Saturday, December 29, 2012

Calm before the storm...

Though I love walking around Nahanton after a pretty snow, I wasn't sure what was in store, so I decided to go Saturday before the storm.

I got there much later than usual - around 8:30 a.m. It was 29 degrees and overcast.

I've been reading about Haynes' sightings of the red shouldered hawk and was wondering if I might encounter it, which sadly, I didn't.

The lower gardens had a thin layer of snow and was very quiet when I first arrived. Hanging around for awhile, a few birds started to reveal themselves. A song sparrow appeared, then some robins, and a few goldfinches. There was a tree covered with starlings which happened around this time last winter and three seagulls flew overhead.

I decided to take the path by the swamp to get to the upper gardens and immediately heard a Carolina wren calling. In search of it, I discovered a tufted titmouse, but never did see "Caroline". Still hoping to see an owl again but didn't, except that I suddenly noticed something large flying overhead, but it was so fast, I had no idea what type of bird it was. The gardens were deadly quiet - just a few chickadees and a downy hanging around the edges of the woods.

Down by the dock I saw a lovely hoodie couple parading down the river looking très elegant! A raucous blue jay screamed from a nearby tree. Half a dozen little white throated sparrows were searching for food, hopping along the ice that formed in the sometimes swampy area on the side of the river path. I even saw one slip a little and thought of them having little ice-skates with scarves wrapped around their necks, flapping in the wind, having a gay old time skating around the miniature pond!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Red-shouldered Hawk!

A Red-shouldered Hawk was perched, beautifully, in trees next to the upper garden. A photographer named John miraculously appeared for the event. I have been hearing a RSHA there since mid October, but this is the first time I've seen it. 

Otherwise, very quiet. The Song Sparrows were celebrating the sun by trying to sing a bit. A Carolina Wren issued a few notes in the lower garden.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Christmas Bird Count

Lianne and Dorothy
Today was the Christmas Bird Count. We were lucky that the lousy day predicted wasn't to start until noon, and even though it was chilly, at least it wasn't windy.

I was in a group with Lianne and Dorothy. Our territory was Hammond Pond, Houghton gardens, Newton South and Kennard Park.

I'm sorry to say that it was awfully quiet for us. I don't have my list in front of me, but a few of the highlights included 4-5 ring-necked ducks, a blue heron seen by Dorothy, a brown creeper as we entered the path at Hammond Pond and a Sharp-shinned hawk in a backyard near Houghton gardens.

Otherwise, we were lucky to see a few blue jays, chickadees, titmice, robins, downies, a red-breasted nuthatch, a white-breasted nuthatch, a song sparrow, a tree sparrow, house finches, goldfinches, juncos, mourning doves, sea gulls (we couldn't see well enough to identify), Canada geese, mallards and a red-tail hawk. We heard a Carolina wren at Newton South, but didnt see it. We didn't see the Northern Shovelers that Matt saw earlier at the reservoir and then were reported to have landed in Hammond Pond. That would have been quite nice!

Kinglet Saturday

A quiet 40 minutes at Nahanton Park on Saturday morning. Quite a bit of activity around the lower garden, and in the pines behind the nature center. (That's where the kinglet and the woodpeckers were.)

Canada Goose  1
Herring Gull  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  2
Tufted Titmouse  2     one with two-part song, dee-duhh, then the same but much higher pitched
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1
American Robin  22
European Starling  4
American Tree Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  12
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  12
Northern Cardinal  1
American Goldfinch  12

Sunday, December 9, 2012


It was 38 degrees and sunny this morning at 8:00 a.m. The meadow is officially mowed and the chain link fence has been replaced with more large boulders. It looks really nice!

The birds were generally in a large, mixed flock, searching for seeds that fell to the ground after the mowing and in the area towards the golf course where it hadn't been mowed. There were large groups of goldfinches, house finches, a couple of song sparrows, juncos, and two tree sparrows.

Around the corner were a family of cardinals, a couple of titmice and some white throated sparrows. A mourning dove called.

I decided to take the path by the swamp in never-ending hopes of seeing a barred owl again. It's funny how you never forget something cool you saw and where you saw it and you always hope it will happen again - even though it's most unlikely.

It was a nice walk though and then I pinned my hopes on seeing the blue heron again. I was very careful this time not to make any noise, but I didn't see him along the river.

As I headed back towards the pond, I ran into Ian who showed me my first red-breasted nuthatch. It was quite beautiful. He also mentioned that there were red-headed ducks at Hammond Pond. As we were talking, the blue heron appeared overhead - flying towards the river. A nice way to end a beautiful walk.

Don't forget the Christmas Birdcount is next weekend - Sunday, December 16th at 7:00 a.m. If you would like to join the owl watchers, come at 5:00 a.m.! Alison Leary (cell: 617-821-5619) is heading the Newton count this year. We will be meeting at Cris Criscitiello's house again at 2 Raeburn Terrace in Newton Highlands.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pretty quiet...

Though it was supposed to warm up later in the day, it was still a wintry 33 degrees at 8:00 a.m.

The meadow has now had it's fall hair cut, but there are plenty of  seeds on the ground for the birds. As I approached the lower gardens, I was greeted by quite a large group of house finches. I counted at least 5 males and 5 females in the group.

Several formations of canadian geese flew overhead at different times. Song sparrows, juncos, house finches and white throated sparrows seemed to travel around together foraging for seeds on the ground or weeds that were still standing tall. A family of goldfinches had picked an area near Bill's garden that they seemed quite partial to.

Which brought me to an unexpected sight. Opposite Bill's garden, a dumpster has been placed and filled with much brush, scrub and invasive multi-flora rose. Are they planning to add more gardens to this area?

Additional regulars around the park included cardinals, robins, nuthatches and mourning doves. I was hoping for some golden crowned kinglets, but no such luck.

It's funny that Matt is writing about barred owls, because that was very much on my mind today and therefore, the reason that I decided to take the path at the top of the upper gardens that leads down to the river.

