Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Birds Arrived Early with April Warm-Up
May 9, 2009
By Steve Grinley

     I need to publicly thank my daughter Melissa for the column that she wrote that entertained you for the past three weeks. From all the comments that I have received, most of you seemed to enjoy it.

     I was in Colorado for ten days, covering every corner of the state, with the primary objective of seeing several species of grouse and prairie chickens doing their courtship displays on their leks. It was an exhausting, but successful, trip, traveling 2000 miles in those ten days and rising at 3 am on many morning in order to be at the leks before dawn. I’ll save the details of that trip for another time.

     We arrived home to eighty degree weather and the May migration had already started in late April. The warm weather that we had two weeks ago brought in orioles, tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, many species of warblers, and even a few hummingbirds. This was very early for many of these birds and it had folks scrambling to put out their oriole and hummingbird feeders. I put out the grape jelly here at the store and a Baltimore oriole showed up a day later. Numerous customers have reported up to a dozen or more at their feeders.

     Out in the field, there were warblers galore, along with catbirds, wood thrush, indigo buntings, house wrens, kingbirds and swallows. In Newburyport Harbor, hundreds of greater and lesser yellowlegs fed along the mud flats while thousands of long-tailed ducks put on a show in the channel. Four common terns and a Forster’s tern showed up early. As Doug Chickering of Groveland put it; “today was the best birding May day that has ever occurred in April.”

     However, the stationary front that hung over us this past week, giving us rain every day, has brought the migration to a crawl. Though we need the rain, this pattern should change this coming week and we can expect more birds to come in on southwest winds. Now is time to put out those hummingbird and oriole feeders if you haven’t done so already. Remember to change the nectar every few days and to keep oranges and grape jelly fresh in the feeders. I also heard my catbird in back of the store and I’m sure that he will be making visits to the grape jelly.

     Orioles also enjoy suet when they first arrive back, as do so many other birds. Tanagers, Carolina wrens, catbirds and others will especially enjoy the orange and berry flavored suet. Continuing suet into June will also help the woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and other resident birds.

     Keep the sunflower stocked in your feeders as the rose-breasted grosbeaks that are arriving may make an appearance in your yard. The striking males are unmistakable, but the female look like a very large sparrow with a heavy beak. Many will stay and nest in the area and they could bring their young birds to your feeders.

     Male goldfinches are now sporting their bright yellow and black and they are ravenous once again at our thistle feeders. With the rain we’ve had, be sure to check your thistle to be sure that it is fresh. Pine siskins are also hanging out this spring, with some nesting in the area. They will also enjoy the thistle, as will any indigo buntings that may be passing through.

     Now is the time to prepare your bird baths as well. Water attracts more birds, since many birds that don’t eat seed and won’t visit feeders do enjoy water. You may see warblers, waxwings, bluebirds, vireos and other birds drinking and/or bathing from the water you provide. Add a little motion with a dripper, waterfall rock, water wiggler, or solar pump to attract even more birds!

     Don’t forget the mealworms for the bluebirds. Many bluebirds have hatched their first brood already, and they may have two or three broods this season. Putting out mealworms will help supplement their natural insect diet and will may help toward a successful nesting in your yard or neighborhood.

     Enjoy Spring and the May migration!

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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