Words On Birds 03-29-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Spring Brings New Birds To Us
March 29, 2024
By Steve Grinley
     The cold, raw, rainy days of March have reminded us that winter hasn’t quite lost its grip on us.  Once in a while we were teased with a warmer day when temperatures “soared” into the fifties. But the worst of the cold days of winter are, hopefully, behind us. Pussy willows are budding and crocus are showing in warmer corners of yards. Hints of spring are around us, but reminders of winter linger as well.
     Late March to early April is an “in between time” in the bird world as well. Many wintering species are still lingering in the area, while some early spring migrants are just showing up. The eiders, scoters, long-tailed ducks and wintering loons are still feeding along the coast. Newburyport Harbor still contains long-tailed ducks, common goldeneye, red-breasted mergansers and bufflehead. Winter tree sparrows and juncos still feed with the arriving song sparrows along the roadside of Plum Island as well as under area bird feeders.
     These wintering birds are contrasted by the common egrets that have been arriving back into our marshes, seemingly more each day. Great blue herons are also arriving back, and many have arrived to their nesting sites where they can be seen perched atop last year’s nests, reclaiming their homes.
     A few osprey have returned, sometimes inspecting their nesting platforms in the marsh to see if they still measure up. Several piping plovers have arrived at Sandy Point and along the Plum Island beach.  A couple were seen feeding in the muddy flats of the Salt Pannes on the refuge this past week.
     Woodcock have been doing their spring display at dusk on Plum Island and in surrounding communities. Wilson’s snipe are just starting to arrive as a couple of dozen birds were counted in Wet Meadows along Scotland Road in Newbury this past week. Soon their numbers will climb into the hundreds but most of these snipe will eventually continue further north. 
     Killdeer are calling from the dry fields along Scotland Road and many of them will stay and nest in the area. We are still awaiting the arrival of blue-winged teal in the Scotland Road wet areas. Now, green-winged teal, pintail, mallards and a few wigeon are present there so far. Wood ducks are early spring migrants and they are they appearing in some of the fresh water marshes. 
     Another early spring migrant, the Eastern phoebe, has started to arrive. Margo spotted one on our deck railing this past week, perhaps “our” local phoebe checking out potential nest sites. More phoebes have been seen throughout Essex County so more flying insects are becoming available to feed them!
     Customers from West Newbury, Salisbury, Newbury and Rowley have reported bluebirds back at their nest boxes. We have a pair coming regularly to our mealworms and we are hopeful that they may nest in our yard or close by. Though house wrens won’t arrive until May, the Carolina wrens are busy building their first nests already.
     The first warblers of the season are also being reported. The always early pine warblers are singing in the conifers and a few palm warblers have been reported as well. A few more species will trickle in during April but the majority will migrate through in May.
     Mixed flocks of red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds and grackles pass overhead, heading for their evening roost. Those of you that have feeders may have started to experience these “harbingers of spring” as these blackbirds descend upon your yard and clean out your feeders in no time. A few of the redwings are trying to establish territories in the marsh, but most of these birds will continue their flights to other areas to breed.
     So Spring is trying to move its way into New England. Though high temperatures are supposed to only be in the forties and low fifties this coming week, it is warming to know that the arrival of the first hummingbirds and orioles can now be counted in weeks, rather than in months.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950

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