Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Warbler Show Continues in our Area
May 25, 2019
By Steve Grinley
Last week, I shared Doug Chickering’s story about the rare Lawrence’s warbler that was seen on Plum Island a couple of weeks ago. Since that time, the migration has continued to ramp up. This past week provided a steady stream of birds, and especially warblers, moving through the trees and shrubs on Plum Island. Unfortunately, I worked most days and I was only able to steal an hour or two after work on a couple of occasions.
I did catch one good wave of warblers at the S curves on Monday evening after hearing reports of warblers occurring there and at Goodno Woods and the Pines Trail on Plum Island all day long. More often warblers drop in on the island by dawn, move up the island and feed along the way. Then, within a few hours, many warblers fly to the mainland for the remainder of the day. But this day, most had stayed in these “hot pockets”, perhaps feeding on newly hatched insects.
And stay they did, as if waiting for my late arrival. Late day in the S Curves were multiple numbers of many species of warblers including northern parula, American redstart, black-throated green, blackpolls, black & white, and bay-breasted warblers along with common yellowthroats. Most abundant were magnolia and yellow-rumped warblers, as well as numerous red-eyed vireos. Even the usually scarce blackburnian warblers numbered a half dozen or more!
This past week’s warbler show on Plum Island prompted posts on the Massbird listserve that I would like to share with you. Sandy Selesky, a photographer from Westford, MA, posted about the warblers on Monday:
“I am surprised no one posted anything about the great number of warblers in trees all day [Monday] at the S- curves closer to the maintenance buildings and especially on the Pine Trail. I wasn’t counting since I was busy trying for closer pictures so spent most of my day on the lot 5 connector path from the Pines trail by the low white flowering bushes where at least 20+ Magnolias, 2-3 Canada Warblers and 1-2 Blackburnians kept going in and out of them catching small flies and caterpillars. There was another Canada giving close looks off the trail and a couple of close Chestnut-sided Warblers and Red-eyed Vireos.
“Never saw so many Canadas and for such consistent close-up looks and photographic opportunities!! I heard there were 3 Canadas in the same flowering tree at the S-curves too (I saw one on my way out later plus pretty sure I saw an Indigo Bunting). Lots of Black- throated Greens and I was told Bay-breasted at the S-curves plus many Redstarts and more Red-eyed Vireos too!
“The Purple Martins are back and bringing nesting material to the housing by the restrooms.
“Fantastic day there yesterday and 87 degrees!”
Later in the week, Will Freeberg of Belmont posted about his fantastic day on Wednesday:
“… I only made it to Plum Island yesterday [Wednesday] after a part-day of work. From 3:30PM on, I had a frenetic hour of pure warbler joy, and it sounds from ebird like the AM was even better (others reported 22 warbler species, American bittern, black-billed cuckoo, white-crowned and field sparrows).
“At the S-curves, I saw 3 Cape May Warblers, 3 Blackburnian Warblers, 6 Bay-breasted Warblers, ~25 Magnolia Warblers, and 13 American Redstarts, plus 8 Chestnut-sided, 2 Yellow-rumped, 7 Black-throated Green, 4 Blackpoll, 4 Black-and-whites, 12 Common Yellowthroats, and 4 Orchard Orioles, among others. The birds were flocked up; the Cape Mays associated strongly with the Bay-breasts and the others in looser associations that came and went along the road.
“Perhaps more interestingly, at around 8pm, I saw a nice group of Common Nighthawks over Scotland Road in Newbury. In three counts of the same group of banking, circling birds, I got 21, 25, and 24- so somewhere in the low twenties. The birds were hunting actively and many would pass within a few feet of the road before sprinting across the field towards the horizon, almost out of binocular-sight, before circling back around the field edge again.
“I imagine the south wind blew more out last night than it blew in, but I’m curious to see how long the warbler show at Plum (which seems to have been consistently good since Saturday) lasts.”
Other area hotspots such as Martin Burns Wildlife Management Area in Byfield and Pike’s Bridge Road in West Newbury have also had their share of warblers and other migrants. The favorable weather this weekend and more southerly winds should continue to bring these neotropical migrants through our area. I hope you have a chance to get out to your favorite “patch” and experience this migration as it happens!
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
Celebrating 24 years of service to the birding community!
Like us on Facebook! www.facebook.com/birdwatcherssupply