Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Migration Continues Despite Cooler Temperatures
April 25, 2020
By Steve Grinley
The below average temperatures has slowed the spring migration somewhat this past week, but birds are still trickling in. Hummingbirds are still arriving in southern and central Massachusetts, but I haven’t heard of any reports in Essex County as of this writing. Scattered reports of Baltimore orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks are still coming from Southeastern Massachusetts.
Closer to home, we have had some good flights of northern flickers, song and Savannah sparrows, and brown thrashers. More palm and pine warblers have been seen and the first black & white warblers are being reported. The first purple martins have arrived on Plum Island and more barn swallows are arriving in our area.
Louisiana waterthrushes and winter wrens are on territory and in full spring song at Crooked Pond in Boxford. Blue-gray gnatcatchers have also arrived on territories at Crooked Pond as well as at Pike’s Bridge Road in West Newbury. House wrens have been reported in North Andover and a couple of other locales. Broad-winged hawks are moving through now and some are arriving on their local nesting areas.
Two white-faced ibis have been found among the flocks of glossy ibis in the area. Many of us saw one white-faced ibis with about thirty glossy ibis at the Cherry Hill Reservoir in West Newbury. Two were found with the larger ibis flock along Argilla Road in Ipswich.
Margo and I resorted to birding Newburyport Harbor one evening this week since the Parker River Refuge was closed. The tide was low, and it was early for shorebirds, but we did find 25 greater yellowlegs as well as our first black-bellied plover of the season flying with thirty dunlin. (They were headed toward Plum Island, but none of the fresh water pools have been lowered for the migrating shorebirds on the Refuge). There were also more than 500 long-tailed ducks riding the current in the river!
The following evening, we found 17 black-bellied plovers and 190 dunlin closer to home at Conomo Point in Essex. Good number of great and snowy egrets have been in the marshes of Essex and Ipswich and we saw 3 little blue herons at Jones landing in West Gloucester. A nice flock of Savannah sparrows were along Argilla Road in Ipswich, as was a vesper sparrow – a bird we missed seeing all of last year!
While we were excluded from yet another prime birding location this past week, the Parker River Refuge, we need to get creative if we wish to experience spring migration this year – its May peak is fast approaching. Birding is something we can do alone, so social distancing is easy and spreading the Coronavirus is not a risk. But many of the prime birding “hot spots” have been closed. Still there are many local conservation areas to explore.
One shining star amongst all the closures is the Essex County Greenbelt Association. They have kept all of their properties open to members and the public alike. A simple sign hangs on their properties asking to help keep their properties open by returning later if there appears to be conditions to prevent social distancing. It is creative, and it seemed to be working at all the Greenbelt properties we have visited in the past weeks. Greenbelt is there when we need them. I know where I can bird this spring migration, and who will receive my support and contribution dollars this year!