For the Birds: Slow start just means things have to pick up

Photo by Chris Bosak A red-bellied woodpecker inspects a peanut on a deck railing, New England, fall 2019.

It’s usually about this time that I write a column about a recent bird walk that yielded a few warblers and how it’s a sign of a great warbler season ahead. Lately, that has turned out not to be the case as the last few warbler seasons have been rather ho-hum, for me anyway.

Well, maybe my fortunes will change this year. I have taken three bird walks over the last week that have yielded very few warblers. A flock of yellow-rumped warblers and a lone palm warbler have been my only sightings. Granted, it’s a little early in the season, but usually by the last week of April, the birds we have looked forward to seeing for so long have returned. At least some of them. Not this year, though, at least not for me.

I’m hoping that means the season will pick up quickly, and it will be the best warbler season in years. I’ll let you know how that goes.

Warblers are small and often colorful birds that return to New England in spring, usually late April and through May, after having spent their winters well south of here. The spring warbler migration is the highlight of the year for many birdwatchers. Although not warblers, birds such as indigo buntings, scarlet tanagers, rose-breasted grosbeaks and Baltimore orioles are also colorful birds whose return each spring is highly anticipated.

I have had my typically good luck finding eastern towhees this spring, so I can’t complain too much. 

To fill the void left from my lack of sightings, I’ll share a few more sightings from readers around the region.

Ann from the Monadnock Region has had a tough time keeping the feeders filled as so many birds are visiting her yard. She says it’s been like Grand Central Station with birds such as evening grosbeaks, purple finches, goldfinches, red-bellied woodpeckers, downy and hairy woodpeckers, grackles, chipping sparrows, red-winged blackbirds, cardinals, white-throated sparrows, juncos, white- and red-breasted nuthatches, chickadees and Carolina wrens. Busy feeders indeed.

“It’s such a treat to have so much color on these drabby days,” she writes.

Two readers from Connecticut reached out with some nice sightings. Jason wrote that he hadn’t seen a red-bellied woodpecker in a long time until one showed up the other day. He also wondered, like many people do, why it is called a red-bellied woodpecker when red is rarely seen on the belly. Many birds were named from ornithologists who were holding a dead specimen of the bird in their hands. The red belly of this woodpecker must be more obvious when you’re holding one in your hand. If the bird is perched just right on a feeder, the red belly is fairly apparent, but rarely strikingly so. 

Carol from Connecticut, the author of Elle’s Day at the Shore and Elle’s Day at the Zoo, watched from her living room window as several female hooded mergansers dove one by one into a small pond. She said it reminded her of synchronized diving. 

“When they resurfaced, I noticed that several of them had caught a nice meal,” Carol wrote. “I later counted eight birds that were all taking part in what my sister called a ‘merganser ballet.’ It was very cool!”

Good luck out there. Let me know what you see.

1 thought on “For the Birds: Slow start just means things have to pick up

  1. There is a larger than usual number of rose-breasted grosbeaks traveling through West Tennessee this year. I have probably 3 times as many as last year. They are only here for a couple weeks about this time every year.


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