This weekend's warmer temperatures are the result of southwest winds bringing up warmth from the southern part of the country. Birders learn that these southwest winds that occur during spring also bring in the migrant birds. As these warmer days continue, so does the influx of birds heading to their breeding grounds here or farther north. This migration peaks for us in mid-May, and it is the highlight of most birders' year.
I have spoken about the early migrants that have already made their appearance in our area. In the past week, more swallows are beginning to arrive, and barn and rough-winged swallows are joining some of the tree swallows that have been here for weeks. It is time to open up those barn windows and doors and give the barn swallows a place to nest. A few purple martins have made their way into southern Massachusetts as of a few days ago, but with the southerly winds this weekend, they should begin claiming their local colonies soon.
The kestrel flight is peaking at Plum Island these days, as counts in the hundreds per day occur. Merlins, sharp-shinned and Cooper's hawks are also on the move. Kettles of turkey vultures are becoming more common, as these birds continue to expand their range northward. An occasional black vulture, also moving more into New England, might also be spotted in these kettles.
Chipping sparrows and vesper sparrows are arriving. Brown thrashers, towhees and catbirds will be here in the next couple of weeks. Good numbers of northern flickers have arrived this week, making their presence known with their long, repetitive call and the dramatic flash of yellow in their wings. A few yellow-bellied sapsuckers have begun moving through, making rows of holes across the trunk of a pine or spruce and capturing the running sap.