Monday, May 28, 2012

Early early morning at Great Meadows

Female Red-winged blackbird
While normal folks use the Memorial Day holiday as a chance to sleep in, I got up at 4:30 so I could reach Great Meadows at sunrise. I was the second one there.

For me its about getting there when the exotic-sounding aquatic birds are still vocalizing. Least bitterns, for example, "co-co-co"ing from two different spots.

I came early hoping to catch a glimpse of a rail (a bird that's eluded me at Great Meadows in the four years I've been visiting). And I did catch a glimpse.
Virginia Rail
I first heard it calling,

caught a hint of feet through the reeds and I had my binoculars on it in no time. A special bonus: it was with a fluffy black chick.

This is prime time for youngsters generally. From the dozens and dozens of Canada geese goslings blocking the paths in the morning.

to families of mallard and black ducks

and, of course, wood ducks.
I saw two wood duck families in my walk around the lower pool. Soon there will be more.
Wood duck drake on top of nesting box.
Very few great blue herons. I was there too early. They like to sleep in.
They started flying in around 7, harassed by red-winged blackbirds.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Return to Hancock Hill and Ponkapoag Bog

Prairie Warbler, Hancock Hill
At Blue Hills by 6, I had Hancock Hill to myself for about an hour. Or rather, I got to share it with the many towhees, indigo buntings, prairie warblers, and field sparrows who call it home.
Eastern Towhee, Hancock Hill

Eastern Towhee, Hancock Hill
Indigo Bunting, Hancock Hill
Indigo Bunting, Hancock Hill
Prairie Warbler, Hancock Hill
Prairie Warbler, Hancock Hill (John Hancock Building in background)
After finding my way back down (the real challenge of Hancock Hill is figuring out where the path down is) I decided to visit another Blue Hills favorite spot--Ponkapoag Bog.
Ponkapoag Bog boardwalk
I parked at the Exit 3 trailhead and took the "no name" trail over to the bog. Got my fill of wood thrush and veery song that way. Glad I wore my boots, as the plank-way through the blog was the wettest I've ever seen it.
Obligatory Sundew Photo, Ponkapoag Bog
This time of year the bog is a northern waterthrush magnet.

Obligatory Pitcher Plant photo, Ponkapoag Bog
Not much in bloom right now, except for this exceptionally beautiful iris.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Oh Marsh Wren

Marsh Wren, Plum Island
Plum Island was a bit dreary this morning, drizzly and overcast. Warbler migration is definitely winding down. But that didn't stop me from having a good time. Not when the marsh wrens are on territory and in the mood to sing and dance.
From all sections of the Marsh Trail, wrens were buzzing around like fat hummingbirds
tails straight up in the air
trilling bubbily.

In other Plum Island news: Look! It's a muskrat climbing a tree!
OK it's more of a bush than a tree, but still...

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Badly Photographed Marblehead Birds

Badly photographed snowy egret, Forest River Conservation Area, Marblehead/Salem, MA
A gorgeous morning. An hour or so at Marblehead Neck. The warbler songscape was intense. Blackpoll twinkling at the upper frequencies.
Badly photographed Blackpoll Warbler, Marblehead Neck
Redstart, black-throated blue, parula, black-throated green, yellowthroat, magnolia. All singing at once. Wood thrush, veery, and scarlet tanager too.
Badly photographed first-year male American redstart, Marblehead Neck
Most of the time up in the leafy canopy and difficult to see. But sometimes one would descend.
Badly photographed female black-throated blue warbler, Marblehead Neck
My most disappointing photograph of the day: this flycatcher (who didn't vocalize a single time).
Badly photographed flycatcher of some sort, Marblehead Neck
This photo was supposed to help me judge the thickness of the eye-ring.

Don't get me wrong. I wasn't able to get any good photos. But just being there in that soundscape was enough for me.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Mount Auburn

Auburn Lake
The annual pilgrimage to Mount Auburn Cemetery. Such a glorious day.
Didn't do much bird hunting. I enjoy just being there. Couldn't resist the veery, though.
Here's the cover of my imaginary Baltimore oriole book.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Chestnut Hill Farm

Boblink, Chestnut Hill Farm, Southborough, MA
Out to Southborough on this beautiful Thursday in May to check out a Trustees of Reservations property, Chestnut Hill Farm, where I might be doing some grassland bird monitoring.
Like Powisset, it is a working farm with acres and acres of grassland. Other grassland birds I didn't find (I didn't get there until around 11), but bobolinks they have plenty.
The bobolinks are currently in that awesome agitated state, singing on the wing and chasing any female they can find. I counted 12 total, at least 4 of them females. (This count is conservative but bobolinks do move around a lot).
Now if we could only get these kinds of numbers at the Charles River Peninsula... (Actually, there is hope--I saw a female in the grass there this afternoon).
Sawink Farm, Westborough, MA
As long as I was in the area I thought I might check out some of the Crane Swamp trails. Sawink Farm was the closest. The name is misleading. It is a good example of the great Massachusetts reforestation process, now thoroughly wooded and swampy.
Jack in the Pulpit
The loop trail at Sawink Farm is a real gem, passing through some lovely areas. Thrushes and ovenbirds in abundance. I stood and recorded this extremely loud wood thrush for a while. Check out its three wattled bellbird note. (Could it have picked that up in Costa Rica?).

Oh and first my first veery of the year. Hooray!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The arch returns to the South/Willow Street Bridge

South/Willow Street Bridge
A grand day at the Charles River Peninsula. We've got our arch back! Judging from the massive concrete pieces on nearby trucks the rest of the bridge might be back soon.

[May 17 UPDATE: First half done.]

Here's a better look at that mute swan family.
[May 18 UPDATE: A little more progress]

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Oh Wilson's Warbler

Wilson's Warbler, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
It showed up a week ago, singing from the brush near the point of the peninsula. And now I find it again this morning, in the same place.
 No perfect full profile good light focused photos.
Though it did come so close I could practically touch it.
Singing all the while.
Until it saw me and moved up into higher elevations.

Friday, May 11, 2012

New Page: Baltimore Oriole Project 2012

Baltimore Oriole, male, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
If you look to the right you will notice a new "page" about Baltimore Orioles. I've been systematically recording Baltimore orioles at the Charles River Peninsula this spring and that page is a way to report what I've found.
Baltimore Oriole, female, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
I am particularly interested in Baltimore oriole song, both male and female, though I've found it's necessary to do some visual work to identify who is singing what.
As nests become visible it should be easier to keep track of who is claiming which territory.
 I will try to update the page regularly (if I don't I'm likely to drown in unprocessed recordings). I will also incorporate recording done more casually in previous years.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak is in a bad mood

Rose-breasted Grosbeak at the Charles River Peninsula