Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Winter’s blast brings new birds to the area
November 17, 2007
Steve Grinley

     This weekend’s cold blast should put us all in the mood or, at least, the mode of winter, and the new birds that it will bring. My friend and fellow birder, Doug Chickering of Groveland was feeling good about the approaching winter when we had some cold days last week:

     “The Grove at Salisbury offered pretty good protection from the cold north wind sweeping over the state reservation and while Lois Cooper and I were in the sun we were quite comfortable. When we walked to the top of the little hill she said something to me about seeing redpolls in the birch trees here in past years. The mention of redpolls caused me to stop and turn around for a second look up into the birch tree that we had just past. Immediately I saw the bird, almost right above my head and instinctively recognized it as a Redpoll.

     “From such little quirks of fate and timing we receive some our nicest moments in the field. It was a nice example, lightly streaked and rosy on the breast. The poll was bright as was the black bib below the bill. I don’t know why we didn’t see the bird before, for we were searching, but that doesn’t, matter, we saw it now, and were able to observe at leisure this hearty little finch. One of the markers of the beginning of winter.

     “Today was surely the actual beginning of winter. The sun stayed low and it’s light seemed pale and weak. The wind from the north was arctic and the birds we saw were winter birds. The redpoll in the Grove, Snow Buntings in the parking lot, Purple Sandpipers taking refuge from the crashing sea on the inside of the breakwater at the mouth of the Merrimac River and the first Common Goldeneye out in the middle of the river. Whenever we were out in the open the north wind punished us with a relentless chill and believe it or not it felt good. It was strangely refreshing, blowing away the thick lethargy of summers heat and humidity. A bracing experience that I know will become old quickly, but is actually enjoyable now.

     “After Salisbury we spent the last half of the morning at Plum Island. Gone was the Golden Plover and we didn’t see the shrike. The Eurasian Wigeon was still in the Pans at Plum Island, there were still some juncos flying up from the side of the road, and a number of yellowlegs in the Pans. A Pied-billed Grebe was still at the Overlook, a Golden-crowned Kinglet and two talkative Red-breasted Nuthatches at the Pines by the new Blind. I regretted not getting crossbills there, for Red Crossbill would be a Plum Island lifer, but am encouraged by the fact that they are there and winter is just beginning. There’s always tomorrow; I still have a shot. It cannot be long before the menacing and magnificent figure of a Snowy Owl will be perched on one of the staddles.”

     Doug’s wish should soon come true. Though I haven’t heard of a Snowy Owl on Plum Island yet, the first one appeared at Logan Airport on November 5th. A Snowy Owl was seen on Boston Common just this past Wednesday, and it was seen perched atop Faneuil Hall later that day! I guess we’ll have to keep an eye out in downtown Newburyport as well!

Steve Grinley
Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift
Route 1 Traffic Circle
194 Route 1
Newburyport, MA 01950
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