Words On Birds 08-01-20

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Excellent Shorebird Viewing in Our Area
August 01, 2020
By Steve Grinley

     Last week I talked about how the shorebird migration is underway in our area. Late July and August is the peak migration time for shorebirds heading south along the Massachusetts coast. Some of the best shorebirding in the Northeast can be found right here in Essex County. I thought I would give you some pointers on viewing shorebirds this season.

     The Great Marsh provides thousands of acres of tidal marshes and flats, stretching from Salisbury and Newburyport Harbor to the Parker River and its estuaries in Newbury and Rowley and to the coastal marshes of Ipswich and Essex. This area is an oasis for tired, hungry shorebirds. They stop to rest and feed on the crustacean rich mud flats and salt pans.

     The best time to watch shorebirds along the rivers and harbor is when the tide is ebbing or, better still, with the incoming tide as the birds move closer to you as you watch. About one or two hours before or after low tide is a good rule of thumb. Dead low tide generally has the birds too dispersed or too far out on the mud flats for you to see well.

     The best vantage points for Newburyport harbor are from the seawall at Joppa Park on Water Street or from the Massachusetts Audubon Joppa Flats Center property that, unfortunately, is currently closed. Greater and lesser yellowlegs, black-bellied and semipalmated plovers, least and semipalmated sandpipers, short and long billed dowitchers are all common migrants that frequent the harbor mud flats in migration. Hudsonian or marbled godwits and other less common shorebirds may also be found there in the weeks ahead.

     At high tide, the shorebirds move to salt pan areas, shallow pools of water amid the tidal marshes. On the mainland, you can check the pans along Newman Road in Newbury and along Rt 1A Rowley near the Rowley River and Tendercrop Farm. Also in Rowley are the pans along Patmos Road to Sawyers Island or Stackyard Road toward Nelson’s Island. The flats along Jeffrey’s Neck Rd toward Great Neck in Ipswich should be checked as well as Island Road and Comono Point in Essex.

     Areas along either side of the Plum Island Turnpike are good places to scan for shorebirds during high tide. On the Parker River Refuge on Plum Island, salt pans are scattered throughout the marsh all along the west side of the road. These can be especially good spots to get closer views of white-rumped and Western sandpipers and an occasional Wilson’s phalarope.

     The Bill Forward Pool behind the Hellcat Swamp nature trail on the refuge has a lower water level this year and is already attracting numbers of shorebirds during high tide. Many dowitchers, several stilt and pectoral sandpipers, and knots and have been seen there in the past couple of weeks. An added bonus to the Bill Forward Pool is the collection of herons, egrets and ibis that stop and feed there, especially in the early morning or evening.

     Further south on the refuge is Stage Island Pool where more shorebirds collect when the water level is low enough to expose the mud flats. The water level in this pool has been lowered, perhaps too much such that the shorebirds are usually very distant from the Platform on Stage Island or from the Tower at lot 7. Stage Island Pool has historically been an excellent spot to view Baird’s, buff-breasted, and stilt sandpipers.

     Looking out toward Emerson Rocks from the Lot 7 boardwalk (presently closed), or a walk out to the beach at Sandy Point at the southern tip of the island may turn up a piping plover in the sand or black-bellied plovers and sanderlings along the water’s edge. Check roosting shorebirds in the wrackline for western, buff-breasted or even rare curlew sandpipers.

     Wherever you choose to look at shorebirds, be sure to bring your binoculars and a spotting scope if you have one. Binoculars help, but a scope provides higher magnification to help bring the birds close enough for easier identification. A good field guide will help you differentiate the many species. There are usually large numbers of these birds in our area for the next four to six weeks which increases the chances of getting good views of shorebirds.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 07-25-20

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Shorebird Migration is Underway
July 25, 2020
By Steve Grinley

     Our orioles have pretty much abandoned the jelly feeders. A few linger, but most turn to insects. Others have already started south toward their South American destination. There are still a few catbirds partaking of jelly, as well as house finches and our hummingbirds still check out the jelly on their way to the flowers and feeders, though they know what to do with it. Many folks leave their jelly out for the reward of seeing a few orioles migrating through from further north during August and September.

