August: Goodbye Orioles, Hello Warblers

It may be hotter than ever in August. It certainly feels like summer. But still there is the sense that nature is changing. The sun is a tad lower in the sky. Nights are a bit longer. And the birds know it. Some already are prepping for change. Male Hooded Orioles head south this month, leaving only the females and juveniles around their swinging nests hanging from palm fronds. It's still important to put out nectar and berry jellies so the youngsters can prepare for their first long journey south.

Left: Male Hooded Oriole on Feeder

But it's still hot, and, if you feel the heat, so do the birds. Like you, they need a nice cool drink and a place to splash in the water. Birdbaths are great, but even a dish of water on a table can be all a small bird needs. There are even hanging birdbath dishes or birdbaths that clamp onto a pole. And, if you do add a birdbath to your garden, remember that moving water not only attracts birds, but also keeps away mosquitoes.

                                                          Right: Pine Siskin cools off in a birdbath

Earliest fall warblers start to arrive along the coast. One of the earliest is the Orange-Crowned Warbler, who may arrive late in July. The male's orange crown rarely is visible, but these active little olive-yellow birds are easy to see as they flit about your bushes looking for bugs.

Left: Tree Swallow rests on a branch

August is when Southern California starts to get an interesting new mix of birds. The earliest fall songbird migrants start to arrive. While many do not stay—they are just moving through on their way elsewhere—they make for interesting bird watching. Some of visitors are:
--Lazuli Buntings have deep-blue heads, rust throats and a distinctive white bar on their wings. They migrate through on the way to western Mexico. Their sturdy beaks mark them as relatives of the Grosbeaks, with whom they often interbreed.
--Western Wood Pewees migrating through on the way to South America
--Western Meadowlarks (fond of  grassland areas)
--Many swallows, most headed for South America. They like to stay near water. The Tree Swallows, left, are known to come through the Ballona Wetland. They can be joined by the Northern Rough-Winged Swallow (which has been seen hanging out in coastal wetlands), the Cliff Swallow and the Barn Swallow, both headed for South America.
--Swainson's Thrushes migrate south, while their cousins, Hermit Thrushes, come back here in October.
--Roufous Hummingbirds are virtually identical in color to Allen's, with rusty fronts and green backs. The difference is the Roufous just migrate through this month, while the Allen's stay all year.

                                             Below: A Black-Headed Grosbeak enjoys some sunflower and safflower seeds at a feeder

Black-Headed Grosbeaks are migrating south for winter. Keep the feeders full for their long journey

Large flocks of shorebirds are passing through this month. Young Heermann's Gulls, among our largest at 19 inches head to tail, arrive from Mexico. Dark brown until they are three years old, these beautiful gulls have dark-gray backs and bright white heads.

Some Hummingbirds, believe it or not, are finishing their second brood and are starting a third. Meanwhile, watch for the second brood of young hummers at your feeders. Hummingbirds begin to nest in late December in Southern California and may not finish until September. Try not to trim any bushes where they might nest until October or November. It's easy to miss their tiny nests.

Can a full moon Aug. 11-12 dim the spectacular yearly show of shooting stars, called the Perseids? Probably not, as the show begins July 17, when the Earth begins to pass through the debris of comet Swift-Tuttle, and lasts until Aug. 24. The Perseids' peak coincides with the full moon, but numerous meteors will streak the night sky for days before and after Aug. 11-12.