Unfortunately, I didn't see any barred owls, but I did surprise some kind of creature. I was trying to take a picture of snow on the fallen tree branches, when I heard some kind of action in the water nearby. I was annoyed with myself for frightening this creature and not knowing what it was. Maybe it was a muskrat or a beaver. However, I then saw a flash of gray-blue and some large wings, leading me to the conclusion that it must be a blue heron - and so late in the season! I hoped that it hadn't gone too far and that this time I would be more careful, but sure enough, as I proceeded on my way, I spooked it again and it flew up and away. Though I didn't get a great look at it, I'm sure that's what it was, unless anyone has a better idea.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Jack Frost!

When I woke up this morning and looked out the window, I could see that Jack Frost had truly performed his magic.

I headed to the park at around 8:15 a.m. It was 31 degrees and sunny. All the leaves and grasses had white, frosty edges and the park had that feeling of a winter wonderland.

In the sunny areas, the frost was melting and the edge of the woods sounded as if it was alive with drips of water hitting the crunchy leaves as well as little birds foraging and squirrels cavorting around.

The first birds I came upon were a pair of American Tree sparrows. Song sparrows were busy exploring the grasses near the composting pile in search of delicious seeds. I caught a glimpse in the distance of what I thought was a goldfinch, but as I zoomed in for a closer look, I was surprised to see a Savannah sparrow. A blue jay screeched from the woods and juncos twittered in the gardens.

A flock of goldfinches had descended on the grasses near the soccer field and were busy eating seeds. I was surprised to see that the pond was actually frozen after only one really cold night! Woodcock meadow was pretty quiet except for a few robins.

CONGRATULATIONS to one of our fellow birdwatchers and creator of our sister blog "Wild Newton". Matt is now a dad, after his wife gave birth to a beautiful, baby boy named Benjamin on Tuesday, November 13th. Very exciting!!!!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Woodcock Meadow Cleanup a Great Success!

We couldn't have had better weather for a cleanup at Woodcock Meadow on Saturday. It was sunny and mild and we had a great turnout.

I'd like to thank all our generous and hardworking volunteers for an incredible job: Jane Sender, Bill Fenstenmacher, John Koot, Haynes Miller, Chris Hepburn, Sabrina Hepburn, Ian Reid, Bill Hagar, Duane Hillis and myself. Judy Dore from Newton Parks and Recreation showed up as well as Carol Schein to check in and see how it all was going which was really nice, especially considering Judy is just recovering from knee replacement surgery. Thanks to Bob DeRubeis and Carol Schein for making this possible and for sponsoring our dumpster. We are very appreciative.

Everyone accomplished so much, that the dumpster was full by the end of the day with white pine and cedar overflow in a large pile nearby. We got rid of some invasive buckthorn and a lot of unproductive crabapple as well as some cedars.

Since the dumpster is full, we have CANCELLED our volunteer day for Saturday, Nov. 17th. As this will be an ongoing project, we have learned from this experience and next year we will rent a chipper. It will be a lot more efficient.

In the afternoon, we saw a tiny palm warbler who seemed to enjoy watching us as it explored the meadow.

Mary Lou wrote me earlier this week to report a fox sparrow, swamp sparrow and at least six American tree sparrows!

I ran into her again today. I had been hearing Carolina wrens, but had not had any lucky seeing them. She located them this morning in the lower gardens and I finally got to see the feisty little things. They were very striking with their beautiful chocolate heads and the crisp, white eye stripe.

Otherwise, it was mostly our regulars. i.e., cardinals, robins, goldfinches, downy woodpeckers, house finches, song sparrows, white throated sparrows, tufted titmice, chickadees and dozens and dozens of juncos!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Fall bounty

Gathering bittersweet this morning, I found some nice late fall birds....

Canada Goose  6
Mallard  5
Red-shouldered Hawk  1    Still calling loudly from the riverside. This bird has been around since Oct 16 at least, but I have not yet actually seen it!
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Blue Jay  4
American Crow  6
Black-capped Chickadee  3
Eastern Bluebird  3     m      Like christmas ornaments on trees at the triangle in front of lower garden.
American Robin  4
European Starling  5
Nashville Warbler  1     Bright individual, well seen, in weeds at back of upper garden.
Eastern Towhee  1     Heard and well seen male, at entrance to soccer field.
American Tree Sparrow  6
Song Sparrow  6
White-throated Sparrow  8
Dark-eyed Junco  10
Northern Cardinal  4
Common Grackle  1
American Goldfinch  6

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Waiting for the storm...

Wild grasses
The groceries stores are packed and the gas stations busier than usual as people await hurricane Sandy! Not sure it's really supposed to be that bad here, but I guess we'll find out.

White throated sparrow
I headed to the park as a last opportunity before a lot of rain to get a nice walk in and see who was around.

It was 53 degrees at about 8:00 a.m. and the sky did like a bit ominous. When a wind picked up, a huge quantity of leaves would fly up in the air and look like a flock of birds heading off.

Chickadee acrobat
It was pretty quiet today, save for a few brave souls, feasting as much as possible before they have to hunker down.  Many of our regulars were there, including; robins, goldfinches, cardinals, bluejays, song sparrows, house finches and chickadees. There were several white throated sparrows and even more juncos. At one point, as I walked down a path (seeing nothing around me), they flew up from every direction, having blended in with the surroundings. I had no idea there were so many just feet from where I was. A large group of Cedar waxwings adorned a tall tree in the lower gardens. I heard Caroline the Carolina wren call from the woods behind the little house near the Winchester St. entrance.

Some geese flew overhead and two pairs of mallards and a lone male were in the pond. 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Join us as we implement one of the Audubon Report recommendations to remove invasives from Woodcock Meadow. We want to ensure that the woodcocks will continue to come and perform their amazing aerial mating flight.

Bring your hand tools (saws, loppers, clippers, etc.) and volunteer for a day, part of a day or two days, so that we can remove as many invasives as possible this fall, in order to preserve this valuable habitat.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Beautiful and birdy

A beautiful morning at Nahanton. I got there at 8:15 or so and met Suzette. There were a lot of birds, especially in the lower garden. Later Ian appeared, and we walked through Woodcock Meadow and back through the woods (which were very quiet).