     The resident young birds are entertaining us at the seed feeders. Young nuthatches, chickadees, cardinals and titmice are doing their typical ‘fluttering of wings” to beg for food at the feeder while their parents continue to feed them, while hoping that they learn to feed themselves. Soon the goldfinches will be bringing their young to the feeders as well.

     The Carolina wrens are feeding their third brood, occasionally showing a young bird where the mealworm source is! It has been fun to watch the young woodpeckers find their way around the suet feeders. It was also a treat to see the male rose-breasted grosbeak visit the sunflower feeder again this past week.

     The “invisible” red-eyed vireo continues to sing its continuous song in the back woods canopy. We have also been blessed with the flute-like song of a wood thrush on quiet evenings. They are perfect background music for any summer’s eve.

     Out in the field, the fall shorebird migration has begun. The numbers of shorebirds on the flats in the harbors and in the pans of the marshes have increased significantly in the past two weeks. The first arrivals have included semipalmated and least sandpipers, with some semipalmated plovers mixed in. Also arriving have been a small numbers of greater and lesser yellowlegs, and short-billed dowitchers.

     A couple of weeks ago, a few stilt sandpipers could be seen in Stage Island Pool from the tower (when all the parking at Lot 7 isn’t taken up by beach-goers on the sunny days.) Now that Bill Forward Pool has been lowered, more shorebirds are feeding there at high tide. We have seen pectoral sandpipers and red knots Bill Forward Pool this past week with the regular suspects.

     Also special this past week was the appearance of a tri-colored heron feeding on the North Pool side of the dike. Looking like a small great blue heron, which was also feeding there, its white belly distinguished it as different. Once called the Louisiana heron, the tri-colored is more of a southern bird, and it is seen less frequently in Massachusetts each year.

     While watching the tri-colored heron, a green heron appeared on the opposite side of the dike in the Bill Forward Pool. The green heron is another bird seen less frequently on Plum Island. That same afternoon, the least bittern made a couple of appearances, flying from reeds to reeds, on the North Pool side of the dike. The least bitterns have been seen more frequently in recent days as they are probably feeding young.

     Despite all these good birds, the highlight of the past week was certainly the whimbrels – large brown shorebirds with long, decurved bills. We heard just one flyby one day from the Hellcat dike and couldn’t see it in the sky over the marsh.

     The next day, we were at Bar Head, the first lot on Sandy Point, looking out at Emerson Rocks. We were looking at sanderings and piping plovers when we got a call from Rick Heil who had jus spotted a dozen whimbrels flying south past Lot 5. We watched and saw a dozen or more whimbrels fly in over the ocean and land at Emerson rocks. They disappeared among the rocks, feeding and occasionally showing themselves closer to the beach.

     As we watched that flock among the rocks to get an accurate count, we spotted another flock of fourteen whimbrels flying south. This flock didn’t stop but continued by, heading for Crane Beach. That totaled at least twenty-six whimbrels! We consider ourselves lucky to find one or two on any given day, so this made for a special day indeed!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 07-18-20

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

The Rare Bird Quest Continued
July 18, 2020
By Steve Grinley

     For faithful readers of this column, you will remember that last week we left our heroes (a.k.a. Margo, her brother Bob, and me) under the shelter of an overhang in front of a retail shop amid a series of thunderstorms in the little town of Watch Hill, Rhode Island. We had driven two and a half hours there, only to trudge another half hour down the sands of Napatree Point to try to find a rare Terek Sandpiper.

     There we had searched for several hours for this rare bird with zero success, only to be threatened with nearby thunder and lightning. On our way back, the skies opened and drenched us thoroughly, leaving us with the need to wring some of Rhode Island rain out of our socks!

