Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

First Week of May Brings Many Migrants
May 8, 2010
By Steve Grinley

     Last weekend’s southwest winds predictably brought in the first good wave of migrants. Orioles, both Baltimore and orchard, arrived in good numbers. Plum Island was alive with warblers, blue-headed vireos, and ruby-crowned kinglets. We counted twenty-five northern waterthrushes singing all over the wet areas of the Hellcat Nature Trail on Saturday. Yellow-rumped were the most numerous warblers on the island, flitting everywhere along the road and trails. There was a nice selection of other warblers including Nashville, black-throated blue, black-throated green and an ovenbird.

     Hermit thrushes were also everywhere, and we saw many of them “fly catching” rather than feeding on the ground in their usual manner. A few early bobolinks were in the North Field area. Soras, Virginia rails and marsh wrens announced their arrival to the North Pool marsh.

     We heard a blue-winged warbler singing on Highfield Road in Newbury and we had nice looks at a male scarlet tanager off Middle Road. A pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks arrived at Pike’s Bridge Road in West Newbury, as has a yellow warbler and blue-gray gnatcatcher.

     There were not many reports of hummingbirds last weekend, and the migration slowed somewhat during the week. More southwest winds in the days and weeks ahead should bring more hummers and other migrants to our area. As the week progressed, Doug Chickering of Groveland explored some areas closer to his home:

     “Part of the pleasure of spring migration comes in experiencing the contrasting nature its elements. There is exhilarating turmoil, and there is calming order. There is the familiar and there is the exotic. The thrill of discovery and the reassurance of predictability.

     “Today Lois Cooper and I decided to hit our reliable local spots, to see if the regulars have returned; to see if the old comforting order is still intact. And even though we were glad to see that spring is progressing in its orderly fashion, we had some nice surprises to spice up the day. We decided to hit three of our favorite local patches, and briefly looked in on another.

     “J.B.Little Road has proved to be a really nice birdy spot these last few years and it was the first place we visited. It was also less than mile from the house, which makes it the natural first stop. The forecast was for a sunny day with wind and what we got was a spectacular morning with no wind. Just as we had hoped the place was quite active. We encountered a singing Northern Waterthrush almost immediately, which was unexpected. But waterthrush seems to be everywhere these days. We had the usual belligerent Yellow Warbler’s chasing each other through the underbrush; Warbling Vireos dancing and singing up in the trees; the distant trill of an unseen Red-bellied Woodpecker and the occasional pairs of Wood Ducks flying overhead. A stunning Oriole in the sun, a Great Blue Heron flying lazily over the marshes, Song Sparrows at the edge, Catbirds scolding us from the roadside, and the bird we had come down to see; Blue-gray Gnatcatcher. Back again, old reliable.

     “And then there was the totally unsuspecting. Flying to the broken off top of the relic of a large tree was a heron that I assumed, by its dark color to be a Great Blue but upon inspection turned out to be a Little Blue Heron – so far from a salt marsh, so far from the ocean. A Little Blue Heron practically in our yard. J. B. Little Road is the gift that never stops giving.

     “We stopped by the other side of Johnson’s Pond to see if the Warbling Vireo’s returned and sure enough; more reliability, they were calling and interacting as they have been for over two decades, in exactly the same spot; as sure as death and taxes. Actually we saw or heard Warbling Vireo practically everywhere we went and many places in between. As was the case with Baltimore Oriole. Whenever we emerged from the car it seems as if the first thing that greeted us was the lilting call of the Oriole.

     “We had Bluebirds at Veasey Park and a Brown Thrasher calling from a tree top at strawberry fields. Our final stop was at the end of Crane’s Neck Road in hopes that the Yellow-throated Vireo may have arrived. It hadn’t, which was a semi-disappointment, but we were amply compensated by our first Redstart of the year and by finding the other bird we had hoped to find there – Blue-winged Warbler.

“So it wasn’t a rush of rarities, nor fodder for the hot line, but it was a spectacularly good day. We had our surprises and it was gratifying to greet old friends coming home.”

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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4 years of service to the birding community! 
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