Friday, April 29, 2011

The second day of "May" (even better!)

Black and White Warbler, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
A perfect late April morning with even more new arrivals to the Charles River Peninsula: kingbirds, warbling vireos, a black and white warbler, and...
my first-of-the-year yellow-throated vireo. I heard it as soon as I walked onto the property. I initially refused to believe my ears--it seems kind of early for yellow-throated v's. But, as you can see above, I was able to track it down.

Lots of singing, especially from catbirds and orioles. A few more Baltimore orioles have joined the chorus--I recognize their songs from last year. And the orchard orioles are going non-stop, competing over a female.

Also, a friendly group of warblers, allowing very close approaches, gathered in the grove near the tip of the peninsula. That's where I saw the black and white and a whole bunch of yellow-rumps and palmies.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The first day of "May"

Gray Catbird (FOY), Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Let it be recorded that on April 27, 2011, the birds came back to the Charles River Peninsula. The towhees, the Baltimore orioles, the orchard orioles, the yellow warblers, the kestrels, the savannah sparrows, and (above) the gray catbirds. One day they are not there; the next day they here they are! Honestly, did the flight of migrating birds blot out the stars and moon last night?

Also back: long-awaited females. Now the red-winged blackbirds and tree swallows can really get down to business.
(This one tried to take off my head).

The yellow warblers are already fighting for territory.

The orchard orioles are singing away.
(Yes, that black shadow is an orchard oriole)

And the savannah sparrows (who may just be passing through) were out in the rapidly growing grass.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Titmouse and Chickadee countersinging

White-tailed Deer, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
Stomped through the Ridge Hill Reservation woods in the rain this afternoon in the mood for strangeness. I got it in the form of an eerie scraggly white-tailed deer that I surprised coming off the trail onto the gas line easement.

Not much bird song. Sporadic bursts of pine warbler, which would stop as soon as I'd lift my binoculars. The dominant sound echoing through the woods was the song of one particularly dominant tufted titmouse. At one point he was joined by another singing a bit lower. The two in combination make an exceptionally appealing sound.

Not unlike counter-singing black-capped chickadees, which can be heard exchanging choruses against a background of chipping sparrows and pine warblers trying to out-trill each other.

White-throated Sparrow has a two-part song

White-throated Sparrow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA

For a bird with such a simple, stereotyped ("Old Sam Peabody" etc) song, there is a great deal of variation in the vocal expressions of the White-Throated Sparrow. Sometimes they stay on the same note, often they start low and go high, and sometimes (my favorite) they start high and go low. Today, in the rain, I recorded a white-throat doing both "go high" and "go low" variations, a lovely melancholy melody.

Here's a video that shows the sparrow doing both parts.

Here's a longer recording showing more variation (there is a song sparrow singing in the background that obscures some of the notes).

In other CRP news: a massive influx of yellow-rumped warblers.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Home Depot Herons and Osamequin Egrets

Great Blue Heron, Home Depot Heronry, Seekonk, MA

The heron rookery behind the Seekonk Home Depot seems larger and more crowded than last year. Below is just a section (the section least blocked from photo view by tree branches).
What a great opportunity to view herons in a domestic context--a little romance here, a lot of squabbling there, and at least one heron intent on a some nest branch theft.

After my morning heron visit I felt obligated to see if I could search up some egrets, so I stopped at the Osamequin Bird Sanctuary. Here's a great egret with a famous local landmark reflected in the water.
While I was taking a photo of the egret above another just happened to fly into the frame, creating this odd Crossley-style composition.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Home Depot Owlets

Great Horned Owl Chicks, Behind the Home Depot, Seekonk, MA
Yes, I also have heron photos, but I thought I might attempt a quick post about the owlets in the heron rookery behind Home Depot. They were not hard to find at dusk (they were turned away from the setting sun--and towards me!) two immense lumps in a large nest in the midst of heronland. (They were not nearly as easy to find in the morning).
Even got to see a little wing stretching action.
I thought this was funny though. Take a close look at the cell tower osprey platform (she's in there--I know)
Do you see the robotic great horned owl, placed there to dissuade pigeons and the like? I wonder if this has caused any confusion.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ulterior Motives

Pine Warbler, Caryl Park, Dover, MA
--Hey Lily, it's such a beautiful day [it was]! Let's go to the park! How about Caryl Park?
--(to himself). Pine Warbler time!

Marblehead Neck's heating up!

Golden-crowned Kinglet, Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Marblehead, MA
Lots of golden-crowned kinglets at Marblehead Neck this morning. Completely oblivious to me, so I could get super close--macro lens close. I came home thinking I had a camera full of great kinglet images. Alas, the kinglet curse continues (as does the brown creeper curse--I think there's something about the pattern on their back that automatically triggers the "flash needed" setting.) But wonderful to have kinglets and creepers everywhere I looked.

