Sunday, May 22, 2011

Nesting Season is Upon Us!

Morning Dove
It was about 50 degrees this morning and fairly overcast when I arrived today early this morning. I was excited to see that the new seed in the meadow is sprouting and looking like a green haze!

I headed right down to the pond in hopes of seeing the wood duck and heard a veritable chorus of bullfrogs that sounded like an orchestra of plucked violin strings at weird intervals. Saw a little kinglet I think, in a branch right over my head. Heard the mallard and then I saw HIM in the middle of the pond. The wood duck I've been yearning for and he was very handsome too. Of course, he sensed my presence and moved as far away as possible and then flew off before I could get a picture. Oh well…

Baltimore Oriole
Down by the river I was happy to see the phoebe in her nest because yesterday at the festival at the park there was a canoe tent right next to the building and I was worried it would freak the mother out but all is o.k. so far. There are at least two robin nests overhanging the river. I don't really understand this because if a baby falls out, there is no chance it could survive. Heard lots of warbling vireos.

The mourning dove we saw building a nest yesterday before and after our canoe trip is now sitting in the nest and you can see her eye peeking through the branches in the picture at top left.

Notice me! I'm a great singer.
In the upper gardens I saw a kingbird and saw lots of oriole squabbles. I know it seems early, but I am pretty certain I saw an oriole couple feeding a baby on the loose. Found a robins nest and a catbird nest with birds in place and I know there's a yellow warbler nest in the same area but haven't located it yet. The parents are very protective of a certain area. Tree swallows still busy feeding their babies and saw a house wren couple chasing each other.

On the way down the path, I saw some movement in a little shrub and caught a very brief glimpse of the Northern parula. I think it was the female as it was more gray than blue.

As I was leaving, I ran into Ian who had just arrived. He saw a magnolia warbler in the scrub near the meadow so I went to check it out. I missed out on that, but then we both saw a black poll briefly, but very close up. Very exciting!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Canoe & Birding Trip with Pete Gilmore

We met at 8:00 a.m. at the Charles River entrance of Nahanton Park for our canoe departure. There were five of us; Pete, Larry, Jane, myself and Don.

It was overcast but thankfully, NOT raining for a change. We took two canoes and went all the way to Millenium Park including a few side avenue explorations.

The main highlight was an incredible, at least five minute, very close look at a yellow billed cuckoo. We even got to hear one of its cuckoo vocalizations. Its coloring was just gorgeous from its yellow bill, to its rufous colored side feather to its black and white undertail feathers.

Yellow warblers and common yellow throats were heard everywhere and eventually we got to see a few warblers and a great view of the yellow throat male with his black mask.

We also saw an egret overhead, a blue heron, a mute swan, spotted sandpipers, zillions of red winged blackbirds and grackles, heard swamp sparrows and willow flycatchers, eastern kingbird, cardinals, female hybrid black duck x mallard, cormorants, red breasted grosbeak, wood ducks, song sparrows, red tailed hawk, barn swallows and tree swallows. And a deer near the banks of the river.

This was a really fun trip. You may not realize just how beautiful the Charles is until you're canoeing in it. It is so idyllic you would have no idea that you're surrounded by suburbs and city. I highly recommend this trip when it is offered again. Thanks Pete!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thursday update: Magnolia Warbler and Fish Crow

Warblers were out in force. The lower garden had yellowthroats and yellow warblers while only the songs of the ovenbird, parula, and black-throated green were filling the air. In a flowering bush I found the rose-breasted grosbeak sulking in the flowers (picture). In the middle of the of the garden there were two tree swallows resting on a pole and I couldn't believe my eyes but it appears their first brood has hatched. This youngster wasn't even being fed (as far as I could tell) but instead was talking to wing to chase insects around the garden. There was also a guy there at the park spreading seed into the wild flower meadow, so I am looking forward to its return.

Down by the boat dock were some of the less common finds A magnolia warbler sing in a low tree branch giving me a great view, while a fish crow flew over head giving its sore-throated "caw caw".

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Sounds of Spring: Part 3. American Woodcock.

Part 3 of 3 recounting some of the sounds of Nahanton Park this spring. Future posts will include more current bird songs and calls.

On April 17th the night before Patriots Day, I thought I might be able to get over to Nahanton Park right around dusk and try to find my first woodcock. I parked in the Nahanton St. lot and headed strait up to the benches in woodcock meadow. I sat down to begin my wait while robins called and tried to find the perfect roosting spot. Overhead dozens and dozens of grackles flew streaming across the river towards Cutler Park while a pair of Canadian geese made for the Charles. As the light was rapidly waning, and the robins were settled down leaving only the occasional whinney or "tut" I began to give up hope, thinking that I had arrived too late in the season, in the day. Just as I was thinking I was going to have to try again next year- "peeent" - there it was, the buzzy nasal call of the woodcock (movie).

