Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Pine Warbler

This is the way it is supposed to work. My daughter has a gymnastics class in the office park right off the Blue Heron Trail in Needham. So I get an hour to walk in the woods while she's in class.

I walk down the trail, cross the road to get to Nahanton Park in Newton, listen for chickadees, find them, pick up the binoculars, and...

pine warbler.

The chickadees must have found something really good, because they were chatting up a storm. The warbler was definitely checking it out. In fact, doing some chickadee-esque acrobatics while bug catching.

Probably the best look I've gotten this year. Low light but right out in the open.

Thanks, pine warbler!

[UPDATE: My colorblindness makes me wonder: is this actually a blackpoll?]


Lots of excitement among the blue jays, robins, and catbirds, and even bluebirds. Ripe pokeberries!

The great advantage of the berry feast is the opportunity for unusually good eye-level bird portraits.

Oh, it is fall for sure. A blustery, overcast morning, with some spectacular foliage starting to show.

Bluebirds everywhere.

Lots of warblers: pine

and palm.

House finches, chipping sparrows, Lincoln's sparrow (!). This finch was singing and singing up in the hickory tree.

And phoebes.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers

Suddenly I saw a woodpecker. Not a downy or a hairy. Different markings. Then it flew away. A sapsucker? One of those "common" birds I hadn't gotten around to seeing yet.

I watched for a bit--there it was! I peeked in my Peterson's. Distinctive white marking on the wing. I was right--a yellow-bellied sapsucker. Much grayer than I expected. A juvenile, no doubt. Soon another emerged and bothered the first. Two of them! I took about a dozen photos.

And then when I got home all the photos were blurry.

Except for this one and maybe the one up top.

But, a new bird. Never a problem.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

From Fog and Frost to Wonderful

A remarkable morning.

Greeted by fog.

And a group of whitetails late on the meadow.

The first frost.

My heart skipped. Is that a tree sparrow?

No, a swamp sparrow. It's not winter. Yet.

Then the sun and the songs broke out. [Chorus 1] [Chorus 2]

Frost dripping from the horse nettle berries .

Flightly yellow-rump.

The palm warbler's olive rump.

Curious yellow-throat.

Bluebird wings, translucent in the morning sun.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Crane Express (people really believed this)

I doubt anyone remembers this story from the turn of the century, about a group of small songbirds who need help crossing the Mediterranean and end up riding on the backs of cranes. (Bird Lore recommends the story as the basis for a "chalk talk" on "Bird Day").

The amazing thing about the story is the number of people during this time that honestly thought it was true. That hundreds of little birds hop on the backs of cranes during migration. This New York Times article (1881) cites a Dr. Van Lennep as an eyewitness to this event. (To be honest, I was disappointed when I learned it was a myth).

Hello, warblers

If you happen to find yourself at Marblehead Neck, turn right and go deep; you might just find yourself in warbler fairyland. 360 degrees of black & white, blackpoll, pine, magnolia, northern parula, Canada, and a bunch more. Add red-eyed vireo and blue-headed vireo and a flicker displaying its golden shaft, and you might find yourself glued to the same spot on the boardwalk for an hour. Just watch out for the birds zooming past your head.

Given their foraging behavior and their persistent high-pitched chatter, the black & whites are the most apparent (and easiest to photograph).

Photo-wise, most of my afternoon was like the following:

Look up

Or look closely

Canada warbler, I do believe, if you can find it...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Baby birds in a line (from Bird Lore)

I was delighted to discover that Google Books now offers full reads of Bird Lore, the old Audubon publication. Early issues seem obsessed with the new art of wildlife photography. Completely offensive to contemporary norms, some photographers would take baby birds out of their nests, line them up on a tree branch, snap a family photo, and then put the babies back. As I read the issues, I'll add examples of the baby-birds-in-a-line trope. So far, I have chickadees (December 1899)

and kingfishers (!) (Jan-Feb 1908)

Fewer birds, but same idea: American bitterns

Saw-whet Owls (1901)

Screech Owls (1901)

Mockingbirds (1901)

Barn Owls



Broad-winged hawks

Bank Swallows

Red-Tailed Hawks

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks

Green Herons

House Wrens


Least Flycatchers

Black-headed Grosbeaks

Cedar Waxwings

House Wrens

American Robins


Louisiana Water-Thrushes

And finally, not birds in a row, but an audacious example of human interference for the sake of a good photo:
Chestnut-sided Warblers (1901)