Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas visit to Bullocks Cove

Bullocks Cove, Barrington, RI
The annual post-Christmas dinner walk down to Haines Park and Bullocks Cove. The weather was mild and the water was still and the tide was low. The sun just about to emerge from behind the cloud cover.
Ducks, coots, wigeons, mergansers, scaup, brant, geese, swans...
Hooded Mergansers, Bullocks Cove, Barrington, RI
Greater Scaup, Bullocks Cove, Barrington, RI
Always something interesting. From confusing tide marks on pilings
to conch piles and burnt-down port-a-potties.
Why would someone burn down a port-a-potty? Why would someone pile up conchs (still in their shells) in front of it? Is this some kind of RISD art installation?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My Christmas Bird Count, 2011.

An annual tradition, a Christmas Bird Count, old school Bird Lore style. Things were a little quiet this morning compared with last year.

Needham, Mass.--Dec, 24; 7:15-8:45 A.M. Overcast; ground bare; tem., 22°. Canada Goose, 1; Mallard, 16; Hooded Merganser, 4; Common Merganser, 4; Great Blue Heron, 1; Red-tailed Hawk, 1; Rock Pigeon, 5;  Mourning Dove, 3;  Downy Woodpecker, 1; Blue Jay, 3; American Crow, 8; Black-capped Chickadee, 12; Tufted Titmouse, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 2; American Robin, 3; Northern Mockingbird, 1; American Tree Sparrow, 3; Song Sparrow, 3; Dark-eyed Junco, 4;  Northern Cardinal, 1; Red-winged Blackbird, 4; American Goldfinch ; 5. Total, 22 species, 86 individuals.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Plum Island

Early morning walk on the beach at Plum Island.

 Snowy owl at the edge of the dunes.
Hunters on the water shooting scoters.
Harrier inland hunting crows.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Cutler Cattails

Cutler Park, Needham, MA
It's luminous cattail time of year.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Millennium Park Snow Buntings

Millennium Park, West Roxbury, MA
A most gorgeous November day. Thought I'd take a sunny late morning stroll around Millennium Park. I won't lie--I'd heard there might be snow buntings.
Snow Buntings, Millennium Park, West Roxbury, MA
It didn't take long to find them. I'd barely begun when a small flock flew onto the path about twenty feet ahead of me.
Snow Buntings, Millennium Park, West Roxbury, MA
Why were they so attracted to the pavement?

Snow Buntings, Millennium Park, West Roxbury, MA
Drinking water. They stayed for a couple of minutes. And then like snow buntings, they flew off all at once together.
Snow Buntings, Millennium Park, West Roxbury, MA
Nice to have the snow bunting craving satisfied so early in the season....

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Our AWESOME birding trip to the North Shore

Lily birding Safari-style, Plum Island, Newburyport, MA
Another day, another dozen birds to check off a brand-new life list (and stamps to add to the MassAudubon Passport to Nature). We headed north to Plum Island. Goal: ducks and sandpipers.
Mostly American Wigeons, Salt Pannes, Plum Island, Newburyport, MA
Close to perfect fall duck day. We got gadwalls, wigeons, scaup, pintails, shovelers,
Northern Shoveler female, Salt Pannes, Plum Island, Newburyport, MA
ruddy ducks, eiders, green-winged teal, and even a redhead (!) barely viewed through a kindly offered scope.
Yellowlegs, Plum Island, Newburyport, MA
Sandpiper activity was also amazing. We parked at lot 7 and walked out to the beach.
This is when every interest Lily had in birds disappeared.
Black-bellied plovers and a sanderling, Plum Island, Newburyport, MA
Look Lily! Black-bellied plovers, sanderlings, dunlins! Oh wow, is that a red knot?
There's at least one red knot in there, I'm sure of it.
Lily nodded but didn't even hold up her binoculars. She would get to count the species but she didn't have to care. There was a whole beach to play on! (Meanwhile,  immense sandpiper clouds were blowing up the coast).
Rockery Pond, Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Topsfield, MA
A quick stop at Joppa Flats for a stamp and a gift store purchase and we were off to Ipswich River. This to finish our weekend trifecta of direct bird contact:
Lily in a now familiar pose, Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Topsfield, MA
Hand-feeding the chickadees! And titmice and nuthatches.
Very friendly white-breasted nuthatch, Ipswich River Wildlife Sanctuary, Topsfield, MA
I'm not sure how we are going to top this weekend. Our MassAudubon stamp count is up to six. Only four more and we get a prize! Where should we go next?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Our EPIC bird day in Western Mass

