Saturday, March 30, 2013

Bluebirds Back!!

I met Brian and Phillip at the park this morning so we could fix any damaged birdhouses and clean out the nests. Brian also brought a second Great Crested Flycatcher box to put up.

We gathered up all the tools and headed to the upper gardens where one
of the boxes was in tough shape and needed help. There was already a tree swallow sitting on the post where the broken birdhouse had been, and it just stared at us, as if to say, "What took you so long! I'm ready to move in!" As Brian was installing the new box, we saw a bluebird in the mulberry tree sporting it's brilliant blue!! Also saw the female nearby.

Brian at work
As we went down to the truck for the flycatcher box, we ran into Haynes who joined us. We saw the bluebird again and it was checking out several of the boxes. Then we ran into Lianne, Dorothy and one of their friends. They had actually seen three bluebirds! Haynes had seen a couple of fox sparrows and we were all hoping to see them as well.

In the meantime, Brian found a spot he thought would be attractive to the flycatcher in the woods, pondside of the upper gardens. He found a nice, big tree and skillfully attached the box. If we can get one to nest in either of the boxes, he feels hopeful that the babies would come back and keep nesting at the park.

We then headed down to the lower gardens to check out the two boxes on the golf course side. They were in good shape and just needed cleaning. A birdwatching couple appeared and spotted one of the fox sparrows! It flew before some of us got to see it, but eventually we found it turning over leaf litter in the shrubby triangle.

The two boxes that were heavily used in Woodcock Meadow have completely disappeared. Someone must have taken them. They have been vandalized in the past and now they're just gone.

Below is a posting of Haynes' sightings for today:

Canada Goose 71 inc V of 60; all headed north.
Mallard 2 river
Red-tailed Hawk 2 pr
Ring-billed Gull 1
Herring Gull 2
Mourning Dove 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 3
Blue Jay 3
Tree Swallow 2
Black-capped Chickadee 8 spring song
Tufted Titmouse 4 inc some 3-note songs.
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Brown Creeper 1 woods near end of Woodcock Field
Eastern Bluebird 2 pr; at least one more observed by others. Upper garden, investigating boxes.
American Robin 15
Northern Mockingbird 1
Fox Sparrow 2 When I arrived, T'd up in the copse between lower garden and access road. Later, one refound in leaf litter below.
Song Sparrow 12
White-throated Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 7 two songs: chipping-sparrow like; and a more silvery rattle
Northern Cardinal 6
Red-winged Blackbird 8
Common Grackle 6
American Goldfinch 2

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Spring has sprung! Migrants arriving!

Tired Tree Swallow?
At 8:00 a.m., it was sunny with a clear blue sky and about 33 degrees. There was still some  crunch snow on the ground, but quite a bit has melted.

As I walked to the lower gardens I could hear a lot of song! I was greeted immediately by a cardinal on a tree, his breast glowing a blazing red-orange as the sun shone directly on him and he sang his purdy, purdy, purdy song. The song sparrows were perched in various locations singing as well. In the crab apple tree center stage, I heard a funny song. At first I thought it was some time of blackbird, but it turned out to be a pair of cowbirds! For some reason I was surprised to see them so early, but when I ran into Mary Lou and Jonathan a little later, I found out they have been seen already. A mourning dove was perched in a tree near the golf course side and juncos were chasing each other all over. They seemed very playful and excited like when they first arrive in the fall. I think they must be getting ready to leave soon… Geese still flying back and forth over the park. They are so very active.

That sun feels good!
A red-winged blackbird flew overhead as I headed to the upper gardens. In the woods by the swamp area, were tufted titmice and several chickadees. A brown creeper was combing one of the tree trunks right in front of me. As I walked through the gardens, I happened upon a tree swallow (pictured above_ resting on this branch. It was all alone and wouldn't budge for ages as well as letting me get fairly close to take a picture. Mary Lou thought he must be tired from a long migration! There were more cowbirds up here - at least seven - most of them males chasing a lone female. A couple of robins were basking in the sun.

Down by the soccer field we saw four nuthatches flitting around together. Two couples? A goldfinch called from a nearby tree. The pond is no longer frozen and 4-5 mallards were at the far end. There were at least three males, a female and a black duck. It looked like the same grouping I had seen on the river a few weeks ago. The males were in their bright, breeding plumage with their beautiful iridescent green heads.

