Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Warmer Weather Brings Spring Birds
April 15, 2017
By Steve Grinley
We left New England for a few days and the migration went on without us! The warmer weather last week brought in a number of spring migrants and the migration should continue as the warm southwest winds keep pushing bird northward. It is a great time to get out and experience the spring arrivals first hand.
Pine and palm warblers are showing up on schedule in our area, and at least one black & white warbler and an early parula warbler were seen in the Boston area. Blue-headed vireos and blue-gray gnatcatchers are already reported in many areas. Eastern towhees are being seen and heard near lots one and two on the Parker River Wildlife Refuge, and a brown thrasher was also found further down Plum Island. Purple finch are singing at Hellcat and the new Pines. Great and snowy egrets are appearing in the marshes as are greater and lesser yellowlegs and the first pectoral sandpipers.
Other birds also seem to be right on time. Hermit thrushes are showing up, as are Savannah, field and chipping sparrows. Ruby-crowned kinglets are arriving in good numbers and, in some cases, outnumber the wintering golden-crowned kinglets. Phoebes are singing their raspy “fee-bee, fee-bee” call everywhere. They will come back to their previous nest sight and build a new nest on top of the old one.
Barn swallows are joining the tree and rough-winged swallows that are already here, and the barn swallows will soon be searching out a barn near you. Wood duck have arrived at the Ash Street swamp in West Newbury as well as other area wet spots. Coots and pied-billed grebes are arriving as well.
A few of the resident birds have already begun looking for nests or actually nest building. One customer reported bluebirds nesting in their box already. Other customers are succumbing to the onslaught of house sparrows in their bird houses.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds have already arrived in Connecticut and southeastern Massachusetts. One slipped by us and moved into New Hampshire already! Though these may be “scouts”, it won’t be long before the masses follow. You can view their progress here: http://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html. It is time to dust off those hummingbird feeders and get them ready to put out. Many trees and plants are flowering, so the hummingbirds will surely follow. As the April weather continues to warm, the hummers will welcome a supplemental feeder to help sustain them during the more chilly days and nights.
Baltimore oriole are not be far behind. The first orioles should arrive in our area in the next couple of weeks and will, like the hummingbirds, come through in good numbers in early to mid May. So it is not too soon to get your oriole feeders ready with offerings of nectar, oranges and grape jelly.
Meanwhile, the goldfinches continue to be emptying the feeders here at the store. We have a couple of males that are turning into their bright yellow and black breeding plumage. We have a couple of thistle feeders and and we are still filling them several times a week.
We also have a few redwings visiting the sunflower and mixed seed feeders, but it is the grackles that are dominating. The best defense against the grackles is feeders with small, or no perches that will accommodate just the smaller, clinging birds. There are also the “cage” feeders with openings that small birds can enter, but they exclude grackles and other large birds. Other feeders have collapsing perches or feeding ports that will allow a cardinal to feed, but not the twice-as-heavy grackles.
The coming weeks are some of the most exciting for bird watching. The juncos, tree sparrows, and other wintering birds are departing and more spring migrants and summer residents are arriving. The scenery is changing and so are the birds. Inviting these birds to your yard with houses and feeders helps them, and it enhances your enjoyment of the season ahead.
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