Saturday, February 26, 2011

What you are waiting for (is already here)

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
It is already spring, so far as the birds are concerned. I brought my Edirol out with me this morning and was glad I had. The morning soundscape now includes blue jays, juncos, mourning doves, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, carolina wrens, and (you can hear for yourself) blackbirds, who have started to establish territories.

Other signs of spring: chipmunks! And what is that I hear? Could it be an Eastern Bluebird? (He over-wintered but now he's singing!)
As I was standing recording the bluebird a mink came leaping through the brush.

I am also a sucker for resonant downy woodpecker drumming. This one also has a female bluebird calling in the background.

And now, for your viewing and listening pleasure, a singing song sparrow. He starts out at whisper-level but soon increases the volume. (There is a bit of wind noise, unfortunately). I've tagged a singing cardinal at the end.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I help the police

Hooded Merganser amidst mallards, Bullocks Cove, Riverside, RI
The police cruiser drives down the bike path toward me. The officer pulls up and rolls down his window. I lower my binoculars.
-- We're looking for a boy, nine years old, blue pants with yellow stripes. He's mentally retarded and missing from his home. We think he's around here. Have you seen him?
I think for a second. 
--No. But I'll keep an eye open. 
--Say, could you zoom in on that blue thing across the water?
I comply with his request.
--Looks like an old kite.
He drives on down the bike path.
--Good luck (I offer)
Meanwhile, I'm thinking--Oh great, suspicious guy with camera and binoculars. Taking photos of what exactly? Soon he'll be driving back down to ask me where I'm hiding the kid...
I walk on, lured by the sound of a song sparrow in full song. Turning back for a moment, I see a boy emerge from the phragmites and run across the path. Binoculars up. Blue pants with yellow piping. I wave down the officer and he drives back down. I point to where I saw the boy.
As I walk past I get a glimpse of the ensuing negotiation. The boy is huddled on a rock along the bank, swaying back and forth. Two more East Providence Police cruisers are pulled up onto the bike path.
--Hey buddy, your Mom's worried about you. Let's go.
The boy doesn't seem to be in the mood to go. (Eventually he must have given in because the police cruisers were soon gone from the area.)
Well, nice to be of some use, I thought, walking back. And all those hooded mergansers, nice to see them too (must have been two dozen, easily).

As I was driving back home tonight, though, I began to feel a little sad. Yes, it was important that this boy be found and returned safely home. I'm sure his parents were terribly worried. But I saw a certain, familiar attitude in him. He wanted to be there, freely exploring the phragmites, sitting on the bank looking at the water. In fact, the rock on which he was sitting when they found him--that's my favorite spot.  That's where you get the best view of the hoodies floating by. 
When I was his age, my favorite thing was navigating the swamp next to our house. When I come back to Rhode Island, now in my forties, my mother still must see that certain look in my eye.
--Do you want to take a walk?
--Yes, how did you know?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Great Backyard Bird Count 2011

Redwing Bay, Needham, MA
 Today we will salute the common, the reliable, the normal bird. The ones we usually take for granted.

The blue jay (count=5) and the cardinal (count=2)


 The chickadee (count=4) and the white-throated sparrow (count=5)
The winter wouldn't be winter without you.

The GBBC is technically over, but you have until March 1 to submit your numbers.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

500th Post! Migration is ON! New Blog!

Red-winged Blackbird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA

Lots of excitement today!

First, this is the 500th post on Circling the Smiling Pond, half-way to 1000! (Some time ago, this one surpassed my original blog, a great nerve vibrating, which is stuck at around 450--time to revitalize, I think).

Second, spring migration has officially begun. Yesterday, I spotted a large mixed flock of blackbirds at the CRP, mostly grackles with a couple of red-winged blackbirds and a robin tossed in.

Finally, I've started yet another (scholarly) blog, this time centering explicitly around the early history of bird protection. I've spent the last few months examining the agricultural press in the early 1800s and have found quite a lot of good material that, as far as I can tell, has been neglected for decades. Please check it out if you are interested. It is called "Winged Wardens," after a term used in a Longfellow poem.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Ring-necked ducks join the Mill Street Parade

Ring-necked ducks, Mill Street, Dover, MA

Today's drive-by: joining the mallard multitude were black ducks, hooded mergansers, common goldeneye, and three ring-necked ducks (uncommon on this stretch).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Return, at long last, to the Charles River Peninsula

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA

The CRP is (moderately) accessible again--the driveway up the hill is (mostly) free of ice; the snow is (mostly) packed densely enough to walk on. I trudged around the perimeter this morning only occasionally breaking through the knee-deep cover. It was nice to be back.

First (singing!) song sparrow of the year.

Other singers today: chickadees, titmice, cardinal.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mill Street continues to deliver

Common Goldeneye, Charles River, from Mill St., Dover, MA.

There is bridge construction on South/Willow Street, making my daily passes along Mill Street a bit more of a detour, but the traffic is lighter allowing for more extended photo opportunities. Today, a plentitude of common goldeneye--more drakes than I've seen recently (still no Barrows).

Common Mergansers as well, not flying away quite as quickly as usual.

And hooded mergansers (my first drake photo of the season, I do believe).

Photo of the day: mallards and mergansers living in peace and harmony.

Most unusual Mill Street sighting this past week: a pair of wood ducks.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sunrise at Millennium Park

Millennium Park, West Roxbury, MA

I arrived at sunrise. Very quiet.

The snow is still deep.

Less open water on the river than last week. The swans and geese have taken over.

Luckily there's still open water on the brook for the ducks and mergansers.

Overall feel: cold, slow, simple. A few chickadees, a nuthatch, a creeper, a downy, a couple of blue jays, and for excitement, a red-bellied woodpecker chase.