     Our dilemma was that we had just learned that the rare sandpiper had returned to the lagoon where we had just spent hours searching. We contacted our birding friend Linda, who had left the “search party” considerable earlier than we did. Turned out that she was already past Providence on her way home and she immediately decided she would have to try at “o’dark thirty” the next morning. That wasn’t an option for us!

     I was constantly checking the radar, hoping that there would be a break in the weather. It was the red radar cells of thunder and lightning that concerned us most. We couldn’t get any wetter, but we still had to carry our scopes and tripods (a.k.a. lightning rods) back down the open beach. Worse was that, the tide was also coming in and we would likely be walking through seawater – also a great conductor of electricity!

     We looked at each other and Margo finally said: “You know if we don’t try now, we are not coming back to get another shot at this bird!” We knew she was right. So we decided that we were half an hour or more away from a new North American bird for us and we had to try. A few birders coming off the Point with thumbs up helped encouraged us further. So we waited for a break in the radar where no red, or even yellow appeared, and we headed back out.

     This time the walk seemed longer, as most of the beach had been covered with the incoming tide. We inched our way along the edge of the sand by the dune grass. The rain had let up but thunder and lightning were still near. We finally caught sight of the lagoon and we saw several birders across the inlet looking in our direction, or so we thought. There were a few willets ahead of us on the shore, but we could see no other birds.

     As we approached the inlet we could see more willets, a few plovers and a couple of sandpipers on the other side, where they had been before. The other birders were staring, and even photographing, in one particular direction. We concentrated on the birds there and finally spotted the Terek Sandpiper through our scopes!

     With great patience, we finally caught sight of its unique upturned bill when it turned to give us a profile. Margo was even able to capture a few identifiable images with her phone through the scope. The bird “teetered” its tail up and down much like the spotted sandpipers that were also there. We could make out dark markings on it wings, but its up-turned bill was magnificent.

     Satisfied with our looks at this awesome bird, we started back as the rain picked up a bit. We passed some other brave birders on our way off and we were able to give THEM the thumbs up! We had made the right decision, and though the ride home in wet clothes was a bit uncomfortable, we didn’t seem to care so much.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 07-11-20

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

A Quest for a Rare Bird
July 11, 2020
By Steve Grinley

     It has been a long time since we have had a birding “adventure” – one where we travel some distance to see a rare bird. We were hoping to travel to Arizona, Texas, or Florida this year to try to add a few birds to our life list, or North America list. But in this year of the pandemic, none of those destinations are possible.

     Our birding has been pretty much confined to Essex County. Unless it is a life bird or maybe a Massachusetts bird, we haven’t ventured much further. However, our ears perked when we heard about a Terek sandpiper in Rhode Island a couple of weeks ago. Margo and I had seen a Terek sandpiper in Thailand ten years ago, but never in North America. In fact, this Rhode Island bird was only the fourth record for the lower United States. It is a medium sized sandpiper with yellow legs and a unique upturned bill.

     On the first day it was sighted, we didn’t hear about it until late afternoon – too late to make the two and a half hour drive to Westerly, close to the Connecticut border. We called our friend Linda who, of course had already gotten the “scoop” on the bird from her friends down in Rhode Island. She was ready to head there at first light the next day. Margo and I, along with Margo’s brother Bob, thought we would head out later in the morning once we got word that the bird was still there.

     So once we saw the bird reported on eBird the next morning, we made the long drive to the little town of Watch Hill and the sandy beach peninsula known as Napatree Point. Directions were to walk along the bay side of the sandy peninsula toward the “lagoon”. So despite some billowing clouds and the threat of storms, we made the trek in soft sand down the edge of the beach grass. We encountered a couple of Willets and a piping plover along the long walk. Song sparrows darted back and forth from the dune grass to the sand. A Phoebe perched on one of the area signs.

