Words On Birds 06-07-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Nesting Season is Upon Us
June 07, 2024
By Steve Grinley
 
     Migration is slowing, as most of the transient birds have already moved through our area. Most of the local birds are settling down to nest if, in fact, they haven’t already done so. Some late winter nesters, especially some of the owls, have already fledged young. The baby owls will be dependent on their parents for the next couple of months until they learn to fend for themselves. 
 
     Bald Eagles are nesting once again along the Merrimack River in Amesbury and Haverhill, the Parker River in Newbury and the Mile River in Rowley. Ospreys are back at their platforms in Salisbury, Plum Island and throughout the Great Marsh down to Essex and West Gloucester. Red-tailed hawks are also early nesters and some young hawks may have fledged by now. Like the owls, eagle and hawk youngsters will be dependent on their parents for several months.
 
     Great blue herons have young in rookeries and in isolated nests in Salisbury, Byfield, Georgetown and Boxford. Piping plovers and least terns are nesting on the beaches of Plum Island and Ipswich. The first killdeer and willet chicks are appearing on Plum Island as well.
 
     It is time to make way for ducklings as mallards, gadwall and teal already have their families following them around. Canada geese are also caring for their yellow goslings in Newbury, in the Newburyport Industrial Park, and on the Parker River Refuge on Plum Island (to name a few – there are a lot of geese this year!)    
 
     Some early nesters such as bluebirds, Carolina wrens and robins may already be on their second brood. Reports of these second broods are coming in for several area communities. In fact, these birds may sometimes have a third brood.
 
     Some of our May migrants including hummingbirds, house wrens, Baltimore and orchard orioles, gray catbirds, rose-breasted grosbeaks and yellow warblers are busy building their nests and some may already be sitting on eggs. These birds are likely to raise only one family each year.
 
     One customer told me about two families of house wrens in her yard. House wrens will build several “dummy” nests in an area before the female decides on one. The males are very territorial and the fact that there are two nesting wrens so close to each other indicates that it may be one male with two females. Polygamy in wrens is well documented.
 
     If you continue to have hummingbirds and orioles coming to your feeders, these are likely resident birds that are nesting in your area. Many more of these birds move further north to New Hampshire and Maine to nest. Local nesting orioles continue to supplement their diet with nectar and jelly, but many birds will turn to insects. Insects provide the protein necessary for the young birds’ development, so the orioles concentrate on providing insects to their newly hatched offspring. 
 
     The parent orioles will bring their young to your jelly and orange feeders into the summer. I have many customers that go through jars of jelly and bags of oranges during the summer months. Catbirds, mockingbirds, and even robins will also feed on the grape jelly.
 
     Purple martins have returned to their nesting colonies and have begun nesting. However, it is the first year males arriving in June that could still establish a new colony. If you live on or near water, now would have been a good time to try to attract these birds. Newer colonies have appeared in Newbury, Salisbury and Seabrook, New Hampshire. Purple martins have even taken up residence in tree swallow houses in the marshes of Seabrook in the past.
 
     Goldfinches are starting to compete for perches at the finch feeders as they build up their energy to prepare to nest. They nest in midsummer, late June and July, usually in small trees or shrubs and not in bird houses. They wait until later in summer when there will be more natural seed around for the young once they fledge.     
 
     Many of our local cavity nesting birds have two, or sometimes three, broods including bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and, of course, house sparrows. Though some birds have had their first brood already, it is not too late to put up a bird house. You might catch some on their second or third brood, or first-time nesters that are either late arrivals or had trouble finding a mate, that will welcome another residence.
 
     Sharing your yard with birds and their offspring by providing more housing not only helps the birds, you will enjoy their company all summer long!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 29 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 05-31-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Spring Migration Coming to a Close
May 31, 2024
By Steve Grinley
 
     The spring migration is winding down already. The female birds dominate the last few weeks, following their male counterparts north. The elusive mourning warblers along with a few Canada warblers are the late comers, trickling through during this past week.
 
