A little bird with a voice that seems more fitting for a bird with a larger body, Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) is known to most feeder watchers. While chickadees and other small forest birds gather in winter foraging flocks, Tufted Titmouse remain on or near their breeding territory year-round. Mated pairs may be accompanied by the offspring they raised the previous year. Photo taken in Hubbardston by Bob Stetson.
That new trilling song you start to hear right about the time the Fox Sparrows depart in mid-April is coming from a Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina). They are common across North America and will nest close to areas of human habitation as well as in undeveloped tracts of land.
When Fox Sparrows (Passerella iliaca) show up under your bird feeder, you know that spring is on the way. These birds have to get started on their northward migration early because their breeding grounds are in the high Arctic region. They show up in central Massachusetts in mid- to late-March and often can be heard singing before they depart. These Hardwick sparrows departed with the warm front from the south on 9 April.
If you watch White-breasted Nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) a lot, you know that this is the pose you usually see. Male White-breasted Nuthatches sing in late winter and spring, a rapid, nasal, fairly low-pitched wha-wha-wha that lasts 2-3 seconds. It’s made up of a half-dozen to a dozen nearly identical notes. Males sing these songs at two rates, with the faster version packing in twice as many notes in the same amount of time. The fast version is thought to be the main one used for mate attraction. (Song info from allaboutbirds.org) Photo by Bob Stetson.
Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) rarely nest along inland waterways in central Massachusetts, but they are reliably seen at ponds, lakes, and rivers here in April while en route to the coast. This bird was at Harvard Pond in Petersham on 9 April.
Some Song Sparrows (Melospiza melodia) chose to spend the winter here while others withdrew to more southerly states and are now returning. However, they didn't begin singing until increasing daylight at the end of March triggered hormones that signal the start of the breeding season.
A few Eastern Phoebes (Sayornis phoebe) showed up just before the April 1st snow- and ice-storm and probably had to subsist on small seeds and fruits until insects began hatching. There was a large influx a couple of days after the storm, and they're already prospecting for nest sites. They may drop out of sight during stretches of bad weather before returning to begin nest-building in earnest.
Listen for the distinctive irregular drumming of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) in wooded areas. These birds drill two types of holes in trees to harvest sap. The sap wells they create also attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bats, and even porcupines, and benefit these creatures by providing a good energy source. This bird was found in Petersham on 9 April. Photo by Alan Rawle.
As the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website allaboutbirds.org says, a Killdeer (Charadrius vociferus) is a shorebird you can see without going to the beach. In March and April some are returning from wintering grounds in Central America while others spent the winter in places like Florida or the coasts of the Carolinas. Watch for them in large, cultivated expanses of grass or crop fields.
No, not a central Massachusetts sighting, but this Great Gray Owl (Strix nebulosa), an Arctic breeder rarely seen in winter in New England, was present a couple of hours away in Newport, Vermont from 25 February to about 2 April. WRNC member Jim Morelly shared his photograph of this charismatic bird.