Saturday, September 29, 2012

Window Strike Pine Warbler is OK

Pine Warbler in my hand
I hear the impact, the dull ringing of the window of the sliding glass door. Lily yells, "bird down! bird down!" I rush over and see a stunned little warbler lying in a puddle on the deck. I lift in onto my hand.
I let Lily gently stroke its back. She keeps count of the birds she has touched. This is number 7.
I know from bird banding that songbirds aren't too freaked out by human hands. But it is curious to me how sometimes they seem to wait for permission to fly off again. This piney flew over to a nearby table to rest before leaving at apparent full strength.

Second window strike this year, neither fatal. I'm a little worried what's going to happen when the juncos arrive in the next month or so...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Horrors on the Field View Trail

Accipiters, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
Something was wrong. I had just started through the grass towards Field View Trail and all the birdsong I could hear was condensed in a single scrubby tree--what sounded like a dozen chickadees chattering at once.

About midway down the trail I hear the piercing "Kee-ah!" of a red-shouldered hawk. Then a horrible squeal and a rustle of grackles, a river of them streaming overhead. Aha, I thought.

As I stepped out onto the easement by the swamp I discovered I had underestimated the horror. Two accipiters (I'm guessing Cooper's but I couldn't get a clean look), three accipiters, no FIVE accipiters, all cruising the wetlands. At one point a stupid-brave blue jay acting alone came out to harass one of them, and was doing fine until others showed up (I think it got away). At any rate, one tiny sharp-shinned hawk is usually enough to put the wetland in panic mode. Five at once--that's just excessive.

A parallel horror--gas line easement clear-cutting. Actually, that part's fine--it took care of all the invasive buckthorn that's been crowding the trail. Whoever did the work, though, apparently didn't know there was a wetland on the easement and made a significant cut into the wet area before turning back.
Wetland north of Field View Trail, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
To make matters worse, instead of trying to find an alternative path to the northern easement section (The Beard Trail is nice and wide and is easily accessed from the road) the clear-cutters drove their bobcat (I'm guessing from the tread-marks) back and forth through the very narrow Field View Trail.
Tread-marks on Field View Trail
The trail, not in terribly good shape to begin with, is now significantly ripped up (and quite wider in parts now!)

Horror-chaser: A singing brown creeper (they are now migrating through in big numbers).

Friday, September 21, 2012

Good-bye, Shagbark Hickory

Shagbark Hickory, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
 The windstorm on Tuesday night proved too strong for the Shagbark Hickory on the hill at the Charles River Peninsula.

The trunk was hollow and the tree was leaning ever since it lost a huge limb during Irene last year. It was just a matter of time.

But I will miss it dearly.

Apparently I'm not alone...

Here's a post about the tree in happier times

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ridge Hill sounds

Pine warbler, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
First, let's start with the pine warblers, whose trills are so loose this time of year. And add in the delightful red-breasted nuthatches who are beeping up and down trees everywhere. And some chipping chippies.

The blue jay gangs are large and vigilant this time of year. I couldn't figure out exactly what they were monitoring but it was getting them riled up. Here is the pre-attack chorus, half-a dozen blue jays in the same tree top (plus an alarmed robin). I really like the musical patterns here.

And a daylight hooting great horned owl, someplace in the woods (I tried to triangulate but I couldn't catch sight of it).

And this evening while Lily and I were leaving the community garden, a howling coyote.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Dockweiler Beach State Park

March of the Whimbrels
I dropped Ben off at LAX. Hmm, pretty close to the coast... A quick scan for shorebirds?  I drove north up Vista Del Mar. I look to my left and see a large group of something. Worth checking out. I park my car, walk across the sand, and look up the shoreline. A ha!

Sanderlings! Not exactly unexpected, but I haven't been to the beach at all this summer so a pleasant sight.  I look up the shoreline some more. Oh!
Whimbrels! Never seen this many at once before. Another look up the beach. Wow!
Marbled godwits! In huge numbers! (We're lucky to see one or two a year on the East Coast). Up go the binoculars. There, between the Heermann's gulls and the Western gulls, what's that?
 Terns! What kind? I'm awful at tern identification, but they look like non-breeding royals. I was able to catch a noisy group of them flying around in chase. The leader has a fish.

 I liked the industrial backdrop. More the truth of this area than a pristine beach.

 I'm almost positive this is a group of royal terns. I think there may have been some elegants in the larger group but I don't have good photo evidence.

Such riches of whimbrels and godwits.

I managed to walk all the way around the shorebirds and took the following photo from the opposite side.
And did get this photo looking toward the north of what at least appears to be a pristine beach (mostly devoid of shorebirds too).
Well, this is the last Southern California post. Time to go discover again the riches of the East Coast.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Laguna Beach

Bird Rock, Laguna Beach, CA
A break between two Disneyland sessions (I was invited this time) to go down to Laguna Beach and hang with some California relatives. I was happy (of course) to have a built-in trip to the shore. And Laguna Beach did not disappoint. Pelicans and cormorants on aptly named "Bird Rock"
Bird Rock, Laguna Beach, CA
and a nice collection of non-breeding Heermann's gulls on another rock.
Heermann's gulls, Laguna Beach, CA
Plus a willet, a wandering tattler, and an active (and friendly) flock of black turnstones.
Black turnstones, Laguna Beach, CA
Stay in frame, black turnstone! Stay in frame!
But my favorite bird of the day was a super approachable black phoebe. I got three good close-ups so rather than choosing I'll share them all.

Quite a charmer, that one.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Peters Canyon Regional Park

Upper Peters Canyon Reservoir, Orange County, CA
Peters Canyon Regional Park is arranged around a large reservoir and features carefully cultivated and protected bird habitats. A large grove of willows is the home of the "least" subspecies of Bell's vireo and there is an ongoing effort to return the coastal sage scrubland to its pre-invasive species state. It was here that I saw a pair of California gnatcatchers (they will get an occasional blue-gray as well).

Lots of waterfowl on the reservoir but as usual impossible to get a true fix without a spotting scope. Above is what I believe to be a group of pie-billed grebes. There were also mallards, a bunch of coots, and some small ducks that I was hoping were cinnamon teals, but who knows...
It was hot with very little relief from the Southern California sun. Even the roadrunner was panting.
And I will warn folks who visit for the first time, the Lakeview Trail is deceptively long. Bring plenty of water.
And watch out for Mountain Lions!