WORDS ON BIRDS
Birding Events to Enjoy This Month
August 19, 2017
By Steve Grinley
I wrote about our visit to Plum Island and some of the birds that we
encountered. Doug Chickering of Groveland shares with us some of the
Plum Island birding events he looks forward to every year at this
“Lois and I started the
morning on Plum Island at parking lot 1 where I set up my scope to
get Lois on the newly made Purple Martins sticking their heads out
of the openings of the gourds where they were born. This is where
they would wait for food, struggle with any siblings trying to do
the same, and encounter the new world for the first time.
“Lois and I have been checking the gourds at parking lot#1 ever
since the Martins arrived in April. Mostly just to see and hear them
busily going about their day, but now in early August we start
looking for the fresh new fuzzy heads and yellow gapes of the
fledglings. It happens every year and it never gets old.
“As we watched the young birds getting fed we couldn’t help but
notice the increase of Tree Swallows flying fairly high above the
Martin Gourds. And when we started down the island we stopped before
we got to Parking lot#2 when we saw Tree Swallows that were gathered
into a dense mob around and in some low trees that were heavy with
fruit. Apparently, the staging of the Tree Swallows had begun.
“The staging of the Tree Swallows is a
particularly spectacular avian show that will probably last until
Labor Day. Sometimes the number of Tree Swallows seen can be
breathtaking as they cluster in frantic groups to gorge themselves
on the Bayberries, fill the air, and occasionally blanket the road
in uncountable numbers. A show so spectacular that even non-birders
are left in gaping awe when they encounter it. To us who know it is
coming it is an event not to be missed. It happens every year.
“Just south of the pans I pulled the
car over at the sight of a cluster of slender white forms in the
salt marshes. Another of those special scenes at Plum Island. The
Egrets were off nest and were out in the marshes in large numbers to
feed. They like to cluster around tidal pools where the relentless
and unfeeling tide has stranded large schools of minnows and other
small fish in the shallows where they could be picked off by Egrets
and Herons at their leisure.
often the salt marshes are so extensive and the food so distributed
that the egrets are little more than a scattering of white spots out
over the green expanse. Occasionally one pool is particularly
crowded with fish and the waders gather in large numbers and offer
an impressive picture of pure white birds in the dense green
background. To varying degrees, it is something that happens every
“Every year. There are events,
small and large, prosaic and spectacular that mark the progress of
the year. They will never be reported on e-bird or cause a ripple of
excitement on any rare bird alert. I suspect there are some birders
who pass them over as done-that, seen-that and not worthy of special
“There is always the
excitement of finding something new and something rare but these are
the expected predictable bird events that guide us through the year.
Even though I appreciate the rare find as much as the next birder I
am also thrilled by the more mundane experiences in the field. Baby
Purple Martins, Tree Swallows at the bayberries, Egrets gathering in
a pool. These are just a few of things that I love, and that I never
tired of. I am blessed.”
enjoy Doug’s writing, pick up a copy of his book “Reflections on a
Golden-winged Warbler” at your favorite birding or book store. It is
a collection of many of his memorable short essays on birds and
birding in the Newburyport area.
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