Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Hummingbirds and Orioles Arriving
May 01, 2021
By Steve Grinley
The number one question this past week has been whether or not anyone has seen any hummingbirds or orioles in the area this week. Indeed they have.
A hummingbird was feeding on daffodils along Parker Street in Newburyport, the homeowner waiting for it to come to the feeder in the backyard. Other customers have reported hummers at their feeders in Ipswich and West Newbury. Our neighbor, Phil, reported his first hummingbird in Essex. Meanwhile, we have our fuchsia plant outside and our hummingbird feeder waiting.
So it is time to dust off your hummingbird feeder and put it out to entice an early hummer to visit and fuel up after their long journey. One part sugar to three or four parts water is the mixture if you mix it yourself, and do change it out every few days. Many more hummingbirds will arrive in May, so please be patient.
Baltimore orioles have been spotted in Merrimac, Rowley, Ipswich, Topsfield and West Newbury. An orchard oriole was seen at the Oak Hill Cemetery in Newburyport and we heard one in Newbury the other day. So it is time to put out nectar, oranges and grape jelly if you wish to attract beautiful orioles to your yard. Again, many more orioles will be arriving in May, so patience may be needed for them as well.
Rose-breasted grosbeaks have visited feeders in Merrimac and West Newbury already and others have been reported from Ipswich and Plum Island. We have our tray feeders filled with sunflower, now enjoyed by cardinals, blue jays and a host of other birds, ready for the grosbeaks arrival to our yard.
The number two question this past week concerned the congregation of birders at the Cherry Hill Reservoir in West Newbury. If you have driven past the reservoir in the past couple of weeks, you probably noticed lines of cars and birders with scopes and binoculars gazing over the water and nearby areas. In addition to the five local species of swallows feeding over the water (tree, barn, rough-winged, bank and cliff), a rare cave swallow has also been in the mix.
This cave swallow is the Caribbean subspecies, told by its dark cinnamon rump, flanks and sides. It is a first record of this subspecies in Massachusetts. We have had the southwestern subspecies as a late fall migrant for several years starting back around 2009. The southwestern birds started dispersing north and east and were often seen heading south along the coast.
Picking out the cave swallow at Cherry Hill among hundreds of flying swallows has been like a needle in a haystack for many birders. The windy days were particularly challenging. It took me three tries before I eventually had excellent binocular views as it flew over the pond and adjacent field on the northwest side. Others were lucky to have it perched with other swallows on bare branches of trees lining the reservoir.
In addition to the now six swallow species present, we saw three purple martins hanging out near the horse corrals. Bluebirds are regularly seen there as well. A pair of killdeer were contemplating a nest site, and Savannah sparrows were feeding in the corral.
Others are now reporting newly arrived chimney swifts in the mix swallows at the reservoir. Green herons, Baltimore orioles, osprey and bald eagles have also been seen in the area. So if you are driving by the reservoir, there is more to see than birders!