WORDS ON BIRDS
The Colors of Migration are Here
May 20, 2017
week started with cold (40 degrees), wet weather with strong
northeast winds prevailing, all due to a strong low-pressure area
that sat over New England for more than a week. As a result, few
migrating birds made it into our area on schedule. A few orioles
showed us the first week of May, but only the heartiest of
hummingbirds dared venture this far north. A few of the early
warblers had made it here before the miserable weather took over,
but there was little movement once the cold, wet weather was
entrenched. Most migrants were “stuck” further south.
Then midweek, the low moved offshore and the winds turned from
northeast to southwest, temperatures rose into the seventies and
beyond, and the floodgates opened! Scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted
grosbeaks, indigo buntings, and warblers galore came streaming in.
So did the reports of hummingbirds as they finally started showing
up at their customer’s feeders. This is the phenomenon that local
birders live for - the few weeks of May when the trees and shrubs
come alive with those wondrous winged migrants, every color of the
On my way into work on
Wednesday, I swung into the Oak Hill Cemetery in Newburyport for a
quick “fix” of what was likely happening all along the North Shore.
As I drove past the gates, I immediately heard warblers singing.
Yellow-rump, pine, and black-throated green warblers, plus a least
flycatcher and a rose-breasted-grosbeak were in full song. I parked
the car and walked a bit, but the flock of birds was moving away. I
drove to the Moseley plot and heard magnolia, black and white, and
parula warblers along with a blue-headed vireo singing in the trees
above. I searched the trees, but most of the song was coming from
the foliage-thick maples. I could see no movement in the sparsely
More song came from
the back fence area where I could hear scarlet tanagers, another
rose-breasted grosbeak, and an indigo bunting. But I could see none
of them. The dense foliage also hid the Tennessee, blackpoll,
parulas and blackburnian warblers that all were announcing their
presence. It was frustrating knowing that I didn’t have the time to
try to locate any of them.
I was ready to leave, Bill and Barbara Drummond drove in and asked
if there were birds in the cemetery. They said they had just come
from Plum Island where the birding was very good, especially the
Pines Trail where they found many warblers and five species of
thrushes. I told them about all the birds I was hearing around the
cemetery, but that I had to go to work and I had to leave finding
the birds to them. I glanced at the time and I had ten minutes to
get to work!
Bill and Barbara’s
report about Plum Island didn’t help my angst to play hooky. It also
didn’t help that on the way out of the cemetery I heard ovenbird,
yellow warblers and warbling vireo. I knew I was leaving a great day
of migration, but off to work I went.
That evening, our young friend, Sam, send us an email. He had taken
the day off from school for his 15th birthday and his mother took
him to Plum Island to bird. He summarized his day:
“I had a wonderful day on Plum Island today. We were on the island
at 5:45 AM, and there were migrants (especially warblers!)
everywhere! I got great looks at Blackpoll, Canada, and Blackburnian
Warblers and saw 19 species of warblers total! In the afternoon, as
we were leaving, I ran into MaryMargaret, and she told me about a
Clay-Colored Sparrow that had been seen at the Wardens. She took me
to see it, and she found it for me in some low bushes at the back of
the Maintenance area. It was so cool to see a life bird on my
birthday. I saw 101 species total today!”
Sam’s and other reports of the day testified that birds were finally
arriving in good numbers. We can expect the migration to peak in the
next week or so and wane down by early June. Our summer resident
orioles, hummingbirds, and rose-breasted grosbeaks are finally
arriving, so if you haven’t put up your feeders yet, you should do
so soon. A couple of customers already told me that hummingbirds
showed up before they could get their feeders out!
And I hope you take the time to spend time in your yard, or further
afield at your favorite park, sanctuary, wildlife refuge, or, yes,
even cemetery, and behold the colors of the migration that is going
on around us!
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