Friday, April 25, 2014

Bluebirds! Season 4. Episode 5. Eggs! and more murder...

Rather early Eastern Kingbird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Kingbirds are usually at the tail end of the first wave of May arrivals but this one arrived at CRP at the leading edge. Hopefully Orchard Orioles will follow. Soon.
House sparrow/Tree swallow? 
More nesting boxes have been claimed and nests begun but sometimes it's not directly knowable who is doing the nesting. Here's a shallow, feather-filled nest typical of tree swallows. But it's rather trashy in appearance, suggesting house sparrow. So time will have to tell.

Speaking of house sparrows, the murderous male has struck again. I'll spare you the image on this page, though you may observe the crime scene here. This time, box 7, home of my favorite dive-bombers.

The good news? Bluebird eggs. Three of them. Two in the grass nest box, one in the pine needle nest box. Here we go!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Earth Day Clean-up 2014

Lily looks out on Charles River, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Another year, another Earth Day (a day early) clean-up with Lily at the Charles River Peninsula.
We collected a half a bag of trash. Less than years past.
Lily pulls beer bottle from the mud
It would be nice if littering teens would just place their trash by the side of the trail rather than flinging it into the brush. 
Pine Warbler, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
We also checked nesting boxes (8/18 have complete nests already) and enjoyed the company of palm and pine warblers by the river.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Braddock Bay

Braddock Bay State Park, Greece, NY

Overnight in Rochester for a college visit, got up early and squeezed in a short trip to the lovely Braddock Bay, with good dawn views of Lake Ontario.
Lesser Scaup
On the water, ducks (and Mute Swans), mostly. Gadwalls, Buffleheads, and this charming pair of Lesser Scaup. 
Tree Swallow, showing its iridescence in the morning sun 
On the shore, the usual suspects (especially Swamp Sparrow and Red-winged Blackbird) plus a lone Tree Swallow who perched on the dock railing and let me get very close. 
Braddock Bay Raptor Research statistics
Braddock Bay is best known for its hawk watch platform but there was little action on this icy April morning. Had I brought a crayon, I might have added the two Northern Harriers I watched gliding over the marshes.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Bluebirds! Season 4. Episode 4. Murder!

There was no sign of house sparrows as I approached box 5. I knocked on the box. Still no sign. As I pulled open the box, though, a male house sparrow burst out and flew in a wide semi-circle back to the brush. In the box, tangled in the beginnings of a nest, was a dead tree swallow. 
Its head was completely caved in. If I didn't know better, I would accuse the house sparrow of feasting on it while in the box. 
Tree Swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Meanwhile, a pair of tree swallows are dangerously close to another house sparrow favorite, box 14. Here's hoping the sparrows' murderous impulses don't emerge.

In happier news, not one but two complete bluebird nests. Today's new migrant visitors: Eastern Towhee, Bluegray Gnatcatcher, Chipping Sparrow.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Today's tally

Tree Swallow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
CRP nesting has begun. Tree Swallows lead with 5 boxes claimed, nests begun. And are already in dive-bombing mode.

Fills me with joy, it does, to be dive-bombed again.
House Sparrow, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA. The male is in the box.

House Sparrows are close behind with 2 boxes. Eastern Bluebirds, zero.
Eastern Bluebird, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
Luckily over at Ridge Hill, where there was nary a tree swallow nor a house sparrow to be found, the bluebirds quickly seized the lead, with one box (#2).
Eastern Bluebird, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
Next standings report: next week.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A quick tour of Salem and environs

Great Egret and Black Ducks, Old Creek Salt Marsh, Salem, MA
Egrets, both Great and Snowy, right on Salem State campus today (in the Old Creek Salt Marsh between Central Campus and the baseball field).
Great Egret, Old Creek Salt Marsh, Salem, MA
Aigrettes on display.
Red-Breasted Merganser, Salem Harbor, Salem, MA
Meanwhile, out in Salem Harbor, a large flock of diving mergansers and
Surf Scoters, Salem Harbor, Salem, MA
Surf Scoters--so nice to see them relatively close up.
Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Marblehead, MA
Meanwhile out at Marblehead Neck, things are coming alive.
Hermit Thrush, Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Marblehead, MA
This time of year is mostly about Hermit Thrush and (singing) Golden-crowned Kinglets.
Swamp Sparrow, Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Marblehead, MA
But I was happy to see my FOY Swamp Sparrow, sub-singing a melody quite advanced with respect to the typical swampy trill.
Black-crowned Night Heron, Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Marblehead, MA
The birds garnering the most general interest were night herons, perched in trees near the main pond.
Black-crowned Night Heron, Marblehead Neck Wildlife Sanctuary, Marblehead, MA
There were two obscured in the tamarack.

And one more out in the open, unwillingly posing for photos. (Dig the cheeks on this one).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Bluebirds! Season 4. Episode 3.

Tree Swallows, Charles River Peninsula, Needham
Tree swallows were swarming everywhere today, one or two on every box (except for box 5, claimed by a house sparrow and box 9, claimed, at least for now, by a bluebird).

Even box 4, which is slowly slipping down its pole....
In other news, fox sparrow. That is all.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Ridge Hill nesting has begun

Great Blue Heron nest, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
All of a sudden a heron nest (in the wetland off of the Fieldview Trail). I'm not sure there are enough suitable trees for a full-fledged heronry, but this will keep things interesting over the next few months.
Black-capped Chickadee nest, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
Also worth keeping an eye on--this trailside (Beard Trail) chickadee nest. Looks like much of the excavation work has already been done, though they were still bringing up wood chips this morning.

Oh, and a female has joined the male at the Ridge Hill nesting boxes. Today box 1 and 2 were of the most interest....

Friday, April 4, 2014

Bluebirds! Special Ridge Hill Unit. (Spin-off). Season 1. Episode 1.

Nesting Boxes, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA 
I came out earlier in the season to re-engineer the nesting boxes at Ridge Hill to be side-opening rather than top-opening. (This had been an Eagle Scout project and the Boy's Life design encourages top-open so that nestlings don't fall out. It also makes the boxes tough to clean and monitor....). There are seven new boxes in the Ridge Hill meadows and one old box that had been home to mice. I'll be monitoring them all this spring and summer. First task today--fix the top of Box 7. At first I suspected vandalism but the top was probably blown off by the wind.
Tree Swallows, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
I heard Tree Swallows I as soon as I got to the property but it took a while to see them settling on a box. Four different birds were competing for Box 6.
Eastern Bluebird, Ridge Hill Reservation, Needham, MA
Unlike Charles River Peninsula, where you can hear the songs of bluebirds all around this time of year, Ridge Hill is pretty quiet. So I was pleasantly surprised to discover this male on Box 3. No sign of a female--yet. And no sign of house sparrows. At all.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Bluebirds! Season 4. Episode 2.

Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
Three couples, at least, still on the property. Some apparent interest in box 5, though a bit of sinister house sparrow cheeping in the background made me question the wisdom.

Someday I'm going to try to tell the individuals apart. This one puffs up nice.

The real news, though, was the return of the tree swallows. Not on the nest boxes yet, but soaring above the peninsula. What a joyful return.
And first phoebe, with a commemorative photo. It was singing.