Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Warm Weather Spurs Migrant Birds Arrival
April 13, 2013
By Steve Grinley

     The warmer weather has brought some early migrants with it. Great and snowy egrets have arrived along with more great blue herons. A lone cattle egret in full breeding plumage was walking among the cattle at Maplecroft Farm on Route 133 in Ipswich.

     The great blue herons are already fixing up their nests in the stands of dead trees in swamps around the area. You can see some of them atop their nests as you travel along Route 95 through Georgetown and Byfield. We visited the Salisbury Industrial Park last weekend where found one heron fishing at the edge of the swamp. Soon three more herons flew in to join it.

     We saw one heron with a stick, as if to want to start a nest, but it seemed rather confused. The herons had a couple of nests there in the past few years, but there was no evidence of any this year. The storms must have taken them down. Furthermore, the water in the swamp was greatly reduced, down to almost a small stream flowing through what had been a thriving fresh water marsh throughout our years of doing the Breeding Bird Survey. Now, a couple of pairs of hooded mergansers and a few tree swallows and red-winged blackbirds were the only remnants that we could find.

     There was likely a beaver dam that had created the marsh many years ago, but we suspected that the dam, which is not accessible from the industrial park, must have been destroyed. I hope, at least, that it was compromised by natural causes, and not due to human hands.

     There was a song sparrow “invasion” on the island last week as there were a hundred or more along the refuge road on Plum Island. Phoebes have also arrived. A number of hermit thrushes, palm and pine warblers, flickers, and brown thrashers have shown up as well. Golden-crowned kinglets, fluttering little mites that are smaller than warblers, were suddenly everywhere and fifty-three of them were banded in one day on Plum Island.

     A spectacular hawk day on the island occurred on Tuesday when 362 American kestrels were counted by the hawk watch. This was the second highest number of kestrels ever recorded in one day on the island. Harriers, merlins, and osprey were also migrating.

     I received reports that hummingbirds were already showing up on the coast of Connecticut and Rhode Island this week, so it may be time to start putting out at least one hummingbird feeder to accommodate these early scouts that may arrive in here in the next week or two. More will certainly follow throughout the month of May.

     If hummingbirds are inching near, Baltimore orioles can’t be far behind. They, too, may start arriving during the second half of April as their migration peaks in May as well. You can ready your oriole nectar feeders and put out oranges and grape jelly to encourage them to “refuel” in your yard. A ready source of food may also encourage these beautiful birds to nest in your neighborhood and spend the summer.

     Speaking of nesting, it is not too late to put up nesting boxes for the birds. In addition to the bluebirds that I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, a number of birds are still arriving over the next several weeks that will use a bird house. Our resident chickadees, nuthatches and titmice will seek out nest boxes as will most of the woodpeckers. Tree swallows are still arriving and they will use a similar box as a bluebird, and they eat plenty of flying insects.

     House wrens will arrive in May and they will fill your yard with their bubbly song as they fill each of your bird houses with sticks. He prepares each house to impress the female wrens. Mrs. Wren will then come around and choose the house that she likes – just like real life.

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