Saturday, April 28, 2012

Notes for Sunday's Charles River Peninsula Bird Walk

The cypress spurge is blooming, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
As widely publicized, I am leading a bird walk Sunday morning at the Charles River Peninsula. The walk officially starts at 8 (though I'll be out there much earlier). It is sponsored by the Needham Friends of Woods and Water (or "Ferns and Fins").

The most exciting birds have yet to arrive. I have my fingers crossed for tomorrow. This is not unrealistic. In recent years, the yellow warblers, catbirds, Baltimore orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks and yellow-throated vireos have arrived at the very end of April. And they have tended to show up all at once.

Nevertheless, there is still plenty to see and hear. There is a lone orchard oriole male that is making its presence known and I'm beginning to see savannah sparrows in the grass. (Folks with dogs--please keep them on the trails until breeding season is finished in July). And the nesting box activity is pretty hot right now. (Unfortunately, the only eggs yet are house sparrow eggs).

The Charles River Peninsula has some interesting historical significance. Last year I led a walk for the Trustees of Reservations and prepared some historical material. I am not an expert on that aspect of things--there may be a more historically-informed tour in the future.

I look forward to seeing folks tomorrow. It is likely to be cold and a bit windy so please dress accordingly. I highly recommend binoculars (though we are likely to be doing more hearing than seeing with the leaves out as they are) and a field guide if you have one.

[UPDATE. A beautiful morning. Thanks to all that were able to come for making it an enjoyable outing. The "big" birds didn't show up, but that kept things gratifyingly simple. ]

Friday, April 27, 2012

Late April at Ridge Hill

Starflower, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
More awakening at Ridge Hill. Wild flowers just beginning to show.

Bee flies on dandelions.
Dragonflies, big
and small.

My favorite encounter this afternoon was with this amazingly iridescent six-spotted tiger beetle.
It was exploring the fresh new vegetation with its impressive mandibles.

In bird news: I saw a wind gust nearly make a turkey vulture crash into a tree. And blue gray gnatcatchers and house wrens are newly arrived at the CRP.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Murdered bluebird

Deceased male bluebird, box 2
Not what you want to see when you open a nesting box. I initially thought it was still alive but soon found out I was, sadly, wrong. Could be worse--a nesting bluebird hen, for example...
Pretty clearly murder and there are many possible suspects. These tree swallows, for example, quickly claimed the box after I cleaned it out. Could have been them. House sparrows are always a possibility, though I haven't seen them in this part of the field this year. Perhaps a sharpie dealt it a mortal wound. My prime suspect, though, is a rival male bluebird. I've seen two males go to the ground fighting this spring and I wonder if the violence reached fatal proportions.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

13th Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup

Happy Earth Day Everyone!
Lily and I joined the group cleaning up the area around Cutler Pond in Needham. A nice way to spend a couple of hours outdoors. With some adventure--climbing down gullies through newly sprouting poison ivy to recapture bottles, cans, and decaying earth balls.
Lily worked with a friend, competing over each bottle and can. And poop bag.

Especially poop bags. Easily the most common article of trash in the Cutler Pond area, if you don't count the unbagged poop lining the trail. Some people seem to think it is best to bag the poop and then to fling it as far as possible into the wetlands. A Happy Earth Day to You!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Ferns, Dragonflies, Butterflies, and Huckleberry Blossoms

Palm Warbler, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
A mid-day stroll through the Field View and North Trails. A few nice birds, including a friendly palm warbler and my first-of-the-year black & white warbler. But the real attraction was everything else.
The ferns are a-rolling out.
Dragonflies of all varieties are zooming around.

Butterflies too. Question-marks (above), red admirals, mourning cloaks, tiny blues.
And what's this trail-side? Could it be future trail-side huckleberries?

Monday, April 16, 2012

April in Manhattan

View from our hotel room of Central Park, NY
A family trip to New York. We stayed in the Rockefeller Center area rather than Times Square, which was a relaxing change. And the view from our room was spectacular.