Canada Goose  X
Double-crested Cormorant  3
Cooper's Hawk  1
Red-shouldered Hawk  1     calling loudly from somewhere along the river
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  3
Downy Woodpecker  1
Eastern Phoebe  1
Blue Jay  5
Black-capped Chickadee  10
Tufted Titmouse  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
Golden-crowned Kinglet  1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet  1
American Robin  30
Cedar Waxwing  24     large group in lower garden, another smaller one at woodcock field
Savannah Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  18
Lincoln's Sparrow  3
Swamp Sparrow  8
White-throated Sparrow  12
Dark-eyed Junco  12
Northern Cardinal  6
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
Purple Finch  1
House Finch  20
American Goldfinch  15
House Sparrow  2

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Red-shouldered at the park

Quick tour around the gardens on Wednesday morning, Oct 17. After a very slow start, things picked up a bit .....

Canada Goose  4
Accipiter sp.  1     Sharpie?
Red-shouldered Hawk  1     calling loudly
Downy Woodpecker  1
Eastern Phoebe  2
Blue Jay  1
Black-capped Chickadee  5
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
American Robin  2
Yellow-rumped Warbler  8
Chipping Sparrow  1
Field Sparrow  4     two pairs
Savannah Sparrow  2
Song Sparrow  20
Swamp Sparrow  12
White-throated Sparrow  12
White-crowned Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  10
Northern Cardinal  10
House Finch  12
American Goldfinch  10

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Bird Walk with Alison Leary

Well, unfortunately, it rained for the bird walk today, just as it had two weeks ago, but we ended up having a great time, despite the weather.

It was 47 degrees and rainy at 8:00 a.m. Haynes and Alison were ready to lead, but it was a small crew today - just me. As Haynes had been there yesterday, he decided to head home, so Alison and I combed the gardens together. Apparently Haynes had seen a kingfisher when he first arrived which is nice.

For our regulars we saw: cardinals, robins, mourning doves, white breasted nuthatches, house finches, chickadees and goldfinches. Alison has been seeing a lot of red breasted nuthatches and reading that it's a banner year for them, so we were hoping for a sighting, but unfortunately, there it didn't happen.

Some phoebes haven't left yet, but some juncos have arrived. Whether they're passing through or staying on for a while, we don't know. Cedar waxwings with their young were amassed atop a tree in the lower gardens. The young looked like they were getting ready for Halloween - they still had their baby feathers with the brown streaks on their breasts, but their masks were coming in all nice and black.

Saw a couple of indigo buntings in the upper gardens - one with a plain dark tail, and one with more blue in it. A Cooper's Hawk flew across the lower gardens and disappeared into the woods near the JCC. One strange sighting was that of a female grosbeak. Alison thought it might be a female purple house finch but when we got back to the cars and looked in the Sibley book, we were pretty certain it was indeed a grosbeak.

Warblers were in short supply, but we did see a common yellowthroat female and a couple of palms (couldn't quite determine if they were western palms or drab, first year females). Caught a quick glimpse of a black throated green female. Saw a couple of ruby crowned kinglets, one near the soccer field and one in the lower gardens.

Sparrows included songs, swamps, 2 Lincoln sparrows, a savannah, several white-throated sparrows, a few chipper and two white crowned sparrows—one young one and one mature.

Interestingly, we saw two leucisistic birds! One was a female house finch with quite a large white patch on the top of her head and the other was one of the palm warblers, whose tail looked like the end had been dipped in white paint, making it very distinctive. What are the chances of two of them within 15 feet of each other?

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hopping with sparrows

I only visited the gardens, but lots of activity! Sun, cool, increasing breeze. 7:45 - 9:00.

Canada Goose 24 V overhead
Herring Gull 1
Mourning Dove 6
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 5
Black-capped Chickadee 6
House Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Swainson's Thrush 1 behind lower garden
Gray Catbird 3
Common Yellowthroat 4
Northern Parula 1 Flagged by ebird: wood margin at lower garden, with other warblers, Kinglet, BHVI
Palm Warbler 4 1 gray
Yellow-rumped Warbler 8 centered on juniper berries
Chipping Sparrow 6
Field Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 40
Lincoln's Sparrow 1 lower garden
Swamp Sparrow 15
White-throated Sparrow 8
White-crowned Sparrow 2 juv
Northern Cardinal 8
Indigo Bunting 3
House Finch 8
American Goldfinch 12
House Sparrow 5 upper garden

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A great day for birds!

Yellow Rump Indeed!
It was 46 degrees and clear this morning. A great day for birding.

I was only at the park for a few minutes when Mary Lou turned up. Where last week we were seeing a few white throated sparrows, we are now seeing several. A few catbirds are still hanging on. The goldfinch families are still dealing with young and the house finch and cardinal families are as well, although they seem to be a little further along.

We saw a nuthatch and a couple of phoebes, mourning doves, chickadees, song sparrows and a common yellow throat. The big excitement came when we saw a northern parula and then a pine/blackpoll. At this point, Ian had joined us. The sun was warming things up a bit and suddenly there was a frenzy of birds. At first, I saw one yellow rump and then several appeared. When I went to shoot a picture, as I looked through the viewfinder, the yellow rump was gone and there was a Nashville in its place! We saw a kinglet and Ian and Mary Lou saw several palm warblers and a juvenile white crowned sparrow. I love these bird flurries, but then just as quickly as they appeared, they disappear and all is quiet...

Incognito Chipmunk!
The upper gardens appeared quiet at first, but as we worked our way through to the back of the gardens, we saw more phoebes, lots of song sparrows, a savannah sparrow, another pine/blackpoll. Ian spotted something yellow high in an oak tree near the bee hives and as we zoomed in on it, it was a bright, black-throated green! More kinglets flitted in the oak trees, a black and white warbler combed through the bark for insects and then we saw what Mary Lou had seen - the blue headed vireo! We had quite a nice view of it with it's blue head, white spectacles and beautiful yellow body. A red-eyed vireo flew from branch to branch, a titmouse appeared and a red-bellied woodpecker which was nice as I haven't seen or heard one at the park for quite a while. A few juncos were making their clicking noises from a nearby shrub. Ian and I thought we saw at least one, possibly two Lincoln sparrows. The streaking looked right, but if the buffy color on the breast was there, it was very, very pale.

