NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

March 9, 2013

Birds hint that spring is near

Despite the storms that we have had over the past few weeks, there have already been signs of spring out there according to the “bird barometer.” Red-winged blackbirds and grackles are returning, with calls and emails from many customers who are delighted to have them feeding in their yards. Of course, we will see how long the love affair with the grackles last!

Large mixed flocks of starlings, redwings, grackles and a few cowbirds have been congregating in the trees across Route 1 from our new store. There is a wet area there, and a small pond. It may be that these birds roost in the phragmites around the pond, or they may just stage here and continue on to the larger roost along Route 1 in Salisbury.

I’ll have to watch more closely late in the day. Bluebirds are beginning to check out nest boxes. Flocks of bluebirds, and robins, have been around all winter feeding on the ample crop of berries this year. Bluebirds do establish their territories early in the season and will even attempt to nest as early as late March. One Salisbury customer told me that “her” male bluebird was singing from the top of her bluebird box last week, hoping to attract his mate back to their old homestead. Her mealworm purchase was to help encourage them to stay. So now is a good time to clean out your bluebird nest boxes or put a new one up to attract these beautiful birds. Crushing up some suet or bluebird nuggets in a tray feeder helps to attract them along with mealworms.

Mealworms can be dried or, better still, live, and offered in a dish feeder or on a tray. Continuing to offer mealworms nearby when they are nesting will make it easier for them to stay near the nest site and to protect it from predators. An Amesbury resident called, describing a hermit thrush that was in her yard. Hermit thrushes occasionally winter over, feeding on berries like their cousins the robins and bluebirds. But the hermit thrushes are an early migrant, and it may be that this bird is just arriving. It was observed scratching in the ground, apparently looking for insects.

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