Sunday, March 31, 2013

Easter morning 2013

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Delighted to hear robins joining the dawn chorus this morning (they've been tentative this week). And trills galore (courtesy juncos, chipping sparrows, and might it be...palm warblers!).

Down at the end of the peninsula, woodpeckers drumming from all directions on dead branches tuned to different pitches (below).  It has already become too noisy with other birds (white-throated sparrows, blue jays, cardinals) to hear the drumming distinctly.
Fox sparrows are moving through the area this week so I was particularly anxious to hear one before they left. And there it was, singing sporadically from the brush by the train track while kicking up leaves and eating bugs.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Brown Creeperville

North Trail, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham,MA
Took a morning stroll through the woods at Ridge Hill. The trails are still a bit messy post-winter and muddy post-thaw (there is 6 inch deep water in parts of the easement). I was looking for signs of bird life and I wasn't disappointed. Encountered a chatty winter wren and a group of fox sparrows kicking the leaf cover. The morning's magic, though, was provided by brown creepers during this very narrow window when you can actually hear them singing.
Lots of red squirrels in the area, collecting pine cones and hating me. I very much enjoy their little foot-stomping tantrums. I think they were on high-alert. A coyote in the area.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Bluebirds get started

Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Made the rounds this on this lovely sunny March afternoon to see if anything was happening, started off with the sights and sounds of bluebird courtship. The male was singing excitedly up in a tree along the trail and, spotting a female, went into full display mode--tail fanned out, wings shaking. She responded by flying closer and making a series of sweet whistles. The exchange was recorded and is presented below.

Pulled out one house sparrow nest, at box 8. That was the only nesting activity so far.

On the way back I heard an unfamiliar echoing cry from the river. Looked over and saw a mute swan. Mute indeed...

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Early spring at the Charles River Peninsula

Sunrise, Charles River Peninsula,Needham, MA
Despite the snow cover it is finally spring. Here is the birds' testimony.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Back to Bluebirds (now with Tree Swallows)

Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Spent the morning at the Charles River Peninsula getting the nesting boxes ready for spring. Most of them had already been cleaned out in late summer but things transpire in the fall and winter that require another dose of disinfectant.  This year's winner in the which-box-has-a-mouse-nest-in-it lottery was Box 15. I knocked out the nest and with it came three healthy wood mice.
Eastern Bluebird
And it looks like my timing was spot on. Four birds were at Box 18 already checking it out.
Eastern Bluebirds
They flew off as I approached. And when I opened the box, to my dismay, there was a fully formed tree swallow nest from last year still in the box. Needless to say it took a while to clean up...
Eastern Bluebird
Tis the season to be optimistically ambitious so I went out to Home Depot in search of materials for a new bird box pattern I just found.
American Wigeon couple, Millennium Park, West Roxbury, MA
As long as I was there I thought I might as well take a walk around Millennium Park.  It must have been ages since I'd walked Millennium Park--I didn't remember the beaver situation to be quite so dramatic. The ducks are happy, though.

[Saturday Update]: As I made the rounds this morning to close the nest boxes (airing out after disinfection) I saw this:

Tree Swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
It all starts now!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cape Cod Excursion

Beach at Long Pasture, Barnstable, MA

A whole day to play, decent weather--time for something relatively ambitious. A day at the Cape. I started at Long Pasture, a MassAudubon site I'd never visited before.

Herring Gull tries to figure out a quahog, Long Pasture, Barnstable, MA
Then I moved down the coast to Sandy Neck. Lots of storm damage. And scoters.

Black Scoter, Surf Scoter (flying), Sandy Neck, Barnstable, MA
All three scoters, plus lots of long-tailed ducks, horned grebes, red-breasted mergansers.
Horned Lark running around
 A pair of birds, a skittish horned lark and a sand-colored savannah sparrow, hung out together at the parking lot.
Savannah Sparrow, Sandy Neck parking lot
Then, after a quick stop at Town Neck (more red-breasted mergansers, all asleep), I moved across the canal, to Scusset Beach.
Jetty at Scusset Beach, Sagamore, MA
More horned larks, scoters, and holy cow, common eider. More than I've ever seen at one time (and I've seen some pretty large groups).
Common Eider, Cape Cod Canal
Mixed in were a few red-breasted mergansers and common loons, offering nice up-close views.
Common Loon, Cape Cod Canal
And then, just as I was turning to leave, the eider (most of them anyway) took off, seemingly bothered by an approaching boat. Video below of them lifting up and streaming away.
Not quite snow geese, but pretty awesome--a great way to end the day.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


River Bend Farm, Uxbridge, MA
Perfect March day, time for an excursion. Reports of a northern shrike draw me to Uxbridge. No shrike today (wasn't really expecting it) but did get a glimpse of a small flock of meadowlarks flying overhead.

Eastern Bluebird, Uxbridge Community Farm, Uxbridge, MA
I'm reminded that I need to clean out the bluebird boxes at Charles River Peninsula....
Birdsong moment of the day: song sparrows having a song fight. While I've seen song sparrows fight physically, I've seen more cases where males have intimidated other males through the power of song. In the case above, the singer of the first phrase emerged as the victor and flew to the top of his tree and sang a loud victory song.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Jodrey Pier

Herring Gull, Jodrey Pier, Gloucester, MA
I had to go to work (yes, despite spring break),  I thought I might as well have some fun, so I popped up to Jodrey Pier in Gloucester. There had been some interesting recent reports: thick-billed murre, Pacific loon, Iceland gull. (Jump to the chase: 1 of 3, the murre, probably...)
View from Jodrey Pier, Gloucester, MA
Jodrey is best known, notorious even, for its gulls. You are very likely to see something beyond the herring, ring-billed, and great blacked that we are used to.
Glaucous Gull, Jodrey Pier, Gloucester, MA
And wouldn't you know, down flew a gorgeous nearly all-white gull onto a nearby dock.
Glaucous Gull, Jodrey Pier, Gloucester, MA
A little help from the friendly community of birders staked out for the Pacific loon allowed the ID (I was thinking Iceland, frankly). Black tip on the bill. There is also a little gray texture on the wing, viewable by scope.
Horned Grebe, Jodrey Pier, Gloucester, MA
I was also thrilled to get nice close views of some winter-plumaged grebes.
Horned Grebe, Jodrey Pier, Gloucester, MA
Particularly red-necked grebes, quite abundant today.
Red-necked Grebe, Jodrey Pier, Gloucester, MA
I wonder if the others ever saw the Pacific loon...

Monday, March 11, 2013

Spring Break!

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Being chair of an academic department is time-consuming and the first sacrifice has been regular outings into the outdoors (of course the cold and snow don't help). But it is now spring break and while there is still work to be done, I do have a little more room for adventure. Starting today.

Wood ducks, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Now that the Charles River is losing its ice cover, wood ducks are beginning to filter in (and mergansers, hooded and common moving through).

Singing song sparrow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, Ma
And birdsong is back. I recorded some particularly delightful moments, embedded below:

A loud Carolina wren, in chorus with a song sparrow and a red-winged blackbird.
A woods of echoing tufted titmouse whistles.
My favorite early spring sound: black-capped chickadees sing-songing.
Tunnel, Cutler Park, Needham, MA
And then in the afternoon (this is where the relatively free schedule comes in) I shuffled through the snowy trails of lower Cutler. I love the barren wintery scene there, particularly of Pine Island across the wetland and its skeletal birches.

Pine Island, Dedham, MA
Bird activity was limited (it was mid-day after all) but I did hang with a noisy golden-crowned kinglet for a while (embedded below).
If you listen to the end you'll get a surprise. Spring must truly be here.