Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blasé Coyote

There it was, ambling through the athletic field at the Cambridge School of Weston.
A little too used to humans, I think. As I moved closer to take the photo, it moved closer to get a better look at me. (And pick up something to chew).
In fact, it was so blasé about my presence that I was going to call it a dog. And then it trotted right into the woods, no owner in sight...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Narrow River, Narragansett

Great Egrets (and clammer), Narrow River, Narragansett, RI
My mom had a groupon deal for a kayak rental outfit in Narragansett, so there I went with Lily to join other members of the family for a mid-day salt water kayak excursion.

The weather was clear and sunny, the water calm, the tide going out. The shorebird life was teeming.
Snowy Egret, Greater Yellowlegs, and Willet, Narrow River, Narragansett, RI
 And osprey were abundant, five or six visible in the sky at a time.
Osprey, three in the nest, Narrow River, Narragansett, RI
We were able to get very close to some birds. It did cause us to get stuck on sandbars once or twice.
Young terns, Narrow River, Narragansett, RI
This cormorant was blocking the landing at Gooseberry Island. I wonder if it was molting. It wouldn't fly away.
And willets were everywhere.
Willet and semipalmated plover, Narrow River, Narragansett, RI
Oh shorebirds. How I still can't identify you...
Willet and Dowitcher (?), Narrow River, Narragansett, RI

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wild Turkey roosting in our tree

Good Morning, Wild Turkey!
I think it is comforting to have a wild turkey, such a large animal, visibly roosting in our tree at night. And we are grateful for the feathers it is leaving us.
Wild Turkey feathers, both wing and tail.
And we are especially glad it is no longer roosting above our cars. (We will have a healthy pile of turkey guano by the end of the summer).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mid-July at Charles River Peninsula

Great Blue Heron, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
It's mid-summer. What more to say? The heron takes up its normal place on the river.
American Goldfinch, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
The only birds putting much energy into their songs are the goldfinch. And this one is molting already?
Monarch Butterfly, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
And monarch butterflies abound. Soon we'll be able to see their young munching on the milkweed.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Barn Swallows get fed

Barn Swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
While I was cleaning out nesting boxes at the CRP this morning, I noticed this group of young barn swallows in a nearby tree.
Barn Swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
The parents were actively feeding them. If you look closely above you can see a flying insect in the middle one's beak.
Barn Swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Above is the classic shot. I wish I had been a bit closer.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Nest box vandalism at the Charles River Peninsula

Box 1 Former nest of house sparrow
Sometime this week after the morning of the Fourth (the last time I was on the property) vandals knocked down two nesting boxes at the Charles River Peninsula and destroyed an active tree swallow nest.
Box 2 Former nest of tree swallow
As the volunteer caretaker of these boxes for the last few months this hits hard.
Box 3 Former tree swallow nest
The first two boxes were effectively empty--an unsuccessful male house sparrow controlling the first and young tree swallows recently fledged from the other. It is the gratuitous destruction of the active tree swallow nest (box 3 has been cursed this year) that leaves me speechless. There were chicks in there.

Mute swan and cygnets, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
So we won't be putting box 1 or box 2 back up, this year at least. And I wouldn't blame the tree swallow parents for abandoning box 3. But time will tell. I'll keep checking...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A nest of baby robins

Oh silly robins, building your nests in places commonsense would tell you are bad ideas. Such as the mountain laurel on my parents' deck. Guaranteed disturbances many times a day, especially during Fourth of July brick oven pizza parties. (Thanks, Mom and Dad!)
But these brand new robins seem to be weathering the disturbances fairly well.
Video below.

Monday, July 4, 2011

El Paso Day 3.5: Return to Rio Bosque Finale

Burrowing Owl, Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso, TX
One more evening in El Paso. One last chance to find a roadrunner. There were parts of Rio Bosque that I had not seen in two earlier trips, so there I went. Not another soul in sight. Except for roadside burrowing owls.
Burrowing Owl, Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso, TX
And utility pole-top burrowing owls.
Burrowing Owl, Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso, TX
I drove all the way down to the property's nature center, which features a short, well-maintained accessible trail and lusher vegetation than the other end of the park.
Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso TX
On the way down, egrets and a great blue heron in the canal.
Great Blue Heron, Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso, TX
I walked the trail, watching Gambel's quails and their babies scatter ahead of me.  Again and again. Tiny projectiles. And then I stopped short, as I saw something in the distance. Could it be? White-tailed kite.
White-tailed Kite, Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso, TX
I knew they were nesting at Rio Bosque--it was one of the reasons I had wanted to come in the first place.  Isn't that an amazing roosting profile? They saw me, as hawks will, from far away, so I didn't want to approach too closely for fear of losing them all together.
White-tailed Kite, Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso, TX
Now that's a ghostly-looking bird. (Click on images to see a closer view).

The sun was beginning to set. Time to go home. Would I get to see the roadrunner? Would I set this artificial suspense narrative up if I hadn't?