     After half an hour, we came upon a group of birders and a small inlet of water that looked like it had to be the lagoon. We found our friend Linda who had been there for hours, unfortunately without seeing the bird. Others standing watch confirmed that the bird was seen several hours before, but had flown over to “Sandy Point” a small island of sand far enough offshore to make even the large gulls almost indiscernible through our high-powered scopes. Other familiar faces (with masks) from Massachusetts and New Hampshire lamented the same unsuccessful tale.

     We spent a few hours standing vigil, looking at black-bellied plovers, willets, gulls and a couple of spotted sandpipers. We also watched as threatening clouds and distant thunder and lighting came closer and closer. As dark clouds continued to approach, and with no sign of the rare sandpiper, Linda and many other folks finally left.

     As we watched more storms approach on radar, and knowing that our scopes and tripods would act as great lightning rods, we eventually called it quits. As we started back down the beach, a few birders were just arriving to search for the bird.

     We trudged back toward the shelter of the town, knowing that the skies would be opening up soon. But before we could make it back to the parking lot, the skies did just that. A tropical downpour pelted our bodies and soaked us to the bone. Distant lightning was coming closer. The warm summer day suddenly felt much chillier with the cold rain.

     When we finally reached the parking lot, a young birder was heading back out the beach. He stopped long enough to tell us that he just received a text that the bird had returned to the Lagoon! Margo, Bob, and I just looked at each other, but decided to race for cover in the pouring rain to plan our next move.

     We found refuge under an overhang of one of the shops. I checked the radar and it appeared more storm cells were coming. We had to make a decision to head back out to the Lagoon or to abandon our quest for another day. To be continued…

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 07-04-20

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Another Day on Plum Island
July 04, 2020
By Steve Grinley

     The resident birds are highlighting the show these weeks on Plum Island with piping plovers and least terns taking over most of the beach on the refuge. Yellow warblers, towhees, brown thrashers, orchard and Baltimore orioles are nesting along the length of the refuge road. Least Bitterns are nesting near both ends of North Pool, and Ospreys are occupying most of the nesting platforms on the island.

     Doug Chickering of Newburyport reports on one of his recent visits to Plum Island:

     “At the end of a pleasant, languid, relatively insect-free June days birding on Plum Island, I had found myself out on the ocean platform at Parking Lot 5. I set up my scope, and without any real expectations thought it a good time to start looking for Wilson’s Storm-petrels.

     “I knew it to be a long shot, but already I had experienced a good day. There were the four or five Saltmarsh Sparrows lurking in the grasses out from Lot 2 and a quick look at a pair of Yellow-billed Cuckoos flying out of the woods by the entrance to the banding station and heading down the roads edge for few yards and then diving back into the foliage. I was looking specifically for the Saltmarsh Sparrows both there and at Lois’ bench and had been seeing them there reliably for the last week or so. I guess they are off nest. The Yellow-billed Cuckoos were much more of a surprise even though both Steve Babbit and Andy Sanford told me they both had spotted them. Yellow-billed Cuckoos almost always seem to be a surprise.

     “So, it already qualified as a good day. The first bird I spotted at the deck was a single Piping Plover right in front of me. There were Gulls at the edge of the beach and a few Cormorants in the water as I started to scan the ocean hoping for the best.

     “It was a perfect summer afternoon. The sun was shining off the water; the sands seemed pristine and a robust breeze came in off the water to keep everything marvelously cool. Behind me I could see high billows of clouds rising up from the horizon as if threatening a sudden storm. But no Storm-petrels.

     “My attention was caught by a few Least Terns, raucous and frantic as they dove and hovered and then sped off. And then I picked up two larger Terns. Medium sized as they flew over the water, fairly close to shore.

     “They seemed to be pure white and my mind immediately thought of Roseate Terns. They were the right size; had no discernable marking on wings or tails, and the tails did seem long enough – maybe. I strained to see the bills, but they were by me before I could.

