Saturday, March 24, 2012

Let the Nesting Begin!

Phoebe on nest
It was 50 degrees this morning and overcast.

As I drove down the driveway to the parking lot, I had the pleasant surprise of having two white-tailed deer leap across the road right in front of me! They took off into the woods near the JCC. That's always a nice way to start the day.

Little green leaves are starting to show on many shrubs and vines. There are robins everywhere, the song sparrows are singing their hearts out and there were several juncos. They really seem to like the meadow right now. It won't be long before they start their journey northward.

Tufted Titmouse
The upper gardens were fairly quiet. I could hear goldfinches, but never quite saw them. They've been very elusive, even though I know they're there. Saw a few song sparrows and robins. Looked for the tree swallows and didn't see any. Just when I had decided that maybe the swallows from last weekend had just been passing through, they turned up - circling in the sky and chittering. Also in flight was a blue heron, grackles and a seagull. Several gardens had cheerful, bright yellow daffodils blooming. A first sign of things to come. It was really nice to see some color.

The pond revealed our friends the mallard couple and the red winged blackbird who've been hanging out there for the last few weeks.

This place is mine!
Today, the river was the place to be! Right away I was greeted by the phoebe in its nest! There were two of them and they took turns finding plant material and food and then sitting on the nest to see how it was shaping up. There were lots of chickadees and the cutest little titmouse looking very coy from behind the tree trunk. I could hear a red bellied woodpecker from across the river and saw a downy female hiking up and down the trunk of a tree.

As I was returning to the parking lot, I saw that the tree swallows were now investigating the same boxes the bluebirds had been looking at last weekend. One of them was very intently claiming one of the boxes as their own. No sign of the bluebirds today.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Apartment Hunting

I couldn't resist stopping by the park on my way home from work. I really wanted to see what the bluebird couple was up to. They weren't exploring the boxes near the parking lot like they were on Saturday so I wasn't sure if I would see them.

I went for a little stroll around the lower gardens. Saw something out of the corner of my eye and it turned out to be an Eastern phoebe, it's soft yellow sides brighter than usual in the waning sun! Then a flash of blue and there they were  - the bluebird couple - investigating the boxes on the golf course side of the lower gardens. I'm sure they have many more to examine before they decide and then there's always the question of the tree swallows...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Colorful Jewels on a Gray Day - Some Old Friends Return

Song Sparrow Singing
43 degrees this morning and very gray but the park was hopping! Juncos and robins and cowbirds were combing the meadow in search of seeds. Bird song was everywhere despite the lack of cheerfulness of such a dull looking day.

This song sparrow pictured left was letting all the ladies know that he's the very best! Of course there were several other song sparrows singing, and they all thought the same thing!

In the lower gardens were chickadees, a cardinal couple and mourning doves in addition to the large quantity of song sparrows. I could hear a red bellied woodpecker purring from a tree near the parking lot.

I headed to the upper gardens and was immediately greeted by two tree swallows flying in circles high up above me. They genuinely seemed so excited to be back. Later, the two turned into at least six - twittering and performing flight maneuvers. Saw a couple of crows, geese and ducks flying overhead, more cardinals and heard some goldfinches. Later, I am happy to report, I caught a brief glimpse of our friend "Skulker", our wintering-over hermit thrush in some brush at the edge of the path on the swamp side. I was so hoping to see the bluebirds atop the purple birdhouse but no such luck.
Mallard Couple

The soccer field was filled with robins, song sparrows, goldfinches and more cardinals. The mallard couple was in the pond, but no sign of the lone merganser. A red winged blackbird called from a tree nearby. I checked out the river, but nothing terribly exciting. I was hoping the phoebe might be back, but not yet.

On my way back to the parking lot, I cut through the woods and came back down through the upper gardens. Just as I hit the path near the brushy triangle I was stunned to see our bluebird couple checking out the boxes down there!

Male and Female Bluebird

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Lone Hoodie!

