Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Warblers Steal the Show in May
May 14, 20121
By Steve Grinley
The weather has finally turned, and the spigot has finally opened, allowing the colors and song of the spring bird migration to shift into high gear. This past week, and during the remaining weeks of May, birders will relish in the array of warblers and other Neotropical migrants moving through our area. Friend and fellow birder Doug Chickering of Newburyport describes it best here:
“Here at last; spring, May and the magic season. Here at last, the flowering fruit trees and the initial flush of new foliage. Here at last a sun-filled morning nearly windless and only slightly chilly. And here at last, the Warblers.
“They aren’t the only migrants nor are they the only birds splashed with unimaginable colors. But they are the stars of the show. Giving us a faint whispering song, a tug, a flash of movement in the trees and those majestic moments of our lives. And because most of them are just passing through there is a little urgency to our days.
“It goes without commentary that this year is a little different as last year was. This spring there has been a lifting of the stifling restrictions of last year, so it is different from 2020 in a more subtle manner. At least for me. The spring also started with chilly winds and cloudy days and the migration started slowly. Today and yesterday were the first arrival of the true migration and I managed to spend this precious morning birding with old friends in what was an uncrowded Martin Burns.
“From the start I have been determined to avoid the anxieties of chasing down birds. I now deem it pointless to rush off to find (or not find) a bird that I am likely to see anyway, Months ago I promised myself that I would free myself from the envy of hearing about what other people tell they have seen. They can trump my day list all they want. This year I reached that level of internal peace and truly don’t care. It has been a great release.
“At Martin Burns we had good looks at two Blue-winged Warblers and heard at least two more. I find that over the previous year the mind tends to cloud the intensity of spring plumage. The Blue-winged Warblers weren’t out in the sun, but we found them rummaging around low in a tree or in the brush. Still that yellow in the head was extravagant almost unbelievable as it still seemed to glow gold in the shade.
“The Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were regular, and the intensity of their colors varied a little bit but remained impressive. This year there have been Orioles practically everywhere and we had several at Martin Burns. There need be no more to say about the color of a male Baltimore Oriole’s breast. We also had passable looks at Yellow-throated Vireo and Black-throated Blue [Warbler].
“In the future, when I think back to the May days of the past, my mind will probably pass over today. It was good but not spectacular. No fall out, no trees “dripping” with Warblers. Just a sedate unending series of quiet sightings and the singing of the birds out of sight. I suspect that most of our migration days in the field are like this. It is just that we remember the spectacular days.
“I went to Plum Island afterwards in hopes of seeing the Gallinule at the North Pool Overlook. As seems to be my fate, once again, I missed it. However, I did get prolonged looks at a Magnolia Warbler at the old pines trail. I had almost forgotten just how beautiful that bird is. With its gray crown, white wing panels, and the perfect black necklace and streaks set upon the bright yellow breast. Just another treat on a day replete with treats.”
You, too, can capture some of Doug’s enthusiasm by taking some time try to view some of these passing jewels of the bird world. You don’t have to go to Plum Island or Martin Burns Wildlife Management Area. You might find them in any local park or conservation area, or even in your own back yard. It just might be your highlight of the year as well!