Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Bird Walks and Birdathon Encourage Participation
May 12, 2012

By Steve Grinley

     May is a busy time of year in the bird world. Neotropical migrants are streaming into the area en route to their breeding grounds. Some will nest in our area, but most will continue further north and will stay only long enough to rest and “refuel” before moving on. Our first oriole arrived last Sunday at our store feeders and both Baltimore and orchard orioles are arriving in good numbers. We have received many reports of hummingbirds in our area as folks scramble to put up their feeders. One customer had hummingbirds within an hour of putting out her feeder. Another customer said that she just put up her oriole feeder when she turned around to see an oriole there already!

     A few rose-breasted grosbeaks have arrived, some visiting platform or tray feeders for sunflower. White-crowned sparrows are starting to show up, so I have increased the millet that I spread on the ground to entice these handsome sparrows to stop here at the store on their way through. I have an eye out for indigo buntings as well, as I have seen a few in the field, but not yet at my thistle feeders.

     My series of Friday morning bird walks in May for Mass Audubon Joppa Flats have begun, though the first week was cloudy with sprinkles of rain. The two gentlemen who joined me were rewarded with great looks at some warblers on Plum Island, including some stunning male blackburnian warblers with fiery orange throats. We also saw black-throated green, northern parula, yellow-rumped, Nashville, black and white, and yellow warblers. We were delighted with a pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks that were feeding close to the road at Hellcat. Scarlet tanagers were singing, as were a number of purple finches.

     Along the Marsh Loop at Hellcat, we watched a few marsh wrens flitting around the cattails, singing their bubbly song. We also heard a Virginia rail calling, and we flushed at least three glossy ibis along the boardwalk. Three hermit thrushes tried to be secretive as we made our way out to the old blind, but we had good binocular views of them. Some nice birds for early in the month, and it will only get better as May progresses!

     I lead these walks every Friday in May, 8:00 to 11:00 am. Preregistration is NOT necessary, just show up at Joppa Flats by 8 am to join us. If you can’t make Fridays, Joppa also does Wednesday morning (9:30-12:30) and Wednesday evening (5:30-7:30) walks throughout May. No preregistration is necessary, and there is a small fee for all the walks. If you have always wanted to go birding, there isn’t a better time of year to go!

     As you are reading this on Friday evening or Saturday, I am likely out participating in Birdathon, a twenty-four hour birding competition which is Mass Audubon’s main fund raising drive of the year. It looks like the weather will be cooperating this year as we scour every corner of Essex County in search of bird species for Joppa Flats. Yes, we are really busy this time of year with all the migrants coming through, which makes it also a great time to count bird species for Birdathon. It is also a great time to be thinking about all the good things that Mass Audubon does as part of our community. They run a myriad of programs for children, adults and families. They run school programs that bring children closer to nature in this fast moving electronic world.

     Mass Audubon can’t survive on program fees alone. We are hoping to raise $20,000 this year at Joppa to support all our FREE local community programs such as Eagle Festival, Coastsweep, and Birding for the Blind. These are all important programs since they bring a lot of people closer to nature, whom may not otherwise have exposure to environmental conservation programs.

     If you enjoy birds, and enjoy reading my column, I challenge you to pick up the phone and call Joppa (978-462-9998) to pledge a donation. Even five or ten cents per species (we hope to find 170-180 species) or any gift amount ($5, $25 or more) would be gratefully received. There are also pledge forms at Joppa Flats and at Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift. All money donated to Joppa Flats stays at Joppa Flats to support our local community programs. We would really be grateful if you could help!

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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