Friday, October 30, 2009

Happy Halloween

Spooky abandoned structure in Cutler Park, Needham

Cat-tails going to seed

Canada Goose gets in the Halloween spirit.

Mystery Duck

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Late October at the Charles River Peninsula

Charles River Peninsula, freshly mowed

[soundtrack]I could hear the red-winged blackbirds from across the meadow. Hundreds of them. Through the binoculars, a constant stream of birds continuously flowing. I made my way through the freshly mowed field. They saw me. Instant silence, then a loud whoosh as hundreds of birds simultaneously winged across the river to a new roost. The cacophony began again, distant now.

[soundtrack]The ruby-crowned kinglet was singing as I passed, then chattering a lot, then singing some more. It sings while it works, hopping from branch to branch, hovering a little to snag a bug from a berry.

[soundtrack]A white-throated sparrow is whisper singing. Thin wobbly nursery rhyme whistles from the shadows.

UPDATE: Here are four more White-throat examples. The first is less whispered than less-than-fully articulated and got a response. The rest (2, 3, 4) are softer and odder.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday morning warblers

Yellow-rumped warbler (Charles River Peninsula)

A large flock of yellow-rumps roaming the CRP this morning, including one that still had blazing yellow spots on its sides.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Early morning walk at Millennium Park

Arrived at Millennium Park in West Roxbury at dawn. Listened to the meadows wake up. Sparrows chirping. Robins caroling. Blue herons barking. Two giant V's moved across the sky.

It's northern harrier time. Low flyer and low percher. Look at its amazing owlish face. [UPDATE one year later: Why did I think this was a northern harrier?]

It was getting dive-bombed by a kestrel. Then it flew towards me (ever feel like a bird was going to fly right into your binoculars?) and landed in a tree right behind me.

Also, although the light wasn't good, I was pleased to find some white-crowned sparrows that actually had white crowns! Three of them, just sitting by the path, soon to be disturbed by some passing jogger or unleashed dog (or me).

Friday, October 16, 2009

Great Meadows Sparrows

A bit of a sparrow clinic at Great Meadows this afternoon. On one spot on the dike path, song, savannah, swamp, clay-colored(?), and this handsome white-crowned (I thought it was a tree sparrow on first glance--it's cold enough!)

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Columbus Day at Cutler

One of two young bucks on the train track (detail below)

Took a nice slow Columbus Day morning stroll through lower Cutler Park, starting at the Great Plain entrance and going along the train tracks toward the river. Predictably birdy, though some surprises.

For example, it was nice to see red-winged blackbirds again, at least temporarily.

But mostly sparrows (the shot below is actually from the CRP--none of my swamp sparrow photos turned out today) and a surprising number of common yellow-throats. I enjoyed watching the swamp sparrows land on top of goldenrod and acting all surprised when it would bend beneath their weight.

The overall activity on the ground was suppressed by a Cooper's hawk in the air. The coop went on to buzz a roost of crows (who, surprisingly, seemed terrified and in no mood to gang up on it) and engaged in some mild dog-fighting with the resident red-tailed hawk pair.

Here's a robin enjoying some berries. Lots of red in this picture!

And I finally got a taste (just a taste) of ruby-crowned kinglet singing. I pulled out the binoculars and what did I see? A hermit thrush. (In nature-faker mode, I imagine the thrust and the kinglet deliberately hanging out--a mutual appreciation society of supreme summer and fall singers).

Here's my full ebird list

Location: needham
Observation date: 10/11/09
Number of species: 19

Mallard 6
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 1
Blue Jay 12
American Crow 50
Black-capped Chickadee 5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 25
Gray Catbird 2
Common Yellowthroat 8
Song Sparrow 20
Swamp Sparrow 8
White-throated Sparrow 18
Northern Cardinal 1
Red-winged Blackbird 10
American Goldfinch 5

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sparrow Fight (with a twist)

One Bird-Lore trope is "baby birds in a line," which I've explored elsewhere. Another is the "hanged bird," which I'm not going to explore in-depth for reasons of good taste. If you want to know what I'm talking about here's a link to a rather gruesome image. (Mama Kinglet, please don't let your babies play around the burdock plant).

Not ever having seen a bird that's managed to hang itself, I was struck by the following scene, witnessed while I was pumping gas: a house sparrow battle in which the defender seems to be tangled in something (hanging by a leg) and his opponent is hanging onto him by his beak! Quite an amazing scene of acrobatics. As far as I could tell, the defender was eventually able to extract himself.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More Charles River Peninsula birdiness

Eastern Phoebe

An early morning return to the CRP. An addition to yesterday's list: Ruby-crowned Kinglet! (I'm going back this week to see if I can catch some delicious kinglet singing and get a photo in better light conditions).[UPDATE: Caught the song, sung while flittering around. Not quite as musical as usual but definitely striking.]

And a "tut-tut-ing" common yellowthroat, which I assume was around, just not seen yesterday.

Now some additional documentation:
Savannah sparrow (a whole bunch of them this morning)

House finches (singing)

A group of swamp sparrows all in one place.

Here's a detail (with the sun out).

And finally, the best palm warbler shot this fall. Two at once.

Detail below.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fall Migration Peak at the CRP

Moments earlier these trees were full of common grackles

I've never seen the Charles River Peninsula so absolutely stuffed with birds. From the grackles lining the edges to a huge influx of sparrows and the continuing bluebird-warbler pack, there was activity everywhere you looked. And such restlessness, flying back and forth, chasing, foraging. Due in part to a sharp-shinned hawk gliding over the meadow, blue jay calls ringing.

Very overcast, so good photos were difficult. Managed a few, mostly by accident.

Yellow-rumped warbler.

Palm warbler (western variety)

Palm warbler (yellow)

Best shots were of song sparrows, so obliging. And singing today!

Here's my full ebird report
Location: Charles River Peninsula
Observation date: 10/9/09
Number of species: 31

Canada Goose 2
Mallard 8
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 12
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 5
Eastern Phoebe 3
Blue Jay 4
Tree Swallow 20
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Tufted Titmouse 4
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Carolina Wren 1
House Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 8
American Robin 10
Gray Catbird 5
Yellow-rumped Warbler 6
Pine Warbler 1
Palm Warbler (Western) 2
Palm Warbler (Yellow) 2
Chipping Sparrow 15
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 8
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 8
Northern Cardinal 2
Common Grackle 75
House Finch 12
American Goldfinch 1
House Sparrow 1

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wednesday Afternoon Warblers

Same time, same place as last week. Different warblers. Yellow-rumps this time. In their dull winter dress, with the tell-tale yellow spot on the side.

This one was eating berries.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Early October Miscellany

Immature green heron (Riverside, RI)

Tiny snapping turtle (Charles River Peninsula)

I poked it with a leaf to see if it was still alive. It moved.

The large bluebird contingent continues at the CRP. I sat in the warm October sun and watched them catch insects.

It's the same group that's been around for the last week or so. Palm warblers, pine warblers, and a lone house finch (that gets bossed around a bit by the bluebirds) and sits singing in the hickory tree.

I waited and waited for a good palm warbler shot but I was finally intimidated by the self-appointed chipmunk sentry (below).