Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Fall Migrants Sometimes Include Rare Birds
October 01, 2021
By Steve Grinley

     I glanced out the kitchen window one morning this week and saw a huge bird standing under our feeders. It was so tall its head almost reached the bottom of our platform feeder. It was a great blue heron!

     Ok, we have a creek 50 yards into the woods where the herons sometimes fish when the alewife are running, but we have never had one up into our yard and right under the feeders! It’s not like we changed our feeder menu to anchovies so I don’t know what it was after. The out-of-place bird didn’t stay long enough for Margo to get a photo as it soon flew to its usual habitat by the quick flowing stream.

     Our feeders are a bit slower these days, as they usually are when natural seeds are plentiful. We seem to be dominated by families of our familiar birds – titmice, nuthatches, goldfinch, cardinals and downy woodpeckers. Multiple numbers of these birds jockey for position on the feeders.

     Some young birds are still mooching off their parents. The young goldfinches are most obvious with their constant wing-fluttering display of begging. Their parents are already changing from their brighter breeding plumage to their duller winter colors.

     We are keeping up our hummingbird feeders into October. Hummingbirds are still lingering in New Hampshire and a rare Mexican Violetear visited a feeder in Winsor, Vermont for two weeks in September! That is incentive enough for us!

     Out in the field, small numbers of warblers and vireos and being found as they migrate through our area. Small numbers of blackpoll, yellow-rumped, yellow, black-throated green, magnolia, and prairie warblers, as well as northern parulas and redstarts are being seen on Plum Island and local area thickets. The fall specialty, skulking Connecticut warbler, is being found by those with patience and luck.

     Vireos are also moving through the area. Numbers of red-eyed vireos that nest here, but also a few Philadelphia, blue-headed, yellow-throated and less the common white-eyed vireo are being seen. Our friend Sam Miller found all five along the boardwalk at Hellcat Trail on Plum Island this past week, only missing the warbling vireo, another local nester.

     There was a noticeable influx of phoebes this past week, as they seemed to be everywhere we stopped. Pikes Bridge Road in West Newbury, Salisbury Beach State Reservation, and, of course, Plum Island had small groups of three or four birds in areas. John-Paul Jimenez photographed several in his yard on Hay Street in Newbury this week and one visited our deck on Thursday.

     Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers have also been moving through the area this past week as have numerous cuckoos – both yellow-bellied and black-billed. Seems like everyone has been reporting them lately, except for Margo and me who have found these birds elusive this year. We have not run into either one, mostly cases of us being in the wrong place at the right time.

     The highlight this past week was a shorebird. A rare Pacific golden plover was discovered on the fields of the Spencer Pierce Little Farm in Newbury last Saturday. Word didn’t get out until Monday, but birders from all over the state and beyond have flocked there to catch views of this rarity. The rare plover was associating with a flock of killdeer and a few black-bellied plovers. We last saw this species in Alaska in 2008 and one was discovered on Plum Island in 2002.

     Rare birds always seem to highlight Autumn birding so do keep an eye out.

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Port Plaza West Shops
45 Storey Ave, Suite 7B
Newburyport, MA 01950

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