Wooly Bear Caterpillar
An indigo bunting was feeding on some seeds and though the body was a tawny color, the tail definitely showed blue. I saw a wood thrush with it's dark brown spots for a split second on a tree and then it flew off towards the woods. Saw a couple of blue jays and a few robins. A flicker was squawking and flew to a nearby branch.

Don't forget, there's a Brookline Bird Club Bird Walk with Sylvia Martin, October 8th (Columbus Day) at the park. Meet at 8:00 a.m. at the Winchester Street entrance.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Bird Walk with Alison Leary and Haynes Miller

Bird Walk Group
I got to the park early in hopes of seeing some of the exciting warblers that I've heard have been passing through during the week.

As I drove slowly down to the parking area, I saw what I thought was an unleashed dog a distance away near the far end of the meadow. On closer inspection, I discovered it was a young deer. I must have been heard because all of a sudden, three deer went leaping through the meadow, their white tails flashing, and entered the woods heading to the swamp. I'm always happy to see the deer.

I only  had a few minutes in the lower gardens before Haynes arrived. The only warblers I saw were two common yellow-throated females in a favorite brush pile. Haynes and I walked around a little and then headed to the Nahanton Street entrance.

Eventually, we had a group of 9 which is pretty good considering the gray day quickly turned to drizzle and then outright rain.

Near the river we saw a couple of titmice and an eastern phoebe. A mourning dove flew overhead. We looked for the solitary sandpiper in the pond and couldn't see it, but on a 2nd trip we finally saw it - very hard to see on a gray day. So, our friend is still satisfied with the pond pickin's! Five flickers were seen in Woodcock meadow and at some point three mallards were seen, but not in the pond, so they must have been flying overhead.

The lower gardens were the most productive area of a raw, rainy day. Some saw a red-eyed vireo near the compost piles. We saw song sparrows, white throated sparrows, lots of delightful chipping sparrows  dipping and diving and chasing each other and swamp sparrows. The goldfinches were out in full force, some of them feeding babies who were frantically flapping their wings and crying for food. Blue jays, cardinals, robins, catbirds and chickadees were out in decent numbers and a flock of approx. 300 grackles few overhead near the soccer field. A white-breasted nuthatch was heard. We were surprised to see two dark-eyed juncos so early in the season. They're probably passing through. Our overwintering flock should be arriving in the next month or so.

An indigo bunting female perched on some piping without a hint of blue on a feather. This is when it's great to be around expert birders who can identify fall birds with some of their strange colorations. Alison thought she saw a clay colored sparrow which Haynes had been told was there. I saw it too, but just for a fleeting glance. It was hard to confirm, but luckily, Haynes had to return to the park later in the afternoon and there it was! A definitive sighting! We don't see too many at Nahanton.

It was a fun walk. Check out other bird walks scheduled for October 8, 13, and 14th.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Red-headed Woodpecker!?

Pleasant morning at Nahanton. Mary Lou was already there when I arrived at 8:10. We found a Yellow-throated Vireo in the trees at the back of the upper garden. I had the Blue-headed Vireo above the raspberries at the lower garden, and while wewere there what could only have been a Red-headed Woodpecker flew over. I returned alone later to the lower garden and found the Lincoln's Sparrow.

Cooper's Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  6
Red-headed Woodpecker  1     
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Eastern Phoebe  3
Yellow-throated Vireo  1    
Blue-headed Vireo  1
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  8
American Crow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  6
Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  3
House Wren  2
American Robin  15
Nashville Warbler  1
Blackpoll Warbler  1
Palm Warbler  2
Pine Warbler  1
Chipping Sparrow  20
Song Sparrow  16
Lincoln's Sparrow  1
Swamp Sparrow  1
White-throated Sparrow  6
Northern Cardinal  6
Indigo Bunting  4
Common Grackle  3
Brown-headed Cowbird  3
House Finch  6
American Goldfinch  25

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall's Here

Here is Haynes'  List:

45 deg and warming, still then variable breeze, sun.

30 species:

Mourning Dove  6
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  1 nice view, upper garden.
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 6
American Crow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 5
House Wren 1
American Robin 20
Gray Catbird 2
Nashville Warbler 10 careful count
Blackburnian Warbler 1
Blackpoll Warbler 2
Palm Warbler 2 both gray
Yellow-rumped Warbler 2
Black-throated Green Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 1 m; wheep-ing
Chipping Sparrow 12
Savannah Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 20
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 5
Dark-eyed Junco 1
Scarlet Tanager 2
Northern Cardinal 5
Indigo Bunting 5
Red-winged Blackbird 15
American Goldfinch 6

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Hooded Warbler

Solitary Sandpiper
The big excitement this past Thursday was an email from Haynes. He and Mary Lou had a close encounter with a hooded warbler at the back of the upper gardens! I've never seen one myself except in books.

Today was about 61 degrees with a few clouds. I arrived at the park and shortly encountered Mary Lou, then Haynes, Ian and then Robin and friend from the BBC.

In the lower gardens, we saw our usual friends; robins, blue jays, song sparrows, chickadees, house finches, goldfinches, mourning doves etc. Was taken by surprise when a hummingbird zipped by. The hummers at my house have been gone for at least a week now. Then we caught a quick glimpse of a Western palm warbler. By the time the others had arrived, an American redstart male was spotted in a tree as well as some chipping sparrows. Robin saw a Philadelphia vireo!

In the upper gardens we were treated to a beautifully bright Nashville warbler which others had seen in the lower gardens as well. A downy and Eastern phoebe were seen.

On our way to the pond, we were able to see a pine warbler and a blackpoll and to compare the two as they are so similar looking in the fall (hard to tell from this spring picture)! Learned about the streaked back and the difference in tail length and shape from covert feathers to tip of tail.

