Sunday, February 26, 2012

Skulker Seen and New Nest Boxes!

Skulker (our hermit thrush)
Having returned from 5 days on Longboat Key, Florida it was a rude awakening to arrive at the park! Having experienced temps of 80's, lots of sun and the most beautiful birds, I was at Nahanton, freezing (28 degrees) and desperately looking for signs of life!

I  was greeted by a flock of juncos in the parking lot and a couple of song sparrows. Finally saw a couple of chickadees and heard a nuthatch and some titmice down near the soccer field as well as this mockingbird pictured to right.

Not one duck in the river (who could blame them). Finally saw some robins and a goldfinch in the scrub near the picnic tables. As I was leaving to walk the path by the river, I saw a lone tree sparrow foraging with the juncos. Were they the same juncos I had seen earlier or a different flock? I was happy to see the tree sparrow as I haven't seen one in several weeks.
American Tree Sparrow

No signs of life in the upper gardens, which for me has been true much of the winter. The lower gardens have been a little more fruitful. We had the starlings that have been here for a while, some robins and the house finch family.

As I was staring into the brush, I suddenly saw the hermit thrush (pictured top, left) that I believe Matt had seen a while ago. I was so surprised when he reported it that we would still have a hermit thrush deep into the winter, but there he/she was, skulking in some shrubbery. Totally made my day!

Later I met Brian and Phillip at the park. Brian installed a Great Crested flycatcher nest box and two bluebird boxes. Check out the Nahanton Park Facebook posting as well. We're very grateful for the time and energy Brian and Phillip have spent installing nest boxes each year and also maintaining and cleaning them out each spring. Thank you!!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Almost to March...

32 degrees and sunny today at about 8:00 a.m. I was hoping to the the hoodies so I headed towards the river. I could hear a red-bellied woodpecker in the woods near the JCC. The path by the soccer field was filled with chickadees darting back and forth and hanging upside down. I could hear the Peter, Peter, Peter of the titmice and I saw a nuthatch high up in a tree calling sharply as it scoured the bark looking for something good to eat. Lots of geese flying overhead.

House Finch
A few juncos were hanging out in the shrubbery across from the Nature Center where the sun was warming them up. On the dock, I spotted my hoodies (mergansers). There was just one couple - too far away to photograph. As I headed down the path, I eventually came to a mallard couple and decided I need a lot more practice learning about the video on my camera. I still haven't got it down yet so excuse the poor quality.

The upper gardens were dead quiet. I did see raptor flying overhead. It caught my attention because of the shape of the wings. They were much curvier and thinner in flight then the red tail, and I got a decent view of the head. However, I have no idea what it was and coincidentally, as I was leaving the park, a red tail appeared in the sky above my car and it confirmed for me how different the two were.

The lower gardens were quiet too. The robins and starlings were hanging out like last week, each flock filling up a large tree. I finally heard a goldfinch and a cardinal and then discovered a house finch couple in a shrub quietly basking in the sun and eating red berries. It seems a little strange - no blue jays, no song sparrows, no tree sparrows, no white throated sparrows.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

16 Degrees and Climbing?

Cold Junco!
It was a very cold 16 degrees when I arrived at 7:10 a.m. I was hoping to see some ducks so I headed down there first. As I headed down the driveway towards the soccer field I heard the plaintiff call of a mourning dove. It sounded so sad, which was sort of how I was feeling considering I finally had a free morning to go birdwatching and it was so damn cold!

Saw a large flock of juncos, some of them looking pretty cold and puffed up! A lone mallard couple was visible in the river.

Robin in the sun
As I walked all around the park, surprisingly, despite the cold, I either heard or saw many of our regulars, but it wasn't until I got to the lower gardens and the sun started shining more brightly, that there was quite a lot of action. All of a sudden, a tree filled up with about 16 robins. When I looked again, they had been replaced by 6-7 starlings. Chickadees started zipping around and all of a sudden two male cardinals were flying back and forth looking unbelievably bright red in the sun.

Song sparrows foraged on the ground under the big tree in the middle of the gardens and then the robins reappeared as a roving gang near the bird houses (golf course side), combing the ground, turning over all the leaves in their path. A lone titmouse appeared and joined them. I heard goldfinches flying overhead but couldn't see them. The mourning dove appeared and basked in the sun but flew away when I tried to take its picture. A mockingbird shrieked.

Mary Lou suddenly appeared and asked if I had seen the golden crowned kinglet. Well, that was exactly what I had been hoping to see, with no luck. She showed me the scrub where she had seen it and sure enough it reappeared and we got a great look at its brilliant golden crown. And by the time I left, it had climbed to a whopping 21 degrees!

Postscript: Mary Lou just emailed me. She saw a female Belted kingfisher down by the river!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Our Sister Blog

Please join me in congratulating one of our contributors, Matt B., on his beautiful new blog "Wild Newton". He resurrected a blog that inspired many of us, called "Newton Birding" created by Scott R. We were very sad when Scott was out of the country for a year and we couldn't read his posts or view his excellent photography. However, he will be joining Matt as a contributor and I can't wait to read about their sightings.

Wild Newton will be our sister blog and will include any and all areas of Newton. Click on the image, or Wild Newton to view. We also have a link under our "Websites and Blogs of Interest" category.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

8 Miles of Birding

I had a good chunk of a day and wanted to do a lot of local birding so I broke out my Newton Conservators Trail Guide to see what I could find. Looking at the map of Newton, the biggest stretch of green space quickly jumps out at you. Nahanton Park in Newton, Helen Heyn Riverway of Newton, Cutler Park in Needham, Millenium Park and Brooks Farm of West Roxbury. So I decided to make a hiking loop. Check out the Newton Conservators' website for maps of these areas.

I arrived at Nahanton at 9am and the day still had quite a chill to it. I was thinking that I had a ways to walk so I wouldn't spend too much time in this favorite haunt, but was quickly sidetracked in the lower gardens. Many of our usual friends were there but I kept seeing this sulker flush from the brush and fly to the opposite side. This bird had this warm reddish brown hue to it that made me think of a female cardinal, a fox sparrow, and hermit thrush. So I kept passing around the gardens, now actively trying to find this one elusive bird. I moved slower, carefully peering into the deep brush surrounding the gardens before a brief glimpse of an eye ring. Eventually our friend was curious about me and he came out from cover a little more.  When I saw his brown head and back, spotted breast, and the rufous tail. The game was up: a hermit thrush! My first of Massachusetts.

Now I really was behind schedule so I tried to pick up the pace as I took the path down to the river for a few geese and mallards (still no luck with the mergansers) and a quick and quite stroll around woodcock meadow.

At this point my fingers were quite cold as I walked to Nahanton St and crossed the river leaving Nahanton park behind. The middle section of this story will continue on our new blog "wild newton" designed to be a newton wide companion to nahanton park bird news.

Visit Wild Newton

When I finally crossed back into Nahanton park from the Helen Hyen Riverway I was quite behind schedule and didn't plan on stopping to bird at all. By the Nature Center tons of robins were flitting about then I passed onto the little trail that abuts the vernal pool and the fields. Just before the driveway the bird chatter picked up. It turned out to be two fearless Golden-crowned Kinglets, certainly the bird of the day, working the brush in an energetic chickadee like manner all the while flashing those golden crowns. What a way to end this adventure.