Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Spring is on the Way!
April 28, 2018
By Steve Grinley

     As we near the end of April, more signs of spring migration show themselves. More birds are finding their way back to Essex County. Though a snowy owl was perched on the building next to the store for a couple of hours on Wednesday, it too will be moving northward as spring comes to the arctic tundra. Doug Chickering shares with us some true signs of spring that he found recently:

     “It was undeniably cold this morning as I started down Plum Island. The skies were cloudy and a punishing wind swept in from the west, gaining force across the open marshes. There was a strikingly beautiful Snowy Owl sitting on a set of staddles behind Grape Island.

     “An observer could easily be forgiven for thinking these were the first days of March and not the middle of April. We are all concerned and we are all impatient. Yet even with the grip of winter still having an effect, for the first time this year I could feel the new season coming: not completely here, but not completely absent either.

     “We were still struggling to get to 50 degrees and everyone at the Hawk watch was muffled against the chill and trying to find a place out of the wind. Even through the wind a beautiful immature Peregrine Falcon, fast and low came skimming over the sand dunes and rushed, effortlessly by us, heading north.

     “The migrants have also started to arrive; a few scouts for the great cavalcade to come. In the Old Pines, Hellcat and along the road I saw a total of seven Hermit Thrushes that made me think of the distinct possibility of one of the early migrants. Maybe a Pine Warbler, Sapsucker, both brands of kinglet or Solitary Vireo. I didn’t get any of these but I did have one of those thrilling short encounters. Those delicious, surprising events that are highlights for a day in the field.

     “I was at Hellcat, on the boardwalk and heading for the overlook we call “Tom Wetmore’s Bench”. We call it that because right at the end of the trail, where you have a nice overlook of the North Pool and its marsh, there is a wooden bench with “Tom Wetmore’s Bench” carved onto the back. Suddenly I caught a bit of movement. Something had jumped out from under the boardwalk right in front of me. It didn’t stay a second but immediately hopped back under the boardwalk.

     “There was shallow water and a great deal of underbrush. My judgement and experience quickly sorted through time of year, the way it flicked from under the boardwalk the way it flicked in and out, its coloration all added up to Winter Wren. It popped up again; long enough to make an ID and then hopped away into the dense tangle and then evaporated into a few sudden bits of movement making its way away from me. Winter Wren. Great find.

     “I was doubly overjoyed to discover another one, emerging from under the boardwalk, and then was astounded when I encountered them again on my way back. This time they were together, more or less and one of them slowed down enough for me to get long looks. Long enough the see the tiny white patches along the edge of the folded wing; the rich brown of the wings and upper parts.

     “Tail up, fidgety and interjected I managed to follow him around where I stood for at least two minutes. A long enough look to be able pause to wonder at this tiny ball energetic perfection. Ah Winter Wrens. There are small yellow blossoms on my forsythia, green buds on the Honeysuckle and Winter Wrens. Spring?”

     Yes, Doug, these are great signs of spring and more are on the way! I’m in Florida this week and we have already seen at least fifteen species of warblers the first day, as well indigo buntings, hummingbirds and great crested flycatchers that are headed your way!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 23 years of service to the birding community!
Like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/birdwatcherssupply