Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Bright Moments on Gloomy Days
April 14, 2023
By Steve Grinley

     Before the weather warmed up this week, it was preceded by some colder, windy days. Doug Chickering of Newbury found some positivity in birding on such days:

     “Even though it isn’t immediately obvious; there are some real advantages to birding on a cold, gloomy, windy April morning. Which it was, this morning. There was no fog, and even in the occluded gloom of the day, visibility was as good as it gets. I was looking for early migrants and finding a few here and there. It wasn’t a morning filled with birds, in fact it compared poorly to yesterday.

     “MaryMargaret and I were trying to dig out some activity on the Hellcat trails when I suddenly spotted movement. A little grayish something swept down from the trees and blended in tightly with the tree trunks and underbrush. I had been experiencing that phenomenon of ‘Bird vanishing into the bare underbrush’ quite often this morning so I wasn’t very hopeful. Then there was color. A grayish green; not brilliant but clean and new.

     “Then I picked him up in my binoculars and as I did it stood upright on the branch and began looking around. Golden-crowned Kinglet. He was beautiful and wonderfully displayed the advantages of birding on a gloomy day in the first days of April.

     “This male was as brilliant as any I have ever seen. The black above and through the eye; the black of the patch on the wing were a spotless perfect black and the crown? Well the crown was special. Because he fed and dawdled for more than a minute I had perfect looks at a miniature but still startling light show.

     “The crown was breathtaking. As the bird moved and jumped the crown would change from gold to gold with scarlet borders then a flash of scarlet. Not just change color but into colors that seemed to blaze with a frantic energy. Demonstrating on of the advantages of birding now. “These are the first of the migrants. The bolder and healthier males, all hunger and nervous energy. They are in their full manhood and it shows. And the other advantages are there is no sun in the eyes and no foliage to block the view. It seems unlikely that these particular characteristics will ever peak simultaneously another time during the year.

    “This short interlude we had in the morning will be overmatched by the wave of migrants to come, but I like to think that I will still remember this gray chilly morning. Just another striking natural show. Small and fleeting yet in some ways that moment won’t be matched.”

     As the weather warmed this week, more golden-crowned kinglets could be found moving through our area. They were joined by the first of the ruby-crowned kinglets. Palm. pine and yellow-rumped warblers moved in, as did the first of the blue-gray gnatcatchers that Peterson described as “miniature mockingbirds.”

     The weather will continue to change throughout the month, but it is those warmer days brought on by southwest winds that carry the spring birds to us. Still, as Doug described, those cooler, gloomy days can still reveal rewarding experiences when you are out birding.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950

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