What’s been seen: Birds are in abundance right now around Hull. From Straits Pond to Pemberton Point, onshore and off, there is just a lot to see. Looking offshore, it’s easy to imagine that Hull is surrounded by buffleheads. They can be seen from almost every vantage point, with more than 50 being seen on the pond alone on the last day of February.
These numbers can mean only one thing: staging. They are preparing to start flying north to find breeding grounds. There were, in fact, 32 species seen on and around the pond on Feb. 27 and 28, including a rare (for the pond) pair of American wigeons and 48 common redpolls, winter irruptives that are seen in our region only once every few years. Fourteen great cormorants also visited, a large number for a bird that was once so common in Hull that offshore rocks (shag rocks) are named for them.
While horned larks remain on the Hull Redevelopment Authority land, song sparrows are singing. We are witnessing the death of winter and the birth of spring at the same time.
I also witnessed a common raven being mobbed by American crows as it flew over James Avenue at the end of the month, a sign of territoriality, another indicator that nesting season is on the horizon.
What to expect this month: And so, we should expect change. Red-winged blackbirds have already reached many marshy locations on the South Shore. While some definitely winter in the area, others migrate north to breed here. Ravens, crows (American and fish), common grackles, and brown-headed cowbirds will be among the first to return, my personal theory being that their dark feathers absorb heat better than those of lighter-colored birds, giving them a head start on migration during still-cold months.
Tree swallows have been seen in some towns; watch for them and barn swallows over Straits Pond, as soon as it thaws out and insects begin to fly.
Piping plovers, if they choose Hull again this year, will be here soon, and at the end of the month, right around March 30, look for ospreys to arrive on the Weir River, at least. Then it’s on to April, when the true craziness of migration begins.