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May 18, 2013

A magical morning at Hellcat Trail

What a difference a day makes. As I mentioned last week, my May 9 walk to the Oak Hill Cemetery was very quiet. There were very little bird songs anywhere we went. No warblers, no vireos, no thrushes, and even the usually loud summer resident great-crested flycatcher that usually arrives mid May hadn’t shown up yet. We heard the squeal of a wood duck on the pond below, and a couple of tufted titmice and crows, but little else to show for our efforts.

As a result, we decided to extend our trip to Rowley to look for the Wilsons’ phalarope that had been reported from the pans along Route 1A near Pikul’s Farm. We struck out there as well, seeing only yellowlegs and willets. We were serenaded by a warbling vireo, but it was relatively quiet. As we continued on to Plum Island, we did encounter a few warblers -- yellow, common yellowthroats, northern parula -- but no evidence of much migration. But, as I had predicted, the next morning was a different story. My Friday morning “Focus on Warblers” walk for Mass Audubon Joppa Flats finally had plenty of birds. A front that came through from the south brought in a fallout of birds. We headed for Plum Island, and as we drove down the refuge road, there was song everywhere!

We made a couple of stops near the first few parking lots, but the birds were moving so quickly through the shrubs that it was hard to get binoculars on them. We could see many birds lifting off and heading for the mainland. If we heard song and stopped to view the birds, the wave of warblers would have moved through before we got out of the van. The gravel trucks (for the reconstruction of the lower road) barreling up and down the road didn’t help either, so I decided to head for the Hellcat Trail where we could walk out of harm’s way and concentrate on the birds.

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