Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
May Brings More Spring Arrivals
May 02, 2020
By Steve Grinley
May is finally here and spring migration is heating up. Sunday’s predicted warmer weather should strengthen the movement northward for many more birds. The “early” warblers are arriving including pine, palm, yellow-rumped, black & white, black-throated green, and yellow warblers as well as Louisiana and northern waterthrushes. Blue-headed vireos are here, and gnatcatchers have arrived as well.
Field sparrows, towhees and brown thrashers are singing on Plum Island and at the Martin Burns Wildlife Management Area in Byfield. Tree swallows are searching for nest sites, and now barn, bank, rough-winged and cliff swallows are appearing and will soon join the search for their own nesting areas. The first purple martin scouts are arriving back at their martin houses and gourd colonies.
Shorebirds are moving through as well. Willets are just appearing on territories in area marshes. Pectoral and solitary sandpipers and Wilson’s snipe should be stopping to feed in wet fields, such as along Scotland Road in Newbury. Greater and lesser yellowlegs are feeding on the mudflats in Newburyport Harbor along with a few black-bellied plovers. Most of these shorebirds will continue their journey north to nest on the arctic tundra.
Some neotropical migrants are finding their way back to New England. Scarlet tanagers and rose-breasted grosbeaks have been reported, so keep an eye on your sunflower feeders for those brightly colored grosbeaks. Tanagers sometimes partake of fruit, such a sliced oranges, so you may be lucky enough to catch one of those in your yard if you offer fruit for orioles. Another colorful migrant, the brilliant indigo bunting, has also been seen in Eastern Massachusetts already, so watch your thistle feeders for this stunning bird. Seeing an indigo bunting feeding next to a male goldfinch will have you in awe!
Orioles are arriving and, as the blossoms on the fruit trees continue to bloom, more will be arriving in the next few weeks. When orioles first arrive, they feast on the nectar in the blossoms. So now is the time to put out your oriole feeders if you haven’t done so already. Orioles will go to a nectar feeder, especially when they first arrive.
Orioles also enjoy oranges and, especially, grape jelly. If you offer those, you may be blessed with orioles all summer long! Catbirds and mockingbirds also enjoy the jelly, as do house finches and a few other birds. Hosting these colorful birds in your yard could cost you a number of jars of jelly over the season, but they are well worth it!
The first hummingbirds of the season have made it to Essex County and beyond. So now is time to put out your hummingbird feeders as well. Hummingbird nectar is one part sugar to three parts water and the liquid should be changed every few days. You might consider adding additional hummingbird feeders, as hummingbirds are one of the few birds that are very territorial when they feed. A hummingbird will fight off other hummers in order to defend “their” feeder. If you add other feeders, it will be best to keep them separated from each other!
As we move into May, house wrens will fill all of your bird houses with sticks, and fill your yard with their bubbly songs. Chimney swifts will flutter in the evening air with their twittering sound, and more warblers, vireos and thrushes will sing their way through our area. May is finally here, so enjoy the arriving birds that make it so special!