Monday, April 29, 2013

My Nature Walk, by Peter

What did you see on your nature walk today, Peter?

--Well, I saw a great big fire!
Dover MA allows brush pile burning until May 1
--I saw a man using a chainsaw in the woods. [maybe not legally]

-- I saw a big man without a shirt sunning himself [behind the Ridge Hill barn--I don't want to implicate Verizon but an empty van was parked nearby]

--Oh, and I saw a robin making a nest.
--And a catbird.

Did you hear anything interesting?

--Oh, yes. I heard chainsaws singing to each other.

--And a Nashville Warbler.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

They're back!

Orchard Oriole, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
I should have known something big was up. In the morning I heard an ovenbird and a northern waterthrush in the woods at Ridge Hill.  In the evening I made it down to the Charles River Peninsula just in time to catch an orchard oriole and a yellow warbler singing. Yet another orchard oriole (though not another yellow warbler) could be found on the opposite side of the peninsula. Here's a snippet:

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Life and Death at the Charles River Peninsula

Tree Swallow with nesting material, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
On the same day I saw my FOY tree swallow collecting nesting material, I discovered this:
Murdered Tree Swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
a tree swallow dead in the box. The murderer?
Unambiguously the house sparrow. How do I know? When I got to the box with the dead swallow the sparrow flew out. It had been sitting on top of the swallow's corpse.
I tend to be philosophical rather than outraged at such things. Tree swallows also kill each other and there are other boxes to nest in. This year, though, has been particularly rough. Vandals smashed yet another box, leaving the CRP this year without three of the most reliably used swallow nesting spots. And the house sparrows have made deep inroads into places they've never invaded before. The best I can do is keep removing sparrow nests, with the concern that this just drives them into conflicts with other birds at other boxes...
I'm crossing my fingers that this bluebird nest will make it. [Update: box has been claimed by tree swallow after being defended by bluebirds for a week.]
Savannah Sparrow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Soon the bluebirds and swallows will be a minor part of the nesting story at the Charles River Peninsula. The red-winged blackbird females are already scoping out spots in the meadow. Savannah sparrows are around in big numbers (maybe this will be the year they stay and breed). And a cheerful towhee is drinking his tea and scratching in the leaves near the entrance boardwalk.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Kinglets singing from every thicket

Ruby-crowned kinglet, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
The first real warbler fall-out of the year, plus massive numbers of ruby-crowned kinglets. They were singing everywhere (regrettably, the morning wind was a bit much for good recordings).
Yellow-rumpedwarbler, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
As for warblers, mostly yellow-rumps, some singing brightly.
Palm warbler, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Plus a few palms, and my first black & white of the year. Here we go!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Earth Day sadness

Lily collecting used fishing line at the Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Lily and I went down to the Charles River Peninsula this morning for our annual trash pick-up. This was her call--I just wanted to check on the nesting boxes.
CRP lovers, I'm glad you are using protection but please clean up after yourself.
We filled a bag from the parking lot and canoe launch areas alone. While we were at the canoe launch I spied a strange-looking frog. Stranger still, it made no attempt to flee when we approached.
I don't know enough about frogs to tell if this is naturally-occurring pigmentation or a coating of sludge.
Nearby there was another frog with more usual pigmentation, also seemingly afraid to enter the water. Or move at all.

Lily was relieved when we were able to coax them back into the water. She was desperately afraid that they had died.
Spotting an ancient outflow pipe nearby, and noticing an oily sheen on the water, I wondered if the frogs were better off on land today.... Lily suggested that my "canary in the coal mine" analogy was a bit distressing for nine-year-old ears. Who knows, maybe they were just enjoying the sun...
CRP polluters, Lily is not happy with you
Lily clearly enjoys being on the side of good, but she made a real effort to understand that the problem with litter and pollution at the CRP wasn't evil but thoughtlessness and carelessness.

I don't know when to tell her about the Boston Marathon.

Happier news: we both got good looks at the kestrel today. And despite some house sparrow forays into sacred nesting spaces it would appear the tree swallows are reasserting control (and the bluebirds hanging on).

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Flickers dancing

Oh April, the time of the dancing flickers, putting their yellow shafts to good use.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Opening Day

Eastern Bluebird after a scuffle, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
A warm afternoon, two palm warblers and a yellow-bellied sapsucker. The frog calls loud enough to overcome traffic and leaf blower noise. And bird testosterone levels are through the roof. The image above was taken after a brief scuffle between two males over a female. He kept his beak open, without vocalizing, for quite a while. As for tree swallows:

Meanwhile, the first mockingbird in a couple of years to grace the fields of the Charles River Peninsula displays to no one in particular.
(For me these behaviors are birds at their most reptilian. )

Sunday, April 7, 2013

First Week in April

Great Blue Heron, Home Depot Heronry, Seekonk, MA
First week in April bits and pieces. Start with an Easter Sunday excursion to see the herons behind the Home Depot in Seekonk.

Tree Swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Tree swallows have returned to the Charles River Peninsula.

House Sparrow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
As have the house sparrows. Ugh. I've already pulled out a number of nests. They are invading prime bluebird boxes.

Treefall, Field View Trail, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
Ridge Hill Reservation is still recovering from the winter. There's a clean-up scheduled for next weekend.

Now that the robins are singing, the dawn chorus has become quite robust again. Cardinals seemingly everywhere.
And then a hawk appears on the scene and everything goes quiet. Except for one robin, flat against a branch, who just can't stop.