Sunday, June 28, 2009

Urban Deer at Neponset Reservation

Lily had a birthday party at a home in Milton, so I dropped her off and headed over to the Neponset Reservation for a little while. It was my first time on that section of the Neponset trail and it was nicer than I expected. The trail forks at the tunnel (above) and if you take the grassy path to the left you will end up walking through the estuary to the banks of the Neponset (lots of fishermen out today).

On my way back, I practically ran into this white-tail, grazing at the end of the grassy trail. It knew I was there but didn't really seem to care. And it seemed fine with the joggers and bicyclists on the bike trail.

I finally got tired of waiting for it so I moved in closer, expecting it would leap into the rushes toward the estuary. Instead it trotted on through the tunnel. I wonder if showed up at a Milton business district.

Oh, and here was a exciting moment. LOOK OUT!

Luckily the idiot using the estuary as a speed boat circuit saw the paddling fisherman in time, circled and sped off back towards the ocean.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Kennebunk Plains

While the girls were seeing a matinee at the Ogunquit Playhouse, I scooted up to Kennebunk Plains, a Nature Conservancy property. I only had about an hour to explore. I want to go back.

Kennebunk Plains is a unique grassland habitat that attracts a special constellation of birds. The soundscape is punctuated with high pitched buzzes and whistles, including grasshopper sparrows and real grasshoppers. Eastern meadowlarks, field sparrows (with meadowlark), prairie warblers.

Savannah sparrows take a leading role, perching in the open, and they follow you around making metronomic chips (as if they were chipmunks or something). And in this special environment, their song is not inferior to the song sparrow's but fittingly fragile and soft-spoken.

There are vesper and clay-colored sparrows there too, but color-blind me is not going to be making quick IDs. Especially during juvenile season. See challenge below.

The undisputed diva of the Kennebunk Plains is the upland sandpiper. Watch him as he rushes up into the air, hovers, and then drops down while making a sound most bird books aptly describe as "spooky." (Here's a taste).

Or watch him as he stands on a pole, or a fence post, or a stake in the ground.

It was rather windy so I had a lot of recording marred by wind noise. I also didn't have time to be patient and wait for shots (I can do much better than the sandpiper shot above). So I'm coming back. I just have to wait until there's another matinee the girls want to see at the Ogunquit Playhouse.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Quick! While the sun is shining!

The most dismal June in Massachusetts on record and it's not supposed to get better before July. So when the sun is out, you gotta grab the chance. This I did yesterday in Marblehead during my lunch-break. And then found that Marblehead Neck was all fogged in. Nevertheless, forged ahead to the sanctuary, made a quick walk through the trail, took the sad robin photo above and then slipped on a wet rock (totally my fault) and gashed up my elbow (blood streaming down my arm as I walked to the car. People, carry first aid kits in your nature bag!).

Today, a few moments of sun. I rushed to the CRP when my wife came home.

The oriole children are out in public these days.

Momma's looking pretty good.

Junior's still at that awkward phase...

And a painted turtle out on the gravel path. I assume she's trying to lay eggs. Is it possible on such a hard surface?

By the way, the bobolink effort at the CRP seems to have failed again this year. I haven't seen our guy around for a week and a half. Must have moved on to a place that actually had females.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

CRP Notes

More babies: chickadees, titmice, orioles(both Baltimore and orchard), song sparrows. The orchard oriole family was in the shag-bark hickory, a young male singing sporadically.

And here was an oddity: a rose-breasted grosbeak in the field, munching on the emerging milkweed blossoms. A little research indicates that its close relative, the black-headed grosbeak, is one of the few birds that can stomach the monarch butterfly, whose toxins come from its consumption of milkweed. I wonder if the rose-breasted has a similar resistance.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tale of Rusty Wren

The cheeps of the wren chicks are getting deeper every day. Some of them are making the "tut" sound that fledged chicks use to keep in contact with their parents. I'm thinking a couple more days and these guys are flown.

So in honor of wren families (and testing Google Books's new "clip" function), here's a link to Arthur Bailey Scott's Tale of Rusty Wren. Rusty has hired Chippy Jr to be his houseboy, but Chippy gets too big for the wren house. [Scott is a much less disciplined writer than his contemporary, Thornton Burgess. Scott's animals are much more anthropomorphic. One plot complication, for example, revolves around Mrs. Wren's suspicion that Rusty's been smoking tobacco.]

Baby rabbit not getting eaten by a weasel

Super Rabbitter
Personalized Glitter Graphics

Another Lily creation.
Here's the original bunny in a field of clover.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Playing a few life list cards to reach #200

I wanted to get to #200 by the summer, but summer is nearly here and rain is in the forecast until Sunday. So I'm going to play a few global life cards to get up to 200, that arbitrary but somehow highly satisfying number. (Links go to wikipedia).