     “I had not seen Roseate Tern this year and my experience with this bird is adequate but not extensive. I had never seen a Roseate Tern from the vantage point but have seen them, several times at the mouth of the Merrimac north of there and at Sandy Point south of there. I knew that I probably could take them, but I also knew I wouldn’t feel right, feel sure. So, I let them pass by as nothing more than Sterna species.

     “No sooner had I settled into my disappointment when another, similar Tern came flying by; this one I caught early and this one, not only displayed the clear white on back and tail but also showed me a sharp, thin black bill. Now that is a Roseate! On reflection it seems quite likely that the first two were also Roseates, so I registered three Roseates [terns] for the day.

     “A day birding the island. No biting insects to speak of a goodly number of the regular birds. A pleasant wind and sun and Cuckoos and Roseate Terns. I cannot think of much that would be more satisfactory.”

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 06-27-20

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Summer Begins on Plum Island
June 27, 2020
By Steve Grinley

     The summer solstice was last Saturday and I thought I would share with you again how Doug Chickering celebrated the start of summer some years ago with a rewarding trip to Plum Island:

     “I pulled into Parking Lot#1 on Plum Island just at dawn. The red giant of a sun was just clearing the dunes and spreading its light out over the quiet salt marshes. I got out of my car to take a quick look around. I was alone in the parking lot. There was a thin line of clouds to the east; being scattered by the rising summer sun. Directly to the west another line of clouds was approaching and the interaction of the sun and distant clouds produced a truly spectacular rainbow that spread across the entire length of the low western horizon. It was brilliantly bright at the two ends and faded a bit as it traveled high up into the arc. I silently hoped that this would prove a good omen, but no matter what transpired that day it was a spectacularly beautiful start.

     “The rainbow slowly faded away and I drove down [the island] with the goal of finding a Seaside Sparrow. My first stop was a mere hundred yards from parking lot#1 at a point where the Plum Island river came closest to the road. Lois and I had seen Seaside Sparrow at this point in the past; the not so recent past. I pulled over and got out of my car and had hardly closed the door when I was greeted by the sound of a few strange clicks. My mind searched for an identification. Could it have been the anomalous last chips from a Red-winged Blackbird? It didn’t seem likely. Then the call came again, sending a shot of excitement through me as I instantly recognized it as the call of a Clapper Rail. It was near by; coming from the far bank of the river right before me. For at least ten minutes it called out; occasionally the sound moving up and down the bank but never once did it show itself.

     “I thought of calling Tom Wetmore but it was still very early in the morning and I still hadn’t seen anything. Finally the bird stopped calling and with a mixture of frustration and relief I moved on, turning my attention to the elusive Seaside Sparrow. Yet I didn’t go far; only about fifty or sixty feet when I stopped to scan the marshes. As soon as I was out of the car the Clapper Rails call started up; clear and near and from the same area I had heard it before.

     “Then much to my relief Tom Wetmore arrived. As I expected, he was favorably impressed by the call and together we searched until, finally, I found it as it walked out into the open. It was a warmer brown than many Clappers I had seen but there was no obvious dark cap, there was a lot of gray up in the head and it was persistently calling with the classic Clapper call. It disappeared, then reappeared and seemed quite active. Tom and I had prolonged, good looks at this bird and we agreed that it was clearly a Clapper Rail. Tom hadn’t heard of any other sightings of this bird so we surmised that it was a recent arrival.

     “The Clapper was just the pinnacle of what was otherwise a full and rewarding birding day; especially for the end of June which can be muted and a bit dull. Tom put me on a fantastic seaside Sparrow just north of the Pans – a beautiful classic specimen sitting high in a clump of grass, calling and looking around. White throat, standing out from the drab dark body and the small yellow lores clearly defined in its pristine gray head. We had several Saltmarsh Sparrows; one sitting and singing only ten yards or so away. I can’t remember the last time I had heard its faint buzzy song and I had never seen one actually singing that song.

