Sunday, January 20, 2013

Flock of Redpolls!

Red polls
I got to the park around 7:35 a.m. It was about 40 degrees, clear and a little windy, but nice.

I strolled around the lower gardens and didn't hear or see one bird! I couldn't believe it. I thought the milder weather would have brought the birds out. The upper gardens were dead quiet too. No signs of life - not even a robin or song sparrow present.

So, I decided to head down to the river, as that area was more active last weekend. When I got to the path by the soccer field, I finally saw a couple of robins and heard the little cheep, cheep of a couple of white throated sparrows foraging in the leaf litter. A group of chickadees appeared, and the male cardinal I've been seeing down there became evident.

I saw a group of birds in front of me and I thought at least I was going to see a few song sparrows, but the markings weren't right. Then I thought they must be house finches, but the breast was much clearer - the striations were mostly on the sides. When they realized I was there, the whole flock few to the side of the pond on a white birch tree branch. As I focused in, I realized I was looking at my first flock of redpolls (8 individuals)! Matt was right - they really like the catkins on the birch trees. I was so excited except they were too far away to photograph at all. Eventually, they came back to the birch near the path and I was at least able to get something. The bird on the top left is showing a little of the distinctive red patch. Sure wish I had a better telephoto lens.

A couple of mourning doves flew overhead as well as several groups of vocal geese. A lone goldfinch was hanging out with the redpolls until a few friends joined in. A whitebreasted nuthatch scoured the bark of a large tree. On my way back to the car, I finally saw a couple of song sparrows. One does wonder where the birds are on a day like today. You know they're there somewhere.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

January Thaw?

Nuthatch at Nature Center feeder
At 7:30 a.m., it was 42 degrees, overcast and misting. The temps were originally forecasted to reach into the 60's today, but I guess that's been revised downward. Either way, it felt pretty comfortable out there.

I decided to go around the park in reverse order in hopes of seeing the cormorant that Haynes had flushed from the dock. As I headed down the path to the river, I saw a tree covered with robins. In the brush nearby were juncos, a house finch couple, nuthatches, tufted titmice and some chickadees.

The river was very high. I stood on the dock in quite a bit of fog. It was very quiet out there, until I heard a very distinctive red-bellied woodpecker. It was combing a nearby branch. I was so happy to hear and see it, as I hadn't seen one all summer or fall. I got chatting with a kayaker who has seen the blue heron hanging out all winter the last few years.

Whoever put up this feeder (above) and is keeping the little rundown feeders across the path filled with seed - thank you! The birds are enjoying this food source. There were chickadees, nuthatches, cardinals and titmice. What a great idea! It allows for excellent viewing.

On my way to the lower gardens, I saw a couple of tree sparrows hanging out with a song sparrow at the edge of the soccer field. Four geese flew overhead.

In the lower gardens, "Caroline" sang from the brush on the Winchester St. side. Otherwise, it was pretty quiet. There was a mourning dove and a bush covered with house finches and goldfinches and tons of robins and some starlings foraging in the meadow. The upper gardens were extremely quiet, save for a large flock of goldfinches.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A new bird

Nice sunny walk over white snow this morning. I flushed a Great Cormorant from the dock: a new bird for me for the park. Also, there is a beautiful new bird feeder at the Nature Center, filled even on a Sunday morning. Thanks, Judy! In attendance: most of the birds listed below.

Canada Goose  4
Great Cormorant  1     
Sharp-shinned Hawk  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
Downy Woodpecker  3
Blue Jay  2
Black-capped Chickadee  8
Tufted Titmouse  6     /// and \\\ and more subdued form of latter
Red-breasted Nuthatch  1     at new feeder at nature center
White-breasted Nuthatch  4
American Robin  6
Northern Mockingbird  2
American Tree Sparrow  1  
Song Sparrow  8
White-throated Sparrow  4
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  6
Northern Cardinal  1

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Deer Print
It was a beautiful day today at 7:30 a.m. 28 degrees. Calm and clear.

