The beautiful weather that we enjoyed for the last two weeks came to an end with the arrival of rain over the last couple of days. Thank goodness! That high pressure area that was stationed over New England for so long gave us sunshine for two weeks straight -- to the joy of everyone except birders.
That high also blocked the birds from arriving from the south. But the storms moving up from the mid-Atlantic are also bringing the migrating birds with it! It was a quiet start to May with almost no warblers showing up. We did see some resident birds trickling in, including blue-winged, yellow and black-and-white warblers on our Pike’s Bridge Road walk in West Newbury this past Tuesday.
Our Thursday walk to the Oak Hill Cemetery in Newburyport found no warblers, no great crested flycatchers (that usually nest there), no indigo buntings or orioles or hummingbirds. But that has changed with the weather. As fronts move through, so have the birds. I have received reports over the past few days of more warblers on Plum Island, and I have heard from customers that “their” orioles or hummingbirds have just shown up at their feeders. More migrants will be arriving this week and next for sure, so the feeders and nesting boxes will soon become more active.
We really got spoiled last year when the weather was warm and all the birds arrived ahead of schedule. Also, remember that the foliage was pretty well leafed out by the end of April, so it made May birding a struggle to find those little warblers as they continued to move through. This year, we still have some bare limbs though most trees and shrubs are budding. We will still be able to see those beautiful scarlet tanagers, orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks as they move about the canopy. The shorebirds are also beginning to arrive, with black-bellied plovers, lesser yellowlegs and least sandpipers joining the greater yellowlegs in Newburyport Harbor at low tide. Spotted and solitary sandpipers are also arriving at fresh water ponds.
I saw my first common tern on Plum Island this week as purple martins and more swallows are also arriving. We also saw a pair of green herons at Pike’s Bridge Road as they, and the night herons, return to our area.
The first “babies” of the season are emerging. We saw both mallards and Canada geese with little yellow “puff balls” this past week. I was also summoned to a local customer’s backyard where she had her scope fixed upon a baby great horned owl sitting together with its mother near the top of a tall spruce tree. The mother was preening the baby owl, which still had some down feathers, even though it was nearly as large as she. It was fun to see the owlet bobbing its head up and down as the two were being harassed by the local murder of crows. My Friday morning Bird Walks “Focus on Warblers” with Mass Audubon Joppa Flats will finally have some warblers to focus on!
I have a free Sunday morning walk, looking for migrating birds around Newburyport tomorrow, which meets at the store at 8 a.m., so I expect that more birds will be around for all to see. Even if there are showers ahead, and we do need the rain, we often have our best birding in wet weather. So these rain events can be a blessing for gardeners and birders alike.
Steve Grinley is the owner of Bird Watcher’s Supply and Gift at the Route 1 traffic circle in Newburyport and the Nature Shop at Joppa Flats.