Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Elusive Fox Sparrow

Fox Sparrow
It was pretty darn cold out today. 26 degrees and clear. Back to the winter clothing drill. Even if I took my gloves off for a minute my hands were frozen solid.

I saw some of the shallow water areas were frozen again as I headed down to the river. Tons of robins, blue jays and some grackles down there as well as a few mallards and Canadian geese couples. Saw two herring? gulls flying overhead.

On the way back to the soccer field I saw what I think is the same red tail hawk I keep seeing hanging out in a tree near the pond. Just as I saw it, there was some scrambling in the leaves near me and I saw a very reddish brown furry creature that I thought might be a woodchuck or something but I couldn't get a good look it. I'm always amazed at all the creatures that live here. Near the little round-about parking area I saw lots of chickadees, titmice and had a great look from underneath of a beautifully red breasted nuthatch.
Red Tail Hawk

In the lower gardens I was so hoping to see the fox sparrows that Jane and Haynes had seen. At first I only saw song sparrows, some juncos and a few mockingbirds although I did see a tree with three cowbirds - 1 female and two males. Then heard a beautiful song that I didn't recognize. I had heard it last weekend too and was wondering if it might be the fox sparrows but since I couldn't see the songster and I'm not familiar with their song, I couldn't confirm. Today though, I finally caught a glimpse of it and I'm glad I had studied up on it because I only saw it from underneath but its breast was unmistakeable and at top left is a poor picture of it. Ian appeared from nowhere and he heard the song too. He checked it against his iphone bird song app and we both think it was definitely the fox sparrow. Also, saw a bright yellow goldfinch looking very elegant.

We headed to the upper gardens and had another very close encounter with the hawk. I think it really likes to be photographed. It's most cooperative and lets you get very close.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Morning visit to the garden plots with a quick swing past the river. Spring is here! I did not see the bluebirds this morning, nor the otter. But the singing Fox Sparrows were a treat. What's that large piece of junk just below the trail through the woods from the wildflower meadow to the upper garden, at the meadow end?

Canada Goose 2
Mallard 8
Turkey Vulture 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Ring-billed Gull 3
Mourning Dove 8
Downy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 10
American Crow 4
Black-capped Chickadee 4
Tufted Titmouse 4
American Robin 60
Northern Mockingbird 2
European Starling 1
Fox Sparrow 5 Around the lower garden, singing
Song Sparrow 12
White-throated Sparrow 4
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 9
Northern Cardinal 4
Red-winged Blackbird 4 All M
Common Grackle 12
Brown-headed Cowbird 4 2 M 2 F
House Finch 4
American Goldfinch 3

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Woodcock and Wood Duck

Right on time, 15 minutes after sunset at 7:10, a Woodcock and then a second flew into the Woodcock field and started their display. Earlier, a dozen Mallards and two calling Wood Ducks had flown over; also several Robins came in to roost, and a Northern Mockingbird. Very nice evening, before the moonrise. Best access to Woodcock Field is from the little parking lot off of Nahanton St east of the main entrance to the park.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Waiting for Migrants!

Robin Tree
Got to the park around 7:45 a.m. Not as nice as yesterday, but very pleasant. I saw Mary Lou arrive just as I was getting my stuff out of the car, so we walked around together and were joined shortly by Ian.

There was a large number of robins congregating in the lower gardens and many of them were hanging out in these large groups in various trees. Saw many juncos, blue jays and song sparrows. A house finch couple was seen hanging out at the top of the tree in the middle of the gardens. Mockingbirds were present, some of them chasing robins and there were several chickadees flitting here and there. Mary Lou was hoping to see a fox sparrow and so was I since Jane had seen one a few days ago but alas, it was not to be today.
Lady Bluebird and her Fine Jewels

We headed to the upper gardens where we saw the bluebird couple again and I had to take a picture of the female bluebird, looking very feminine atop her jewelry stand with silver beads hanging! Husband still standing sentinal on the purple birdhouse. Finally saw a few goldfinches (they seemed noticeably absent the last few times I was there) so that was a nice treat. Cardinals were singing up a storm. No sign of American tree sparrows. Are they gone already?
Sleeping Mallard Couple

Worked our way through the woods and down to the river. The pond is suddenly melting, but didn't see much there except a few song sparrows. Down by the river we saw some geese and mallard couples as well as the couple I have pictured that was sleeping together in some standing water near the soccer fields.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Woodcocking by the Light of the Moon

What a beautiful night to watch the woodcocks! Jane and I headed over to the park around 6:30 where we met up with Katherine and Beth. Very mild and clear.

There was a soft, full moon that slowly rose as we awaited the moment of the first "peeeent" with nervous anticipation as to whether it would really happen or not. This year it came around 7:15 or so whereas last year it was about 7:00.

