Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Birders Now Focused on Nesting Birds
June 07, 2014
By Steve Grinley

     Migration is slowing as most of the transient birds have already moved through our area. It is now the local breeding birds that are stealing the show in the bird world. Bald Eagles are nesting once again along the Merrimack River in Amesbury, as well as further upstream. Ospreys are back at their platforms in Salisbury, Plum Island and throughout the Great Marsh down to Essex. Kestrels are once again successfully using a nest box in Ipswich.

     Great blue herons have young in rookeries and in isolated nests in Salisbury, Byfield, Georgetown and Boxford. Piping plovers and least terns are nesting on the beaches of Plum Island. The first killdeer and willet chicks are appearing on Plum Island as well.

     First broods of bluebirds have already fledged with some birds starting a second clutch. One successful nesting was witnessed by a West Newbury resident who has a camera set up in her bluebird nest box. This is hooked directly to her TV where she can watch every step of the process. 

     If you still have hummingbirds and orioles coming to your feeders, these are likely resident birds that are nesting in your area. I have had some customers say that the orioles have abandoned their oranges or grape jelly, as many of these birds may have moved further north to New Hampshire and Maine to nest. Local nesting orioles many continue to supplement their diet with nectar and jelly, but many birds will turn to insects. Insects provide the protein necessary for the young birds’ development, so the orioles concentrate on providing insects to their newly hatched offspring. Still, I have customers that go through many jars of jelly and bags of oranges during the summer months. Catbirds, mockingbirds, and even robins will also feed on the grape jelly.

     Goldfinches are starting to compete for perches at the feeders as they build up their energy to prepare to nest. They nest in midsummer, usually in small trees or shrubs and not in bird houses. They wait until summer when there will be more natural seed around for the young once they fledge. Seeds from flowers and weeds become more plentiful toward the latter part of summer and in early fall. 

     Though some birds have had their first brood already, it is not too late to put up a bird house. Many of our local cavity nesters have two, or sometimes three, broods including bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and, of course, house sparrows. You might also catch some first time nesters that are either late arrivals or had trouble finding a mate. 

     First year male purple martins arriving in June could still establish a new colony. Though the colony at the north end of Plum Island appears to be doing very well, the once thriving populations on the Refuge, which use to comprise of three colonies, have all but disappeared. If you live on or near the island, now would have been a good year to try to attract these birds. Purple martins have even taken up residence in tree swallow houses in the marshes of Seabrook, New Hampshire in recent years, due to the lack of appropriate housing there (and, perhaps, here.) Volunteers are trying to provide new housing for them in Seabrook this year.

     Sharing your yard with these and other birds and their offspring can help the birds, as well as add to your summer enjoyment.

     Just a reminder that a free reception, reading, and book signing by local birder and writer extraordinaire, Doug Chickering, will be held tomorrow, Sunday, June 8 at 3pm at Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift at the Route 1 Traffic Circle in Newburyport. Doug’s newly released book, “Reflections on a Golden-winged Warbler” is a collection of his essays, a few of which I have shared with you in this column. If you enjoy Doug’s prose and his eloquent descriptions of birds and birding in our area, please stop by and meet Doug in person.

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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