Saturday, October 30, 2010

Disturbing the ducks (and kinglet capture)

Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, Natick MA

Mallards can be skittish this time of year, but wood ducks never want to see people. I arrived at Broadmoor bright and early and had the privilege of seeing dozens of wood ducks assembled near the boardwalk; I also had the regret of scaring every last one of them away. Among the other ducks I disturbed this morning--a sizeable contingent of American wigeon (top left below).

Golden-crowned kinglets were abundant. I know I should never attempt photographs, especially in low light. But video--today I was going to make a concerted effort. The embedded clip below, in addition to showing wood ducks (and wood ducks in flight) also documents my attempt to capture the kinglet on video. If you make to the end, you'll see it paid off.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Charles River Peninsula in late October

Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA

The CRP is due for a mowing any day now, so I took one last stroll through the meadow to say good-bye to the bluebirds, who will leave as soon as their milkweed stalk perches are gone.

Today, as was true last year at this time, they seemed to be playing "king of the house box." One would perch and another one would fly up and chase the other one off.

This bluebird was eating a fat worm and couldn't quite get it down.

Watch it as it whips it and whacks it to make it more suitable for eating.

The sparrows were feasting on goldenrod seeds (that soon, too, will be mowed down).

The first mockingbird I've seen at the CRP for a long while also showed up, perched on the Trustee's sign. If you look closely, the mockingbird seems to be looking at a gnat right in front of it. It was after berries today.

In closing, a little bit of fall color.
Starting with the fruit of the horse nettle (a mini pumpkin patch of terrible poison).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Sandhill Crane!

Sandhill Crane, Rowley, MA

Sandhill Cranes are rare, though regular, travelers through Massachusetts. Usually it's a faraway glimpse through a scope at a shape that kind of looks like a crane. Today, miraculously, a crane decided to hang out 10 yards or so from the edge of Rt 1A in Rowley.

This was a well-publicized sighting. I saw cars pulled over so I knew it was close by.
Out of the corner of my eye: What's that! Oh false alarm, just a old rag hanging from a piece of signage. Or not!

Here's a few shots from dozens I took from inside my car. Video is at the bottom of the page. I don't think the full significance of encountering this bird in the wild this closely has fully sunk in yet.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Your kinglet hearing test

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA

The sounds made by golden-crowned kinglets are so high-pitched that many people can no longer hear them (a good reason to get a-birding before retirement age). If you can hear them (and thankfully, I still can) you will always know when they are visiting your neighborhood even if they are too far up the tree-tops to see. Of course, sometimes they just make a high-pitched racket, as in the video below (very brief glimpses of the birds themselves, primarily just a sound document).

[My fear, of course, that I'm not actually hearing all there is to hear in this clip!]

In other Charles River Peninsula news... There are currently more than a dozen wood ducks in the river around the peninsula. They seem to be observing an uneasy truce with the mallards. This morning, in addition to the normal wood duck scream, I heard one make a sound more akin to a howl (sadly unrecorded).

Also, there was a brief visit by a small group of rusty blackbirds. They are such active and (in my limited exposure to them) jubilant birds. I always feel a twinge of pathos, like they are the remnants of some formerly great but now doomed and scattered tribe.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Sparrows and Harriers

Full Moon, Millennium Park, West Roxbury, MA

Left the house to the sounds of golden-crowned kinglets in our tree-tops; arrived at Millennium Park just in time to see clouds of robins departing their roosts. Suddenly it's glove weather. Ice coating standing water.

The theme for the last couple of weeks has been sparrows. Today was no different (though it was nice to see a blue jay down there with them).

Here's a better look at that (imm.) white-crowned sparrow

also spotted a field sparrow, in addition to the regular song, savannah, swamp, and white-throats.

Vesper sparrow was a pleasant surprise.

On to the river, where the foliage views are spectacular.

Not as much raptor action as usual, though I did see some chickadees flush a sharpie from the brush. And some unusual (to me) northern harrier behavior.

Yesterday I watched as a harrier at Great Meadows chased a sharp-shinned and a red-tailed hawk. This morning I watched a harrier harass a great blue heron.

The scene below is a clue for this level of aggressiveness, perhaps. There were actually two harriers on the scene. (Click to see the spooky owl face better)

Friday, October 22, 2010

From Concord to Nahant

Canada Geese, Great Meadows NWR, Concord, MA

Drove up to Salem for advising today. Only one advisee had signed up and she never showed. But, the day wasn't a total loss. I stopped at Great Meadows in Concord on the way there and at Long Beach in Nahant on the way back.

The star of Great Meadows for the past couple of days (excepting a mysterious unidentified martin) has been an easy-going grasshopper sparrow, stationed right at the beginning of the trail. I spotted him right away, though he quickly moved out of good camera position. No problem--I'd gotten pretty good grasshopper sparrow photos a couple of years ago.

Sparrows of all sorts, but especially swampies, continue to migrate through. A couple of white-crowns did their best to avoid being camera subjects. A taste below.

Palm warblers lent their color to the fall foliage display.

As did zillions of yellow-rumps. This one perched unbelievably close. Hello there.

There were great raptor displays all day. A northern harrier ruled Great Meadows, battling with a sharpie and a red-tailed hawk and sending ducks flying and teal diving. A merlin was using the wind to attain super speeds at Nahant Beach. And I saw a peregrine falcon hovering in the wind as I drove down Rt 1A.

Today the high temperature was in the 40s with wind-chills below freezing. Why not stop and inhale wind-blown sand at Long Beach? I was expecting gulls (bonapartes, hopefully) but got sanderling in great numbers. And look at that--some dunlin hanging out with them.

And then there were the brant, initially off shore but then on the beach. I wonder if the wind-surfers had anything to do with it.

Here's a little video documenting the Nahant stop. Lots of wind noise. It was windy. See weird sand blown patterns. See a gull blown right out of the frame.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cutler Cuckoo

Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Cutler Park, Needham, MA

A lovely birdy (swamp sparrows everywhere, the high-pitched calls of golden-crowned kinglets in the woods) morning along the train tracks at Cutler. The highlight was this yellow-billed cuckoo. It took a moment to register--mockingbird? brown thrasher? because I see them so rarely. This one had the courtesy to perch out in the relative open before plunging back into the deep brush.

Also of note, this active little blackpoll (?) warbler.

And a trail-side blue-headed vireo hanging with the sparrows.

My favorite shot, though, was probably this chickadee.

There are large blackbird flocks in the area (I'm assuming red-winged). This one was flying across route 128--I caught it from a distance.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

October Dawn

In October, the figure and the ground switch places--the scenery takes over. I made it out to the Charles River Peninsula just before dawn. Please enjoy the very slow video, best watched in Full-screen HD for the proper immersive effect (though if your connection is like mine, you'll experience a lot of stalling and loading...)

By the way, I find it very curious that YouTube would suggest the following tags for this video. I know there's a lot of wind noise, but come on....

For those more interested in the figure, here's a wildlife video: a white-throated sparrow kicking leaves.