Apparently the solitary sandpiper has been quite pleased with the quality of food in our pond! It has been hanging out here fairly regularly now.

We couldn't resist one more turn around the lower gardens as the clouds cleared out and it turned into a gorgeous day. We saw a ruby crowned kinglet, although it's crown wasn't showing. As we were about to leave, Mary Lou saw a black-throated green and Haynes saw a blue headed vireo.

Can't wait to see what turns up next Sunday, September 30th at 8:00 a.m., Nahanton Street Entrance on the bird walk with Haynes Miller and Alison Leary. Check out the website for more details:

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Weekend Update

During the week, I was contacted by Mary Lou. Between her and Bev (two excellent birdwatchers), the following birds were seen: Dickcissel, Nashvilles, redstarts, Prairie warblers, black-throated greens,  a black-throated blue, black & white warblers, palms (Eastern and Western)!

Saturday, when I first arrived in the lower gardens, the birds were quite active which surprised me because it wasn't all that pleasant out. I saw a young male yellowthroat and a couple of female yellowthroats. Then I saw two redstarts, one was a male and one a female. I think I had a brief sighting of a black- throated green and a lone pine warbler. A very small bird flew right by me and landed on a post. When I got my binoculars on it, I thought it might be a least flycatcher, but not being certain, I thought it could also possibly be a peewee. However, after sighting the same bird on Sunday, it's been positively identified as a "least". Our regulars were there as well: catbirds, a house wren, robins, goldfinches, song sparrows, cardinals, a downy, titmice and what I thought might be a red eyed vireo youngster. Ian turned up, but as we walked around we saw a bright lightning bolt came down from the sky and there was a huge clap of thunder, then it started raining in earnest. After reading "A Match to the Heart: One Woman's Story of Being Struck by Lightning" by Gretel Erlich, I decided it was time to high tail it out of there.
Jonathan, Ian and Haynes

Today was much cooler - 48 degrees and clear at 6:40 a.m. I've been trying to get to the park early because 7:00 a.m. seems to be prime time as far as the birds are concerned. As I headed down the path to the lower gardens, I was greeted by a very friendly, sociable group of chickadees. One of them stood on a branch just inches from me but wouldn't stay long enough for a photo.

I heard the chip chip of a cardinal, some song sparrows and a surprisingly silent little house wren. Two yellowthroat females were flitting here and there in a little shrub near the golf course making their little scolding sounds. A titmouse perched on a branch in an oak tree and a blue jay called. The goldfinches were really enjoying the flower seeds in the gardens. Saw a couple of white-throated sparrows. At around 7:00, the sun came out and as I rounded the corner near the golf course side that heads back to the main path to the upper gardens there was a flurry of activity. I almost didn't know which way to look. Birds were flying back and forth across the path and from tree to ground to shrub. First I saw 2 female redstarts with their fanned out tails. Then I saw a couple of very colorful birds and suddenly realized they were parulas! Two Nashvilles appeared. They seemed to enjoy the goldenrod that was just a few feet off the ground.

Then Ian appeared, and Haynes and then Jonathan. We enjoyed a nice walk around the lower gardens. A beautiful red eyed vireo was spotted as well as house finches, a pine warbler or black poll. Haynes saw a chestnut-sided warbler with it's fall yellow cap and the flycatcher I had seen yesterday was there again and it was determined to be a least flycatcher.

The upper gardens had a black poll high up in a tree top and we saw an Eastern phoebe. Otherwise, it was unusally quiet up there. Not like the excitement down in the lower gardens.

The solitary sandpiper was down by the pond which is now in its vernal pool state - almost all dried up. No sign of any herons or egrets today.

The Friends of Nahanton Park and the Newton Conservators have some great fall bird walks coming up as well as the Brookline Bird Club bird walks.

Please check out the FNP website for more information:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

September Lull...

Dahlia with bumble bee
At 7:15 a.m. it was overcast and about 72 degrees. The park was extremely quiet.

I heard a few titmice and some blue jays calling from the JCC woods, but when I got to the lower gardens, all I saw was a catbird, a few goldfinches and a young house wren who was clearly learning how to sing and still needed quite a bit of practice to sound like dad. A dark gray vole ran in front of me and dove into a hole before I could really get a good look.

I didn't even see a song sparrow. Now, that is quiet! Suddenly, I heard a strange noise and couldn't figure out where it was coming from. At first, I thought it was some strange equipment at the golf course. I happened to look up and there were three swans flying overhead. They must have been fairly low for me to hear them flying. It was quite an amazing sound.

Shortly after I arrived, Mary Lou turned up. She had seen some kind of warbler in the lower gardens but couldn't quite confirm what it was. The upper gardens were dead, but we did end up having a beautiful sighting of a red eyed vireo.

Sunday, August 26, 2012


It was a beautiful summer morning - clear and 63 degrees at 7:10 a.m. The park was noticeably more quiet than last weekend.

I was only there a few minutes, when Haynes arrived. Unfortunately, I saw another house sparrow (a female this time). Luckily, it's not breeding season or I would be very unhappy.

The sunflowers were spectacular. All I could think about was Van Gogh and his sunflower paintings from the south of France. The scale of them is hard to believe. It almost felt like Jack in the Beanstalk!

Great White Egret
We saw several song sparrows, catbirds, goldfinches, robins and blue jays. A mockingbird was perched on one of the garden fences. Lower garden excitement included a great crested flycatcher perched on a Tree of Heaven and two beautiful common yellowthroat females. A hummingbird whizzed by.

The upper gardens were very quiet too. We did manage to see some cardinals, lots of robins, titmice, a hummingbird and a rather scruffy looking juvenile house wren. We could hear the red eyed vireo and the peewee singing.

The soccer field area yielded an oriole nest high up in an aspen, a large group of titmice, an eastern phoebe, a downy woodpecker and a warbling vireo. Hoping for some excitement down by the pond, we quietly made our way in through some brush. A green heron was preening on a log to the side and a solitary sandpiper was looking for yummy things to eat in the mud. The water in the pond has been gradually disappearing. A few mallards were in the distance and as we stood there, a great white egret flew in! It was quite a sight. It preened for a bit. I snapped a few pictures. I didn't realize until I got home and looked at the pictures on the computer, how much they can twist their necks to get at those hard to reach places under the wing!