     Also trailing the flow of spring migrants are the flycatchers. These birds feed exclusively on flying insects and most wait until later in May to arrive which ensures there will be an ample supply of food for them. The exception is the Eastern phoebe that braves the less predictable April weather.
 
     Flycatchers typically perch still on a branch, spy their pray, and then catch their food in mid-air. Kingbirds and great crested flycatchers are the most vocal, and they are both common nesters in our area. Wood pewees can be heard calling their name “pewee” in the woods. The smaller epidonax look similar.  The have wing bars and eye-rings and some are best distinguished by the calls.
 
     Overall, the migration seemed a bit lackluster this year. There were no ‘big days”, no fallouts of warblers like last year and other years past. There were a few days when there were easily 10-15 species of warblers found on Plum Island, but not great numbers of any one species. There were not 5 or 6 blackburnian, or bay-breasted warblers in a single tree to gaze at.  Rather birders needed to search all of the Hellcat swamp boardwalk to see multiple numbers of any species.
 
     For those of us who have been birding more than half a century, we clearly recognize the decline of the number of birds over the years. The Science magazine report of the loss of 3 billion birds in North America since 1970 is no surprise. It is merely a confirmation of what we have experienced over our lifetime.
 
     On Parker River Refuge, even the signs of hope are discouraging. American bitterns were heard “pumping” earlier in May at Stage Island Pool. Least bitterns have returned to the North Pool to presumably nest for another season. Virginia rails, Gadwall and green-winged teal have also returned to nest. Marsh wrens and swamp sparrows can be heard throughout all three of the refuge’s fresh water pools. Perhaps gallinules or pied-billed grebes will also return
 
     But these birds, and the habitat that they now enjoy, will all be gone in the next ten years – this time, clearly at man’s hand. The refuge will destroy these treasured habitats to supposedly create more salt marsh. Two hundred sixty acres of important fresh water habitat, and the dikes that protect them and the rest of the refuge, will be destroyed over the next ten years to add to the 3000 salt marsh acres that the Refuge presently controls.
 
     The refuge claims that this habitat destruction will have “no significant impact” on the ecosystem in place.  I think that the bitterns, rails and marsh wrens will beg to differ. So will the uncommon tri-colored heron now visiting Bill Forward Pool, and the hundreds of ducks, shorebirds and waders that have used these pools since they were created by the refuge seventy years ago. Their numbers can only decline further from the loss of this valuable habitat and will be felt by the next generation of visitors that come to the refuge.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 29 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 05-17-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Hummingbird Encounters Create Memories
May 17, 2024
By Steve Grinley
 
     Hummingbirds are back, and the antics of these fascinating birds leave fond memories for those who encounter them. I would like to share some of those stories with you again: 
 
     Robert Mussey of Milton shared his hummingbird story:
 
     “We have 4-5 female and 2 male hummingbirds zooming around this year in our garden and at 3 feeders, trying to sort out who trumps who, and who is higher status. One male and one female are the dominant ones. Yesterday I took a break from writing and for the first time this year decided to take a break and sit in our screened in gazebo. As I approached, a hummer zoomed past me and flew directly into the gazebo screen, thinking he could fly straight through, impaling his beak through the mesh and capturing himself firmly. It was one of the males. Furious buzzing of his wings could do nothing to free himself as his beak had penetrated to its full depth.
 
     “What are the chances that I would happen to decide to drink tea in the gazebo at this exact moment, on this exact day? Tiny, but there I was. Gently grasping his body to restrain his wings, eventually I managed to work his long bill free while he squealed in protest with his highest pitched little voice, then immediately opened my hand to free him. In an instant, he zoomed off at warp speed to his next adventure. Was this the alpha male or the more recessive one? Hard to tell when his energy was captured in the screen and then my hand.
 
     “Hummingbirds are meant to fly free. What are the chances? I should drink tea more often.”
 
