, Newburyport, MA

Local News

May 4, 2013

With May's arrival, birders prepare for busy month

My local robin started singing its song early the other morning, waking me from a sound sleep. It was still dark outside and as I lifted one eye to check the time on the alarm, the clock read 4:32. It was early for sure, but it was the first day of May and I didn’t blame the robin for announcing it.

It was as if he didn’t want me to miss such a momentous occasion. After all, May is the month that every birder in Massachusetts longs for. Passerines, neo-tropical migrants, warblers vireos, thrushes, orioles, tanagers and grosbeaks, all move through our area on their way north. The show is there for those who take the time to watch.

I took the robin’s cue and decided to get up and see what this day, and this month, would hold. It was a chilly start to the morning, but the sun was rising in the cloudless sky, warming the air quickly. I headed to Plum Island to see if any migrants came in overnight. As I proceeded down the refuge road, there seemed to be little activity.

No birds flitting in the shrubs, no sparrows or thrushes feeding along the road, except for an occasional robin or two. A single pair of pintail was swimming in the main salt pannes, and gadwall and green-winged teal in the smaller pans just south of there. A single greater yellowlegs was feeding along the edge. Dominating the songs that I heard as I drove along toward the Hellcat Trail were towhees, brown thrashers and purple finches. Not a single warbler or vireo was heard. As I approached Hellcat, I was greeted by large orange signs announcing construction ahead.

I could see a new orange and white barrier gate at the start of the dirt road, and a “Road Closed” sign. But as I turned into the parking lot at Hellcat, I heard the song of a black and white warbler -- my first of the year. I was able to get my binoculars on the black and white striped bird as it crept along some branches in nuthatch-like fashion.

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