The river was fairly quiet although a warbling vireo was having a grand time singing and a group of titmice flew back and forth. The canoe place was quite busy. What a great day to float down the river! A large frog was hanging out near the edge and unlike most of his friends who jump in the water when you're 10 feet away, this one was not shy at all about letting me take his picture.

P.S. Our yellow warbler friends seem to have moved on. Not one sweet, sweet, very sweet was heard. And where are our bluebirds?

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Catch this...

Willow Flycatcher
What a gorgeous day! It was 58 degrees and clear this morning at 7:00 a.m. A perfect birding day.

As I walked from the car to the gardens, I was greeted with several high pitched sounds. High up in the trees in the little triangle separating the meadow from the gardens were several cedar waxwings which flew off to another location as I approached.

I headed to a sunny patch and immediately saw this little guy. I was debating about whether it was a willow or alder flycatcher, when Haynes appeared. Other possibilities included a least flycatcher and the peewee. After much discussion about eye rings, beak color, head size etc., we have finally decided that it was most likely a Willow flycatcher.  It was very active. Guess there were lots of flies to catch!

Red Sunflower
A few minutes Mary Lou turned up as well. We saw the American redstart, yellow warblers, catbirds, house wrens, chickadees, an oriole, song sparrows and robins. We were quite amused to see a tiny little hummer chasing a large mourning dove all around the gardens.

I was away for a week, and suddenly the gardens have matured in a way that you know fall is coming. The sunflowers have shot up to at least 8 feet and seem to come in quite a variety of colors. The cheerful, lemon yellow sundrops also known as Evening Primrose (oenethera) are also blooming. Corn on the cob is full and ready for picking and tomatoes are ripening to their deep orangey red color.

In the upper gardens, we saw at least one blue gray gnatcatcher, an eastern wood peewee, the eastern phoebe. Lots of insect catchers! There was a downy woodpecker, a flicker, blue jays and titmice.

The soccer field was rather quiet, but down by the pond we were not disappointed. Mary Lou had seen some black crowned night herons down there yesterday and we were hoping for a repeat performance. We didn't see any adults, but we did see the juvenile black crowned heron and then Haynes spotted a green heron very camouflaged in the greenish mucky pond. A kingfisher hung out on an arc of an old, dead tree branch, waiting for his opportunity for a tasty morsel and just as we turned to leave, a blue heron flew overhead!

Older Fawn
The river was quiet and the barn swallows have fledged, so we headed to Woodcock meadow where Ian suddenly appeared and joined us. There was a flurry of activity in a juniper tree. We saw a black and white warbler, another blue gray gnatcatcher and another redstart!

We walked through the woods near the JCC where it was very quiet and finally heard the peewee in the same location that we seem to hear it every year - as we start to near the woods near the parking lot!

As we all got ready to depart, this beautiful fawn appeared in the upper gardens. What could be a better way to end a birdwatching morning?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Migration Begins...

Morning Glory!
Now this is a sight to make you happy in the morning!

It was 73 degrees and hazy - the humidity building in already. I had to get over there ASAP as I got an email from Mary Lou with some great sightings including a blue winged warbler in the upper gardens.

I started in the lower and saw two yellow throats right away. Saw our regulars i.e., robins, house wrens, catbirds, song sparrows and later titmice and Cedar waxwings. That devilish house sparrow is still there, unfortunately. As I rounded a bend, there was a hubbub of activity in the oak trees. First, I saw several chickadees flying back and forth across the path, very interested in some kind of food in the trees. Then I saw a flash of yellow, a white wingbar and there before me were a couple of blue winged warblers! I was so excited. This must be a sign that migration has begun. Later, I ran into Haynes. He had seen a blue-gray gnatcatcher and a black and white warbler.

In the upper gardens there must have been a raptor of some kind. The crows and blue jays were going crazy - probably for over an hour. I waited for ages and thought I saw some large tan wings flying for an instant in the woods, but could never confirm what it might have been. Their alarm calls were so upsetting that I almost had to leave. It was making me very anxious because it sounded like they were screaming for their lives.

Hungry Barn Swallows
Otherwise, there were yellow warblers, goldfinches, a couple of hummingbirds, a young cardinal, house wrens and song sparrows. But, I was treated to a nice viewing of a Great Crested flycatcher perched at the top of a tree with his feathers looking a little bedraggled. When I went back up there with Haynes, we saw high up in an oak tree, at least three red-eyed vireos flitting about, which was quite nice.

We headed down to the soccer field and pond as we were hoping to see the green heron and/or sandpiper that have been there recently. There were at least one, possibly two young orioles down there - maybe they are the ones I had been seeing in the upper gardens, now old enough to explore further.  A peewee called from the woods and a mockingbird flew from shrub to shrub as we walked down the field. A downy, another yellowthroat and then a beautiful female grosbeak appeared. Later we saw a phoebe too.

Sadly, there was no sign of any of the birds we hoped for at the pond so we headed to the river. There were some Cedar waxwings in a tree across the river, but the best part was the baby barn swallows have hatched! I tried to take a picture of them nestled in their nest and every time my flash went off, they thought mom was arriving with food and they would stand up straight and open their beaks. It was so comical. They looked like a little chorus line - the Swallowettes!

Saw a little toad on our way back. Having shown Pete G. a picture in the past, my guess it was a baby American toad, but will try and confirm.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A Nice, Soaking Rain, Finally!

After lamenting yesterday about the lack of rain we've had and how everyone's garden could use a nice rain - it finally happened at about 5:00 p.m. last night. It rained for several hours and I believe every plant is breathing a huge sigh of relief, and every gardener is thrilled not to have to water for at least one day!

