Walked down to the beach near Crescent Park in Riverside, RI. Lots of red-breasted mergansers, common goldeneye, and some horned grebes (in winter dress of course). Then this, a storm of ducks, came swiftly up the bay.
They finally came to rest in a huge raft off shore. Greater Scaup.
Lots of delight at the CRP this late afternoon. The hermit thrush came out into the light. (Tail's blurry because, well, it's a hermit thrush). Some song sparrows are back; I heard one in the bushes quietly warbling through its whole repertoire in one continuous stream. And I saw the mink, looking like a long black kitten, bounding through the woods toward the river.
The red-winged blackbirds are established at Cutler now, sitting atop their perches evenly distributed throughout the marsh, singing all morning, call and response. And not just singing, displaying (as seen above). Every once in a while one of them goes beyond the simple upward buzz and does something slightly more interesting.
This press release from the Trustees of Reservations (reprinted in a recent Hometown Weekly) promises even more attention paid to restoring the meadow at the Charles River Peninsula. They've apparently reseeded the area with native grasses. Maybe this will finally be the year the bobolinks, meadowlarks, and savannah sparrows stick around.
Up early, left for a walk right after dawn. Greeted by a large group of common mergansers (I count 8). And then the birds started singing: cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, chickadees, titmice, redpolls (mostly chattering). It isn't "spring" yet, yet it's spring.
I noticed the titmice and chickadees singing as early as February 2nd. (Forget Groundhog Day, it should be Birdsong Day.) But now that the cardinals and red-wings have joined in, winter is on its way out.
Still hungry for seabirds, I stopped by Squantum Point Park in Quincy. It is across the river from the areas I visited earlier in the week (Victory Road Park, Tenean Beach). It didn't disappoint. Red-breasted mergansers, eiders, buffleheads and common goldeneyes were everywhere. And then there was this guy, hanging with the goldeneyes. A gorgeous black bird--a scoter. White-wings? Check. Definitely a white-winged scoter.
The Great Backyard Bird Count for Massachusetts lists only 5 Barrow's Goldeneyes. I felt a bit sheepish when I saw that because I contributed 3 to that total. (I almost emailed the organizers--don't mind me, I'm just a newbie, making over-enthusiastic IDs from great distances...) And then during my morning walk by the Charles River, what do I see? Amidst the mallards and Canada geese, two little ducks floating by that looked suspiciously like...Barrow's Goldeneyes! I rushed along the river to get ahead of them, though I still had to take the photos through riverbank trees. But these are absolutely positive IDs--the female even has a yellow bill! Confidence restored.
By the way, oddest GBBC result--only 9 golden-crowned kinglets seen in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (one mine). They are much more common than that, at least in my town.
I spent the last bird count day in Rhode Island, visiting my folks. Wandered down to the cove to see what was around. Merganser city! I can usually count on seeing a couple red-breasted mergansers out in the bay--today over a dozen (mostly in the distance, but you can definitely make them out if you click on the photo above--closer views below). And for good measure, hoodies, also in the dozens. So all three mergansers make it to this year's count.
Backyard Bird Count weekend and all, I wanted to add some sea birds to my list. Closest access point--Boston Harbor off of Dorchester (about 20 minutes away). So there I went, planning to hit Pope John Paul II Park and pick up the Neponset River Trail.
Note: You will not get to Pope John Paul II Park if you are coming from the south on 93. There is no exit 12. So cut your losses and be happy with tiny Victory Road Park, your first right off of exit 13.
Victory Road Park is part of Boston Harborwalk (though it doesn't connect with anything else I could see). It is also nominally part of the Neponset River system, located on an inlet where the river meets the harbor. Mostly used by dogwalkers, it has also attracted creative types who have fashioned interesting sculptures composed of refuse and other material from the peninsula (it is a former landfill).
You will see the normal harbor-side waterfowl--black ducks, buffleheads (especially buffleheads), common loons (my new challenge photo bird). In the distance you can see eiders, common (or are those barrows?) goldeneye, red-breasted mergansers.
After walking the peninsula, I drove down to Tenean Beach--the official start of the Neponset River Trail. Lots of ring-billed gulls on the beach. From that point, the "trail" is really just a walk through the neighborhood. There aren't river views until you get to the railroad bridge. So I got in my car and went back home via 203. I had fully intended to go to Squantum Point Park, but you have to bear left at the unmarked intersection with 3A south that you can't see until you are through the intersection...etc.
Well that was quick. Last post, I announced a new challenge--a decent common merganser photo. It's not that they are especially rare, rather that they are tough to get close to. Armed with a normal camera, my photos usually turn out like those below. Two guys, one girl. I spotted them from a distance going around the river bend. I figured I'd catch up with them eventually if I didn't scare them off first. And then, I couldn't believe my luck. They had stopped close to the canoe landing, offering a clear view, assuming I kept out of sight. I arrived at the landing, lifted the camera, and caught them just as they swam into the clearing. They saw me and took off. The photo could be crisper, I suppose, but it's the best I'm going to do this winter. Challenge complete!
Most of my common merganser photos turn out like this. Any attempt to get close and they take off. This afternoon there was a pair over 100 yards away that I could just barely make out in my binoculars. As soon as I raised my camera they took off. So let's see if I can get a good photo by winter's end.
Meanwhile, their hooded cousin, while still skittish, poses so nicely on the edge of the falls.
And today, a sweet little ring-necked duck. Pretty far away, but clear bino views.
All the sparrows (especially white-throated and tree sparrows) in the Metrowest area appear to be living in South Natick around the feeders at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary. Everyone chattering at once, with the pine siskins throwing in a occasional zreet and the juncos plinking away. Until the sharp-shinned hawk showed up. Suddenly everything went quiet, and when the hawk swooped in closer, there was a mad rush. Tree, house, white-throat, junco, song all rushing past. The chickadees were the only ones left, dededede-ing the alarm. (And then I foolishly got too close and the hawk was gone).
The train track that runs through Cutler brings life and death. Snow thaws first on the southern side of the track ridge exposing the ground and attracting birds. Particularly bluebirds, robins, white-throated sparrows, and starlings. Actually, mostly robins--doing their best to press the starlings away from the berry trees.
The train, in addition to scaring the birds off (every half an hour on weekdays), seems to kill deer too. I was shocked, the other day, to suddenly run across a trail-side deer carcass (I couldn't resist taking photos--here's a relatively tasteful one, still too disturbing to embed directly). Already stripped down to bone, the kind of thing that makes you think about the meaning of life for the next day or so.