Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Nesting Season Includes Common and Rare Nesters
June 28, 2008
Steve Grinley

     The excitement of three Mississippi kites in Newmarket, New Hampshire has reached the media and birders from all over New England, and beyond, are traveling to see these birds. There is an adult and a sub-adult female, along with a male that have been pleasing spectators in the vicinity of the High School on Route 152. The birds have been seen copulating on numerous occasions, and also bringing sticks to a nest in a maple tree in the residential area. The female has been sitting on the nest for at least the past week, raising hopes that these birds may produce a successful brood.

     Mississippi kites are falcon-like birds that reside in the south, Florida and Texas, and are rarely seen in New England. They have been spotted in migration by hawk watchers in Truro, on the Cape, and more rarely from inland locations. So not only is seeing one unusual, seeing three together is a first. Even more amazing is their attempt to nest, which seems to be happening, so far out of their “normal” range. If successful, this nest will be one for the textbooks!

     Speaking of nesting birds, Margo and I did some more work on our Breeding Bird Atlas project last weekend. This is a five year study by Mass Audubon which is documenting the distribution of breeding birds throughout the state. Scores of volunteers are collecting evidence of breeding for each bird species in their assigned areas, or “blocks”. Our 2 blocks range from approximately the Merrimack River south to just beyond the Parker River and roughly east/west between routes 1 and 95.

     We spent most of one day at Maudslay State Park where we found baby Baltimore orioles, downy woodpeckers, tufted titmice, scarlet tanagers, wood pewees and cardinals all being fed by their parents. We also saw red-eyed vireos, bobolinks, and bluebirds carrying food to their young. We followed a pileated woodpecker for a short while, but never saw it near a nest. We did, however, find a suitable cavity in a dead tree in a swampy area that a pileated may be using, but couldn’t confirm that on this visit. We also heard indigo buntings and a wood thrush singing on territory, but have yet to confirm nesting on those species.

     At the Spring Street pumping station, a chipping sparrow was sitting on a nest. It was successful in defending its nest from some curious grackles. Nearby, a house finch was carrying nesting material, presumably to start a second nesting.

     Along Turkey Hill Road, we watched a black and white warbler carry food to a nest. We saw an ovenbird feed its offspring and watched a baby chickadee being fed by one of its parents.

     In Newbury, there was a recently fledged bluebird, with heavily spotted breast, following its parent near the Transfer Station, hoping to be fed. Willets were on territory along the Parker River along with nesting salt marsh sharp-tailed sparrows and marsh wrens. Cliff swallows are nesting, again, under bridges over the river. In a secluded pond, we watched three young great blue herons being fed by their parent while a pair of kingfishers chased each other around the pond. Chickadees were feeding their fledglings near the pond, as well. Another fledgling Baltimore oriole was calling along Middle Road and we wondered how it, and other fledglings survive from predators with all the noise that they make! It does make them easier to find for our survey!

     I will be away on a birding trip for the next weeks, but I will leave you with some of my favorite “Words” from the past, including a couple written by my daughter, Melissa, for past Father’s Days, which people have requested to read again.

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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