     “Later we heard a Least Bittern calling nearby from the marsh trail at Hellcat. At the ocean overlook at Parking Lot#5, Tom picked out a pair of Wilson’s Storm-petrels fluttering over the surface of the water and we found a family of six Piping Plovers on the beach right below us. The four young darting over the smooth sand couldn’t be more than a few days old. To cap off the day I found the Blue-winged Teal at the Stage Island Pool.

     “My expectations for the day were modest. I just wanted to keep the biting gnats to a minimum, avoid the green heads and see a few good birds. The gnats were brutal in the early morning; the green heads have not yet made their dreaded appearance and the birds? Clapper Rail, Seaside Sparrow, and Wilson’s Storm-petrel – I need not elaborate.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 06-20-20

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Best to Leave Baby Birds Alone
June 20, 2020
by Steve Grinley

     This is the time of year when phone calls come in from well-meaning folks who find an “abandoned” bird, so it is time for me to repeat my suggestions for such encounter:

     This is peak nesting season for many species of birds in our area. You may encountered a fledgling on the ground, hopping about, waiting to still be fed by the parents. Young robins with speckled breasts, little gray catbirds with short tails and fluffy little chickadees fluttering their wings to be fed, are some of the young birds you may see. All of these birds likely have had their parents nearby though at first glance one may think they are on their own. It is best to leave them alone.

     First, all birds are protected by state and federal laws, and it is illegal to possess or relocate birds, unless you are a licensed wildlife rehabilitator. The only exceptions are nonnative species: house sparrows, starlings and pigeons.

     That being said, it is human instinct to want to protect the bird. If the bird is a hatchling, that is – it does not have feathers or looks totally helpless, you can look for the nest from whence it came and return it to the nest. The next best thing is to secure a basket in a bush or tree and place the bird in the basket with the hope, albeit slim, that the parent will find it and care for it. Most birds do not have a keen sense of smell, so handling a baby bird will in no way deter a parent from caring for it. Remember, even if you had 15 hours a day to feed and care for the bird, it would not learn the skills it needs to survive in the wild if it were raised by humans.

     If you don’t know where the nest is, keep the bird warm and safe until you make arrangements with a licensed wildlife rehabilitator for its continued care. Do not attempt to feed it or give it water unless instructed to do so by a rehabilitator. Any injured bird would also require the help of a trained rehabilitator. A list of licensed wildlife rehabilitators can be obtained from Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Web site at www.masswildlife.org.

     If the bird is a fledgling, that is – it has feathers and is just flightless, and it is not visibly injured, it is best to leave it alone. Young birds often leave the nest before they can fly or fend for themselves. This is part of the “training” process for surviving on their own. The parent birds are almost always in the area, watching after and defending their young, as well as feeding the fledglings until they learn to feed themselves. If there is imminent danger, such as a cat, try to remove the danger, not the bird. Put the cat inside where it belongs or if it belongs to a neighbor, ask the neighbor to remove the cat.

     So if you find a “helpless” bird, the best advice I can give is to, in most cases, leave the bird alone. The sad statistics are that less than 30 percent of all hatched birds survive their first year. Cats are a major danger and should be kept indoors at all times.

     Grackles and jays are notorious for raiding nests, as are crows. It is nature’s way of controlling the populations to levels the environment can sustain. And although it isn’t always what WE like, it is the way it is.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 06-13-20

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Local Birds Are Busy Nesting
June 13, 2020
Steve Grinley

     The bird world is quieter in June with most of the migrating birds having moved through our area. The resident birds that settling down to nest, with some already on their second brood. Bird song is less as birds have mostly attracted their mates by now and are quietly going about their business of nest building, incubating, and feeding their young.

     Piping plovers and least terns are nesting on the beaches of Plum Island, many in cordoned off areas and some with enclosures to help try to protect the nest from predators. The first killdeer chicks have been observed along the refuge road. Ospreys have taken up residence on platforms on Plum Island and in Salisbury with many birds sitting on eggs now.

