Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Local Birding Can Be Rewarding
June 08, 2019
By Steve Grinley
Last Saturday was a case of “there is no place like home” for Margo and me. The day started with “our” TENNESSEE WARBLER calling in the woods behind our home as it had on and off for the past week or so. A blackpoll and an American redstart were two other warbler species we enjoyed hearing that morning. We also had the usual visitors including Baltimore orioles, a male rose-breasted grosbeak, goldfinches, house finches, a pair of cardinals, tufted titmouse, and three species of woodpeckers.
Our two Carolina wrens were feeding at least once youngster. We had our daily visit from a single turkey wandering through the yard. Three grackles continued to raid the suet, much to the dismay of our woodpeckers!
It was a pleasant day, mostly sunny in the 60’s, rare for this wetter-than-usual spring. Margo and I decided to head north to Plum Island hoping to catch up with a mourning warbler or red knots that had been reported earlier in the week. A few flycatchers were still migrating through and we were hoping to find more on Plum Island.
As we started our drive north, we were only a few blocks from our house when I thought I heard a mourning warbler out my car window. We had just passed the Essex Elementary School on Western Avenue and I pulled over immediately, hoping that Margo would hear it as well. There was much bird song coming from the adjacent undeveloped lot adjacent to the school. We sat for sometime with windows open.
After a few minutes of not hearing anything resembling a mourning warbler, I decided to pull into the school next to the lot to get off the road and to investigate further. We got out of our car and heard redstart, goldfinch, and a blackpoll warbler. Margo also heard a wood thrush.
After a few more minutes came the song of a mourning warbler from the thick underbrush in the adjacent lot. Eventually it sang a couple more times, and came out and perched higher in a tree where we both had brief but excellent views. It was a handsome adult male with yellow underparts, a dark gray hood and a small black bib! Very cool!
We proceeded to Plum Island where we saw a number of flycatchers including a probable olive-sided flycatcher across from the north field. Several flycatchers look alike and are difficult to identify unless they call. But we encountered mostly silent flycatchers that day. We were able to see saltmarsh and seaside sparrows in the marsh, but there were few shorebirds present in the Bill Forward Pool dashing our hopes to see red knots.
We returned to Essex later in the day, and since the tide was low, we decided to head for Conomo Point. We first stopped at the Clammers Beach where we found 18 Black-bellied Plovers out on the mudflats. A little further out were a couple of yellowlegs and a great egret.
We then drove up to the boat ramp area where many of the clammers were bringing in their boats with the rising tide. But we could still see more stretches of sand and flats between us and the end of Crane Beach in Ipswich. ,Setting up the scope to scan the flats, I immediately saw three red knots together in one scope view! They were feeding among black-bellied plovers, semipalmated sandpipers and a few willets.
Panning a little further left I came across an American Oystercatcher, a large black and white shorebird with a thick red bill. Oystercatchers are uncommon in Essex County as we are nearing the northern edge of their range. We had seen one a few weeks ago flying over the Hellcat parking lot on Plum Island, but we don’t always see one in the county every year. This oystercatcher last Saturday may have been our first in the town of Essex. Great to have one, and red knots, “in our backyard.”
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