Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Returning Birds Seek Food and Shelter
April 29, 2022
By Steve Grinley
The first spring orioles in the area were reported this past week. One was coming to a feeder in Byfield and others were seen in Methuen and Topsfield. An orchard oriole was seen by many birders on Plum Island this past week and one was also seen in Salisbury.
The first hummingbirds appeared at feeders in West Newbury, Georgetown, North Andover, and Middleton among other locations. One was also spotted in Gloucester.
House wrens found their way to Ipswich this past week with several reports from different areas of the town. House wrens were also seen or heard in Lynn, North Andover, and West Newbury. One also was observed on Plum Island this week.
A handsome male rose-breasted grosbeak appeared briefly at our feeders in Essex this past Monday. He stayed only a short time and moved on. A few other grosbeaks have been seen in the area and even an early indigo bunting or two have appeared. Brown thrasher and towhees have been arriving, but not many warblers have made it into Essex County yet.
The weather systems the past couple of weeks had slowed the migration with strong northerly winds blocking many migrants from progressing into eastern New England. But I expect that to change this weekend. The winds are supposed to move around by Saturday and come from the southwest – our warm wind direction. The southwest winds help push the songbirds northward toward us. I expect to see more hummingbirds and orioles, and other May migrants arriving this coming week.
The colder temperatures this month have delayed the blooms that are the nectar source for hummingbirds and orioles. More flowers and shrubs will bloom in the coming weeks while the birds are moving through. These birds will supplement their need for nectar with feeders that people put out for them. So if you have hummingbird or oriole feeders, now is the time to put them out if you haven’t done so already.
As the weather warms and more foliage develops, it is actually good for the birds because it draws out more insects which warblers and many other birds need to fuel their journey north. But for birders, the foliage makes it more difficult to see the birds. If you can’t see them, you don’t see their coloring and field marks, and therefore, you can’t identify them. That is, unless you are able to identify birds by sound, which you can learn over time.
Many of the resident birds have begun nesting. Customers are reporting bluebirds sitting on eggs already. A woman told me that her Carolina wrens have fledged their first brood already! We have seen both downy and hairy woodpeckers excavating tree holes in preparation for nesting. Canada geese and mute swans are on their nest, and birds are copulating everywhere.
Returning house wrens will be looking for houses, as will flickers, swallows and bluebirds. Many birds have two, or sometimes three broods in the season and some will nest as late as June or July. The swallows and purple martins are just arriving. So if a bird hasn’t occupied your nesting box yet, or you are trying to decide whether or not to put up another bird house, you still have plenty of time for occupancy.
May is a great month for watching birds, and despite the emerging foliage, there are more birds to be seen and heard as they make their way into our area. Amazing migrants are moving through, summer residents are arriving, more birds are stopping to feed, and many birds begin their nesting cycle. If you want to try your hand at birding, then this is the month to do it. May is the month that hooked me into birding!
In any case, I hope that you take advantage of the warmer weather this weekend and the better weather that May should bring, and get out to see, or hear, some birds!