Saturday, October 13, 2012

First Frost

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
A perfect October morning. Bright sun. Crisp air. Brilliant foliage. A nice fall-out of migrant birds. First frost.
Frozen asters
Everything in the shade was frozen. At least temporarily.

Frozen buckthorn 
As the sun moved across the field, the frost lifted off.

It's been a while since I've seen deer at the CRP. I think I woke them up. Three. A doe and two maturing children. One by one they got up, looked in my direction for a while, and then leaped off through the brush.
Still keeping an eye on me.
It took me a while to realize that they were having trouble seeing me, as I was directly in front of the rising sun. And it wasn't very breezy so my scent took a while to travel.

The Peninsula was stuffed with yellow-rumped warblers, a grand finale to a fine 2012 fall warbler migration. Lots of palm warblers and bluebirds too. And about 30 northern rough-winged swallows, still staging on the wires over the river.

The (second) most surprising bird of the day: Purple finches! These, believe it or not, are pretty scare birds around these parts. I've seen a couple at the Peninsula, but only in the winter, and in small numbers. Here was a whole flock, feeding on berries. Part of the 2012 irruption I'm guessing.
(The most surprising bird was a female orchard oriole. )

Sparrows are also present in large numbers, white-throats still mostly singing out of tune yet. I kind of like this swamp sparrow pose,
Swamp Sparrow on Mullein, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Oh October.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Window strike Downy Woodpecker is OK

Downy Woodpecker on the roof of my Mazda
This one was scary. I was in my office and I heard a loud clang on the window. Oh no, another bird strike (on a different window than last time). I rushed downstairs and opened the basement door. A downy woodpecker lay on its side in the wet leaves, feet curled up. I was sure it was dead....No, it was still breathing.

I lifted it onto my hand to keep it warm and dry and it resisted a little, beak wide open. OK, good, it still had some energy. And in a little while it had flown a short distance onto the roof of my car. And there it stayed.
It was frankly acting a little strange, turning its head to the side. Was it falling asleep?
And then just like that it snapped out of it. Back on alert, it fluttered up to the branch of a nearby oak tree. Where it was promptly chased by another downy (probably the cause of the window strike to begin with).

I've got to do something about these windows. Here's a resource.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Fall migration at Plum Island

Yellow-legs, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Newburyport, MA
I decided this morning that this was the day I was finally going experience fall migration this year. It was a perfect October day, crisp and sunny and not very breezy.
Eastern Phoebe, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Newburyport, MA
The star of the last couple of days has been an out-of-place Say's Phoebe. Lots of folks staked out at "The Wardens." Many positive reports. I was there to experience migration, not to check off a life bird, so I took a photo of our constant friend, the Eastern Phoebe, and drove down to Hellcat.
Eastern Towhee, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Newburyport, MA
I was greeted at the entrance by a friendly towhee (hey, I saw your west-coast relatives last month!)
Red-breasted Nuthatch, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Newburyport, MA
And the ubiquitous red-breasted nuthatch, doing quite a bit of fly catching (as were most of the birds, from warblers to waxwings).

From this point on the photos got bad but the experience got heart-meltingly good. Warblers of all sorts, including a strikingly beautiful fall-plumaged magnolia and a black and white so unconcerned about me that it practically landed on my arm. The photo below is not focused but it does offer a classic head-on view.
Black and White Warbler, head on
Kinglets and vireos were also present in close-up abundance. But the most fun was a couple of yellow-bellied sapsuckers (bad photo below).
They were chasing each other up and down the boardwalk, "mewing" loudly. Many times they didn't seem to realize there were humans around and practically took our heads off.