Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Feeder Birds Finding Natural Food Afield
June 06, 2015
By Steve Grinley

     I have had numerous customers and phone callers say that they were inundated with birds at their feeders in April and May, but in the past two or more weeks – almost none! Many were fearful that something devastating had happened to the birds. “Where are the birds?” they asked.

     Many of our feeder birds, such as chickadees, nuthatches and titmice, are also insect eaters. When insects are available, as they are right now, birds make fewer visits to feeders and take advantage of the abundance of insects. Many birds are nesting now, and they will seek insects as a source of protein for their young birds. Insects are also a source of water for birds and as we were lacking rain in mid to late May, birds relied more on insects for their water. If you have a bird bath, that might provide another attraction for birds to visit your yard.

     A couple of customers have already returned to say that their birds came back. So don’t be concerned that “your” birds are absent. Soon they are likely to return with their young fledglings to show them your feeders as a source of food. It will be fun to watch the adults feeding their young, and it is sometimes comical to watch the awkward baby birds try to fend for themselves.

     If you miss the birds at your feeders, now might be a good time to venture out and watch birds away from your yard. You’ll soon see that they are doing just fine out there in the natural world. Now is a good time to try bird watching with a group. The mad rush of migration has past and most of the birds you will see and learn to identify are resident or, at least, summer resident birds that will stick around and become more familiar over time. 

     Now is a great time to join a Wednesday morning or Saturday morning bird walk with the Mass Audubon Joppa Flat Center. There you will join other beginners and more experience birders who can show you the birds and help you to identify them by sight and sound. It is great fun to go with others when you first start out. Instead of spending time leafing through a field guide to find out what you are looking at, others can point out the field marks to look for while you are still looking at the bird!

     Here are a few excerpts from David Weaver’s trip report from last Wednesday morning’s birding trip:

     “All told, it was a very pleasant day to be on Plum Island. Obviously, the birds were happy to have the rain over – there was lots of bird song most everywhere up and down the island. Great that we could enjoy the vocalizations, because surely song will be decreasing the deeper we get into June.

     “As we made our way down the refuge road, songs of several species could be heard, including GRAY CATBIRD, YELLOW WARBLER, COMMON YELLOWTHROAT, EASTERN TOWHEE, SONG SPARROW, and PURPLE FINCH. Not too far from the road in the small pannes, an adult KILLDEER was seen acting as home base for two offspring not too long out of the shell – at least that’s what we calculated once we counted all the legs and divided by 2! … Throughout the morning, EASTERN KINGBIRDS could be heard and seen…

     “One species that certainly continues to vocalize in profusion is the WILLET, many of which we saw and heard along the way. In this same area, our little caravan was stymied by a tom WILD TURKEY, puffed and strutting his wares right down the middle of the road, “gobbling” away for good measure. All the while, in the North Field, some BOBOLINKS were busy doing their thing in the name of populating their own kind. 

     “From there, we continued on down to Sandy Point State Reservation to see what the beach held for us in the way of plovers and terns… On the beach, we were pleased to find quite a few PIPING PLOVERS – 20 or so adults, AND four chicks! The overwhelming response in our group to seeing these little guys was, “Oh, they are so CUTE!!”…Also in the mix at Sandy Point were at least 40 LEAST TERNS, many of which were on nests…As we were watching a couple of BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, what to our wondering eyes should appear but nine RED KNOTS (!!) as they flew in and landed on exposed sand two thirds of the way across the pond. Wow, what a treat! All of these birds were in beautiful breeding plumage…

     “Making our way back up the island, … a couple of AMERICAN REDSTARTS were heard singing. In the scrubby field just south of the new blind, we heard the song of a FIELD SPARROW, which I liken to the start up of a locomotive or the bouncing of a ping pong ball. At the Hellcat parking lot, a PURPLE FINCH was heard and seen perched high for all to see. There was also a BALTIMORE ORIOLE heard in the area. From the Hellcat dike, MARSH WRENS were “bubbling” in the North Pool marsh, …Further up the refuge road, just shy of the North Pool Overlook, some of our group saw some CEDAR WAXWINGS. Some pair bonding was seen as one of the waxwings transferred some nesting material to another. That was pretty neat! Three GREATER YELLOWLEGS were seen in one of the small pannes and six PURPLE MARTINS were present on the nesting gourds at lot # 1 as our program came to an end. 

     “All in all, a pretty decent day on Plum Island and Parker River Refuge – a total of 57 species…Bill Gette and I look forward to seeing you next Wednesday [or Saturday] – come join us!”

     And see that the birds are doing just fine!

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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