I sat listening to the "peent call growing more frequent, when suddenly one flew up out of the meadow and flew within meters of me during his ascending flight. I got a great view of the short stubby body and tail. His large dark eye was prominent on his round head and the long beak seemed out of place (for a picture visit this previous post). These odd wading birds decided long ago to eschew the typical habitat for waders by choosing to probe our deciduous forests for earth worms. During his flight his wing feathers produces complex twittering whistles, not too far from the more simple sounds of the morning dove's wings upon take off and landing. While I was unable to capture this display with my 'equipment' the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a great recording of the aerial display if you want to listen. The woodcock raised up into the air circling high over head "whistling" and I would loose them in the low light until he dropped quietly back in the tall grasses. I was able to stay for almost an hour, watching the moon rise (image for movie) and several other male woodcocks joined in competing for attention and posturing. I wondered if there were any female woodcocks there that night or if they were already tending to their eggs. If they were listening would they have been half as impressed as I was?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Alison Leary Birdwalk!

Today was Alison's birdwalk and it was a great success! We had beautiful weather and the birds were most cooperative.

I caught up with Alison and her friend Francine in the lower gardens where they were headed down to the Nahanton Street entrance before the walk. We saw a Wilson's warbler and a black & white on the edge of the soccer field. That is definitely a great way to start off!

Black Throated Green
Black & White Warbler
With the group en masse, we walked by the pond and hung out at the soccer field area for awhile. We heard and then saw the red breasted grosbeak and we also heard the wood thrush which we saw a few minutes later. There were two of them and they were beautiful! A black throated blue was heard in the woods but no one ever got to see it. We cut through the path to the upper gardens where we were greeted by a cute little palm warbler. There were lots of tree swallows, cardinals, robins and goldfinches. We saw another black and white and then had a great view of a black throated green warbler in the recently pruned mulberry tree. I heard later that those who missed the black throated green were busy watching a Northern parula instead!

Wood Thrush Singing
The lower gardens were busy with tree swallows, yellow warblers and our regulars. We saw three brown headed cowbirds which Alison informed us often pick on yellow warbler nests to lay their eggs in. What a drag for the little warblers.

Then we headed through the woods near the JCC where we saw a black poll and a yellow rump and then we arrived at Woodcock meadow. Had an excellent sighting of a great crested flycatcher and several viewings of a pair of field sparrows with their little pinky orange beaks. There were chimney swifts flying overhead.

Robin on Nest
And orioles everywhere!

Hope people will join us for the next park activity which is a birding and boating trip down the Charles with birder Pete Gilmore, Saturday, May 21  at 8:00 a.m. at the Nahanton St. entrance. Newton Conservators get a 10% discount from Charles River Canoe & Kayak.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Rosebreasted Grosbeak Male Spotted!

Yellow Warbler Female 
Started off rather dreary and cold, but gradually turned into a gorgeous morning.

The lower gardens were rather uneventful (at least while I was there, although later I ran into some DPW guys cleaning up the trash and one of them saw 4 deer!). All I saw were robins, yellow warblers, catbirds, song sparrows and tree swallows.

Common Yellow Throat
In the upper gardens I saw jays, lots of orioles, tree swallows, cardinals, redwing blackbirds and some blue herons flying overhead. As I was rounding the path near the soccer field woods side, I saw this beautiful female yellow warbler in a crab apple bush and then all of a sudden there were yellow rumps, a common yellow throat and a hummingbird - all in this same little shrub!

Later, when I revisited there was a fabulous great crested flycatcher atop a tree.

Great Crested Flycatcher
In the soccer field, the dove is still on its nest. I heard some beautiful singing and finally saw the rose breasted grosbeak male and female! He is just glorious. There were goldfinches, yellow warblers, orioles etc.

Down by the river, the kingbirds were very active. The warbling vireos were singing. This has been such a great spring. I feel like I'm seeing so much more than last year. At least we've had the luxury of having the leaves not on the trees for longer, although they are coming in now.

Blue Heron in Flight
Tomorrow is a Mother's Day birdwalk led by Alison Leary. Meet at 8:00 at the Nahanton Street entrance. It sounds like it will be a nice day for it and you will be sure to see lots of great birds.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Don't see these every day!

Id'd as Meadow Jumping Mouse
This creature was seen as I was leaving the park this morning at around 10:45 a.m. It was scurrying across the pavement near the Winchester St. entrance. I'm not sure if it's a field mouse or some other kind of mouse, but it seemed larger than the little mice you see in houses.

