Words On Birds by Steve Grinley
Migrating Birds Keep Birders, and Feeders, Busy
September 21, 2019
By Steve Grinley
September has been an exciting month for birding. There are still numbers of shorebirds moving through, though their numbers are fewer each week. A Hudsonian godwit has been seen regularly at North Pool or at the Bill Forward Pool on the Parker River Refuge. I have seen it at low tide in Newburyport Harbor. Golden plovers are also being seen on Plum Island,
There are still good numbers of “peeps” to sort through, rewarding birders with a few western sandpipers among them. Last week’s prize was a common ringed plover which was spotted originally by a keen eye and a good camera. Many birders observed the rare plover during the several days that it spent on Sandy Point at the southern tip of Plum Island.
Though the terns are pretty much gone from our area, a Caspian tern and a royal tern were seen on Plum Island. Two gull-billed terns have also been hanging out on the island. A few Forster’s terns and common terns were also reported and, a couple of black skimmers appeared on Sandy Point as well.
As I mentioned last week, raptors are on the move. Hundreds and, on some days, thousands of broad-winged hawks have been counted over mountain top observation areas in Massachusetts and western New Hampshire. The hawk watchers are also reporting Cooper’s and sharp-shinned hawks on the move. Raptor migration will continue through September and taper off in October.
Songbird migration is beginning to heat up. A rare Townsend’s warbler, from western United States was found in Marblehead. A few Philadelphia vireos and a number of fall warblers have already been reported in the area including a Connecticut warbler that was banded on Plum Island. A couple of dickcissels have been found in Eastern Massachusetts, and a lark sparrow was discovered on Plum Island. As we move into autumn, more warblers, flycatchers and sparrows will migrate through our area.
Feeders are still active with juvenile birds, especially goldfinch and house finches, as birds are beginning to fuel up for a New England winter or for their migration south. Keeping your feeders full with Nyger, sunflower and suet will help these birds put on the fat for what is ahead.
Cooler temperatures, longer nights and diminishing insects are sending more of our resident birds to feeding stations in search of supplemental fat and protein. Late nesting Carolina wrens may still be in search of mealworms or suet. Even a lingering bluebird will appreciate the handout. If you stopped offering suet for the summer, now is the time to put it back out. Resident woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees and titmice can all use the added fat during these cooler days. Migrants, such as orioles, brown creepers, and pine warblers enjoy suet as well.
The most frequently asked question these past weeks was “When should I take down my hummingbird feeder?” Many of our resident hummingbirds have left, though a few may still be lingering. We also are seeing migrant hummers stopping to refuel at flowers and feeders on their way through. You can take down your hummingbird feeder anytime now, but a few more weeks may sustain those few birds that are migrating from further north. Certainly by early October, most hummers are further south and it is safe to take down feeders. Those that keep a feeder up later in the fall sometimes get rewarded with a vagrant, such as a rufous or other western hummingbird that strayed in migration.
In the same way, most orioles have left, though we also see a few migrants during September. Oriole feeders can also be taken down anytime now.
By month’s end, a variety of sparrows, including white-throated and white-crowned, will be scratching underneath feeders. They enjoy white millet, as will the juncos that should be arriving shortly. Also in October, fox and tree sparrows may stop by and the tree sparrows may stay all winter.
The other good news is that as October approaches, flocks of grackles and other blackbirds should be moving south. Those pesky blackbirds that may dominate your feeders do migrate, and they should be gone in a few weeks. Once they leave, you can then learn to “enjoy” the squirrels again!
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