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April 5, 2014

New birds arriving with spring weather

The moderating temperatures are signaling what the calendar has already told us. Spring seems to be finally winning out over the end of a long, cold winter. Though the days are still starting off quite chilly, the cardinals are singing loudly in the early mornings. Song sparrows are joining the chorus, with a large influx of sparrows just this week.

Along with the song sparrows, fox sparrows are appearing all over Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire. There were eight on Plum Island on Thursday, and many people are reporting them scratching the ground under their feeders. Fox sparrows, as their name suggests, are the color of a red fox. They are a large sparrow, heavily streaked underneath, and they are one of my favorites. They use both feet to scratch the ground, putting their body in full motion as they move back and forth. Fun to watch.

The raspy call of the phoebe announcing their arrival, “fee-bee,” is being heard more often as spring progresses. Their call should not to be confused with the whistled “fee-bee,” the spring song of the chickadee, which is also filling those warming mornings.

Osprey have started to arrive this past week with a few being seen on Plum Island and in Salisbury. A dozen piping plovers were counted on the beach at Plum Island along the wrack line just south of parking Lot 7.

They were viewed from Sandy Point State reservation. Tree swallows are arriving in small numbers on Plum Island and on area ponds and reservoirs.

Soon they will be competing with the bluebirds, some of which have already started nest building, and the dreaded house sparrow for nesting cavities and boxes. Now is a good time to check your bird houses and be sure they are clean after the long winter. You may also think about adding another one or two more nesting boxes to accommodate the new arrivals and to reduce competition.

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