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.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Zoo Ducks

Hooded Merganser, Franklin Park Zoo, Boston, MA
Lily and I went to the Franklin Park Zoo on Columbus Day. Our favorite exhibit: the duck pond in the Children's Zoo. There seem to be more native North American species there now than I've seen in the past: hooded mergansers, goldeneye (Barrow's), wood ducks (hiding under a bush), buffleheads, canvasbacks, black ducks, and of course, mallards.
Barrow's Goldeneye, Franklin Park Zoo, Boston, MA
Such close proximity does tend to bring out the testosterone, though. The male bufflehead was chasing everything close by. He would dive and attack from below, which sent ducks, especially goldeneye and hoodies, scurrying all over the pond. Other times he would get up steam and fly like a dart, causing waterfowl in his path to, well, duck....

After the bufflehead calmed down, the testosterone moved on to the hooded mergansers. As documented below, two males went into full-on display mode. We were close enough to hear the croaky/buzzy call accompanying the display.

Lily, as you can hear above, thought it great fun. I agreed.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Low Hawk

Red-tailed Hawk on Shagbark Hickory, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
For the second morning in a row I've avoided walking up the hickory hill at the CRP because it looked like someone was hanging out there. Yesterday, I spotted a gentleman with a gray brush cut. (It turned out to be the tail of a gray squirrel sitting on the fallen limb.) Today, a more dominating presence--a red-tailed hawk.
It is unusual to see a hawk sitting down so low.
It was evidently waiting for a squirrel to emerge from the hollows of the tree (perhaps my gray brush cut gentleman from the previous day).
And the hill provides an ideal prospect from which to see potential prey in the meadow.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Milkweed Dew

Dew on Milkweed, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
It's misty most mornings at the CRP these days.

Good for sunbeams.

And dew-soaked milkweed.
So many different shapes.

In other news: Bluebirds everywhere.
Eastern Bluebirds, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Not all getting along.
Eastern Bluebirds, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Click on the photo above for a closer look.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

October for the win

Palm Warbler, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
For me nothing beats the cool, dry, sunny October day.
Pine Warbler, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
May is nice but it's all about anticipation.
Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
October is about appreciation.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Snapping Turtle (Baby edition)

Snapping Turtle Hatchling, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
This isn't the first tiny snapping turtle I've seen sunning itself on the trail at the CRP.
Snapping Turtle, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
But it was the most active one I've seen. Eyes wide open.
Snapping Turtle, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
And I've seen its giant mother laying eggs on the other side of the field.
Snapping Turtle, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
I was a little concerned for the safety of this one right in the middle of a regularly traveled path so I moved it off path, closer to the river bank.

Also on the concern list: this orchard oriole.
Orchard Oriole, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
It really should be moving on.