Sadly, we have been informed that the City feels the mulberry tree in the upper gardens that the birds love so much is beyond it's life and must come down. New trees will be planted around the park this spring which is very exciting and we're hoping that mulberry can be replaced with another mulberry. However, in the event that they can't find one, Duane Hillis (President of Friends of Nahanton Park) and park neighbor has encouraged us to go up there and take a cutting. Apparently they are quite easy to start. Check out this video.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Woodcock under the moons of Jupiter

I counted 5 displaying Woodcock in Nahanton Park, Newton, this evening, under a lovely sliver of moon filled with earthshine and smiled on by Jupiter and his moons. 3 were in the "wildflower meadow" between the garden plots, and 2 more in "Woodcock Field" above the nature center. Also 54 Canada Geese flew over in the half hour I was there.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Another Post-Storm Posting!

Lone Hoodie!
Two days after our second big storm and I couldn't really get in the Winchester Street entrance without taking a chance that my little vehicle would get stuck, so I went 'round to the Nahanton St. entrance, which was much better.

It was chilly - about 29 degrees at 8:30 a.m. I headed to the dock to see if there were any interesting birds on the river. At first, I saw nothing, but off in the distance was a lone hoodie, heading my way. I sat down and patiently waited until he was across the river from me. In the meantime, a cardinal was perched nearby singing the strangest song. I didn't recognize it all. Was it a young bird learning or is it just a song I hadn't heard before? Blue jays yapped in the background.

More Crystals
I decided to check out the pond - still hoping to see the fox that Mary Lou had seen frolicking on a frozen pond. Instead, I came upon a winter wonderland with crystals growing off every piece of vegetation in the area in a form I had never seen before. They were like magical white thorns, all made by growing at 90 degree angles. If you touched them, they just fell off. Chickadees were in great abundance calling from all the surrounding trees.

Cardinal Female with Seeds
I cut through to the upper gardens where the only path was made from someone who had been cross country skiing around the perimeter. I  came across this beautiful female cardinal who looked stunning against the snow-covered branches with a few seeds in her beak. Her husband was nearby, talking to her to make sure she knew where he was. Several song sparrows were perched on various fence posts, singing their songs. Titmice flew in and nuthatches could be heard from the forest edges.

Decided to check out the swamp area as that had been so busy last weekend. With the swamp water frozen, it was much less so, but still, several robins and grackles flitting around. A red-winged blackbird could be heard off in the distance. I started to head down the path to the lower gardens, when a small bird flew in and landed on a tree trunk. As I zoomed in on it with my binoculars, I was delighted to see a brown creeper! They really are the cutest! Just as I had read, it combed the tree bark looking for yummy edibles and then would fly off to another tree and start all over again, thus making it too difficult to photograph.

Several chickadees, song sparrows and titmice were busy in the lower gardens. Funny, but I didn't see one goldfinch.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Our woodcocks are back and others too!

Mallard & American Black duck
33 degrees and slightly cloudy today. I heard several song sparrows singing from the lower gardens, but as soon as I approached it was dead quiet. The snow was pretty crunchy and noisy. Did I frighten the birds away? The upper gardens seemed to be devoid of any bird life as well. The only sign of life was in the sky - a few robins, blue jays calling, seagulls and Canada geese flying back and forth, honking loudly.

Headed to the path by the pond where the thorny cat briar is already looking green and ready to grow like crazy. I hate cat briar. It really prevents one from exploring further into the woods. Down by the river a large bird flew overhead. I think it was a red tail hawk heading towards Woodcock meadow, but never did find it.

I saw some geese and ducks down the river, so I decided to check out the river from the bridge. Finally, some signs of life. There were several geese couples posturing and flapping their wings. There was one mallard couple and then a mallard hanging out with two American Black ducks. At the furthest range of my binoculars I caught several shapes, splashing wildly in some water that had overflowed the banks. The ducks looked quite different and I realized I had finally gotten my first good look at half a dozen ring necked ducks. Their white tipped beaks were striking!

Downie Woodpecker
Woodcock meadow was quite too, so I decided to revisit the upper gardens and head to the swamp path. The swamp is filled with water and it seemed to be where the most action was. A carolina wren was singing nonstop and robins were rummaging through the leaf litter. Several downies were searching for food up and down the tree trunks. Nuthatches were doing the same. And then I saw my first red-winged blackbird fly across the path with his bright red glowing against his black feathers. And the first wave of noisy grackles were back with their blue green black iridescence. Chickadees sang from the woods on the opposite side of the gardens.

Later that evening, I met up with Jane S. to see if the woodcocks would show. The peents started around 5:50ish and then we saw our first woodcock fly over the meadow. There seemed to be several that night. We used to wait until St. Patricks day or so, but have now realized they come a lot earlier.

The woodcocks were certainly a highlight of the weekend, but a great horned owl sighting at the JCC Saturday at about 5:30 p.m. was totally amazing!!!