Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Local Author Shares His Birding Experience
May 10, 2014
By Steve Grinley

     May is a special time on Plum Island when, if the winds and other conditions are right, you can experience and amazing phenomenon whereby large numbers of warblers and other passerines drop in to feed and revive themselves on their journey north. Doug Chickering of Groveland experienced just such a “fallout” of warblers back in 2008 which he described for us in a way that only Doug can do:

     “If it is my fate to spend time during eternity in paradise I think I have a fairly clear notion as to what it will be like; or at least what paradise is like for this poor soul. Some of it anyway will be like today. I guess these special days come practically every May and every time one comes we are convinced that there never has been its equal. Whatever the truth of the matter, there can be no doubt that these are about the brightest days of the year. Even a day like today when there was no sun and there were even a few touches of rain. It was a day for the Warblers and apparently it made little difference where you were; as long as you were in Massachusetts and were searching for migrants.

     “I was on Plum Island and it seldom gets any better than today. The highlight for Lois and I was probably the Cape May Warbler; dark and crisp and out in the open; playing to the plaudits of the crowd. There is nothing like a Cape May Warbler or it’s equivalent to spread good cheer and a sense of camaraderie to an appreciative gathering of friends and strangers. However the Cape May was just the most obvious highlight.

     “The trees and edges were rife with birds. At times the shear number of them was almost overwhelming. Each tug of a branch or flicker of movement brought the promise of a nice bird and the possibility of a great moment of discovery. We would search the trees with disciplined method or flit from one motion to another frantic with the gnawing fear that a cherished moment was passing by. There would be the great sense of accomplishment to get a great look at the Blackburnian or whatever; immersing ourselves in the pure beauty of the sight and then the next minute feel slightly crestfallen at having missed the Chestnut-sided you hadn’t seen yet. (“Honest it right here a few seconds ago… I think I hear it across the road”)

     “Time stood still at every movement up in the oak fronds and it was spirited away before you knew the morning was nearly over. The birds are everywhere and you can’t be. That’s the glory of it. That’s the frustration of it. A day in Paradise. What more can a mortal soul ask for? It’s still early May. How about another?”

     Doug always has a way to draw us into the experience. If you enjoy his writing as much as I do, you’ll be interested to know that he had published a collection of his essays in his newly released book: “Reflections on a Golden-winged Warbler-The Joys and Aesthetics of Birding.” This passionate and local chronicle of Plum Island area birding is only locally available, at present, from Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift in Newburyport. We plan to have a reading and book signing with Doug in the near future. Pick up your copy today-it will make a great Mother’s Day gift!

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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