, Newburyport, MA

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February 23, 2013

Feeder birds leave fond memories


As I think back over the 18 years that we were there, I also can recall all those special unexpected visitors that graced us with their presence. We had occasional visits from such birds as redpolls and pine siskins in the winter, but only one evening grosbeak ever stopped to partake of our sunflower. During warmer months, we had an occasional visit from indigo buntings, but we never saw a rose-breasted grosbeak at our feeders.

Downy and hairy woodpeckers were regulars, and we would have flickers in the trees out back, but never a red-bellied woodpecker which so many of my customers now have. We have had dickcissels five or six times over the years, and a clay-colored sparrow at least four times.

The more common fox sparrow only made an appearance three times in all those years. White-throated and white-crowned sparrows came through during migration, but we seldom saw a junco under our feeders! In the earlier years, ring-necked pheasants were regular visitors, at least until the railroad came back to Newburyport, separating us from Common Pasture and the Crane and Martin Burns Wildlife Management areas.

Turkeys only made an appearance once and that was fairly recently. I can also remember the day, it was my first day back from a vacation, when I heard a bobwhite calling from behind the store. At first I thought it was someone playing a trick on me, whistling like a bobwhite, until I went back there to take a look. I have seen many raptors flying over the store, mainly when I was carrying seed out for a customer. Red-tailed, broad-winged, and one rough-legged hawk, along with ospreys, turkey vultures and an occasional bald eagle.

Then there was the night I was called to the store at 3 a.m. by the fire department due to smoke in the chimney. As I was standing in the parking lot, talking with one of the firefighters, we both watched a mid-sized owl fly over the building. It was very pale underneath, very ghost-like in appearance. I was 90 percent sure that it was a barn owl.

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