Female Yellow Throat
It was 67 degrees this morning at about 9:00 a.m. and cloudy. The lower gardens were pretty busy - way busier than the upper gardens. Robins were fluttering their wings as they took turns bathing in various puddles while family members looked on. There were several mourning doves either perched or on the ground meandering about. I heard the call of a yellow warbler but never saw it. Unfortunately, there was a male house sparrow in the tree in the center of the gardens. I always hope they are passing through and don't settle at the park. A small bird appeared very close to where I was standing. It was the cutest female yellow throat. Then I think I saw another, but it quickly disappeared into the brush. All in all, I ended up seeing them all over the park - more than I've ever seen there, but never saw the zorro-like masked bandit male that is so striking.

Queen Anne's Lace
Towards the golf course side of the lower gardens there was a shrub filled with catbirds and their young, but also skulking around in there was a young cardinal. I'm sure it was going to be a male and he was at that awkward juvenile stage of having a few scruffy patches of red feathers starting to emerge from his  baby brownish red feathers. A female baltimore oriole flew by and then I caught a glimpse of a vireo. I know it wasn't the red eyed vireo, but I couldn't quite decide if it was the warbling vireo or some other kind. A goldfinch with its funny flight pattern was talking as it flew overhead.

Some form of Smartweed?
The upper gardens were rather quiet, save for some song sparrows and some very vocal house wrens. The sundrops are blooming towards the back and the flowers people have in their gardens are gorgeous (see dahlia at top left). I then cut through the woods and headed down to the soccer field.

Spotted or Solitary?
By the side of the pond was a mallard mom and a couple of babies which are now quite grown up looking and a green heron on a log. Then I noticed a sandpiper which was interesting as Matt had recently seen one and had posted it on his blog Wild Newton. I thought it was the solitary sandpiper, but after reading his blog and how hard it is to differentiate, I am not entirely sure. If anyone can tell from this photo, please let me know. It's legs are definitely yellowish, but It didn't really have spots on its breast. I could hear peewees calling from the woods nearby.

I quickly checked out the river and the nature center. The nests are still there, but didn't see either the barn swallow mom or the phoebe mom on their nests at that moment, however, on my return through the soccer field to the parking lot, I did see a whole family of phoebes and another yellow throat female.

Postscript: I was back at the park in the afternoon for a meeting about Woodcock Meadow. At the end of the meeting we all walked over to the pond to see if the sandpiper was there. No sign of it, but instead we saw a Great white egret!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Is it really 56 degrees?

Green Heron
I couldn't believe it was really 56 degrees this morning in the middle of July. Our weather certainly is getting more and more erratic.

I didn't really think I could make it over to the park this weekend, but an email from Mary Lou made me determined to get over there, first thing this morning. She said she had seen a family of three green herons flying back and forth across the river near Florrie's path.

As I headed down to the river, I took a brief look at the pond and saw my favorite blue heron! I love the way it comes in late July and stays until September. Of course I like to think it's the same bird.
Young Mockingbird

Down by the river, sitting on a bare branch was one of the green herons. I was thrilled. It let me take a quick pictures and then off it flew to the other side of the river and it started poking around for something good to eat. The phoebe is still in it's nest and the barn swallow is now sitting in her nest around the corner!

The wood thrush was singing somewhere in the woods near the JCC. It's so soothing to listen to. Puts one in a great mood. Woodcock meadow was very quiet save for two house wrens in what seemed to be a singing match. I checked the pond again, and this time saw the mother mallard with three youngsters. As I watched, a fourth one appeared only it was clearly the strange, little duckling we thought was a baby wood duck and as it is now about two weeks older, it is definitely a wood duck as the patch near its eye is getting quite distinct. I really am wondering if this mallard has adopted the little wood duck. We've seen no sign of the parents.

Rose of Sharon - Hummer Treat
I had heard from Paul this week and he had seen a hummingbird in a Rose of Sharon towards the back of the upper gardens. I was so hoping to see it. Not only did I see one, but I saw a second one that I am sure was a baby. It was still quite spotted looking. They really do love the Rose of Sharon and I saw them head over there several times.

The grapes are out and that whole area was very attractive to the bird life today. I saw the baby orioles which are now trying to fend for themselves, catbirds, baby mockingbirds, yellow warblers, young rose-breasted grosbeaks, robins, flickers, goldfinches and song sparrows. The red-bellied woodpecker was out with his bright red head and a cardinal that looked so bright in the sun, I almost thought it must be a tanager.

All the gardens are looking spectacular - especially after the nice rain we had.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Youngsters everywhere...

Red Admiral
It was 70 degrees and sunny this morning at 7:00 a.m. A beautiful summer day. I was surprised to see two liatris flowers blooming in the meadow adding a touch of purple to the field of white. The spicy scent of the invasive artemsia perfumed the air.

As I entered the lower garden, I was immediately greeted by this red admiral butterfly as well as a few early morning gardeners. Song sparrows were out in force, many with their new babies, fresh out of the nest. Two or three cedar waxwings were in the Tree of Heaven, where I have been seeing them a lot. Our catbirds and robins made a good showing. The house wrens near the golf course were feeding their young in their house (2nd brood, I think). Yellow warblers were singing and a mourning dove, with its bright orange/red legs strutted around on the path. A family of house finches hung out together on a tree waiting for the return of their parents.

In the upper gardens, some goldfinches were conversing in the big mulberry tree. Towards the back of the gardens, I saw something flitting about in a tall shrub. First, I saw a bird that was black and white. I thought it was a black & white warbler, but then it sort of whinnied which made me think downy woodpecker. If it was a baby downy, it was very different looking than the parents, but that is totally possible I suppose. Then, I saw a flash of yellow, and a larger bird. Turned out there were at least two baby orioles being fed by mom. It was interesting, because mom almost looked like a juvenile oriole herself. They had the most unique little call to cry for food as they opened and closed their beaks! A peewee called from the woods and a little further around the bend was a yellow warbler family. The babies are outgrowing their gray feathers and turning much more yellow like the parents - not quite there yet though.

Morning Glories
As I explored the area near the soccer field, I saw the wild morning glories are in bloom (also known as bindweed). The beautiful bright orange, orchid-like blooms of the jewelweed plant (impatient family) have started blooming and are an attractive source of nectar for hummingbirds. I heard some chickadees and saw the male oriole.