     Catherine Fisher of Lee, New Hampshire shared a similar experience:
 
     “About a dozen years ago I was chilling on our back porch on a warm, June evening. I’d left the porch door open and was sitting at the far end, drinking a stronger beverage than tea, when a male hummingbird, pursued by another male in one of those aerial battles that resemble a WWI dogfight, flew straight down the length of the porch and got his beak jammed in one of the tiny squares of the screen mesh right beside the chair I was sitting in. He kept up a kind of ventriloquist-type vocalization while I tried to get him loose – if you’ve ever seen end of the old movie The Fly, that’s kind of what it sounded like; “Help me!!! Help me!!!” 
 
     “My heart was pounding as I worked to free him – my mind kept offering impossible and hideous scenarios like I’d get the hummer free, but his beak would remain in the screen, but I got him loose fairly quickly. 
 
     “I had him cupped in my hands, but I felt his toes curl around my little finger, and I remembered my Dad telling me about offering his finger as a perch for a hummer that had gotten disoriented in my folks’ large garage: the hummer was flying from window to window trying to find a way out, and my Dad walked up with his pointer finger offered as a perch and the hummer alighted and Dad walked her out. So I did the same. 
 
     “With my guy perched on my pinky, I walked him out of the screen porch – he flew off as soon as we got to the door. It was one of those experiences that release a gazillion happy molecules in the body and for the rest of the evening I couldn’t stop smiling.”
 
     Dana Duxbury-Fox of North Andover, MA shared an interesting story of hummingbird courtship behavior:
 
     “Bob and I were up at our camp on Lower Beech Pond in Center Tuftonboro on Monday afternoon. While sitting on our deck about 3 PM we observed 2-3 Ruby-throated Hummingbirds – a male and possibly two females as the females seemed to have very different styles of feeding. I had put out my two big feeders a week earlier (May 16th) one at either end of our deck and immediately afterwards a male came in to feed.
 
     “Well, as we were sitting there, we twice saw the male with that rapid zooming up and down behavior that he does when he is courting a female.
 
     “A couple of hours later as we were sitting on our porch in view of their favorite feeder, I suddenly saw something new – this floating dance of a pair. They would float up and then down maybe three feet in distance up and down around the feeder in unison. One might pause and feed and then the floating dance would start again – up and down. Imagine in all my years I had never seen this before. Being at the right place at the right time and being there at the correct moment in their courtship cycle I guess.” 
 
     So, if you haven’t had the pleasure of being mesmerized by these birds, you might try adding a hummingbird feeder to your yard or garden this year. Soon you will be telling stories of your own!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 29 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 05-10-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Birds Inspire Gifts for Mom
May 10, 2024
By Steve Grinley
 
     The orioles are arriving throughout our area, both Baltimore and orchard orioles. No orchard orioles for us, but we have three very brightly colored males that are causing “oriole wars” at the jelly feeders plus a female and at least two immature males. A catbird has also tried to partake of the jelly. Scarlet tanagers also enjoy grape jelly
 
     Ruby-throated hummingbirds are also finding their way back to area feeders. We have a male and female pair that make regular visits the feeder we have hanging off our slider, offering close-up views. They also visit the feeder hanging off our shed. 
 
     The stunning rose-breasted grosbeaks are back. Our male and female birds are enjoying the sunflower on our tray feeder and in the large tube feeder.
 
     We are in the prime weeks of warbler migration and small waves of warblers were moving through Plum Island this week. Other “migrant traps” saw numbers of colorful warblers dropping in as well – places like Ipswich River and Marblehead Neck Sanctuaries, Halibut and Eastern Point on Cape Ann. The majority of migrants so far have been yellow-rumped, black & white, parula, magnolia, chestnut-sided and Wilson’s warblers, northern waterthrush and ovenbirds. Many of these birds have passed through the woods in our backyard in Essex.
 
