Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
September Migrants Keep Birding Exciting
September 09, 2022
By Steve Grinley
September is an exciting month for birding. There are still numbers of shorebirds moving through, though their numbers are fewer each week. Two Hudsonian godwits were in Hampton this week. Appearances by buff-breasted and Baird’s sandpipers, along with an occasional golden plover on Plum Island are keeping things interesting. There are still good numbers of “peeps” to sort through to try to find something different – a western sandpiper or an unusual vagrant, maybe.
Raptors are on the move. The hawk watches are starting to report Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks on the move along with growing numbers of broad-winged hawks. Raptor migration will increase into September and then taper off in October.
Though the terns have pretty much left our area, 12 Caspian terns was seen In Newburyport Harbor last week and others are still being seen in coastal New Hampshire and could move through our area. Swallow numbers are down from where they were a couple of weeks ago, but there are still a few clouds of thousands of swallows that you can still encounter on Plum Island.
Songbird migration is beginning to heat up. A number of fall warblers have already been reported in the area. A couple of lark sparrows were found on Plum Island this week dodging runners and speeding cars as they try to feed in the weeds along the road. As we move through September, more warblers, flycatchers and sparrows will migrate through Essex County.
Feeders are active with juvenile birds as birds are beginning to fuel up for their migration south. Young goldfinches are still begging for food at feeders as parents try to keep their offspring fed. Keeping your feeders full with nyger and sunflower will make their job easier. Keep an eye out for migrant pine siskins or purple finches as well.
Cooler temperatures, longer nights and diminishing insects will send more of our resident birds to feeding stations this month in search of supplemental fat and protein. Late nesting Carolina wrens may still be in search of mealworms or suet. Even a lingering bluebird will appreciate the handout. If you stopped offering suet for the summer, now is the time to put it back out. Resident woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice can all use the added fat during these cooler days. Migrants, such as orioles, brown creepers, and pine warblers enjoy suet as well.
By month’s end, a variety of sparrows, including white-throated and white-crowned, will be scratching underneath feeders. They like white millet, as will the juncos that will also be arriving. Also in the weeks ahead, fox and tree sparrows may stop by and the tree sparrows will likely stay all winter.
As October approaches, you can also look forward to those flocks of grackles moving south. Those pesky blackbirds that dominate your feeders do migrate and they should be gone in a few weeks. There isn’t much to discourage them in the meantime, as they seem to devour all types of seed. Feeders that cater to just the small birds (with no, or short, perches, weight-sensitive perches, or small bird entry), may help in the meantime, but those of you that “suffer” from grackle domination should soon be grackle-free for the winter. Then you can learn to “enjoy” the squirrels again!