Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Helping Birds, and Us, Survive the Heat
August 01, 2015
By Steve Grinley

     We are finally entrenched in the hot and humid summer weather that has pretty much eluded us until now. Several days in the 90’s and humidity nearing 70’s are hard on all of us, including the birds. Please be sure that you continue to provide fresh water for the birds, changing the water daily if necessary during these hot spells. 

     Also be sure to change your hummingbird nectar more frequently during these very hot days. You know how that bottle of water that has been sitting in your hot car for a few hours tastes, so just think what those little hummers must be tasting! The sugar-water will ferment very quickly with hotter temperatures, and the hummingbirds will avoid your feeders completely and expend more energy to search for fresher food sources. 

     The same is true of your jelly feeders. Keeping the grape jelly fresh will keep those orioles visiting with their families. We still have several young birds coming to our jelly. They finally figured out how to feed themselves at the jelly dish. Once in a while one of the parents will show up to partake of the treat that we offer. We have also seen a few family groups of orioles in our travels, so they are still around, fueling up for an early departure for their wintering grounds in Central and South America. 

     Keeping all your feeders filled will also help the rest of the birds by continuing to offer them a local food source and, thus, they won’t need to forage as far for food during these hot days. So many customers have told me about all the woodpeckers that are visiting their suet, so you will want to keep the no-melt type suet out for them. Keeping those birds happy will keep you entertained while watching them from a nice air conditioned room!

     Though we are in the deep heat of summer, it is hard to believe that the fall migration has already begun. The shorebirds numbers are starting to build as they move through from their breeding grounds in northern Canada, stopping to feeding on the mudflats, beaches and pools that our area has to offer. Low tide brings sandpipers and plovers to the exposed Joppa Flats in Newburyport Harbor, while hide tide forces them to forage the edges of fresh ponds or salt water pools of Plum Island and the Great Marsh. Sanderlings and plovers will feed along the tide wrack on our beaches, as will an occasional ruddy turnstone.

     A few less common shorebirds have already appeared in our area. Whimbrels have been heard and seen on Plum Island and along Crane Beach in Ipswich. Large flocks of whimbrels have been seen in Maine and in Westport, on the south coast of Massachusetts .These large shorebirds with striped heads and long, decurved bills have a loud alarm call that carries far, so these birds are often heard before being seen. 

     An even less common bird here has an upturned bill – the striking black and white American avocet. Two avocets were seen flying by in Hampton, New Hampshire about a week ago. Since then one has appeared in coastal marshes of New Hampshire while another has appeared off and on in Stage Island Pool and in Bill Forward Pool on the Parker River Refuge on Plum Island. With the Great Marsh covering such an expansive area, it is hard to say if these represent the same two birds, or perhaps more avocets are in the area.

     Watching the shorebirds migrate through the area is always a thrill. There are different birds in different numbers every time we go to watch. Though we are often competing with the beach crowds, our real competition is with those pesky greenhead flies! With the astronomical high times starting this weekend, it should help end the threat of the greenheads in the days ahead. And spending time near the cooler ocean breezes to watch shorebirds is certainly welcome on these hot summer days!

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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