What’s been seen: Sometimes it’s just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Birders who are truly dedicated to their craft can research, study, prepare, plan, and act on a strategy to find a specific species, gauging seasonality, habitat, weather, and more. And then, something completely unexpected can happen.
On March 10, one woman visited Pemberton Point on her regular birding rounds. She found plenty of what she expected but was taken aback at a swarm of blue jays harassing a large bird that turned out to be a great horned owl, on the move in broad daylight. Once a great horned owl is established on a territory, it rarely strays from it, but some, especially young males, can be pushed around by others protecting their established boundaries. This bird may have been one of those youngsters searching for a permanent home.
The sightings kept coming elsewhere in town. The single common raven I spotted on James Wharf was doubled around the cemetery area, where a red-breasted nuthatch continued to linger. Ten snow buntings hung out behind the high school on March 10, but will soon be gone for breeding season, as will the 14 horned larks that have been seen on Nantasket Beach.
A piping plover appeared on the beach on March 22. Forty buffleheads on March 28 massed on Straits Pond, where a true rarity, an eared grebe, was seen as well. And, right on time, an osprey appeared on the Weir River on March 31.
What to expect this month: Here we go! Spring migration is already well underway. The last great cormorant spotted in town was seen on Feb. 27. By April 15 or so, the transition from great to double-crested should be complete. Great egrets have arrived in the region and should become conspicuous, with their smaller counterparts, snowy egrets, around Straits Pond and the Weir River. Some shorebirds may show up on the beach such as greater yellowlegs, and others, like least sandpipers, will be seen in more muddy areas.
A wave of songbirds will start to arrive this month. Swallows have already popped up elsewhere on the South Shore, but start to watch for tree and barn swallows at least, if not northern rough-winged.
By the end of the month, great-crested flycatchers and eastern kingbirds will joined eastern phoebes seeking flying bugs. And by the end of the month, the first warblers – yellow, black-throated green, and more – will be on their way.
And, of course, you never know when that great horned owl or bald eagle or peregrine falcon may blast on by.