Checked in on the pond inhabitants and saw a mallard mom with 4 babies. One however had similar markings, but very different coloration than the others. Instead of gray feathers, they were almost white. It looked like the baby Haynes and I had thought was a lone wood duckling last week. Now, I'm not sure what to  think…
Down by the river, I saw the phoebe flitting about it. Unbelievably, there is a third nest - the other broods having successfully fledged. I have to wonder if it is a third brood or if they are different parents… Whatever the case, this has been a great year for phoebes. It has been so hard in past years to see their nests and all their hard work thrown on the ground. The barn swallows that were trying to build a nest on a perpendicular side of the building have actually built a nest, but I didn't see them while I was there. Hope they didn't abandon ship.

Raccoon family
I heard a warbling vireo down by the river. As I turned around to leave the dock, I was most surprised to see a family of raccoons ( a mom and two babies) lumping across the parking lot towards the woods. I ran in hot pursuit and was only able to catch a brief glimpse - they were moving so quickly.

Indian Pipe
The woods near the parking lot had a few colonies of indian pipe in bloom. It's a plant that I will never forget from my early years at a camp in New Hampshire.

As we speak, fall walks are being organized. Stay tuned to the Friends of Nahanton Park website, where they will soon be posted!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July 1 at the park

A nice morning walk through the park and over to the JCC with Suzette.  We were excited to see the Gnatcatchers.

There were several Monarch butterflies around, but no bears.

Wood Duck  1   juv, pond
Great Blue Heron  2
Ring-billed Gull  1
Rock Pigeon  1   over soccer field
Mourning Dove  4
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  5
Northern Flicker  3
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
Eastern Phoebe  2
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Warbling Vireo  2 juv being fed
Red-eyed Vireo  2
Blue Jay  4
Tree Swallow  3
Barn Swallow  5
Black-capped Chickadee  8
Tufted Titmouse  3
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
House Wren  8
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher  3  trees between soccer field and pond
Wood Thrush  1 heard
American Robin  40
Gray Catbird  5
Yellow Warbler  10
Chipping Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  12
Northern Cardinal  6
Red-winged Blackbird  12
Common Grackle  6
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Baltimore Oriole  6
House Finch  6
American Goldfinch  8

Friday, June 29, 2012

Song of the Common Yellowthroat

I was going through my bird song recordings from this spring and ran across a great recording of a common yellowthroat from my last walk at Nahanton. While there are two other warblers in the recordings, the common yellowthroat takes center stage.

I was in the lower gardens and spent about 15 minutes trying in vain to get a recording of the ovenbird when I grew frustrated and chose to move on. In the far corner of the gardens the rolling "witchity-witchity-witchity" alerted me to the common yellowthroat. He was hiding deep in the tangled woods and brush, but his voice was loud and clear. So I caught this recording and then tried to "pish" him out into the open. I generally dislike disturbing birds, so I try to "pish" only on occasion and never play recorded songs to lure birds in. He popped up and I got some great recordings, but unfortunately he behaved like a typical warbler flitting from branch to branch making it very hard to get a picture. I know that the yellow warblers breed in Newton, but I'm pretty sure that common yellowthroats do as well, given their sightings during the warmer months. They tend to love wet thickets and grassy areas and like to stay in the underbrush. As our second most common warbler, they are a familiar sight at Nahanton and the males thick black mask and yellow throat makes him instantly recognizable.

Ironically, I later realized that the ovenbird I was trying to record before actually gave a few of his "teacher-teacher-teacher" notes at 7 and 45 second marks. Also yellow warblers are hear throughout the background.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Meadow Slowly Recovers

Black Eyed Susan
61 degrees and sunny on Sunday.

Not much to report, but black-eyed Susans are now blooming in the meadow! Did they come by themselves or did they grow from seeds that Donna spread around? We'll never know, but they are adding some much needed color.

Lots of house wrens - some on second broods and others on their first. Our regulars are in full attendance: robins, song sparrows, yellow warblers, catbirds, house finches, red-wing blackbirds etc. The numbers of tree swallows seems to have lessened unless that is my imagination.

I saw the phoebe down by the river, but have a feeling that her babies have left the nest now. I'm so excited that they seem to have successfully reared two broods. On leaving the park, I encountered 4-5 wild turkeys. There's something about them that always makes me chuckle.

A black bear seen on the cape has now passed from Medfield to Dedham to the Newton/Needham line near Nahanton (last seen on 2nd Ave.). Will it make it's way to Nahanton?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mulberry Madness

Double-decker swallow babies
It's been quite cool for the last week or so and today was no exception. It was 57 degrees at 7:15 a.m. but I'm a fan of this type of weather.

The park has generally been rather quiet as the birds have been nesting and here is the perfect example. I was greeted by these double-decker tree swallow babies waiting for tasty treats from mom or dad. They were rewarded shortly after taking this picture.
Yellow warbler baby

The main attraction today was the mulberry tree situated on the path from the lower to the upper gardens. The white fruit is out. It's like a new restaurant opened up and everyone had to try it out. First, I saw a strange looking little bird - mostly gray with a bright yellow tail. I thought it might be a yellow warbler baby, but wasn't quite sure. Luckily, mom or dad showed up to feed it, so it was definitely confirmed as a yellow warbler. Among the steady customers at the new Mulberry Cafe, were catbirds, robins, goldfinches, cedar waxwings and several greedy chipmunks.

Rose-breasted grosbeak female

All our regulars were in attendance between the upper and lower gardens. A few blue jays, lots of song sparrows, tree swallows, a cardinal, and a house finch family.

On the path by the soccer field, I had a close encounter with a female grosbeak which I have to assume means she is breeding here at Nahanton. I remember when we saw the babies towards the end of the summer last year and I hope we see them again!

Two baby phoebes were looking rather plump in their nest and crying for their food with large, open beaks. That means that this year, both broods were successful!

Other birds seen or heard include a baltimore oriole, nuthatch, red winged blackbird, red-bellied wood pecker, flicker, mourning doves and a rough winged swallow.