As soon as I entered the lower gardens, I was drawn to some activity in the little triangular, wooded area near the meadow. There was a very busy bird in there, flitting here and there. I could hardly keep my binoculars on it. I ran around to the other side and finally got a better look. I was so hoping for the redpoll that Matt had seen. Turned out it was a golden crowned kinglet, however it's crown was almost a brilliant orange. It was absolutely stunning.

I wasn't there long, when Mary Lou appeared and later Ian, so we mostly walked around together. I heard and then saw the red-tailed hawk which has probably been busy. There was a set of footprints in the snow and for quite a distance there were various sized gray feathers that had fallen into them. I couldn't really say what type of bird had been attacked or whether it had eluded the hawk or other predator ultimately.

There were a few robins, starlings, chickadees, a cardinal, a song sparrow and juncos. A couple of American tree sparrows hung out together on a shrub. The golden crowned kinglet then appeared in the scrubby tree in the middle of the lower gardens where I got to watch it some more. Mary Lou spotted a couple of Cedar waxwings.

The upper gardens were dead quiet. No redpolls in the birches today, so we headed down to the soccer field where we saw a lone mockingbird. Mary Lou mentioned that she had seen a fox recently, playing on the frozen pond! On the path to the river, Ian spotted a red breasted nuthatch and a white throated sparrow. A small goldfinch family was busy eating tiny pinecones or something on an evergreen in Woodcock meadow.

If you haven't read Matt's posting below, please take a look. The photos are fantastic.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

New Years Day with Red-Tails and Redpolls

Red-tailed Hawk
I started 2012 birding at Nahanton Park on New Years Day and thought it only appropriate that I start 2013 the same way.  I also thought this would be a good second outing with a new camera lens (I'm so glad to have autofocus again).

Nahanton was a sunny and snowy winter wonderland when I arrived at noon, much later than planned. The first find of the day was a small cluster of juncos (first birds of the year) while parking. The lower gardens were initially pretty quiet with a few song sparrow and house finches. As I rounded the back corner of the gardens  I heard blue jays calling, then I startled as a jay right behind me imitated a red-tailed hawk. It took me a second to realize that this scream had too much power to be a blue jay! I spun around and found three massive buteos circling right above me. Then she screamed again, and if the auburn tail didn't give it away, the single descending scream is unmistakable. I wish I had been able to record that sound (here's a link to a recording). I watched as one adult and two juveniles circled overhead before raising in altitude and soaring off over the park. No hint of Haynes' red-shouldered hawk though.

Common Redpoll
While walking towards the upper garden I spotted the Carolina wren, if only for a few seconds and some fly over crows. The upper gardens were even quieter than the lower gardens. I almost made a full circuit with only some furtive song sparrows to show for it when I reached the small clearing with two birches, one of which leans heavily. I think Suzette called this spot warbler city at one point. I was almost on top of the trees when I realized they contained two common redpolls! I was so excited, not only were these life birds for me, but I have also been searching for winter finches recently! I sat and watched them for a long while as they bounced around the birches eating the seeds from the catkins. It was amazing to think about their stubby beaks and small seeds compared to their crossbill cousins with massive curved beaks for prying open pine cones. The redpolls' purplish-red caps were iridescent in the sun making a wonderful addition to the snowy park. These little balls of feather are able to survive some of the harshest arctic winters with their thick plumage and sometimes even burrow into the snow to shelter during the night.

Brown Creeper
I tore myself away from them with difficulty and headed down the path by the swamp and river. The river was high and some of the path and flooded and frozen making the going slow. The only birds down there were house sparrows, robins, and a lone titmouse. There was a downy by the nature center and up in woodcock meadow I was delighted to hear the thin waivering call note of a brown creeper! I was able to find him and enjoyed watching him spiral the tree trunks searching for food.

I was hoping to make it through the woods by the JCC searching for more finches in the pines, but my time was running out and I really wanted to see the redpolls again. I passed through the soccer field checking the birches, but only found some white-throated sparrows. Back in the upper gardens the two birches now had five redpolls! So I spent a few more minutes soaking in their presence before heading back to the car.

This was truly a fantastic way to start 2013 and I would like to wish everyone a happy New Year!

1/2/2013 Today I found a flock of 7 redpolls in the birches by the soccer field, so maybe they are staying around?