Words On Birds by Steve Grinley

Newburyport Christmas Bird Count is Monday
December 24, 2011

By Steve Grinley

     It is hard to believe that Christmas is tomorrow. Except for the freak storm that we had back in October and a few brief cold spells and snow flurries since, it has felt more like an extended autumn season. With few exceptions, the birds have reflected this warmer than normal season with the number of lingering birds that should be elsewhere by now.

     I have spoken about the Cassin’s kingbird, the ash-throated flycatchers, and western tanagers that have found their way here and some are still remaining. Those sandhill cranes in Rowley, which apparently departed at the beginning of last week, hung out in the fields along Route 1A for more than three weeks – much longer than in years past. Several reports of lingering catbirds, Baltimore orioles, great egrets and even woodcock are evidence of the milder weather that we have had.

     Last weekend was the Cape Ann Christmas Bird Count (and several others throughout the state) and while there were no mega rarities, there were good numbers of catbirds, hermit thrushes, and yellow-breasted chats, reflecting the milder weather trend that we have had. High numbers and varieties of fresh water ducks were also found since there was so much open water this year.

     The Newburyport Christmas Bird Count is the day after Christmas, on Monday the 26th. Counters are hoping that some of the rare and lingering species will stick around for the count. The Newburyport Count Circle stretches for Plum Island to Georgetown and from Salisbury to Rowley and parts of Ipswich.

     You can participate in the count as a feeder watcher if you wish. You can count the number of birds at your feeders or, even more important, report any unusual birds at your feeders that day. Even red-winged blackbirds, grackles or cowbirds, which normally depart for warmer climates in the fall, should be reported as they are less frequently found on the Christmas Count. You can e-mail your sightings to Tom Young, the Count coordinator atrustysnaketail@yahoo.com or call him at 603-424-4512. Contact Tom as well if you would like to join a team to cover a particular area.

     Any unusual birds that are found during “Count week” but not on the day of the count, can be included in the records. Count week includes three days before, and three days after the day of the actual count. So if you see anything unusual from December 23 to December 29, please let Tom know, and if that species is not found on the 26th, then it can be included.

     Since the winter solstice occurred this past week, the shortest days of the year are upon us and the cold is settling in. Be sure to have food out for the birds and keep the feeders full to help them through the frigid weather to come. Add suet to your menu of offerings as it is a good source of energy for birds year ‘round, but particularly during the colder months. As fresh water becomes frozen and scarce, consider adding a heater/de-icer to your bird bath to keep water open during the winter months. They cost pennies to operate and they could be the only source of open water available to some birds.

     If you are struggling for that last minute Christmas gift, a bird feeder can be a great present. Whether it is a “secret Santa” gift, for a parent, grandparent or child, a bird feeder can bring nature closer to home and can provide a pleasurable pastime for the recipient. Even if someone has bird feeders, they can always use another. There are so many varieties of feeders today, another feeder will supplement their offering to the birds. Then, next year, they too can participate in the annual Christmas Bird Count next year! And a bird feeder has the added benefit of helping the birds survive the cold winter ahead.

     Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season and a New Year full of wonderful birds!

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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