Sunday, June 29, 2008

Red Milkweed Beetle (Charles River Peninsula)

Milkweed's in bloom at the Peninsula and all the milkweed-fed creatures are having a party. The exuberant variety of spring bird song has moved into early summer "feed me" cacophony, especially as the number of young red-winged blackbirds grows. Females explode from the long grass as you pass through.

Today's song: a lazy song sparrow duet, tree leaves rustling, mother oriole complaining.

New CRP discovery today: Cedar Waxwings. Though I didn't know it until I got home and zoomed into a photo I took of an "interesting" bird (from far away I thought it was a baby blue jay).

Friday, June 27, 2008

Pudding Pond Trail (North Conway)

A weekend in New Hampshire centered around the Red Jacket Inn (indoor waterpark) and Story Land. Got up early one morning and found a path right behind the resort grounds into conservation land. Swampy but a pleasant diversion. New Hampshire turns out to be Phoebe country (all the covered bridges?)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Yellow Warbler (Charles River Peninsula)

Charles River Peninsula, originally uploaded by oehlkers.

Brand new Father's Day camera in hand (if you hadn't noticed, I'd been using a broken device for the last month or so) I went out to the CRP. It's got a 10x zoom, just about good enough to represent what one's eye is seeing, though I'm still having a little trouble getting the close-ups focused properly. This yellow warbler was right on the edge of camera's range. The yellows and the yellowthroats are keeping the wood edge bright this June. I am disappointed, though, that the bobolinks don't seem to have stuck around. Here is a record of the CRP chorus this afternoon (there's a yellow warbler in the mix).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Wood Thrush

Text not available
Handbook of Birds of Eastern North America By Frank Chapman
I've mentioned the hermit thrushes of Cutler previously [update: a mistaken id--they're all wood thrushes after all] (note: large gangs of mosquitoes have limited one's freedom to stand and listen, as I discovered when I was ambushed last night). But there is another thrush, one that I hadn't expected to discover given its preference for the deeper woods. You can hear it about halfway down the western path around the pond. It was singing quite loudly and I managed to record a full cycle of its repertoire (lots of weird buzzy notes in addition to its ethereal whistles). A curious aspect: there is a red-wing blackbird on the recording and its basic song pattern is very similar to, if less "refined" than, the song of the wood thrush. It made me wonder if there was some mutual influence between these two singers.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Webster Conservation Area

Webster Conservation Area, originally uploaded by oehlkers.

This beautiful woodland is right behind the Chestnut Hill Shopping Center. Stunningly open cathedral-like space right off the parking lot. Lots of bird singing (and peeping). Captured a Red-Eyed Vireo singing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cutler Park (Oriole nest)

Cutler Park (Oriole nest), originally uploaded by oehlkers.
A steamy day, good for walking in the woods. I chose Cutler and I wasn't disappointed. Some Orioles have built a nest right above the trail. Oriole babies are well known for their vigorous complaining and these are no exception. The poor mother bird was unhappy that I was standing there looking at it. (With all the traffic on that trail I imagine she's rather stressed out). I captured a bit of their chirping (and her clucking).
A good day all round. The hermit wood thrush was singing, as was an Eastern Wood Pewee (which I also managed to record) and a variety of very loud warblers.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Osamequin (Barrington, RI)

Osamequin, originally uploaded by oehlkers.

I hadn't been to Osamequin in decades, but I took advantage of a visit with my folks to drop by. A relatively small but diverse nature sanctuary, with a unique position on One Hundred Acre Cove. The usual suspects: catbirds, yellow warblers, song sparrows in abundance.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Let there be Chipping Sparrows

Text not available
Birds of Village and Field By F.M. Bailey
Before this year I only saw two kinds of sparrows: Bad ones (House Sparrows) and good ones (Song Sparrows). A flip through Peterson revealed several others so I made a point this year of trying to find them. Especially the Chipping Sparrow, which is generally described as not only "common" but "one of the most common" American sparrows.

Sure, I thought. In the way that the woods are just bursting with Scarlet Tanagers and Indigo Buntings (not!). [Little did I know...]

Early in the spring, while I was still trying to identify each bird song I heard (and then May hit--sob), I began hearing a loud whirring sound from the tree tops. I tried, fruitlessly, to spot the singer.

It was then that I began seeing Chipping Sparrows. Tiny, friendly birds, with a distinct white stripe over the eyes. Cool, I thought, but I wonder who is making that whirring sound? It was then that a Chipping Sparrow flew to a branch about three feet from my eyes, and unleashed a long, loud "Whirrrrrrr." As if to say, you unobservant fool--do we have to make the connection for you?

The rest of the spring, I've seen Chipping Sparrows everywhere. Even in parks where I've spent long periods of time in the past. So why hadn't I ever "seen" them before? What did I think they were? More evidence of the strong connection between concept and perception, I suppose. But for me the experience is literally one of a bird coming into existence that had never existed before.

Now that it's June, I think I understand a little better. By now the first broods of the House Sparrows are taking over everything, crowding out other birds. And I never used to spend much time outdoors in the early spring. So the Chipping Sparrow is harder to see in the late spring with all its House Sparrow clutter. But it is still easy to hear--so if you pay attention to sounds coming from tree tops, you will indeed understand that the Chipping Sparrow is "common."

[Note: despite their song being somewhat monotonous, there are variations among singers. My favorite is one I recorded this spring that has the hint of a worn fan belt. [Note: this is apparently before I had heard of pine warblers...]]

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Charles River Peninsula

Charles River Peninsula, originally uploaded by oehlkers.

There is now a clear path around and through the center of the peninsula (there is an ancient hay mower that they leave on-site just for this purpose). A very warm day. I sat for a while on the shady riverbank. No bobolinks today. I did catch a bluebird singing (you can hear one of the resident orioles in the background).