Female Hooded Merganser
It was about 9:15 when I arrived today and about 36 degrees. I realized Haynes was there milling around in the upper gardens so I headed right up there.

It was fairly quiet, save for some chickadees and song sparrows etc. No sign of the bluebirds, although last year at this time, I had seen a couple in the vicinity of one of their favorite birdhouses. 

We walked down to the lower gardens in hopes of seeing the hermit thrush which Mary Lou saw yesterday and surprisingly, after a few minutes, it turned up in the same area where it's been seen before! We had a nice look
at it.

Down near the soccer field we saw at least 16 robins, a goldfinch, caredinal and a mockingbird which seemed to enjoy terrorizing some of the robins. We also saw an interesting bird with an unusual wing shape high in the sky and flying very quickly. Haynes is fairly certain it was a merlin which is exciting as I think I saw this bird earlier and didn't know what it was.

At the pond, we saw a red winged blackbird in a tree and a laid back mallard couple as well as this female Hooded merganser which I believe Mary Lou also saw yesterday. She was all alone. I hope she finds a handsome guy to settle down with!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Night of the Woodcock

Jupiter (left) and Mars (right)
Inspired by Suzette's woodcock encounter, I headed to Nahanton late yesterday afternoon, arriving around 5:30pm. I figured at the vary least I had a few minutes to explore before the woodcocks started displaying, so I walked around the lower gardens where I may have glimpsed the hermit thrush while tons of grackles streamed overhead. The soccer field was chalk full of about 40 robins, while the brush by the trail held a song sparrow and an American tree sparrow. A distant cooing gave away a mourning dove. I mallard pair was dabbling in the vernal pool and across the river there was a tree dripping with red-wing black birds giving their "Conk-la-ree" calls.

I finally made it up to the meadow and found Jane who also came to get a front row seat for the show. This night, the woodcocks started about 10 minutes later and our first sign of them was a little wing-whir and seeing them fly by. In flight this odd creature appeared more like a moth or bat than a bird, with short wide wings and stubby little tails. But no bat or moth has such a long bill! We stayed for about half an hour drinking in this marvelous sight and were lucky enough to have one woodcock land close enough to us that we could just make him out in the darkness. With every "peent" call he gave he opened his wings a tad as if to shrug, threw out his chest, his head back, and opened his bill has if each "peent" took all the force he could muster. All told we could make out 3 calls: the "peent" which starts Suzettes video below, then at 7-8 seconds he gives some grunting calls more like a rail, then at 11 seconds the video ends with the wing-whir. The woodcocks best auditory feat is a more twittering wing-whir (maybe with some vocalizations?) give at the height of his aerial display is just hard to capture and best enjoyed in person.

As I walked back to my car by the gardens there were woodcocks "peenting" in the soccer field and in the lower gardens! I am quite confident we had at least four woodcocks, but it could have been so much more. Nahanton Park was all Woodcock Meadow for this evening.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Woodcocks Here!

Brian told me he had heard that woodcocks have been seen in Massachusetts, so I had to check it out this evening. And there they were!

I arrived at 5:30 and about 5:50 I heard the first peent. Then there was a flurry of flying all around me. Afterward it seemed to die down quickly until I finally realized they had moved to a different part of the meadow. They kept changing locations, but it was so much fun to hear and see them perform their dance.

Below is short video…(mostly auditory, but one flies by)

On Saturday, I had the shock of my life as I headed from the parking lot to the lower gardens. Sometime between last Sunday and this Saturday, half of the lower garden area had been completely cleared! I'm assuming these will be Newton Community Garden plots run by the City. I'm glad the City was organized this year and that it was taken care of before nesting season.

Otherwise, in addition to our regulars, it seems some red winged blackbirds have arrived.

P.S. I've added a new blog to our bloglist. Susan A., who used to be on the board of the Newton Conservators, moved to Long Island a few years ago. She now has a new blog called The Tangled Wood. I think you will enjoy reading her thoughts on nature as she untangles and restores a wooded area near her home.