     A few rare birds have also been seen this past week. The white-faced ibis was relocated in the Rt 1A pannes just over the Rowley line. A female ruff (reeve) from Europe was enjoyed upclose by many in the main Salt Pannes on Plum Island and found another day in Newburyport Harbor. An elegant black-necked stilt was discovered in the marshes on Newman Road in Newbury and also seen in the Rowley Rt 1A pannes on a subsequent day.
 
     May brings us some beautiful birds and also brings us Mother’s Day. With all these wonderful birds for Mom to enjoy this May, it should inspire you to choose an appropriate gift for Mom on Mother’s Day that will help her enjoy them even more:
 
     Hummingbird feeders make great gifts and there are many styles and shapes to choose from. The flat “saucer” ones are easy to clean and have a lot of red to attract the birds. The bottle type work very well too. The hummingbird feeders that adhere directly onto a window will bring the small hummers closer for better viewing. Even if Mom already has a feeder, a second is always a good idea. Hummingbirds are very territorial when they feed and each will want their own feeder well away from others, and will fend off any other hummers who try to encroach!
 
     Orioles enjoy feeders that offer them nectar as well, but they really enjoy oranges and grape jelly. Many oriole feeders accommodate more than one of these offerings at a time. Both Baltimore and orchard orioles come to feeders and their colors are just stunning. Catbirds and mockingbirds will also visit a feeder with grape jelly.
 
     Warblers, bluebirds, tanagers, orioles, and so many other birds are attracted to water. A bird bath makes a wonderful gift for Mom and could bring birds to her yard that might otherwise not visit. For the Mom that already has a bird bath, a waterfall rock or a “Water Wiggler” would be a great addition. Moving water will help attract more birds for Mom to watch.
 
     Other feeders will attract colorful birds as well. Mom will enjoy watching more male goldfinches in their brilliant yellow plumage at a thistle feeder and she can watch for the stunning blue of an indigo bunting that might enjoy thistle as well. Giving Mom another sunflower feeder that attracts cardinals might also lure the striking rose-breasted grosbeaks to her yard.
 
     A nesting box, or bird house, is always a gift that never goes out of style. House wrens, chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, swallows, bluebirds and so many other birds that are cavity nesters could nest in your yard for Mom to watch and enjoy. Bird houses come in all styles, from simple to elegant, and they will not only dress up the yard, they will provide shelter for the birds.
 
     If you want to improve Mom’s view of all the birds, consider giving her a new pair of binoculars. Good quality binoculars are available in all price ranges and they will help bring birds closer and will make those brilliant spring plumage colors “pop”. Quality optics will heighten Mom’s enjoyment of birds, and of all that May brings.
 
     We wish all the Mom’s out there a Happy Mother’s Day full of beautiful birds!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 29 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 04-26-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Rare Duck Found in Ipswich
April 26, 2024
By Steve Grinley
 
     The birding highlight this past week was a rare duck from Eurasia. I had just arrived in the door from work last Sunday afternoon when Margo announced that we needed to go see a garganey in Ipswich! Now I am always a bit skeptical about stray ducks and geese, as their “origin” (whether they are truly wild or escapees from a farm or zoo) is always in question. But the garganey is a very common duck in Europe and is highly migratory to Africa and south Asia.  There have been a number of scattered records all over the eastern United States in recent years.
 
     So we jumped in the car and sped off to the Kamon Farm Conservation Area on Pineswamp Road, an Essex County Greenbelt Property that Greenbelt acquired just three years ago. As we arrived, we glanced down into the field on the left, where the bird was supposed to be, but saw no one.  As we pulled up to the parking lot on the right, we could see a small group of birders just inside the opening to the field. We took one of the last parking spots in the small lot, grabbed our scopes and walked across the road to join the them.  
 
     We saw many birders that we knew and they had their scopes and cameras pointed down into a grassy wet area at the bottom of the field. The ducks were apparently moving within the grasses and were difficult to spot. Looking through one observer’s scope helped us pin-point the right spot and we finally got our scopes on the rare duck.
 
