; migrations of many animal species are in full swing.
Migrations – Raptors, Warblers, Monarchs and Buckeyes
Swallows and Swifts have already flown South and right now we are in the full swing of Raptor migration. The Rockfish Gap Hawkwatching station in Afton is one of the best places on the East coast to experience this phenological phenomenon. We can see Afton from Swoope, it’s a gap in the Blue Ridge Mountains on the East flank of America’s legendary Shenandoah Valley.
The excitement of seeing several hundred Broad-wing Hawks in one view of your binoculars can never be extinguished. “Oh, my God”! is heard often on the mountain as the Raptors rise up through a thermal in what is known as a “kettle”, then glide Southward without wingbeat into the unknown. I was there on September 17th when over 7,000 Broad-wing Hawks soared past.
Broad-wing Hawks nest throughout the Eastern United States and as far north as Canada during the summer and migrate South to Central and South America beginning in late August. The peak of their migration in Virginia is about the third week in September.
All the warblers are in migration. It’s a special treat when any warbler stops by to rest and refuel, right in the backyard. I was lucky to spot a group of about six Palm Warblers in the gardens and yard. They nest in Canada’s boreal forests during the summer and winter along the Gulf coast and in the Carribean.
Monarchs Fuel Up in Swoope
We leave as many milkweed plants as we can in the riparian and wildlife areas of the farm for Monarchs. The adults lay their eggs exclusively on milkweed plants and the caterpillars eat only milkweed leaves.
Buckeyes Migrate Too!
Native wingstem is a great pollinator plant. Buckeye butterflies seek out its nectar before migrating South.
Musings in Swoope
Jeanne is obsessed with removing invasive weeds on the farm. She keeps a corn knife beside her seat in the farm jeep and while checking the girls (cows), she will drive to any reamaining thistle and whack it down. If she spots a cocklebur, she will drive to it, get out, and pull it up by the root. I’ve seen the jeep full of cocklebur plants many times.
Jeanne and I are very passionate about a lot of things especially clean water. We support the Chesapeake Bay Clean Water Blueprint and fight against corporate “takings” for profit – like the Atlantic Coast Pipeline which will no doubt damage our streams and alter water sources for many. Click on the buttons below to find out how you can help these causes.
© R. Whitescarver, all photos are copyrighted.