Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Warm Weather Brings In Early Migrants
March 24, 2012

By Steve Grinley

     The record warmth this past week has brought some spring migrants in early, and encouraged those that are already here to begin their courtship and nesting. On the warmest day, Thursday, my local robin started singing its heart out at 5:30am and continued non-stop for at least two hours. Our turkeys came marching through after daybreak and the five males were strutting their stuff for the four females. They males were fanning their tails and dancing in circles in an attempt to impress the ladies, who seemed unimpressed as they started to walk away. The males followed. I have seen similar turkey displays along Rolfe’s Lane in Newbury this week.

     There have been two sandhill cranes in the marsh and cornfields at the Bill Forward Wildlife Management Area in Newbury for over a week. Some observers saw them performing their courtship dance and one observer saw them copulating. Spring in definitely in the air!

     I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that bluebirds were already checking out nesting cavities and nest boxes. The tree swallows have come in this past week and we watched some of them claim the houses by the Salt Pannes on the Parker River Refuge. If you have nest boxes in your yard, you may see the tree swallows now compete with the bluebirds for nest sites.

     Great horned owls are already on their nests. We found one owl in a red-tailed hawks nest in Salisbury as the displaced hawks circled nearby. Other red-tails are fixing up their own nests and getting reading to lay eggs, if they haven’t already. The bald eagles have prepared a nest in Amesbury this year and peregrine falcons continue to hang around the Whittier Bridge and may, in fact, be nesting underneath. Peregrines are already on eggs in Cambridge.

     Other birds are just arriving with the warm weather – some of them ahead of schedule. Killdeer are on schedule and have been calling everywhere. Wilson’s snipe are just starting to arrive. We counted eleven at the Tospfield Fair Grounds last Sunday, but I have yet to see one this year in the Common Pastures along Scotland Road in Newbury where numbers will peak in the hundreds. We did hear woodcock “peenting” in the evening in the Newburyport Industrial Park and saw one close to the road near a street light. I have heard others along Scotland Road on my way out of work this past week and one was even calling right at the entrance to Route 95 there.

     Eastern phoebes are a week early, arriving in good numbers this past week. Many are already locating their same territory and nest site from last year, while other search for suitable eaves or small bridges to nest under. Even earlier are the great egrets that I saw on Thursday, one in the North pool on Plum island and the other on the Salisbury side of Newburyport Harbor. Pine Warblers don’t usually arrive until early April but at least four were singing in the Moseley woods this past week.

     Two ospreys returned a week early to the platform behind the Pine Trail on Plum island this week and they wasted no time in starting to bring sticks to start their nest. We saw an Eastern meadowlark in a field along Route 1 where they nested last year. Others have been seen on Plum island and heard singing at the Plum Island Airport. Some of these might have wintered over, but the migrants are arriving as well.

     As further evidence that birds are arriving early this year, a purple martin was already reported from the South Shore and two ruby-throated hummingbirds were reported in Connecticut. I won’t suggest that you put out your hummingbird feeder quite yet, but you may want to dust it off and get it ready. The next couple of weeks might not be too soon this year!

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