I put on my rubber boots and sloshed around the Charles River Peninsula this morning. Spring has arrived: first CRP sightings of tree swallows, first song of the phoebe, and was that a female wood duck up in a tree? (Yes, checking out a cavity). There are now at least three bluebird pairs claiming boxes, though the house sparrows seem much more hazardous this year that previously. I wonder also if a flicker is going to end up claiming a box. The resident red-tailed hawk looked miserable--completely waterlogged.
This is such an interesting time of the year. Here's a few early morning bird recordings.
1) Robin. Soon this song will recede to the background, but it is so nice to hear robins going at it full blast again. I was watching a large flock foraging on the meadow, negotiating pecking order. One particularly intense chase--I think the pursuer might have even got some tail feathers. What I found interesting was the way several other robins got involved--as if curious to see who would win the fight.
2) Woodpecker conversation. For the life of me I couldn't find the drummers visually (with warbler season coming I need to get my bin skills back!) so I'm just guessing they're downies, but flicker is a strong possibility. Also, a serious conversation between a couple of song sparrows.
3) Song Sparrow Song Fight. This was cool. Unlike the robins, I didn't see the song sparrows using any true physical aggression. The one with the raspy song would perch and sing and the second would immediately chase. They ended up flying around and around the brush, perching and singing, perching and singing.
Downy Woodpecker, Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary, Natick, MA
A fantastic morning at Broadmoor today full of lovely sights and interesting sounds. First sight--ring-necked ducks on the pond (with green-winged teals, wood ducks, hooded mergansers). They stopped and slowly broke the smooth surface of the water, diving.
Sight 2: The work of some ambitious beavers, left half done. I hope they survived the flood OK.
Sight 3: Bluebirds (caught him in mid-chortle).
They were staking out house boxes.
Along with recently returned tree swallows!
But getting some nasty competition from the house sparrows, who have already claimed a few boxes and are aggressively fighting off intruders.
Oh and here's a tiny brown snake. First of the year. Hope you don't mind.
Recordings: Note--I find this time of year a little confusing (of course, by May I'm a basket case). 1) Fox Sparrow, by the bird feeders. He's got that slide-whistle thing going. 2) Dark-eyed Junco, in the orchard. This is a rock solid ID (I saw him singing). If I heard the same thing in April I would immediately think chipping sparrow or pine warbler. 3) Brown Creeper, in the woods near the (flooded) entrance to Quacking Frog Trail. I have never before heard a brown creeper sing in the wild, only on recordings, so this is provisional. But I can't think of anything else it could be. (I immediately thought warbler but that seems impossible and my only other thought is a very short-winded winter wren). This recording repeats the same snippet three times. 4) Brown Creeper, on Indian Brook Trail. Here the chickadees provide clutter, but if you concentrate you can hear what sounds like a wheeze and a couple of very sweet notes repeated several times. Once again, this ID is provisional.
For the most part, Charles River Peninsula seems to have survived the flood intact. It is rather soggy and new ponds have emerged on the meadow. The lower trail through the woods is washed out (see above), but other than that things are accessible.
The resident Canada geese (see odd markings) are out in the fields eating grass.
The song sparrows are establishing their territories.
And the red-winged blackbirds (still all males) are hanging out in the brush by the river, singing and singing. Spring is a coming.
Out in Springfield in pursuit of TWB research leads (found one, I think), I decided to take advantage of the great weather and stopped at Quabbin Reservoir. My first time there--I didn't realize how developed it was. Walked from the dam up the hill to the observation tower and back. What a gorgeous gorgeous day.
I came to see bald eagles and I saw one. An immature just sitting on the ice out of good photo range... But there was a group of common mergansers near the dam and they generously came out of the water for a moment.
This was going to be a "Sign o spring" post but if you live in Massachusetts and you've been outside today, you have all the signs you need. 57 degrees and rising.
I decided to spend mid-day walking Fowl Meadow. By the end of the walk I was so happy I was cheerily saying hello to unleashed dogs and their owners!
Bugs! There are flying insects again! And deer ticks...
You are almost guaranteed to encounter deer at Fowl Meadow. Today I saw a group of five who crashed through the brush when they spotted me. One stayed behind (a phantom).
Chipmunks are keeping themselves busy. I'm not sure what use they have for this abandoned hot tub.
And throughout the walk, butterflies. I think they are Eastern Commas, though it's a bit early for them. Is it possible they are overwintering and today was just too nice to resist? The first one I saw nearly got taken out by a chickadee.
The best views of the butterflies were at the end of the trail in the huge piles of debris left in the wake of the Add-A-Lane project. So here is my collection of construction site butterfly photos.
Eastern Bluebirds, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
This couple was very approachable this morning. They seem to have their nesting box staked out (that spot is a favorite of the tree swallows, I regret to say; we'll see if the bluebirds can hold onto it).