We headed over to the area of the call. It is just such a hilarious, comical sound. There were at least two woodcocks and probably more. Right before the first one flew up in the air, Ian appeared! We saw several flights with the wonderful sounds of the wings which are different on the way up then the way down and we had some great views where the woodcock flew right in front of us and though in silhouette, we could see clearly its long, pointed beak and it's round belly. What a nice way to spend an evening.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sunday, March 13, 2011

River Otter!

On the way back from an errand, I popped into the Nahanton Street entrance to the park in hopes of seeing the mergansers. Stood on the dock and saw one Canadian goose.

Then I spotted a dark brown weasel-like creature on the opposite bank under the overpass. I quickly drove to the top of the driveway, hopped out and ran to the bridge to get a closer look. I got a really good view of it, but unfortunately didn't have my camera. It had dark brown fur with a medium fluffy tale and the cutest face. It's back was slightly humped as it walked along on short legs. I think it was about 18" long with a tail that was about 18" or so.

Though this is the third time I am revising this entry, I am pretty certain it was a river otter having temporarily gotten confused about the other possibilities! The weasel family also consists of regular weasels, fisher cats and minks (and all can swim!), but Haynes said minks are much smaller. When I saw Ian a week later, it turned out he had seen the otter in the same spot but on the Saturday so it was definitely hanging out there. It was not a beaver or muskrat because of the tail. I followed it a little ways and it went right into the river but didn't seem terribly frightened as it stayed in one area by the banks. I think Jon Regosin had told us on a walk last summer that the river otters were moving from the south up this way. It's so exciting that we have them at our park if indeed we do!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Our Bluebird Couple is Back!!!!

It was about 40 degrees around 8:00 a.m. when I arrived. It didn't feel cold at all and the sky was a beautiful blue and very few clouds.

The lower garden had mockingbirds and lots of song sparrows singing. Heard the one that sounds like a field sparrow with its descending notes. There were two red tailed hawks soaring above as well as some geese and a seagull.

In the upper gardens I almost couldn't believe my eyes, but here was our Mr. Bluebird sitting atop the very birdhouse that they theoretically had their second brood in (not that we ever saw the babies). Mrs. was sitting in a very relaxed manner on a post nearby. What a nice treat after such a nasty winter. Totally made my day. A cardinal was singing up there too.

The Swamp
I took the walk by the swamp which is now back to being a swamp after being rather dried up after last years beastly summer. Still looking for that owl, but no luck in that department. After the rains we had, it's flooded again and can't get very far so I had to get down to the river by cutting through the woods that lead to the soccer field. There were several blue jays and juncos down there flitting here and there and making their funny twittering noises. I felt like they were chatting - busy fueling up and making plans for their trip up North. They probably will be leaving in the not too distant future. Chipmunks were seen darting about in the leaves and up the trees.

The river walk was flooded not too far in, but saw a pair of mallards quietly hanging out on the other side of the river and also a few pairs of Canadian geese. Wonder if they're nesting yet… Lots of robins down there enjoying a flooded area across the path with several grackels and some downies while a few red bellies purred away but weren't seen.

As I stood on the dock, desperately hoping for some mergansers I had a surprise visit from Haynes! That is yet another sign of spring. I was happy to hear that he saw the bluebirds too. We walked up through Woodcock meadow and then the woods by the JCC hoping to see some brown creepers. Managed to see some chickadees and heard a nuthatch but that was about it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spring is Coming!

It was over 50 degrees when I got to the park at 7:30 a.m.! After the winter we've been having this is a very welcome relief.

Spent a week in Florida admiring herons, egrets, ibis, wood storks, pelicans (white and brown), a pileated woodpecker, gnatcatchers, palm warblers, black & whites, yellow rumps, a yellow throat, kinglets, vireos as well as lizards and iguanas. Now back to real life.

There was a veritable chorus of song sparrows in the lower gardens today. They sound like they are ready for some action! They also didn't seem to mind my presence and let me get pretty close.

Otherwise, most of the activity seemed to be down by the river. I was afraid I may have missed them - but now that the river is melting, there they were - my friends the hooded mergansers. Today, it was a couple. I also saw in the distance some other, very interesting looking ducks. They had areas of dark and white with bright orange beaks, but just a little too far away to positively identify. I'm guessing they were male common mergansers, but don't know for sure.

Lots of chickadees, some robins, bluejays, blackbirds, the sound of a red belly purr, crows, the red tail hawk they were upset about, a downy woodpecker, nuthatches and titmice.

The chipmunks looked so happy to be out of their winter dens. They were chasing each other up and down  fallen logs and through the leaves having a blast! Some of them were more intent on posing and having their picture taken like the one pictured to left.