Friday, December 31, 2010

Another trip to the National Aviary in Pittsburgh

Inca terns, National Aviary, Pittsburgh, PA

Another trip to Pittsburgh, another visit to the delightful National Aviary. Quite crowded this time, with visitors pretty evenly divided between parents pushing strollers and men with high-powered cameras. I represented neither, armed with an iPhone only. I was still able to snap some reasonable images...

Wattled Curassow, self-appointed ruler of the Wetlands area

Unlike my last visit, I spent most of my time in the "Wetlands." It was a good chance to try to spot some common Costa Rican birds--blue-gray tanagers, oropendolas, trogons, and the like. The trogon can be seen below. (I'm going to Costa Rica later this week).

There have been significant renovations to the Aviary since last year. There is a new auditorium, where they stage a rather elaborate "Wings" show (macaws, vultures!, owls, bald eagles etc plus pro-environmental appeals). And a small "grasslands" room for little finches and quails (plus an incredible long-tailed paradise whydah).

Outside, the Andean Condors show off their amazing wingspans.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Beavers and Bluebirds

Beaver Dam, Millennium Park, West Roxbury, MA

Millennium Park has beavers. Their dam is off the northeast corner of the property.

There is a well-traveled but narrow path lined with bird houses that provides views of the beaver pond. (I saw a common yellowthroat (!) and a winter wren there the other day).

Recently they've become more visible, cutting down many small trees that line the lower path.

There are beavers in Needham now too, though perhaps not for much longer.

The problem of backyard beavers makes me think about passenger pigeons. After reading 19th century accounts of the depth of guano and stench associated with mass wild pigeon nesting sites, I've become convinced that as much as we mourn their extinction, there is no way they would have been tolerated in the modern world.

Bonus Charles River Peninsula bluebirds (who may just stick around the whole winter).

Spotted a purple finch for the first time at the CRP last week (only blurry photos). Usually it's been a complete house finch zone.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My Christmas Bird Count 2010

Black-capped chickadee, Cutler Park, Needham, MA

Someday I'll join a Christmas Bird Count team, but for now I'm doing it old-school. Took a walk along the train tracks at Cutler and counted the birds I saw (plus some turkeys crossing the road on the way there). Here's the list, formatted Bird Lore style.
Needham, Mass.--Dec. 19; 7:00 to 9:00 A.M. Sunny; ground bare; temp., 19°. Canada Goose, 177; Wild Turkey, 16; Mallard, 9; Hooded Merganser, 6; Red-tailed Hawk, 1; Herring Gull, 1; Rock Pigeon, 4; Mourning Dove, 3; Downy Woodpecker, 2; Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Northern Flicker, 1; Blue Jay, 18; American Crow, 2; Black-capped Chickadee, 8; Tufted Titmouse, 8; White-breasted Nuthatch, 3; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 1; Eastern Bluebird, 3; American Robin, 7; American Tree Sparrow, 30; Song Sparrow, 6; White-throated Sparrow, 6; Northern Cardinal, 5; Red-winged Blackbird, 12; American Goldfinch, 30. Total, 25 species, 377 individuals.
Quite a bit more successful than last year's count!

Bonus Cutler chickadee photos below.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Cold Little Coot

Great Meadows NWR, Concord, MA

A frigid morning at Great Meadows. Almost completely iced over. This lonely coot (check out its feet!) was hanging out in the middle of the dike.

When it saw me coming, it found a protected area by a tree and nestled there.

I wonder how it got left all alone.

Also, bonus bluebirds! Apparently surviving on berries.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Spugsy, or Spurling

From Birds Britannica:
House Sparrow, Passer domesticus. VN: Spadge, Spug, Spuggy, Sprog, Sparrer, Spadgick, Squidgie, Speug, Spyug, Sparrag, Sporrow, Sparky, Spjugg, Sporra.

Centuries ago in England, householders used to put out "sparrow pots" for birds to nest in. During breeding season, their eggs (and nestlings) could be harvested as a source of protein.

In six years (1994-2000) London sparrows declined by 75%. In eastern England, the decline was 90% over thirty years.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Cold Cutler Morning

Cutler Park, along the train tracks, Needham, MA

Hard to get up and out there this morning. It's getting colder and darker every day. But then the sun came out and the tree sparrows started piccolo-ing and the kinglets flew across the path right over my shoulder and I was happy to be there.