Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Warblers Highlighting May Birding
May 15, 2010
By Steve Grinley

     “Our” oriole showed up at the store feeders for the first time this past Monday. He is a brilliant male, with his orange coloration melding into an almost iridescent red chest. He is breathtaking to watch as he comes to feed on grape jelly. I have oranges out there, but he seems to ignore those. I can always tell when he is at the feeder as he announces his arrival with a clear whistle -almost telling me to look up! A female showed up a few days later. The catbirds still come to the jelly as well.

     We haven’t seen any hummingbirds here at the store feeder yet. I have had several customers tell me that “their” hummingbird has arrived. The warmer trend this weekend should bring more hummers in.

     I led two early morning walks this week and lucked out with sunny, albeit chilly, weather for both. On Tuesday morning, we walked down Pike’s Bridge Road in West Newbury. This is one of my favorite places as it has diverse habitats that attract a nice variety of birds. We heard a blue-winged warbler near the entrance and a blue-headed vireo was singing across Turkey Hill Road. We struggled to get looks at these birds in the heavy foliage of the maples and oaks.

     As we walked down Pike’s Bridge Road, we heard, and briefly saw, a magnolia warbler. We actually got better looks at one further along. Black and white warblers were singing and they were crawling along the branches and tree trunks like nuthatches. As we approached the bridge, a yellow warbler was singing atop a small tree. Bobolinks were flying over the field, skylarking – singing their bubbly song as they flew.

     We had wonderful looks at a beautiful blue-winged warbler. Everyone was able to see its blue-gray wings against a bright yellow body and its black line through its eye. Less stunning, but fun to see, were a pair of warbling vireos. These rather drab, gray birds have a rolling song, much like a purple finch. While we watched them, a solitary sandpiper called out from the marsh. We were able to see two of these sandpipers, together – which hardly makes them “solitary”, right?

     Further down the path, we had great looks at a male scarlet tanager, rose-breasted grosbeaks, Baltimore oriole, a northern parula, and a common yellowthroat. A northern waterthrush sang from a wet area. A pair of kingbirds were flitting about the tops of the trees. The highlight for many of us was watching a pair of blue-gray gnatcatchers building a nest high in a tree.

     On Thursday morning’s walk to the Oak Hill Cemetery, the birds were fewer and the foliage even more challenging. For the first hour or so, we struggled to find singing red-eyed vireo, pine warbler, scarlet tanager and great crested flycatchers high in the trees. We did catch glimpses of the tanager, but he was not completely molted into his vivid red coloration. He had small splotches of yellow-green over part of his body, making him less stunning than the one we had seen at Pike’s Bridge Road.

     We decided to walk out to the water tower and we were rewarded with an indigo bunting singing atop a not-so-tall tree. However, he, too, was partially molted into his breeding coloration of indigo and had some specks of gray mixed in. He was still handsome in the morning sunlight. One of the participants commented that this was the first one that she had seen in five years and it made her day!

     When we walked back into the cemetery, we had better luck seeing some birds. We saw a singing redstart and a magnolia warbler. The red-eyed vireo finally moved to an outer branch of a tree and we could easily spot its white chest reflecting in the sunlight. We saw a singing chipping sparrow and we were able to compare its song to that of a similar sounding pine warbler hidden nearby. Just as we were about to get back in our cars, the pine warbler came out in the open, close enough to see, feeding in an oak just above us and it gave everyone great views. It was a nice way to end the morning trip.

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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