     This garganey was a handsome drake, with a bold white stripe over the eye and dark top of the head. He was associating closely with a pair blue-winged teal, handsome birds in their own right. We watched it intently and occasional it emerged into some open water and revealed the handsome feathering of its wings and body. It was a good distance away, too far for some cameras, but Margo was able to get a number of phone scope shots through our Swarovski scopes.
 
     This isn’t the first garganey in Massachusetts. A female garganey was spotted on Plum Island in May of 1985 by Bob Stymeist and stayed for about a month.  Another was found on Plum Island in August of 2000 by Rick Heil. So this Sunday’s garganey was a life bird for many birders. Margo and I saw many of them in Thailand, but it was a first North American record for her.
 
     As we stood there admiring the waterfowl, which included some green-winged teal, wood duck, mallards and a couple of Canada geese, more birders continued to arrive as evening approached.  Soon, the street was lined with cars. The word had gotten out, and birders within driving distance were rushing to view this rare bird.
 
     Suddenly, the garganey and the two blue-winged teal lifted off the water, gained altitude and flew off over the trees to the west. Everyone’s heart dropped. We hoped they would circle around and return to this spot, as they apparently had done earlier in the afternoon, but after many minutes of their absence we lost hope. More birders were arriving only to learn “the” bird had just flown. A disappointment familiar to any avid birder.
 
     A few people left, but many stayed hoping the garganey would return. A local resident said that the bird had been there for a week, which was encouraging. After what seemed an eternity, one person noticed three ducks overhead that circled down to the wet area. I put my scope on them immediately and saw that it was the garganey and two blue-winged teal.  I yelled “its back!” Even as people were leaving to get into there cars, they rushed back to see this rarity.
 
     More birders continued to arrive and we stayed to help them see it. We eventually left with many satisfied looks, a few photos, and happy to see so many of our birding friends that also were able to see the bird.  
 
     Unfortunately, the bird was not seen again after that Sunday. With no reports on Monday, we stopped by Kamon Farm near the end of the day. Several birders were still keeping a vigil. One person from the south shore had been there since 6 am without seeing the duck. Another had driven from Connecticut without luck. We felt lucky that we lived so close and were around to see the garganey the evening before.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 29 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 04-19-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Spring Birds Are Arriving
April 19, 2024
By Steve Grinley
 
     A few days of sunshine and southwest winds have finally brought us some spring migrants this past week. Counts of more than 200 song sparrows were seen on Plum Island along with tens of northern flickers, palm and pine warblers, and the first greater yellowlegs of the season.  On this past Monday, the Plum Island hawk watch tallied 278 kestrels flying north past Parking Lot #1. 
 
     One lucky Newburyport resident spotted a swallow-tailed kite flying north over High Road in Newbury!  Later that day, one was seen over the Route 1 Rotary in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, presumably the same bird.  The next day, two kites were seen in southern Maine!
 
     A cattle egret visited Pikul’s Farm (now Tendercrop) on Route 1A in Rowley. Flocks of glossy ibis have also arrived in Ipswich, and Rowley and a few were seen Plum Island. Snowy egrets have joined their larger counterparts, the great egrets, in area marshes.
 
     A Louisiana waterthrush is back, singing its heart out at Crooked Pond (Bald Hill Reservation) in Boxford. Blue-headed vireos and blue-gray gnatcatchers were also seen there along with the usual brown creepers circling up the trees as they sang. A rare prothonotary warbler was found at Daniel Boone Park in Ipswich and an early blue-winged warbler was at the Marblehead Neck Sanctuary along with a very early male scarlet tanager!
 
     Barn swallows and rough-winged swallows have joined the tree swallows at the Artichoke Reservoir in West Newbury and the Ipswich River Sanctuary in Topsfield. Chipping sparrows are arriving for the summer, but a few white-throated sparrows and juncos are still lingering under the feeders.
 
