Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
More Spring Migrants Arriving Daily
April 29, 2017
By Steve Grinley
Spring migration is in full swing and the warmer weather should strengthen the movement northward for many more arrivals. The “early” warblers are arriving including pine, palm, yellow-rumped, black & white, black-throated green, and yellow warblers as well as Louisiana and northern waterthrushes. Blue-headed vireos are here, and a few warbling and white-eyed vireos have been spotted.
Towhees and brown thrashers are singing on Plum Island and a few catbirds have found their way back. Tree swallows are establishing nest sites, and now barn, bank, rough-winged and cliff swallows are joining the search for their own nesting areas – often the same location as previous years. The first purple martin scouts are arriving back at their martin house and gourd colonies.
Shorebirds are moving through as well. We saw a piping plover sitting on a nest on Revere Beach last week and the Plum island plovers are settling in as well. Willets are just appearing on territories in area marshes. Pectoral and solitary sandpipers are stopping to feed in wet fields, such as along Scotland Road in Newbury and the partially flooded field at the south end of the Topsfield Fair Fairgrounds. Greater and lesser yellowlegs are feeding on the mudflats in Newburyport Harbor along with a few black-bellied plovers. Most of these shorebirds will continue their journey north to nest on the arctic tundra.
A few neotropical migrants, those birds who winter in Central and South America, have already found their way back to New England. Scarlet tanagers and rose-breasted grosbeaks have started to arrive, so keep an eye on your sunflower feeders for those brightly colored grosbeaks. Tanagers sometimes partake of fruit, such a sliced oranges, so you may be lucky enough to catch one of those in your yard if you offer fruit for orioles. Another colorful migrant, the brilliant indigo bunting, has also been seen in Eastern Massachusetts already, so watch your thistle feeders for this stunning bird. Seeing an indigo bunting feeding next to a male goldfinch will make anyone’s day!
Orioles are making their way here, and as the blossoms on the fruit trees burst, more will be arriving in the next few weeks. When orioles first arrive, they feast on the nectar in the blossoms. So now is the time to put out your oriole feeders if you haven’t done so already. Orioles will go to a nectar feeder when they first arrive. The sugar mixture is less sweet, about half the concentration of hummingbird nectar.
Orioles will also enjoy oranges and, especially, grape jelly, so if you offer those, you may be blessed with orioles all summer long! Catbirds and mockingbirds also enjoy the jelly, as do house finches and a few other birds. Hosting these colorful birds in your yard could cost you a half dozen two-pound jars of jelly over the season, but they are well worth it!
The first hummingbirds of the season have made it to Essex County and beyond, a few making it to New Hampshire and Maine. So now is the time to put out your hummingbird feeders as well. Hummingbird nectar is one part sugar to three parts water and be sure to change the liquid every few days. You might consider adding additional hummer feeders, as hummingbirds are one of the few birds that are very territorial when they feed. A hummingbird will fight off other hummers in order to defend “their” feeder. If you add other feeders, it may be best to keep them out of eyeshot of each other!
As we move into May, house wrens will fill all of your bird houses with sticks, and fill your yard with their bubbly songs. Chimney swifts will flutter in the evening air with their twittering sound, and more warblers, vireos and thrushes will sing their way northward. May is upon us, so enjoy the arriving birds that make it so special!
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