Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Spring is Here at Last
May 09, 2020
By Steve Grinley
It finally happened. This past weekend, the winds turned southwest, the warmth came in and so did the birds! The first orioles, hummingbirds and rose-breasted grosbeaks appeared at backyard feeders and elsewhere. We had five male orioles at our grape jelly at home in Essex and our first male hummingbird appeared on Monday. Another oriole was at the store jelly feeder on Tuesday.
Many calls and emails from customers documented the wave of migrants that found their way to our area in the first week of May. One Amesbury customer had a stunning blue male indigo bunting at his Nyger feeder. Another customer had an orchard oriole at their feeder while another enjoyed handsome white-crowned sparrows feeding in his yard.
Also during this recent wave came more warblers and vireos, swallows, wood thrush and veery, and more sandpipers and plovers. The hawk watch team from Lot 1 on Plum Island was amazed to see a white pelican flying north over the marsh!
Doug Chickering of Newburyport was only one of many birders pleased with the return of so many spring migrants this past weekend and he shares his enthusiasm with us:
“Here at last, from out of a chilled and rainy April that seemed to last forever, emerges the real spring. The warblers have arrived, the migrants have come back. Of course, they have already been dribbling in. Pine warblers, Palm warblers, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, Louisiana Waterthrush. All on time, more or less, all appearing at their usual places at their appointed time, more or less. They have been a welcome change, a saving distraction from the monster virus lurking in the shadows of our lives.
“But they have not been the bright days of migration like today has been. I haven’t read the other accounts that will appear in the internet, but I have received enough texts from my special friends to know that we have all had a great day of discovery, of blurry, half remembered songs from the tops of trees, of surprises skulking in the shadows of the underbrush and of the pure bright colors in the sun. We are free of winter at last and the next few weeks are redolent with the promise of the full migration.
These days, these first days of spring are special. The warmth and sun seem fresh, the trees are still nearly bare and all the songs, though familiar, are new to the year. It is renewal in its finest sense. Also, this is the first of those days that the sightings, though fantastically beautiful, are so crowded together as to burden the memory. And in the tired reflection of the evening only a few will stand clear of the others.
“For me it was among my first sightings. There high in a tree at Oak Hill Cemetery I saw some movement and at the edge of a branch a dark silhouette. I maneuvered around to gain better light. Yet just by the slow deliberate movement of the bird, the way it paused and looked around and up and down I knew what it was. Then I caught in illuminated brightly in the sunlight and I could feel my whole being smile in appreciation. Solitary Vireo [a.k.a. Blue-headed Vireo].
“The first of the year. My favorite bird of the early migration. It sang a few times, to my delight, then leisurely moved to another branch. On this warm and beautiful morning on Oak Hill I eventually counted nine Solitary Vireos…So, like many of my years past, it has started with Solitary Vireo and now moves forward at a quickening pace.”