Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Warmer Weather Brings Early Bird Migrants
April 12, 2014
By Steve Grinley
The midday warmth feels like we have finally turned the corner with spring weather. The southwest winds have brought in some of the early spring migrants. Earlier this week, I took a short ride down Plum Island and found many early arrivals.
I was greeted by three great egrets near the entrance to the refuge along with a golden-crowned kinglet singing near the gatehouse. In fact I heard kinglets singing in many places along the refuge road.
Also along the road were hundreds of song sparrows. I was surprised to see a fox sparrow among them near Lot 2 and I heard another fox sparrow singing near Lot 3. A few dozen tree swallows were circling over the Salt Pannes, while several competed for the few nesting boxes left in the area.
I counted eleven phoebes on the island that morning and four northern flickers. Three ospreys were active around the osprey platform behind the Pines trail. It looked like two of them were males competing for the attention of the one female near the nest.
Near the south end of the island, a male turkey was blocking traffic, strutting all over the road with tail feathers fanned, trying to impress a nearby female. Yes, spring is in the air.
A few days before, Doug Chickering felt spring’s approach as he reported on his day birding the area with Lois:
“Lois and I were out and about today; hitting a few spots that have yielded some nice birds in previous years. We found the Great Horned Owl at the heron rookery at Boxford. For anyone who is of limited mobility the bird can be seen from the road with a scope. Seen pretty well.
“The Great Blues [herons] are beginning to pack into this rookery; oddly impervious to their problematic neighbor. They have been doing this for years now. The lion will lay down with the lamb etc.
“We had a Pied-billed Grebe from partially unfrozen Johnsons Pond along with a bunch of Ring-necked Ducks; a pair of Lesser Scaup at Cherry Hill reservoir along with Common Mergansers and more Ring-necks.
“We spent the majority of our day at Salisbury. It was nice to see so much activity. The walk through the grove at Salisbury was particularly gratifying. There weren’t any really notable birds; only Junco’s and Song Sparrows. But there were a lot of them.
“After the icy, barren months of this winter the many birds of the grove were a welcome and spirited change. Both the Junco’s and songsters were singing all over the place, and at the far western end of the Grove among their songs was the clear clarion song of a Fox Sparrow. Listening to, and seeing this bustle of activity made me sure that spring was on it’s way.
“Lois and I did get some year birds. There was the Great Horned Owl on nest, of course, the Scaup and the Pied-billed grebe. Also we saw our first Osprey, two of them — out in the marshes from off the boat ramp at Salisbury Reservation- and our first Double-crested Cormorants.
“Even with these year birds I think that just the simple pleasure of seeing and hearing the birds all around me in the grove, was the most satisfying aspect of the day. For an April day it was as raw as mid-March but there was a definite whiff of the spring migration in the air. And even though there remained two Snowy Owls at Salisbury; still drawing a crowd, I can’t help but feel that the winter is over. I’m ready. “
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