     Speaking of feeders, one homeowner reported an early male rose-breasted grosbeak at her feeder on Johnson Street in Newburyport last week. And speaking of grosbeaks, an Ipswich resident has a handsome male blue grosbeak joining her cardinals at her platform feeder of black-oil sunflower. What a surprise that was for her!
 
     And still speaking of feeders, now is the time to put out your hummingbird and oriole feeders. Hummingbirds have already found their way to several Essex County towns. A Baltimore oriole was feeding on oranges and suet in Beverly and another oriole was seen in Ipswich. 
 
     For nectar feeders, the ratio is 1 part sugar to 3 or 4 parts water for hummingbirds. Oriole nectars can be less sweet at 1 part sugar to 5 or 6 parts water.  Keep the extra in the refrigerator and change the nectar in the feeder every 3 or 4 days. Do not use honey and do not use red dyes or premixes with red dye in it. 
 
     The majority of hummingbirds and orioles arrive in mid-May, but many of the neotropical migrants seem to be arriving a bit earlier this year. So it is best not to wait until YOUR hummingbird is staring in your window demanding their feeder!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 29 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 04-12-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Three Special Spring Birds
April 12, 2024
by Steve Grinley
 
     As the early spring bird migrating moves into full swing, I thought I would share with you some wisdom which the late Doug Chickering shared with us seventeen years ago, when we also had a wet spring that year: 
 
     “This April nor’easter has come and gone and left retribution in its passing. Fields, streams and rivers are flooded, and everywhere there is the forest detritus as the fury of the storm separated the weak from the strong. The storm with its passing has also revealed the first breath of true spring. In our backyard, there is suddenly a wide wash of green in the grass and the lilac bush is showing its first nascent buds. Elsewhere, the crocuses have gone past peak and the forsythias are coming on. Although they are late, I fully expect that those first scouts of spring – pine warbler, palm warbler and Louisiana waterthrush – will soon appear at their appointed locations.
 
     “So now we can start to seriously think of the spring migration. It appears to me that the migration season can be divided into three parts; each with its distinguishing characteristics and mood. The height of the migration takes up nearly all of May, and the dominant tone is high excitement mixed with an slight aching sense of loss. No matter how successful and brilliant the days birding when you pull up Massbird in the evening and read of what others are seeing there is the unmistakable gnawing conviction that you are missing something. No matter that you realize that you can’t be everywhere at six o’clock in the morning, and no matter that you had killer looks at the Cape May and golden-winged warbler, you become haunted by the fact that out there some lucky birder had a white-eyed vireo in Westport or a hooded warbler in the Dell at Mount Auburn, or a blue grosbeak at the Beech Forest in Truro and you didn’t. Birding in May is paradise tainted by longing. So many birds so little time.
 
     “And when you slowly become aware that female redstarts are the dominant specie in Hellcat on Plum Island and the only likely target left is mourning warbler, you have entered into the third stage of the migration. It is inevitable that this stage will be accompanied by a slight feeling of melancholy. The peak is over, the birds are disappearing into their nesting routine and it’s going to be a long, long time before May rolls around again.
 
     “The opening stage of migration in its way can be the best. The early part of spring, still haunted by traces of winter is filled with a mood of great expectation and hope. For me, no birds are more emblematic of this part of the season that blue-gray gnatcatcher, solitary vireo and black-and-white warbler. These are the birds that I think of when this part of the season approaches. These are the birds that fill my heart with a particular delight. I make no claim of universality in these feelings. On the contrary, I am sure that there are other birds that fulfill this role in other birders’ hearts.
 
     “These days, in the middle of April when I am at work, standing by my machine and contemplating the days in the field that lie in the immediate future, I am able to place my imagination where I can nearly see and hear them. The gnatcatcher darting furtively from limb to limb, tail erect, whispering his steady staccato call. A call so quiet that there are times when it takes a few seconds for me to become aware that I am hearing it. The black-and-white warbler, wet forest, still nearly bare of foliage also quickly moving and occasionally calling. The warbler’s hoarse slightly wheezy call sounding like he is being squeezed.
 
