WORDS ON BIRDS
Migrating Birds Are Lingering Longer
December 02, 2017
By Steve Grinley
told that there is no such thing as global warming. Yet this fall
has been the second warmest on record. Birds adjust to the changing
temperatures and, thus, many migrate south to warmer temperatures to
escape our cold winters. There have been predictable patterns of
bird migration over time, but this year many more summer residents
have chosen to linger longer than usual.
Sandhill cranes, a relative newcomer to New England nesters, were
still lingering in Maine a couple of weeks ago and eight were seen
migrating south past Kingston New Hampshire just last week. Strings
of blackbirds and double-crested cormorants can still be seen
streaming south this late in the season. Flocks of Canada geese are
still feeding in the fields of Ipswich and Middleton, choosing to
delay their flight south.
still great egrets in the marshes of Cape Cod and the South Coast.
Shorebirds are lingering even in the Newburyport area with hundreds
of dunlin and scattered numbers of black-bellied plovers still being
seen. A few greater yellowlegs remain and even two white-rumped
sandpipers are still hanging out on Plum Island into December. Large
flocks of meadowlarks are still on the outer Cape Cod and a rare
western meadowlark was discovered on Plum Island last week. Even a
few tree swallows continue to be spotted in southern Massachusetts!
Most surprising are the discoveries
of warblers and vireos that are still with us. These birds should be
in Central and South America by now! At Odionne State Park in Rye
recently, two Cape May warblers, a Tennessee, orange-crowned, pine,
blackpoll, and rare yellow-throated warbler was seen along with two
yellow-breasted chats. A yellow-throated vireo was also seen there.
Warblers found on Cape Ann this
past week included three orange-crowned, blue-winged, palm, pine,
Tennessee and northern parula. A white-eyed vireo and seventeen
catbirds were also found! Sounds more like a list from September or
These late migrants
are presenting additional excitement for area birders. Fellow birder
and local author Doug Chickering discovered an unexpected late
migrant at his home in Grovelnad this past week:
“It just came out of nowhere. Like many of these moments do. [It
was] 3:45 pm and the setting sun hovering over the horizon. I was in
the living room loafing, waiting to consult with Lois as to what she
wanted for dinner when something caught my eye; high in the sky. A
big bird soaring.
occasionally seen a Red-tailing roaming high around the house and
the neighborhood off and on, like everyone else in eastern
Massachusetts. But this bird immediately struck me as different. It
was too large and had longer wings. The shape of the wings and the
flight shape also ruled out Turkey Vulture, but it was something
“Eagle, I thought as I
casually walked over to the nearby table and picked up my
binoculars. We have Eagles around here. It had to be a juvenile, for
even without my binoculars I could see it didn’t have a white head
or white tail. Although I did see it had some while on the tail. It
glided closer, pitching and tossing in the winds and I easily got on
“And then I don’t really know
what came to mind first. The field marks were clear but unfamiliar
and my mind slowly accepted that I was on a state lifer. The under
tail was white with a wide black terminal band, the wings had
definite white patches at the outer ends and the head was a light
brown. The bird banked once or twice and there were smaller white
patches on the wing tips on the top sides as well. The rest of the
bird was black.
“As amazed as I was
I had to admit I was watching a Golden Eagle soaring in the skies
about my house in Groveland. I have seen Golden Eagle in the west,
but never east of the Mississippi. But there was no doubt about this
“A birder is always birding.
And this is the occasional reward.”
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