WORDS ON BIRDS
Early Spring Migrants Are Arriving
April 08, 2017
By Steve Grinley
wet spring that we have had so far seems to have slowed the
migration. Yet birds seem to be trickling in. Last weekend, Margo
and I made a trip to the Sudbury Valley with stops along Pelham
Island Road in Wayland and ending at Great Meadows National Wildlife
Refuge in Concord. This is one of my favorite birding areas in early
spring – partly because, as a teenage, I was able to bike it from my
home in Newton. Also, it tends to be about a week ahead of
Newburyport in foliage and bird migration so early April always seem
to have “new” birds.
We started at
Pelham Island Road. A blue-winged teal had been reported there, but
not while we were present. We did see a dozen wood ducks, one
gadwall, and small flock of ring-necked ducks. Our first tree
swallows of the season were flying back and forth over the water,
snatching insects off the surface. An eastern phoebe appeared on the
sticks in front of us, another season first.
As we scanned for other birds, we had distant views of a kettle of
nine turkey vultures circling their way northward. We noticed a
red-tailed hawk perched on a bare snag in the middle of the marshy
area. A photographer with a long lens took advantage of the sunlight
on the raptor and was shooting away. As he did, the light-colored
red-tail flew to a tree just off the side of the road right in front
of the photographer. This juvenile hawk sported a pale plumage and
light tail, barred in brown when he turned around. The bird seemed
interested in something below, close to the edge of the water. He
seemed totally unconcerned of the photographer who was now getting
some great close-ups.
down the road to Heard Pond where there were many more tree
swallows, but most were across the pond in poor light. Usually we
see our first rough-winged swallow here, but not this day. It is
along this road that we also find our first gnatcatcher of the
season, but it seemed a bit too early for one.
We were told that Hager Pond was only fifteen minutes from there, so
we headed there, hoping for a Eurasian wigeon that had been reported
in a flock of American wigeon. We found the pond and stopped a
couple of places to try to view as much of the pond s possible. We
did see ring-necked ducks, hooded mergansers, mallards, but no
wigeon of any type. As Margo scanned with the scope, she suddenly
exclaimed, “there it is!” Sure enough, she found the Eurasian wigeon
by itself, with its distinct rusty head shimmering in the sunlight.
It must have appeared from behind one of the small island on the far
side of the pond.
Next we drove to
Nine Acre corner in Sudbury. The water levels were high and some of
the fields flooded. Tens, if not hundreds of robins were feeding in
the drier fields. Among them were small flocks of blackbirds that
included out first cowbirds of the year. We also spotted a pair of
killdeer in the fields and my first meadowlark of the year.
After an ice cream break, we headed to Great Meadows in Concord.
Surprisingly, we saw few wood duck there, but more hooded
mergansers. One pair of mergansers tried to fly up to one of the
wood duck boxes, perhaps to check it out or to claim it as their
own. Several great blue herons from a nearby rookery were flying
around and feeding in the water.
Margo also spotted a distant pied-billed grebe among the reeds on
the far shore – our first for the year. Suddenly, our first osprey
of the season appeared overhead, circled the observation platform
and made a couple of unsuccessful diving attempts for fish right in
front of us. It was a nice topping of an afternoon with several new
This past week
there have been local reports of great and snowy egrets and a Glossy
ibis appeared in Rowley, Wilson’s snipe, green-winged teal and
northern shovelers are being seen along Scotland Road in Newbury.
There are lots of fox sparrows around and savannah sparrows are
arriving on Plum Island. With warmer weather promised for the coming
days, get out and see what new migrants you can find!
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