     “And the solitary vireo, slow deliberate, almost sedentary in his habits. He hops to a branch to pause and tilt his head in contemplation before hopping again to a different branch. And all three crisp and clean in their new plumage stand out in the still dull background of early spring. I haven’t seen them yet, but soon I will and can hardly wait. There will be many moments to come where I will be enchanted by the brilliant events of a migration, but right now I am thinking mostly about my three spring birds.”
 
     Some palm warblers arrived this past week, but I haven’t heard reports of Doug’s three spring birds yet. Some southwest winds this coming week should bring them to us!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 29 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 04-05-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Storms Negative Effect on Birds
April 05, 2024
By Steve Grinley
 
     March was unusually wet this year and the rain continues into April with a nor’easter that came up the coast. This week’s storm with soaking rain, bouts of snow and ice, and high winds are having its effects on birds. Tom Wetmore was “stuck” on Plum Island during Thursday morning’s storm as he watched piping plovers wandering around the flooded parking lot #1 on the refuge. No beach for the plovers on this morning, and flooded roads prevented Tom from leaving the island.  
 
     (Please note: Tom reported that the Maintenance Area parking lot was flooded. The road past Lot 6, Stage Island and the road between the Pines Trail and the North Pool Overlook were all fine due to the impoundments holding back the storm surge as they were designed to do! What happens when the impoundments are destroyed by the Refuge??)
 
     The flooding is the extreme case of the negative effects the weather has on our birds. Even our resident birds, such as chickadees, nuthatches and titmice struggle to survive these early spring storms. There are not a lot of insects out yet and much of the winter’s supply of natural seed and fruit has been depleted. It certainly is evident from the large numbers of goldfinches and other birds visiting the feeders during and after the storm.
 
     If you have feeders, now is a good time to keep them full. If the feeders were out in all that rain, it may be time to dump out the soggy seed, clean the feeder thoroughly, let it dry completely, and fill it with fresh seed. Spread some fresh seed on the ground for the sparrows and lingering juncos.
 
     It may be nicer this weekend, but more cold nights, and probably more storms, are surely ahead of us. Now is the time when birds can try to fatten up in preparation for what may lie ahead. New arrivals will need to replenish after their long journey north. Many resident birds are also preparing to breed, and ample body weight is necessary to improve successful nesting.
 
     Many birds take advantage of suet during spring for the same reason. The high fat content of suet gives their body the quick energy it needs to survive a long migration and the early spring weather changes in New England. Breeding birds will feed suet to their young as it is very palatable and quick fat. Though bluebirds prefer an offering of meal worms, even they will enjoy suet if insects are not available. 
 
     The other effect these wind storms have had, as a result of tumbling trees and breaking limbs, is the loss of nesting cavities for many birds. Now is the time to clean out, and repair if necessary, any bird houses that you have up. You might consider adding another one to help shelter the homeless birds. Birds will even use unoccupied houses as roosting sites to get out the nasty weather, especially at night.
 
     Most of our spring migrants seem to be arriving on time. A quick check of the ruby-throated hummingbird migration map reveals their progress to around Washington DC and Maryland.  It will likely be two to three more weeks before the first ones make it to our area. The majority will be here in May. 
 
     So you have time to dig out your hummingbird and oriole feeders in the weeks ahead. Often the hummingbirds will come to the spot where you usually hang your feeder, even if you haven’t put it out yet. Amazing that these little birds can find their way back to your feeder (actually they consider it THEIR feeder) in your backyard after traveling hundreds and, sometimes, thousands of miles! We have airline pilots, with all their sophisticated equipment, who sometimes land at the wrong airport a few hundred miles away!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 29 years of service to the birding community! 
Like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/birdwatcherssupply

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
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 29 years of service to the birding community! 
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Words On Birds 03-22-24

Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Hope for a Noisy Spring
March 22, 2024
By Steve Grinley
 
     We are thankful for the warbling song of the bluebirds, now being heard in so many more yards than it was decades ago. The calls of the eagles along the Merrimack River are strong again, as will be the cries of the ospreys when they return in the coming weeks to their nesting platforms throughout Essex County. I remember the days when the future of these birds was in jeopardy due to our use of DDT and other harmful chemicals.
 
