Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas Bird Count, Bird Lore-style, 2014.

Cutler Park, Needham, MA
This morning I continued my practice of talking a walk in December and counting the birds that I saw or heard. This is the way the Christmas Bird Count started and how I prefer to celebrate its heritage. This year's specially formatted (Bird Lore style) count:

Needham, Mass.--Dec. 20; 7:15 A.M. to 9:35 A.M. Clear; ground bare; no wind; temp., 28 to 32. Canada Goose, 1; Mallard, 5; Hooded Merganser, 5; Red-Tailed Hawk, 1; Ring-billed Gull, 1; gull sp., 4; Downy Woodpecker, 3; Blue Jay, 4; American Crow, 2; Fish Crow, 1; Black-capped Chickadee, 14; Tufted Titmouse, 2; White-breasted Nuthatch, 2; American Robin, 2; American Tree Sparrow, 18; White-throated Sparrow, 2; Dark-eyed Junco, 6; Red-winged Blackbird, 18; American Goldfinch, 24. Total, 18 species, 117 individuals.--PETER OEHLKERS
Standing out this year were the birds unseen--no Mourning Doves, no Golden-crowned kinglets, not even a European Starling. Red-winged Blackbirds continue to overwinter.
American Goldfinches. Cutler Park, Needham, MA
Stars of the day were the goldfinches, feasting on catkins. 

Past CBC walks.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

What should we call this time of winter? (Snow edition)

Treefall, Chestnut Trail, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
Trails get white and crunchy?

Cooper's Hawk, Cutler Reservation, Needham, MA
Red Squirrels chatter at accipiters?

Common Mergansers, Charles River, West Roxbury, MA
Mergansers appear in the distance?

Charles River, West Roxbury, MA
Blue sky in icy water?

American Tree Sparrow
Tree sparrows arrive? (my favorite)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Wetland Regulation, Beaver-style

Millennium Park, West Roxbury, MA
If beavers followed local wetland regulations, they would have filed a Notice of Intent before they took down these trees.
Beavers created this trail when they dragged logs to the water
And a waiver request for work within the 25 foot no disturb zone.
More beaver-cut trees
And planted two trees for each one they took down.
Beaver lodge off of "Nature Trail"
I don't think they would have been allowed to proceed with their new construction on the riverbank.

Playing field drainage reconstruction, West Roxbury High
Of course, we have our ways of regulating wetlands, and they have their own.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

What should we call this time of winter? (Plum Island edition)

Bill Forward Pool, Plum Island
Harriers cruise over frozen pannes? (not shown, but seen, a lot)

Pines Trail, Plum Island
Red-breasted Nuthatches explore Pitch Pines?

Emerson Rocks, Plum Island

Black Scoters (mostly)
Scoters assemble?

Sandy Point, Plum Island
Dunlin in flight
Dunlin on shore
Peregrines buzz Dunlin?

Snowy Owl, near Sandy Point
Owls hunt from birch snags?

It was cold today but I remembered my gloves and wrap-around sunglasses.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

What should we call this time of winter?

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
November 15 is winter. But winter of a special kind. Which is the image that best represents this period of winter?

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
"Puddle water starts to freeze?"

Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
"Oriole nests become visible?"
Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
"Frost lines the edges of fallen leaves?"
Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
"Bluebirds nestle among milkweed?"
Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Perhaps not quite season-specific enough.
Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
But definitely my favorite image.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Bluebirds! Season 4. Winter Special.

Box 17 Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
On this sunny Veteran's Day, I finally got out of the house and finished cleaning out the Charles River Peninsula nest boxes.

Box 12 Wood mouse nest
Three (of seventeen) boxes were blessed with mouse nests. These boxes are not intended to host mice, so I cleaned them out.
Box 2 Wood mouse
The mice, as usual, were not happy to see me. I won't be checking these boxes again until March so some will probably move right back in...

Box 4 EGGS?
During my final rounds in July I thought everyone was done. Looks like someone didn't know breeding season was over... And in fact, like most late attempts, this one didn't get very far...
Box 18 Downy Woodpecker
At my last box I heard the distinct sound of woodpecking, coming from inside the box. Twas the downy, known to roost in these boxes during the cold of winter (one of the reasons I like to clean them out now instead of March).

As for the Ridge Hill nest box spin off?  Vandals took all the good boxes down last month. We'll be starting over next spring.

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Leaves are turning, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
September, goldenrod and now asters.
Milkweed Bug on Goldenrod
Nesting box epilogues.
House Wren decoy nest, Box 1
And continued use.
Downy Woodpecker, Box 11 
Birds migrating through: palm warblers, pine warblers, eastern towhees, willow flycatchers, northern rough-winged swallows. 
Northern Rough-winged Swallows beginning to stage, Charles River Peninsula, Needham

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Late August Plum Island morning

Ring-billed Gulls at Sandy Point State Beach
A (very) early morning airport drop-off allowed a rare opportunity--to drive from the airport straight to Plum Island and get a parking space at Sandy Point. I couldn't pass that up!
Semi-palmated Plovers at Sandy Point State Beach
As I hoped, the beach and mudflats were teeming with shorebirds.
Bill Forward, studded with sandpipers and plovers.
I'm still pretty awful at shorebird IDs (colorblindness makes easy reference to leg color impossible) so I didn't look carefully, but no obvious outstanding rarity presented itself.
Semi-palmated Sandpipers, Sandy Point
But who cares when the sandpipers are so numerous and so close.
Least Terns, Sandy Point
Least terns and their children were also plentiful.
Black-bellied Plover, Sandy Point
As were Black-Bellied Plovers, which I viewed with new appreciation since hanging with the Golden cousins in Iceland. 
Tree Swallows in the Phragmites, Marsh Trail
And, of course, Tree Swallows, always abundant this time of year (I don't even think the numbers have peaked yet). 
Cormorants, egrets and gulls in a line, Sandy Point
I was also impressed by the egret numbers, particularly at Sandy Point (hanging with gulls). And starlings (not shown). Indeed, my favorite image of the day was a poor sandpiper that got caught in a swirling flock of starlings, flying in their midst for a minute or two before the starlings realized it and forced it down. 

I also brought my new portable recorder. So here is a sonic record of my time at Sandy Point.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Index to Iceland posts

I thought I might organize links to my Iceland posts on a single page to make things a little easier to navigate.

Day 1, Part 1: We arrive and explore the Reykjanes Peninsula. And discover a bird cliff.

Day 1, Part 2: The birds of Reykjavik.

Day 2, Part 1: A quick trip down to the end of Seltjarnarnes Peninsula.

Day 2, Part 2: Driving to Vík.

Day 2, Part 3: The fulmars of Vík.

Day 3: Icebergs and skuas.

Day 4, Part 1: Our tour of the Golden Circle. And I meet a raven.

Day 4, Part 2: The singing Whimbrels of Rangá.

Day 5: A bird safari along the river.

Day 6: A walk in the woods, Reykjavik-style.