Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

March Brings New Birds to the Feeders
March 16, 2013
By Steve Grinley

     March is considered a quiet time in the birding world, at least in our area. Yet, there are changes happening – beyond the early Daylight Savings leap forward. The birds at the feeders are changing. The first groups of redwings and grackles have invaded feeders and, yet, wintering tree sparrows linger on. Resident downy woodpecker still visits and the goldfinches, though showing a bit more yellow, are still frequenting thistle feeders.

     Early spring migrants may be making feeder stops, so you should watch your feeders carefully. It was five years ago when Doug Chickering of Groveland shared with us some of his feeder birds and his discovery of one new spring visitor:

     “It flew in to the base of the far feeder pole at late dusk. There was just enough light to see that it was smaller than the Cardinal that fed there. We get several Cardinals at dusk, sometimes up to nine. The small bird immediately started to forage at the base of the feeder and my first impression was of a Song Sparrow. There had been a Song Sparrow out there earlier. I have learned by hard experience not to let an open bird go half identified so I brought my binoculars to bear. The bird was feeding with its back to me.

     “The heavy streaking at the side seemed, at first, to confirm my original impression. Yet I wasn’t convinced. The bird seemed rather big, and my natural instinct was to turn it into something else; something more exotic. This usually doesn’t work, still I waited for the bird to move, to give me a better look. In the dim light there was no discernable color but as soon as the bird lifted its head I recognized it to be a Fox Sparrow.

     “We always get a Fox Sparrow in the spring; its arrival is one of our welcome heralds of the onset of spring. But this wasn’t our first Fox Sparrow of the year. We had another one at our feeders in the twilight back in January 9th. So I cannot know if this one tonight is the same one of winter or a new one of the coming spring.

     “Our feeders have been quite active this year. House Sparrows being the most numerous; there have been up to fifty at a time, pillaging our hanging feeder and loitering in the Euonymus bush. It’s also been a big year for Goldfinches. We have up to thirty at a time. The rest has been fairly standard: a handful of Junco’s, three Downy Woodpeckers, a Hairy Woodpecker, about a half dozen White-throated Sparrows and more Cardinals than you can shake a stick at. The Chickadees – up to four, and Titmice and House Finches visit regularly, but we get White-breasted Nuthatch only occasionally; about the same frequency as the Coopers Hawk.

     “There have also be some more exotic visitors this winter. Redpolls, Pine Grosbeaks (maybe this year not so exotic), a Goshawk, and a single visit from a Red-breasted Nuthatch. Yet I think that the bird that comes to our feeders, fairly regularly, that fills me with the greatest joy is the Carolina Wren. This brilliant, warm brown, little bird brightens up a snowy day and seems to carry with it a fire of enthusiasm to deny the cold dead hand of mid winter. It calls, and postures and boldly goes about its business and exudes a spirit that justly belongs in spring. There was a time, not so long ago that there were virtually no Carolina Wrens in our part of the state. We get this one regularly and this is a change that is good.”

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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