Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Storm Drives Tropical Birds to Massachusetts
August 08, 2020
By Steve Grinley
This past week’s tropical storm Isaias came up the coast and through the Hudson River Valley, bringing rain and strong south winds to New York and strong south and southeast winds into New England. The storm’s high winds caused damage to trees, houses and cars in western Massachusetts. For birders, it brought tropical birds.
Like past storms that took a similar tract, (Hurricane Bob back in 1991 for instance), sooty terns, brown noddy, jaegers and skuas were discovered in a number of lakes in western and central Massachusetts. Sooty terns were seen at Pontoosuc Lake north of Pittsfield in the Berkshires and at nearby Onota Lake. Sooty terns also were found in Wachusett Reservoir near Worcester, and a few continued there for several days. Other sooty terns appeared in Westport, on Massachusetts’ south coast and a few reported from outer Cape Cod.
Red-necked phalarope, usually found out at sea, were also reported at Onota Lake and at Wachusett Reservoir. Closer to home, good numbers of greater and sooty shearwaters were seen from land off east Gloucester and an rare mid-summer Atlantic Puffin and a Franklin’s gull were seen off Andrews Point in Rockport.
Some other fine birds are being discovered in eastern Massachusetts that were not storm related. A rare Curlew Sandpiper was found at Third Cliff in Scituate, and stayed for at least three days. A king/clapper rail was photographed on Plum Island and a marbled godwit was seen in Newburyport Harbor.
In local backyards, young fledglings are the main attraction these days. Our Carolina wrens continue to carry off mealworms to feed more young – how many can they have? A young male ruby-throated hummingbird is a regular visitor at our flowers and nectar feeders. Young downy and red-bellied woodpeckers continue to devour our suet on the three suet logs offer to them. They certainly make a fuss to let us know when the suet is running low.
But our complaining woodpeckers are no match to the demanding woodpeckers in Sandy Selesky’s Westford yard! She shared her story of her inpatient visitors:
“Our female Pileated Woodpecker arrived again this morning but I hadn’t put out the suet yet. I take it in each night along with the sunflower feeder because raccoons can climb up to our deck at night. I had just put up the seed feeder and went back for the suet. As I stood outside my slide door holding it, I heard the loud calling of a very close Pileated.
“I looked left to the trees and then right and there she was yelling and then staring at me perched on the side of the deck wall above my seed feeder that separates my deck from neighbor’s. I softly spoke to her and told her I was sorry the suet wasn’t up yet but that I was just about to put it out!! She watched me and didn’t fly away with me talking and standing only 6 feet away from her!! After a minute she flew to a nearby pine tree and I’m sure watched as I put the suet feeder up.
“I ran to get my camera and when I got back sure enough she was eating away on the suet feeder for over 5 minutes! She certainly knew how to scold the homeowner for her breakfast treat when it wasn’t ready on time!”