Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Early Spring Migrants Continue to Arrive
March 16, 2016
By Steve Grinley

     Early spring migrating birds are continuing to make their way into our area, As a big high pressure area continues over us this weekend, winds will turn to the southwest bringing up many more birds from the south. Some of the earliest arrivals and some of our resident birds have already begun building nests.

     Great horned owls have been on nests for a month or more already, and young owls should hatch in the coming weeks. 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. Great and snowy egrets have started to arrive in area marshes and there have been single reports of little blue heron and tri-colored heron in the state.

     The Plum Island Hawk Watch is just gearing up with turkey vultures and harriers dominating the numbers thus far. Kestrels numbers have been low until this week, but should ramp up considerably with the southwest winds predicted for the next several days.

     A pileated woodpecker was seen excavating a nest in Groveland and another in Boxford. A large flight of northern flickers invaded the area more than a week ago and they will begin drumming to attract mates and to excavate their own nesting holes.

     Phoebes have arrived in good numbers already. A number of hermit thrushes, palm, pine and yellow-rumped warblers are moving into the area. The songs of the little golden-crowned and ruby-crowned kinglets, fluttering mites that are smaller than warblers, are once again being heard as they make their way north. There are also reports of Louisiana and northern waterthrushes in the state. 

     Small numbers of barn, cliff, and rough-winged swallows have joined their tree swallow counterparts into the area. The trills of returning chipping sparrows are now mixed in with the soon departing trills of the juncos. You need to take a second look so as not to confuse the chippies with any remaining tree sparrows

     Hummingbirds have already been reported in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, about a week ahead of schedule. Though the majority of hummingbirds will arrive in May, you might want to start getting your feeders ready soon. At least dig them out of storage and make sure they are ready to greet YOUR hummers! You certainly don’t want to be embarrassed by having them hovering in front of your window, staring in to let you know they are waiting for their food! You can track the hummingbird migration yourself by going to the map athttp://www.hummingbirds.net/map.html.

     With hummingbirds arriving, can the orioles be far behind? There are not many blossoms on the trees yet to trigger their arrival, yet you may also want to ready those oriole feeders just in case. Like the hummingbirds, orioles also start arriving during the second half of April and oriole migration peaks in May. 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 might encourage these beautiful birds to nest in your neighborhood and to 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 are seeking out nest boxes, as are many of the woodpeckers. Tree swallows are still arriving and they will use a similar nesting box as a bluebird, and swallows eat plenty of flying insects.

     House wrens will arrive in late April and May and they will fill your yard with their bubbly song as they fill each of your bird houses with sticks. The male 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
Celebrating 2
4 years of service to the birding community! 
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