Not having done a full New York trip while in my birding phase, I was still a Central Park skeptic. Pigeons, starlings, house sparrows. I'll see those. But what else?
Partially leucistic American Robin, Central Park, NY
I'm now a believer. Almost literally the first bird I spotted was the piebald robin above. Interesting...

The Pond and Hallett Nature Sanctuary, Central Park, NY
Then I wandered over towards "The Pond." White-throated sparrow songs were everywhere.
White-throated sparrow, Central Park, NY
At 3 on a Saturday afternoon. With people everywhere. When I spotted a hermit thrust in the bushes off of 79th St. I nearly lost it.
Hermit Thrush, Hallett Nature Sanctuary, Central Park, NY
Turns out this was peak hermit thrush migration time in the area. I would see them in all sorts of locations, including Ellis Island, during our trip.
At the Pond itself, a lone drake wood duck. It was being corrupted by a guy tossing bread crumbs and holding its own against the mallards.
And twice I saw folks gesturing excitedly at things on the opposite bank. A raccoon, casually plodding along (at 3 in the afternoon).

And a woodchuck.
Ruby-crowned kinglet, Central Park, NY
The other migrant of note was the ruby-crowned kinglet, singing occasionally and in the tops of trees in Central Park, Ellis Island, Battery Park, and probably every green space in the city.

Laughing Gulls, East River Bike Path, NY
The most surprising sighting of the weekend, though, which literally made me exclaim, out loud, "What The..." was a yellow-bellied sapsucker in Battery Park. OK, New York and Central Park, I am definitely a birding believer.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ridge Hill birdiness

Pine Warbler, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
Things are heating up. Walking through the trails at Ridge Hill I was serenaded by a ruby-crowned kinglet (Field View Trail) and a winter wren (Chestnut Trail). The chipping sparrows have joined the pine warblers in the Ridge Hill trillfest.
Pine Warbler, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
I was so proud of my ability to distinguish chipping sparrows trills from pine warbler trills. Then I realized that palm warblers were also in the mix. And things got all confused again....
Palm Warbler, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
At any rate, nice to see the palm warblers.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Better CRP Kestrel Photos

American Kestrel, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
The kestrel let me get a little closer today. The best shot is above. I also liked the poses below.

And of course, flying.
Bonus shots:
Red-bellied woodpecker
And a couple of bluebirds

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Easter Morning Fallout

Tree Swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Migrants galore this morning--dozens of robins on the meadow, a couple of tail flipping palm warblers on the forest edge, and even more tree swallows and bluebirds, if that can be believed.

 Joining our kestrel visitor on the shagbark hickory--a half dozen red-winged blackbirds, initially distressed when it flew in but perfectly comfortable to share the tree when they saw who it was.

And  distributed throughout the property--colorful plastic eggs.
Where did they come from?
Plastic birds?

Honestly, I hope whoever did this is going to do tick checks after the egg hunt. Some of the eggs are quite deep in the field.  And I really hope the kids don't stumble across the recently deceased cottontail in the brush off the parking lot....

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Charles River Peninsula Kestrel

What's that in the shag-bark hickory tree at the Charles River Peninsula?
Could it be?
Yes it is. An American Kestrel. A male.
See the blue?

I usually see kestrels in April at the CRP, just passing through. This one left not long after I arrived. BUT on my wait out I noticed it had returned to the shag-bark hickory. So who knows. Maybe this is the year the kestrels stay....
[UPDATE: Friday April 6--still there. Even heard a little vocalization (aimed at red-tailed hawk)]

Sunday, April 1, 2012

First of April

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Up early and out to the CRP this morning. The fields were frosty.

Last year around this time the brush was filled with singing fox sparrows and the river was stuffed with wood ducks. This year has been different.

So a stop-off at Great Meadows on my way home from Accepted Students Day.
I got my fill of wood ducks. There were dozens. And not as skittish as they sometimes are.

Today was a coot day at Great Meadows, with ring-necked ducks in the background. I was happy to spot my first grebe of the year.
I'm not sure what it was trying to swallow but it was clearly a challenge.
 And I'm never unhappy to see tiny green-wing teal.