Lily and Harris's Hawk #95, New England Falconry, Hadley, MA
Up at sunrise and out the door for the two-hour drive to Lenox, MA.  The reason: Bird-banding at MassAudubon's Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary.

Lily's become very interested in birds recently, but I know that birding of the walking-through-woods-and-fields variety can get tedious very quickly for a seven year-old. So I've been searching for more direct forms of interaction.
Lily just about to release a chickadee, Pleasant Valley, Lenox, MA
The bird-banding session at Pleasant Valley was just the right scale, a good combination of skillful veterans, active but not crazily active mist nets, and indulgence of a second grader. Thus Lily got to release not only a chickadee but a nuthatch.
Lily about to release a nuthatch, Pleasant Valley, Lenox, MA
What a lovely place and what a lovely bunch of folks. Lily was completely thrilled by the experience. (Me too).
Harris's Hawk #95, New England Falconry, Hadley, MA
And then we moved on to New England Falconry in Hadley, about an hour away. Lily is crazy for peregrine falcons (the result of a Wild Kratts episode, I think). So I arranged for a short instructional session that would allow both her (and me) to do a little bit of hawk handling.
Lily and the Harris's Hawk, New England Falconry, Hadley, MA
I had seen Harris's Hawks in El Paso and was charmed by their sociability (not to me, to each other). These are alert, relatively self-controlled raptors. Chris Davis, the Master Falconer, gave us a little introductory talk and then we had the chance to have the veteran Harris's hawk male, #95, land on our outstretched gloved hands.
Lily took this one
Another delightful, thrilling outing. I highly recommend the experience.

We weren't ready to go home, so as long as we were in the area we thought we might check out another local MassAudubon property, Arcadia, in Easthampton.
Lily on the sensory trail, Arcadia, Easthampton,MA
More loveliness, and there were plenty of song birds around, including palm warblers and juncos,  to point at. And best of all, Lily got a new stamp for her MassAudubon Passport to Nature book. This stamp project, which started at Broadmoor last week and continued at Habitat in Belmont, is going to take us more places in the coming weeks (tomorrow's plan: Joppa Flats and Ipswich River).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Giant Puffball Alert!

Giant Puffball, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
I don't eat them but I know some people do. This one is 6-8 inches in diameter. See it near nesting box #4 (where the chickadees used to live).

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mice eviction fails to bring me joy

White-footed Mouse nest, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
A gorgeous fall day. Time to take care of unfinished business--removing the mouse nest from nesting box 7.

Mice really can't be allowed to take up residency in nesting boxes. They poop the place up and they can carry significant diseases.

I'd been putting this off for some time. I didn't want to evict any tiny dependent creatures. But surely the babies were mature by now. And it was better to evict them during the beautiful weather than later, when it would be harder for them to gather new nesting material.

White-footed Mice, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
I wasn't quite prepared, though, for the abject terror.

I'd assumed that they would jump right out of the box to the grass below. One, in fact, did.

I certainly didn't expect them to climb up.

My reflection in a terrified mouse's eye.
As they weren't going to leave while I was standing there, I decided to go. As I turned, overhead flew a shrieking red-tailed hawk. Had it been watching me the whole time?

I think this post needs a bluebird chaser...
Eastern Bluebirds, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Mid October at the Charles River Peninsula

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Quiet this morning with pockets of intense liveliness. Led by the return of the savannah sparrows.
Savannah Sparrow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Joining the tail-flipping palm warblers
Palm Warbler, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
And the yellow-rumped warblers, building in numbers.
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Also large groups of chipping and song sparrows, some singing. Fall migration is beginning to wind down.