Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Hosting a Rare Bird Can Be Rewarding
February 20, 2016
By Steve Grinley
Last week I talked about the numbers of orioles and other rare birds that were showing up at area feeders. The reported Yellow-throated Warbler was, indeed, a handsome Yellow-throated Warbler coming to a suet feeder in Amesbury.
Last weekend, we were sent photos of another Baltimore oriole that was at feeders on Middle Road in Newbury. A Newburyport customer also came in with oriole photos, but this one turned out to be a rare Bullock’s Oriole. Margo was able to get photos of both the Bullock’s Oriole and the Yellow-throated Warbler which can be seen here:https://www.flickr.com/photos/24246528@N05/?
|It is surprising how many rare or unusual birds show up at bird feeders. In this past month alone, in addition to the numerous wintering Baltimore Orioles, the Bullock’s Oriole, and the Yellow-throated Warbler, a Western Tanager spent a month visiting a Rowley feeder. In recent years, a Cape May warbler was a regular winter visitor to a North Andover feeder, and a blue grosbeak visited a feeder for weeks in Merrimac. Boreal chickadees, Townsend’s warbler, Harris’ Sparrow and even a rufous hummingbird were frequenting area feeders into the winter in years past. And these are just the ones that we know about!|
If you are lucky enough to have a different bird show up in your yard, you then have to make the decision whether or not share that bird with others. Depending on the rarity of the bird, you could have tens, maybe hundreds of birders and, now, photographers stopping by to view it. Many times, that can be a problem. In some cases, though, it becomes a rewarding experience for the homeowner.
Dana Fox, and her husband Bob, hosted a wintering Cape May Warbler at the feeders at their North Andover home three years ago. I thought that I would again share with you Dana’s sentiments on the experience:
“On Friday, January 4th at 9:30 am a “special” bird arrived at our feeders. It was only a few days earlier that I had speculated with a good birding friend about what I would do if a “special” bird arrived in my yard. As I recall now, I voiced a reluctance to have a raft of folks coming into my yard – both Bob and I are avid gardeners and are quite particular about our garden.
“Well, if you have been watching Massbird recently, it wasn’t more than a few minutes later (my email record says 9:34 am!!!) that I posted the arrival of the bird and began to make a few phone calls to near-by birding friends. Soon, she who along the way became he and then back to she, even had a name “Matilda”.
“What has transpired since then is quite remarkable and should be noted – in three weeks 85 guests of all ages came to see her and none went away disappointed. The birding community was gracious, thoughtful, generous and encouraging.
“The only “ground rules” that I set up were that people call to set up an appointment and that they take off their boots. We decided that viewing the bird from our kitchen window since the feeders are right out the window and there are no other real first floor options was the best idea – besides it was warm!! A white (yes, white !!!! ) tile kitchen floor would survive if boots were removed.
“Being encouraged to be especially tidy in my kitchen and breezeway wasn’t such a bad idea either. I decided folks would have to adjust to us eating breakfast or lunch and me in my bathrobe (never Bob!) if circumstances prevailed. Somehow Christmas decorations got put away.
“My vivid memories include:
· generous visitors coming, some bearing meal worms, peanut butter, or leaving funds for her care
· exchanging so many wonderful birding memories with our visitors
· observing her plumage in infinite detail and her distinctive behavior while far from her normal Caribbean wintering home
· phone calls – ideas on how best to care for her – even a Godmother
· emails of encouragement and interest
· showing our array of feeders and log rolling plastic bottles to all assembled
· finding other good birds in the yard with our guests while they waited
· pictures shared – trying to track her progress, comparing her to last year’s Odione, NH male
· sharing recipes – even serving soup and drinks
· international gatherings some days
· old friends coming – meeting so many birders – some new to birding, some old hands – and some young birders so enthusiastic and bright
· getting to know the other current North Shore host family (the Buxton’s of Blue Grosbeak fame)
· being totally overwhelmed by how many people have read my posts and have been tracking her progress
· fretting over how she would survive in the bitter cold, and
· watching how I, the Jewish mother with no qualifications, and Bob, the much more reserved of the two of us, adapted to a very different life
“A birding adventure pulls us away for a few weeks but my heart will remain here. Rest assured I had arranged for her to be fed. Yes, hosting a “special” bird can be a positive experience, I know and hope that it can be for all who choose to share those special moments.”
Thank you Dana, and thank you to all who share your birds.
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