     Folks are reporting successful bluebird broods, with some successes attributed to the number of mealworms that these birds are being fed! Our Carolina wrens are on their second brood. They have already brought one or two fledglings to our mealworm feeder, and they are now back in the mode of visiting our mealworm feeder and carrying worms to their second nest of hatchlings.

     Other than our mealworms, activity has slowed at our feeders. Our woodpeckers are still visiting our suet regularly and they also can be seen carrying chunks of suet off to feed young. But our mixed seed feeders have seen fewer visitors in recent weeks.

     If you still have hummingbirds and orioles coming to your feeders, these are likely resident birds that are nesting in your area. I have had many people say that the orioles have abandoned their oranges or grape jelly, and fewer are visiting our jelly feeders at home. Many orioles have moved further north to New Hampshire and Maine to nest.

     Local nesting orioles many continue to supplement their diet with nectar and jelly, but most of the parent birds will turn to insects. Insects provide the protein necessary for the young birds’ development, so the orioles prefer to provide insects to their newly hatched offspring. They may later bring the young birds to your jelly or oranges as a supplemental source of energy. I have customers that still go through many jars of jelly and bags of oranges during the summer months. Catbirds, mockingbirds, and even robins will also feed on the grape jelly.

     Though there are fewer finches at our feeders this month, the ones that are still around continue to eat well at the sunflower and finch feeders. The goldfinches are still competing for perches at the feeders as they build up their energy to prepare to nest. They nest in midsummer, usually in small trees or shrubs and not in bird houses. They wait a bit longer in the season to nest when there will be more natural seed around for the young once they fledge. Seeds from flowers and weeds become more plentiful toward the end of summer and in early fall.

     Though some birds have had their first brood already, it is not too late to put up a bird house. Many of our local cavity nesters have two or sometimes three broods including bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and, woodpeckers. You might also catch some nesters that were either late arrivals, had trouble finding a mate, or had a first nest failure. Sharing your yard with nesting birds and their offspring can add enjoyment to your summer.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community! 
Like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/birdwatcherssupply

Words On Birds 06-06-20

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

The Therapeutic Effect of Birds, Revisited
June 06, 2020
By Steve Grinley

     I received an email a couple of weeks ago that I thought that I would share with you. It was in response to a column I wrote some years ago, and last repeated about a year ago. I talked about the therapeutic effect that feeding and watching birds has on the elderly, referring to a study of residents of nursing homes and elderly housing. It certainly applies to more us today given the stay-at-home directives that we have been living under:

     “Re: Your article on Words on Birds: Watching, feeding birds has therapeutic benefits

     “Good morning Mr. Grinley,

     “I wanted to let you know that your article is spot on. It came in handy for me as I was faced with a dilemma from my dad’s senior living facility that no bird feeders or bird houses are allowed on the second floor of a two-story facility. This is a senior living facility with people from ages 60+ to 103. They are from all walks of life and they all have different challenges to face daily. Some with dementia or Alzheimer’s and some that are veterans that suffer from PTSD. Others that just don’t have another place to go that will provide them with a safe place to live.

     “I hung a bird feeder on dad’s second-floor patio of his very modest studio apartment. He doesn’t have much to speak of, all of his worldly possessions are gone, including my mother who passed away from a car accident nearly 20 years ago. My family visits when they can due to covid-19, but there is still something missing from his life. This bird feeder was the catalyst to his positive attitude and reason for waking up in the morning.

     “Unfortunately, I was told by the facility concierge and executive director that no bird feeders or houses are allowed on the second floor because it causes a mess to the resident(s) on the first floor. Needless to say, I was not happy but at the same time I did not remove the feeder or house to comply with this newly, unfounded rule that wasn’t in the handbook provided to me when we signed his lease agreement. I offered to clean the patio of the first floor resident weekly, for as long as my dad lived there.

     “After reading your article, I found new hope that maybe, just maybe they will change their minds because of the therapeutic benefits that you so vividly described in your article.

     “Thank you for articulating what I couldn’t. I look forward to many more ‘Words on Birds’ that are encouraging to our elderly.