So, start with invasive Hawaiian species: red-crested cardinal (pigeon-like in their Oahu ubiquity). #197. Seen summer of 1989.

I lived in Japan for a year. I only remember seeing two birds. (Yes, this troubles me deeply).

#198. Jungle Crow. Another invasive. Has practically taken over many wooded areas in Toyko.

#199. Azure-winged magpie. Fancy name for an extremely noisy abundant neighborhood bird. Known locally as "onaga."

And finally, ta-dah!

#200. Anna's Hummingbird, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

[An earlier post stopped at 199. But, given the weather, I thought I'd give myself a break. Counting's over. (Until migration begins again in October!)]

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Random Bird Notes (now with pictures)

The baby house wrens have hatched and are peeping away. The parents are extremely sensitive to my presence (I can't get close to the window without them chattering at me). In fact, even sitting at my desk away from the window I get a scolding.

I took down my office window feeder because it had attracted the attention of a crowd of ravenous house sparrows (I counted at least two dozen). They would also land on the wren house, knocking one suction cup off the window. And they were really bothering the chipping sparrows. So I took the feeder down and, magically, no house sparrows. Its disappearance is confusing a few birds who grew to take it for granted, particularly the goldfinches and nuthatches.

I've been getting down to the CRP pretty regularly. Lots of breeding down there! The bluebirds, mourning doves, red-winged blackbirds, tree swallows, and chipping sparrows have all successfully fledged. I was also happy to see a yellow-billed cuckoo collecting nesting material and a pair of cedar waxwings doing the same. The bobolink did not make an appearance this morning (I hope he hasn't given up). Oddly absent this year at the CRP are phoebes (replaced by kingbirds and willow flycatchers, it seems). [I do hear a phoebe every morning from the trees behind my house].

Birds of West Gloucester, blingeed

When Lily saw the bird pictures, one thought popped into her head: BLINGEE!

Great Crested Flycatcher
Make your own Glitter Graphics

Indigo Bunting
Myspace Glitter Graphics

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Indigo Bunting. Check.

Finally, an indigo bunting (#196). Actually a breeding pair near the reservoir in West Gloucester. No singing but they were chirping back and forth. Smaller and darker than I expected, but somehow I knew it was them right away.

I was following a tip from the MASSBIRD list. Dykes Pasture Rd, which leads to the reservoir dam, is an unmarked gated road off of Laurel Rd. The atmosphere is quite wild and the view from the dam is splendid. Lots of gull activity and egret/heron flybys.

This spotted sandpiper was peeping away on the dam.

This great crested flycatcher was making a lot of noise too.

And I had a nice long distance look at this great egret and children across Lily Pond.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Where is your nest, chipping sparrows?

It was about a year ago that I admitted disbelieving that there was such thing as a "chipping sparrow." How far one can come in a year...

Now chipping sparrows are my friends. I can see them everyday sitting on the power line outside my office window. And when I go outside they chip and chip. I frequently see them with food in their mouths (not eating). But where is their nest? And why do I see both of them hanging out on the power line if there are chicks to take care of?

They seem easy to agitate, particularly when the house wren [the wrens have definitely chosen my window house for nesting] is chattering. Is it possible the wren popped their eggs? And the chippies are instinctively feeding phantom chicks? At any rate, I was waiting to post this until I actually found the nest, but I couldn't wait any longer. Perhaps there will be an update if I ever solve this mystery.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Cute Overload: Tufted Titmouse

The tufted titmouse babies have left the nest but are still noisily begging.

And napping.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Large mammal encounter at the CRP

The white-tailed deer were playing in the field this morning. I tried to remain unobtrusive, but they eventually spotted me, with predictable results.

Caption Contest

Needs speech or thought bubbles, I think.


San Francisco attack bird (Brewer's blackbird).

Here's his blog.
via Metafilter.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Brilliant Song Sparrow

The end of the May migratory exotica is a relief for the ears. Finally, we can get down to business with our old friends. Like the song sparrows, who are singing brilliantly. Especially the guy pictured above. A stand-out talent. Strong clear tone. Creative improviser. (He's the softer voice on the left--his song keeps getting obscured by the inferior (raspy tone, stereotyped song) singer to the right.) And composer of some haunting tunes. [UPDATE: Here's a song from Friday afternoon. Hear him shift back to song one above.]

And finally, a field sparrow makes a CRP appearance. Perhaps there's hope for an indigo bunting yet! But the bobolink wasn't there this evening.[It was back on Friday]

Bluebirds were.

And who is this little one, roosting right out in the open?

[UPDATE: Baby Bluebird]