Friday, November 28, 2008

Adventures in Color-Blind Birding #3: Swamp Sparrow

Even though I was hanging with the tree sparrows and the song sparrows, and hiding behind these branches, you saw me right away. My striking brown-almost-black cap was a quick give-away. My delicious browns and grays must be a balm for your color-stressed eyes....

[Honestly, I can't resist a swamp sparrow.]

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A day for waterfowl

So many Canada geese today. Especially flying.

Next, mallards plus a sad mallard wanna-be. Rejected. (Odd markings. A hybrid?)

Next, wigeons. Trying to make sense of the odd lump in the water.

And finally, a flotilla of brants off of Bullock's Point in Rhode Island.

So many brants. (Click on photos for a clearer image.)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Seen almost daily around these parts...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


About 9 this morning at the Charles River Peninsula.
Where there is a little cutout that offers a view of the river.
I stood for a moment and heard a commotion--ice cracking, loud animal "huffing" sounds. There, something ran across the ice. (This low res video pretty much reproduces the quality of my initial view.)

Otters! Two of them. Occasionally they would pop their heads out of their hiding place. They could smell me. After I left I was able to peer through the trees and watch them swim.

(This, I should note, clears up a mystery. This is fact the second time I've seen an otter in this location.)

Monday, November 24, 2008

Great Icy Meadows

Great Meadows in Concord is pretty much iced over. The clear areas are full of coots and Canada geese (many more geese in the field across the river). There are still a few marsh wrens chattering away in the cat-tails and many song sparrows, who don't seem to be bothered by the ice at all.

The highlight of the walk was the sudden appearance of a northern harrier that exploded from the reeds and skimmed along the trail (a bounty of shrews this time of year).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saga of the Golden-Crowned Kinglet comes to a Satisfying Conclusion

As I've reported before, my previous attempts at photographing a golden-crowned kinglet have been futile, foiled by my camera's auto-focus, poor lighting, and the kinglet's tendency to flit from place to place (never mind the fact that it's usually up in the tree, not down in good-profile-photoland.) Today at (frozen) Cutler Pond, I immediately heard a pair making their high pitched call across the trail. I whipped out the camera, tried all the auto-focus tricks I knew, took about 50 shots, and got, well, see below for the better ones (the worse ones are even more blurry than the one above).

Shot 1: OK focus but weird elongated pose. Are you a kinglet or some kind of lizard?

Shot 2: Poor focus, but wow, what a colorful bird!

Shot 3: Good focus, but where's your face?

Shot 4: OK focus, and nice look at wing markings, but that stick...

Shot 5: Almost there! Good focus. But don't you have some sort of crown thingy?

Shot 6: OK. I'm done. Got the focus, got the crown, might have got the wing markings too but I think this will have to do. Golden-crowned kinglet, consider yourself photographed!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Bluebird's chortle

On this blustery November afternoon, the CRP was mostly devoid of signs of birdlife, except for a large family of bluebirds (6 or 7 of them) that was moving around the meadow. It is nice to finally ID them by ear, as they fly overhead with their little "chortle" calls (or "churrrl"). The females seem more ready to pose than the males.

Also, tis the season for mergansers. Caught a male hooded at dusk on Rosemary Pond and what I think is a female hooded on the river at the CRP. (Neither photo is any good as a photo but I was going for the ID. Definitely no buffleheads here).

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

It's COLD!

Today's the first day this fall the temperature never went above freezing. Ice on all the puddles at Cutler. The tree sparrows were all puffed up.

Even the furry animals seemed a bit bothered.

But when the sun hit just right, you could catch some color on the goldfinches and everything felt warm for a moment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Salem Woods

My first walk in the Salem Woods, I'm chagrined to say. (My colleagues at SSC have worked hard to conserve and map the area). The name, "Salem Woods," is a bit of a misnomer. Much of the trail runs through up and through a rocky hilltop (plenty of tree sparrows up there today).

At the far end of the trail, a fantastic cliff side view of Thompson's Meadow.

And today, a fine, if unexotic collection of Mallards and Teals. I'll be returning again, often.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Shagbark Hickory Tree

In the center of the Charles River Peninsula stands a lonely shagbark hickory tree.
Even though it is in the middle of the meadow, I never fail to see squirrels running through its branches (and sometimes bounding through the grass towards it).

Given the number of hawks in the area, this better be worth it.

Some how I think it is. Next fall I plan to get some of that sweet hickory nut action.

[From earlier this fall, when trees still had leaves. The squirrels are still there, though. The gray pictured above was scolding and had to hold its nut in its mouth so it wouldn't fall out. The red can usually be found in or about the hole in the trunk.]

Swans in the mist

There's something about swans and foggy rivers that conjures up old world ideas about swan maidens and animal magic. The fact that mute swans are in fact a bit evil (in the American environment at least) enhances this feeling, I think.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tree Sparrow with a white tail feather

Spotted at Great Meadows in Concord--this tree sparrow with one white tail feather. Looks like a junco when it's flying away.

Here's a reverse shot.

A little light in general, could be leucistic. Here's a relatively clean profile, and one with a darker companion for comparison.

Or it could be perfectly normal. Of course, I went straight to tree sparrow-junco hybrid (I've read that white-throated sparrows and juncos sometimes hook up), but I don't see any other strange markings that might suggest it. (Sorry for the poor photo quality. It was raining.)