     “Have a wonderful day and be safe, Lisa Callaway”

     So if you have an older relative that lives alone, or is a resident of a senior living residence, you might consider adding a bird feeder outside their window. With Father’s Day ahead, you might just “perk up” your father’s or grandfather’s view of the world. Given the uptick of bird feeding activity that we have seen over the past several months during this pandemic, feeding and watching birds has a beneficial effect for all of us.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community! 
Like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/birdwatcherssupply

Words On Birds 05-30-20

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

A Late Flight Of Migrants This Week
May 30, 2020
By Steve Grinley

     The migration has slowed the last couple of weeks in our area due to a blocking weather pattern south of us. Strong northeast winds over eastern Massachusetts discouraged many small songbirds from venturing our way. The “Birdcast” radar, which detects birds in flight at night, looked like the radar around eastern Massachusetts was broken, showing almost no movement over us. Many species heading north migrated “around us” us through New York and far western Massachusetts into Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. We had a few migrants for sure, but not nearly the numbers we would expect during this peak migration time.

     We certainly saw some warblers the past couple of weeks with a number of striking blackburnian and bay-breasted warblers in our travels. We even had a singing male blackburnian warbler in our yard one morning. A very nice yard bird indeed! But only small numbers of other warblers, vireos and other songbirds were seen in our area during this period.

     Birders were anticipating the weather change this week, when winds finally turned to southwesterly on Tuesday evening, bringing a nice wave of migrants through Essex County. We woke up Wednesday morning with more bird song in the back yard. The weather warmed into the seventies, and eventually the eighties that day.

     We could have our coffee and tea on the deck that morning. As we were enjoying the orioles at the jelly feeders, a female hummingbird visited our hummingbird feeder. We had seen only male hummers prior to that.

     Margo then commented on what she thought was an odd-sounding phoebe down by the creek. I listened more intently and heard “pizz-zah” an Arcadian flycatcher! We both listened carefully and, sure enough, it was the emphatic call of an Arcadian flycatcher! It was a first for our yard, and a hard bird to find in migration in Essex County. We use to travel out to Quabbin Reservoir to see one in Massachusetts.

     We heard a second Arcadian flycatcher a little further up the creek. Amazing! The closer bird kept calling and we texted our friend Phil who lived up the road. He arrived within ten or fifteen minutes and smiled as he also heard the bird calling.

     Just as Phil was leaving, a “kuk-kuk-kuk” call came from the maple in front of the house. It was a black-billed cuckoo! It flew out of the dense tree and over the house to other trees where it disappeared. Another great yard bird!

     Later that day, the birds continued. After stopping at work for a delivery, we ventured over to Oak Hill Cemetery in Newburyport. It was fairly quiet as we drove in, but we stopped and walked in the direction of a black-throated green warbler song and some loud red-eyed vireos. One vireo sounded much slower and more like a Philadelphia vireo, but we could not see it among the dense maples.

     We walked toward the “overlook” and I spotted a bird moving about the oaks with a yellow wash underneath. It wasn’t quite warbler-like, but we finally saw its eye-line, dark cap and determined it to be a Philadelphia vireo – a rare spring migrant through our area. We heard it give a quieter, slower song than the red-eyed vireos that dominated the cemetery chorus that day.

     As we walked into the overlook area, we heard and saw a wood pewee moving about the trees in front of us. Then a short time later, a thrush flew up in front of us. Its gray/olive back, spotted chest and lack of an eye-ring helped us conclude that it was a gray-cheeked thrush, a bird that had eluded us all of last year! We soon discovered that it had a friend – a second gray-cheeked thrush moving about the tombstones, trees, and grass with first thrush. We also enjoyed looks at a Swainson’s thrush on our way back to our car.

     The day sparked a big push of late migrants through our area, which we hoped would continue into the weekend. It was nice to have the warmer weather with us at last, and the birds that we missed all season long.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community! 
Like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/birdwatcherssupply