It is hard to believe that the nesting season started back in January and February for great horned owls and it will continue into August, and maybe even September, for some of our resident birds that have multiple broods. We are certainly in the middle of the nesting season for many birds.
Young red-tailed hawks may have left their nest already but they can be heard for weeks begging food from their parents. They will be dependent on them for several months as is true for many raptor species.
Great blue heron nests are still very active in the area. Herons can be seen flying back and forth to their fishing area as they continually bring food to the nest. Ospreys have taken up residence on platforms on Plum Island and in Salisbury and can also be seen carrying fish back to their nest to feed their recently hatched young.
Mallards, wood ducks and gadwalls are in area wetlands with their ducklings following close behind. Canada geese are strolling around Plum Island plus the Newburyport Industrial Park with fluffy yellow goslings that seem to get bigger every day. A pair of mute swans is guarding their clutch of six signets in Bill Forward Pool on Plum Island.
Piping plovers and least terns are starting to nest on the beaches of Plum Island. The first cuddly little killdeer chicks have been observed along the refuge road, near Parking Lots two and three. Please drive slowly along the refuge road as there are many fledgling birds along the roadside.
First broods of bluebirds have fledged. Many have started on a second brood already. Many other customers are reporting successful bluebird broods, perhaps attributed to the number of mealworms that these birds are being fed! Giving birds more nesting box options may also be helping.
If you still have hummingbirds and orioles coming to your feeders, these are likely resident birds that are nesting in your area. I have had some people say that the orioles have abandoned their oranges or grape jelly. Some of these birds may have moved further north to New Hampshire and Maine to nest.
Local nesting orioles may continue to supplement their diet with nectar and jelly, but most of the parent birds will turn into insects. Insects provide the protein necessary for the young birds’ development, so the orioles concentrate on providing insects to their newly hatched offspring and supplement it with jelly and oranges. I have customers that go through many jars of jelly and bags of oranges during the summer months. Catbirds, mockingbirds, and even robins will also feed on the grape jelly.
Activity seems to have picked up at the thistle feeders as well. Goldfinches are competing more for perches at the feeders as they build up their energy to prepare to nest. They nest in midsummer, usually in small trees or shrubs and not in bird houses. They wait until later in the summer so that there will be more natural seed around for the young once they fledge. Seeds from flowers and weeds are more plentiful toward the end of summer and early fall.
Though some birds have had their first brood already, it is not too late to put up a bird house. Many of our local cavity nesters have two or sometimes three broods including bluebirds, chickadees, nuthatches, titmice and, of course, house sparrows. You might also catch some first-time nesters that were either late arrivals or had trouble finding a mate.
Bird houses do make great gifts for Dad and it will not be too late to attract some occupants this season. Sharing your yard with these birds and their offspring can add to your summer enjoyment.
Steve Grinley is the owner of Bird Watcher’s Supply and Gift at the Route 1 traffic circle in Newburyport. Email him at Birdwsg@comcast.net, or view website: www.birdwatcherssupplyandgifts.com.