There it was, on a roadside stump, preening itself. I watched for a while. I would end up seeing, on my drive out of the park, several more--one raced in front of the car (luckily I was moving pretty slowly).
Greater Roadrunner, Rio Bosque Wetlands Park, El Paso, TX
When I got home and proudly displayed my roadrunner photo to Lily (the original source of the roadrunner-coyote quest), she was pleased but mildy dissatisfied. "I was hoping you'd get a photo of a roadrunner drinking from a cactus," she explained.

I've embedded a video version of this excursion below that includes several nice moments, including a super close up of an irritated burrowing owl, a grainy but viewable shot of a Gambel's quail family, and the preening roadrunner (interspersed, Disney Nature style, with shots of the earlier coyote).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

El Paso Day 3: UTEP Campus

Western Kingbird, UTEP Campus, El Paso, TX
The University of Texas El Paso maintains a lovely campus (and a large staff of early morning leaf-blowing maintenance workers). I was able to squeeze a little birding in before morning conference activities, mostly to see if I could get good looks at local garden-type birds.

Make no mistake, even though it is not pictured here--the dominant bird at UTEP is the great-tailed grackle, our Costa Rican friend. I am still astonished at the variety of (loud) noises that bird is capable of.

The best place on campus for close-up views of verdin and black-chinned hummingbirds is the little Chihuahuan Desert Gardens area surrounding the Centennial Museum.
Black-chinned hummingbird female, UTEP Campus, El Paso, TX
Verdin can be seen very regularly in the shady drip fountain area drinking droplets from the ceiling.
Verdin, UTEP Campus, El Paso, TX
The most surprising discovery was a pair of local thrashers (I'm going to call them curve-billed, though my ID is not 100%) that emerged from some hillside brush into the morning sunlight.
Curve-billed Thrasher, UTEP Campus, El Paso, TX
Curve-billed Thrasher, UTEP Campus, El Paso, TX
It is not a paradise for birds on the UTEP Campus, unfortunately. (Apparently) feral house-cats roam the grounds. I saw a few of them actively stalking birdlife.

Roadrunner? Maybe next time.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

El Paso Day 2.5: Crossroads Pond

American Avocets, Crossroads Pond, El Paso, TX
Crossroads Pond is a classic birder's spot. A small pond in a residential neighborhood surrounded on three sides by a chain link fence, with houses on the fourth side (ostensibly for whom the pond is maintained), it is an oasis for water birds, especially in the summer.

I was immediately greeted by a pair of black-necked stilts. These are normally birds known for their grace and elegance. But this pair went all willet on me, vocalizing and flying in wide circles around me the entire time I was there. And a little bit of dive-bombing, though never close enough to make me feel uncomfortable.
Black-necked Stilt, Crossroads Pond, El Paso, TX
Was this the object of their concern?

Black-necked stilt and American avocets, Crossroads Pond, El Paso, TX
I've grown to appreciate being attacked by birds. They should attack me. I (in general) represent a threat. And it's better than indifference. A tree swallow will look you right in the eyes as zooms toward your head.

Here's some video footage of the irritated stilts. You can still hear them in the background during the avocet shots.

 And what's not to love about avocets? (Though one of them came after me too, taking its turn after the stilts and the killdeer)
American Avocets, Crossroads Pond, El Paso, TX
American Avocet, Crossroads Pond, El Paso, TX
Roadrunner?  Not a chance.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Flora and Fauna of the Needham Community Farm area

Lance-leaved Coreopsis, or tickseed, Needham Community Farm, Needham, MA
The raised beds that comprise the gardens of Needham Community Farm take up a relatively small part of the entire property. (It used to be the site of a Nike missile base, don't you know.) The rest is a meadow of long grasses and wildflowers.  I took a walk through the meadow to see what I might find.

The meadow is dominated right now by the normal July bloomers: wild carrot and fleabane, with black-eyed Susans getting ready to bloom in large numbers. I was struck by the lovely tickseed (above) and a small stand of Deptford pink (below).
Deptford Pink, Needham Community Farm, Needham, MA
And this lovely low blooming flower that I don't recognize.
Perhaps someone else does...

I was also interested in insect life, though I did not do an exhaustive survey. You can see black swallowtail, as well as abundant cabbage and sulfurs (not good but unavoidable). I was glad this eastern tailed blue decided to open its wings a bit.
Eastern Tailed Blue

There are many dragonflies of many sorts. (I always intend to indentify them, until I look at the long long species list), Here are some photos, nonetheless.

And this beetle, chewing on a common mullein, looks like a potential problem, no?
on the mullein
The bird scene was livelier that I remember.  Right now the meadow is a nursery for chipping sparrows (I flushed over a dozen just walking through) and red-winged blackbirds. Common grackle and common crows flew over while I was there, making me think that concern about blackbirds in the garden is reasonable. Eastern towhee and scarlet tanager sang from the wood's edge. And no house sparrows that I could detect, making it safe to put up some nesting boxes.