And hermit thrushes. I thought my experience last year around this time was anomalous. It turns out this is just a typical mid-April migration pattern.

Here's a short video of a couple of kinglets. If you listen closely you may hear a hermit thrush whisper singing.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Amorous Nuthatch

I love it when nuthatches show their romantic side. Listen to that lovely voice and that oh-so-smooth spread-tail strut. She's all a-quiver. How come she hits him?

In other unexpected romantic news, I spent some at Broadmoor watching a dark-eyed junco sing what ornithologists call its "short-range" song. Unlike the normal metallic trill (oh so troublesome when chipping sparrows and pine warblers are also around), the junco goes all goldfinchy, stringing together line after line of its call notes. I was quite blown away at this newly discovered talent. And now I'm hearing it all the time (you just have to get quite close to listen). In this recording there is a song sparrow in the background that interferes a little in trying to hear the pure junco song).

Saturday, April 9, 2011

More early April goodness

Wild Turkey, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
OK, I know that wild turkeys can fly and that they roost in trees but I have to say that seeing a bird that large that high up in a tree silhouetted against the morning sky was quite an unexpected sight.

There is no better time to see palm warblers, little yellow balls lit up by the rising sun.

Or goldfinches, though this one's brightness seems to have disabled my camera.
Lots of singing and chasing. The palm warblers were even going after the goldfinch.

Speaking of high male hormone levels, the tree swallows have discovered the nest boxes and are now competing four and five at a time for possession. And coming after me too. Others (below) are simply playing a waiting game.
The tree swallows are a wonderfully disruptive force, especially irritating to house sparrows, who are finding their claims of ownership contested.

Friday, April 8, 2011

A perfect day in early April

Palm Warbler, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA

Rumors of warblers in the air, I drove over to Broadmoor this morning with a plan and high hopes. I would walk down the Glacial Hill Trail to the spot where I saw my first palm warbler so many years ago (actually just three!) And wouldn't you know--there they were, right where the Glacial Hill Trail hits the access trail to Rt 16. Probably a half a dozen or so, some singing that trailing trill that is so distinctive among all the chickadee, titmouse, and cardinal whistling.

Oh how I love you palm warbler, even when you turn away and ruin a perfect photo.

While I was down there I looked across the beaver pond to check out the old heronry along Rt 16. I spotted some activity--An osprey!

I'd achieved my warbler goal so I began to head back. That's when I heard an unholy noise behind me. A pileated woodpecker! I turned just in time to watch it fly past and into a tree right ahead.
There were at least two of them. Those are some huge loud birds. I don't know pileateds well enough to know if over-the-top screaming and machine gun/sledge hammer drilling are signs of woodpecker aggression or lovemaking.

On my way out I couldn't help noticing that the nest box situation at Broadmoor now included tree swallows. Could the same be true at the Charles River Peninsula? I stopped to see.

As I walked onto the meadow I heard the distinctive twittering sound of swallows in flight. Dear reader, it is no exaggeration to say I almost jumped for joy. (Actually, what I did was more like a fist pump--"Yessss!") Unlike Broadmoor they weren't directly competing for boxes but at least one was showing some interest.
And there was the first CRP phoebe of the year!
And there were the first warblers (see top of page)! A few palms and at least one yellow-rumped! The fun has truly arrived.

Below is the video version of the day. (You can watch full screen HD if you want)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Bluebird on a stick

Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA

Today's bluebird check yielded two boxes out of nine in use.

I don't see any trash in these nests yet (and I'm no longer hearing/seeing sparrow activity), so I'm thinking genuine bluebird nests. Time will tell. A couple were checking out box 9 but so far nothing started.

This fellow (his partner flew off when I approached) was sitting on the end of a stalk getting blown around in the wind. I was able to get close enough for a few shots from different angles and lighting conditions.

And, finally, what would a spring visit to the riverside be without turtles? Though, I'll admit I wasn't expecting THIS many turtles.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Thomas W. Eastman Conservation Study Area

Thomas W. Eastman Conservation Study Area (Behind Newman Elementary School, Needham, MA)

There is a little wetland area behind my daughter's school that serves as a place for nature study. A sign identifies it as the "Thomas W. Eastman Conservation Study Area." As far as I can tell it is dedicated to a Needham science educator who died prematurely in the 1970s. (If someone knows the whole story please let me know in the comments).

Today we sat on the boardwalk, watching a wood duck on the pond and listening to wood frogs and spring peepers.

Or, rather, I did that while Lily fished soggy leaves from the water.

Skunk Cabbage! It is spring after all!