WORDS ON BIRDS
Transition to Spring is Slowly Coming
March 24, 2018
By Steve Grinley
arrived. At least according to the calendar! The string of
Nor’easters that we have had this month certainly makes it feel more
like the middle of winter. But the snows are melting faster, crocus
and snowdrops are trying to emerge, and in the bird world some
spring migrants are arriving despite the weather!
Of course the blackbirds started arriving a month ago, but flocks of
grackles, redwings, cowbirds and starlings continue to pour into the
area. Many are invading and draining area feeders. Others can be
seen congregating in late afternoon as they stage prior to roosting
for the night in nearby marshes.
few early snipe were seen in the Wet Meadows property on Scotland
Road in Newbury along with a few killdeer. The numbers of fresh
water ducks at this site is impressive. Green-winged teal, American
wigeon and one Eurasian wigeon, mallards, black ducks, gadwall,
pintail and a pair of shovelers are enjoying the flooded fields. It
won’t be long before the first blue-winged teal arrive!
We counted eighteen turkey vultures coming in to roost near our
house in Essex. Bluebirds are visiting suet feeders and bird baths
all over the area and a few folks have seen bluebirds checking out
nesting boxes already. Now would be a good time to put out mealworms
or crumbled suet in a tray to try to encourage these beautiful birds
to your yard.
A great egret was
seen in the marshes near Good Harbor Beach in Gloucester this past
week and another was in Marblehead. Returning great blue herons have
been reported from many areas and they will soon be tidying up their
nests in the rookeries.
ospreys have made it to Massachusetts with these “fish hawks”
showing up in Westport and on Cape Cod. Piping plovers have been
reported from Connecticut, so it won’t be long before both of these
species will be seen on Plum Island. It is hard to believe that the
beach closure is only a week away.
Usually there are reports of phoebes and tree swallows arriving back
in mid-March but the weather may have delayed these birds. Their
diet of flying insects would not likely be satisfied in these
temperatures. We need the winds to turn around and bring up some
warmer temperatures from the south. A few days of southwest winds
would help bring these birds to us, along with the first pine and
palm warblers, hermit thrushes and more robins and bluebirds. More
shorebirds, such as yellowlegs, willets and black-bellied plovers,
will follow the piping plovers north.
Meanwhile, many of the wintering birds continue to linger. There are
still plenty of loons out in the salt water. We counted more than
thirty common loons in Plum Island Sound from Corporation Beach
recently. Wintering eiders, scoters and long-tailed ducks are still
present in large numbers. Snowy owls are still present on Plum
Island and Salisbury Beach State reservation.
We will get to enjoy the juncos, tree sparrows and white-throated
sparrows at the feeders for a few more weeks before they head north.
But we will enjoy even more watching the male goldfinches as they
continue to turn back to their stunning bright yellow breeding
plumage. If you look close, they have started turning already,
renewing our hope that spring is arriving after all.
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