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Words on Birds: The colors of migration are here | Columns

This past week started with cold (40 degrees), wet weather with strong northeast winds prevailing, all due to a strong low-pressure area that sat over New England for more than a week. As a result, few migrating birds made it into our area on schedule. A few orioles showed us the first week of May, but only the heartiest of hummingbirds dared venture this far north. A few of the early warblers had made it here before the miserable weather took over, but there was little movement once the cold, wet weather was entrenched. Most migrants were “stuck” further south.

Then midweek, the low moved offshore and the winds turned from northeast to southwest, temperatures rose into the seventies and beyond, and the floodgates opened! Scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks, indigo buntings, and warblers galore came streaming in. So did the reports of hummingbirds as they finally started showing up at their customer’s feeders. This is the phenomenon that local birders live for – the few weeks of May when the trees and shrubs come alive with those wondrous winged migrants, every color of the rainbow.

On my way into work on Wednesday, I swung into the Oak Hill Cemetery in Newburyport for a quick “fix” of what was likely happening all along the North Shore. As I drove past the gates, I immediately heard warblers singing. Yellow-rump, pine, and black-throated green warblers, plus a least flycatcher and a rose-breasted-grosbeak were in full song. I parked the car and walked a bit, but the flock of birds was moving away. I drove to the Moseley plot and heard magnolia, black and white, and parula warblers along with a blue-headed vireo singing in the trees above. I searched the trees, but most of the song was coming from the foliage-thick maples. 

I could see no movement in the sparsely leafed oaks.  More song came from the back fence area where I could hear scarlet tanagers, another rose-breasted grosbeak, and an indigo bunting. But I could see none of them. The dense foliage also hid the Tennessee, blackpoll, parulas and blackburnian warblers that all were announcing their presence. It was frustrating knowing that I didn’t have the time to try to locate any of them. 

Just as I was ready to leave, Bill and Barbara Drummond drove in and asked if there were birds in the cemetery. They said they had just come from Plum Island where the birding was very good, especially the Pines Trail where they found many warblers and five species of thrushes. I told them about all the birds I was hearing around the cemetery, but that I had to go to work and I had to leave finding the birds to them. I glanced at the time and I had 10 minutes to get to work!

Bill and Barbara’s report about Plum Island didn’t…

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