At any rate, the park was alive with all kinds of birds today. There were orioles, yellow warblers, yellow rumped warblers, black & white warblers, northern parulas, red-bellied woodpeckers and our regulars. 

Walking through the woods saw great crested flycatchers and a beautiful ovenbird that Jane spotted as well as a garter snake that was about 15 inches long. We heard the wood thrush too. So glad they are back! 

The Eastern kingbirds were seen down by the Charles making their usual racket. Also saw the female red breasted grosbeak towards the back of the upper gardens.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Sounds of Spring: Part 2. Yellow Warbler

This is part 2 of a 3 part series on the sounds from Nahanton.

On April 24th when the yellow warbler was spotted for the first time at Nahanton Park, I headed over to the park hoping to see my first warbler of the year. The first thing I noticed upon getting out of the car was the number of tree swallows twittering over the field and gardens. I even managed to get some pictures when they came to rest for a brief moment by the nest box before returning to wing. While I explored the lower garden I thought that I could hear the "sweet sweet sweet little-more-sweet" song of a yellow warbler, but it was so high up in the trees I had very little hope of finding the singer. As I looped around the garden though, he finally descended into the shrubs, giving me a great view though not a great picture (video). The audio sound track contains many of the garden dwellers that are listed below along with the time they are singing. The yellow warbler did not want to give us his traditional song, though he does sing several clear "sweet sweet sweet" phrases which are by far the loudest. And even more interesting, the birds all appear to be taking turns, singing in succession without much overlap of their songs and calls.

American Robin: starting at 2 seconds
American Goldfinch: 5 s, 18 s, and 28s
Tree Sparrow: 11 s
Yellow Warbler: 20 s and 31 s

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Sounds of Spring: Part 1. Red-Bellied Woodpecker

This is part 1 of a series of 3 recapping some of the bird songs from Nahanton.

After reading about the Saturday morning bird walk I was inspired to make my way over to Nahanton around 6pm. In the gardens the catbirds must have recently moved in as their songs added tremendously to the din and commotion of bird life. Yellow warblers were plentiful and one of them seemed to be following me around. I even caught a brief glimpse of what I thought was a field sparrow. I can't wait to hear them sing. With a bunch of soccer players on the field I headed down the path to the river and could hear the Baltimore oriole's liquid whistles floating over the swamp. Just as I reached the Charles I could hear the "churrr, churrr" of the red-bellied woodpecker. (I can't yet just embed audio files, but I turned the audio into a movie with a still image I took a few moments later. The Baltimore orioles whistles can be heard faintly in the background at seconds 4-6.)

I looked up and saw a woodpecker poking his head out of a hole in a dead tree. As I watched he kept "churrr-ing" away until a second red-bellied woodpecker flew in and then both ducked back into the hole before she flew off leaving the male behind continuing his calling. Could that be a nest!? Across the river two flickers were chasing each other around and calling and then further down the path a black-and-white warbler was searching tree branches for bugs and a male and female wood duck landed just 20 feet from me in the flooded area next to the path.

After the soccer players moved on, the soccer field yielded song, field, and savannah sparrows. Up in woodcock meadow, there was a number of palm warblers flitting about, but then wait. One had a gray head and white eye ring! And indeed my last find of the day as the sun slipped behind clouds at the horizon was a Nashville warbler!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Nahanton is the place to be. Love is in the air!

Mourning Dove Couple
Today it was 43 degrees when I arrived and sunny but at least I was dressed for it unlike yesterday.

Lots of excitement going on in the lower gardens! Robins flitting about, catbirds gurgling, yellow warblers singing, swallows chittering, song sparrows on their bandstands, chickadees, titmice, cowbirds and a pair of white throated sparrows singing their song.

And how can you not fall in love with this loving pair of mourning doves. Then came the bubbling song of the house wren - although it turned out there were several. I am so happy to see them back!

Yellow Rump Female?
Yellow Rump Male
I spotted a little warbler in the brush near the tree swallow nests at the back of the lower gardens and I am pretty certain it was a Nashville! It had a little white eye ring, olivey back and bright yellow chest and yellow underbelly.

The upper gardens were busy too. Lots of tree swallows and lots and lots of yellow rumps. The mulberry tree that the birds like so much was pruned quite severely, but I guess that was better than taking it down. The gardens are being tilled and I found another robins nest by accident. Will be keeping an eye on it from now on.

As I was leaving, I popped back into the lower gardens where I spotted a quick glimpse of a bluebird. Was it our bluebird? Who knows... But at least there's one around.

And down below is my first attempt at video on our blog. When you click on "play", the video will be a bit more focused, but the main things is we get to hear the song of the catbird.