Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Check for Unusual Birds Among November Migrants
November 01, 2014
By Steve Grinley

     The first snowy owls of the season are being seen. One was seen on Cape Ann last weekend and another was reported at Salisbury. Though it is unlikely that we will see the numbers of snowy owls that we enjoyed last winter, the leming population up north, their main food source, probably hasn’t fully recovered yet, so we should enjoy seeing snowy owls on Plum Island again this year. 

     The first short-eared owl of the young season was seen on Plum Island this past week. Tom Wetmore reported the owl seen one morning in the dunes between Lots 1 and 2 on the refuge. Also on the refuge last week was a barred owl. The barred owl is a common resident of Massachusetts, but not often seen on the island. The resident great horned owls on the island have established the territory as their own and will try to keep out intruders.

     We saw several large flocks of pine siskins last Saturday at the Salisbury Beach State Reservation, with one flock comprised of thirty to forty siskins. Bob and Bonnie Buxton reported a dozen siskins bathing in their man-made creek at their house and said that the birds hadn’t come to their feeders yet. That seems to be true elsewhere as well as the pine siskins will continue to feed on pine cones and especially ash and birch seeds while the crops are still plentiful. As those sources get consumed, they will find their way to area thistle and sunflower feeders. 

     The same is true of purple finches. We saw many small groups of purple finches while we were birding last weekend. They were feeding on pine cones and berries, though many have already found the sunflower feeders in the neighborhood as well.

     Sparrows are coming through in good numbers now. Local fields and edges are supporting flocks of white-throated sparrows and a few white-crowned sparrows. Migrating song, savannah, chipping, and swamp sparrows are all being reported in decent numbers. Lucky individuals have spotted less common clay-colored, vesper, and even LeConte’s sparrows among the sparrow populations. A dickcissel or two have also been seen. So check those sparrows under your feeders carefully!

     A female painted bunting was found among a few indigo buntings in a cemetery near the Chestnut Hill Reservoir in Boston this week. The greenish colored, canary-like bird is a rare bird in Massachusetts, but one seems to be found nearly every year. More spectacular is the male painted bunting that was found in Stamford, Connecticut this week. These multi-colored birds are so stunning, you almost can’t believe that any bird could be “painted” such bright colors!

     The duck numbers are building in area reservoirs, harbors, and marshes. As many as three Eurasian wigeons are among the tens of American wigeons at the Salt Pannes on the Parker River Refuge. Ruddy duck numbers are growing at the Cherry Hill Reservoir in West Newbury, along with mergansers and ring-necked ducks.

     A greater white-fronted goose is being seen among the many Canada geese in the Artichoke Reservoir in West Newbury. The flocks of geese foraging in all the area corn fields should be double checked for the smaller barnacle, cackling, snow, and Ross’ geese as well. A late sandhill crane might still show up in those corn fields as well!

     With birds on the move, you can check your favorite areas for those different species that show up this time of year. Especially check your yard and feeders for anything that is different. November is the month when we expect the unexpected!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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4 years of service to the birding community! 
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