     Lisa Powis of Newbury also remembers, and I repeat the story that she shared with us some ten years ago that she titles “Noisy Spring:” 
 
     “I reluctantly drag myself out of bed to close the windows. “They are so loud! Why can’t they sleep in a little? I’ll feed them; they need not get the early worm!” I both marvel at and curse my waking at 4:30 because of the birds conversing in our back yard. I smile and say “thank you Rachael Carson” as I drift back to sleep.
 
     “Born in 1961, I distinctly remember robins and blue jays in the wooded back yard we moved to when I was two. I remember my legs covered in mosquito bites that I scratched until they bled, and scabs were as much a part of summer as popsicles. I can remember running into the house to watch out the living room bay window as the low flying crop dusters buzzed our neighborhood spraying a dense trail of white mist. We cheered as they dropped their cargo imagining all the mosquitos vanishing. 
 
     “I also remember a time when the robins and blue jays did not return and the neighborhood mornings were strangely quiet. I was around eight or nine when I remember adults talking about “Silent Spring.” Their talk seemed serious and I believed what I heard instantly. The mosquito spraying had made the bugs stronger, but killed all the birds. 
 
     “I knew Miss Carson’s book was way beyond me and I wished I was old enough to read and understand it. I love the saying, “It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” For Miss Carson it could have said, “It is better to fight the government and chemical companies than to curse the silence.” 
 
     “I think about this brilliant, bold scientist often as I enjoy the birds we take so for granted in our coastal community. Dying young of breast cancer, perhaps due to the very chemicals she sought to ban, I think of her as an environmental martyr. She’s such an amazing role model of how one person can change the world for generations yet to come. I love her quote:
 
     “The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
 
     “I’m no longer the eight year old in Springfield. Forty three years later, I’m a mom in Newbury with a 12, 10, and 7 year old. Our wonder of the universe and appreciation for God’s creation begins in our back yard. 
 
     “It was the magenta rhododendrons in full bloom that blinded us to the many shortcomings of the house, but now I’m grateful we chose this spot. Its huge old trees that hold the nests of many birds and the peaceful back yard have soothed our souls and allowed us to witness nature’s wonders. Of course, hours of sweat labor have gone into our house and surroundings to make it the home it is, but we’re at a place where we’re really enjoying it. 
 
     “Our kids go to the back window to watch the flight pattern of the yellow swallowtail butterflies; they seem to always fly on a diagonal in the open yard. I sit in a lawn chair and patiently await the humming bird that feeds on the bergamot. I can only catch it if I sit quietly and wait. As evening falls we watch “batty” and his friends circle between the giant oak and maple trees feasting on our plentiful supply of mosquitoes. This is one time when the good old days weren’t better, and I’m grateful that the only planes my kids see are the sightseeing flights taking off from Plum Island.
 
     “Look mom, Golfanina’s feathers have turned yellow again, it must be spring!” I love that our kids have names for many of the creatures they see in our back yard. We watched in amazement one night as a hawk swooped in to attack the finches at the feeder, and like fighter jets, three black crows chased the hawk out of the yard until the little ones could escape. We call them the hero birds and let them gobble up the bird food as their reward. I try to describe the silent springs to the kids and tell them that chemicals all but made the birds of my childhood extinct. Fortunately, given their own experience, they believe me, but cannot grasp it.”
 
     Rodentcides are the current threat to another “Silent Spring.” These are a serious threat to our raptors (hawks, owls, etc.) which consume rodents contaminated with these poisons. Please support banned use of rodentcides in your local town, city or state.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950
BirdWSG@Comcast.net
 
978-462-0775 
https://birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com

Celebrating 29 years of service to the birding community! 
Like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/birdwatcherssupply