Sunday, June 23, 2013

Settling down...

Baby Barn Swallow
It was 67 degrees and sunny. I was greeted in the parking lot by some cute, crisply marked chipping sparrows - their caps bright, rufous red. They were foraging the grasses along with robin parents and babies and red-winged blackbirds.

In the lower gardens, I saw a couple of baby barn swallows perched on fencing looking on as their parents were preoccupied with a puddle under the water faucet. By the way, the garden contents are looking quite delicious - vegetables and flowers alike! Saw many of our regulars like the catbirds, song sparrows and cardinals and lots of families - an oriole dad and baby, and warbler dad and baby. I thought I caught a glimpse of a red-eyed vireo, but it was so brief I couldn't be certain.

Tired chippy!
The white fruited mulberry is a hot spot right now. From squirrels, to house sparrows, titmice, mourning doves, grosbeaks, song sparrows, catbirds, orioles, goldfinches and eastern kingbirds, it was quite attractive. As I stood watching, a tiny weasel appeared from the meadow and ran across the path. Then Mary Lou who had appeared saw it with something small in it's mouth! Instant replay of a few weeks ago - carrying babies from one location to another. Is this another family of short tailed weasels? Duane has even seen them in his driveway. Amazing how we've never seen them before and now three sightings in a couple of weeks!

The upper garden was fairly quiet. The noisiest faction being the house wrens. I saw this chipmunk
lying indolently on this fence beam. I wondered if it might be a young one because it looked totally exhausted. No self-respecting chipmunk would let me get this close!

Headed down to the soccer field where I could only hear a downy, red-bellied woodpecker and peewee. Did catch a glimpse of a yellow warbler and baby and also, strangely a female hummingbird.

Other than that, it was pretty quiet.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day!

Mother robin
It was 57 degrees and sunny at 7:00 a.m. A beautiful day to go birdwatching and not a soul at the park.

I was immediately greeted by a cowbird in the parking lot. Our lower garden sentinels were there - the tree swallows and house wren neighbors rearing young in the boxes by the path. I wouldn't be surprised if the tree swallows are on a 2nd brood at this point.
Baby Yellow Warbler

Saw catbirds, song sparrows, downy woodpeckers and mourning doves. I discovered a robin's nest in the small tree at the corner where the path starts to curve around the gardens. She was very still.

I saw a baby tree swallow on a post with it's proud parents, basking in the sun. It's coloring was more of a gray then the beautiful metallic blue. A large group of house finches were foraging together in one of the gardens. I love how they are so family oriented. As I rounded the bend to head up to the upper gardens, I came across this rumpled, funny colored baby and was pretty sure it was a baby yellow warbler. It looked like it was fresh out of the sac (urrrr, nest that is). Eventually, dad (see it was Father's Day after all), came and fed the baby and they sat together for a brief moment (apologies for the fuzzy picture).
Father and Son/Daughter?

The white mulberry tree next to the bath is fruiting now. Squirrels were draped over branches, gorging themselves. Catbirds and others were having a field day. I saw one bird that I couldn't quite make out and then I saw a bright red patch that was positively glowing in the sunlight! Turned out to be the rose-breasted grosbeak.

Foxgloves (Digitalis)
The upper gardens are starting to look quite lush and delicious. Many flowers are in bloom, including some bright pink foxgloves pictured below. The vegetables are growing rampant and the crisp, white flowers of the raspberries will soon become yummy fruit. The tree swallows are attending to their families and the house wrens are also busy raising their young too. I heard a phoebe calling from the woods. The baby bunny I saw last week has almost doubled in size. These creatures sure are on the fast track! The yellow warbler nest where we had seen babies, looked destroyed by all the rain. I sure hope they are o.k. I wouldn't have thought they would be old enough to leave yet.

The soccer field and pond were very quiet, save for the song of the wood thrush wafting through from the woods. I heard the witchety, witchety of the common yellowthroat that seems to be nesting somewhere there.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Short tailed weasels at Nahanton? You bet!

Common Yellowthroat
Got to the park early at 6:30 a.m. It was 58 degrees and pleasant.

Although it's not exactly a field full of color, the meadow is gaining wildflowers each week. The sunny yellow of the coreopsis is in bloom along with white fleabane and purple vetch. I was greeted in the lower gardens by robins, tree swallows (of course!), house wrens, mourning doves, song sparrows, yellow warblers, catbirds and a female oriole chasing a grackle. Maybe it got too close to her nest. The yellow warbler was in her nest, hidden in some scrub. All you could see was a little dark eye and beak poking out. Haynes and Ian showed up and we walked around together. The best sighting was not a bird, but a ferret (which Haynes identified later as a short-tailed weasel). It was quite small and colorful and fast as lightning. At first we thought it had caught some prey, as it had something the size of a large field mouse in it's mouth. It carried it from the scrub into the gardens and disappeared. As we stood in disbelief, it came back towards us and back into the scrub, reappearing with another bundle in its mouth. After several more times of this same pattern, we finally realized that it was moving it's babies to a new location! It's so fast, I couldn't get a picture, even though I stood with my camera at the ready.

Babies everywhere!
The white mulberry on the way to the upper gardens is starting to bear fruit. Just the beginning, but soon the birds will be gorging themselves, especially since the blue mulberry was taken down this spring.

It's baby time all over the park and in the upper gardens, it was apparent. There were baby robins learning how to forage. A yellow warbler was feeding her babies in the nest as we quietly watched in amazement. Even a baby bunny appeared and though it's hard to tell from this picture, it could not have been more than four inches long. It was hard to believe it was real! A common yellowthroat suddenly appeared near the birch tree in it's striking patterns. It chased a house wren around and around. A redwing blackbird flew overhead. We found the rose-breasted grosbeak nest incredibly difficult to see. She was in her nest and like the warblers, all you could see was her beak and distinctive white eye stripe. Ian spotted a hummer zipping by and it predictably flew to a bright red honeysuckle vine, dipping into each trumpet shaped flower. We could hear peewees calling from the woods.

Common Whitetail
As we headed to the soccer field, Haynes pointed out the chickadee nest in a very small dead trunk and Common Whitetail and is very common in North America. We got to see them going in and out to feed and check on their babies. We heard a warbling vireo and a common yellowthroat (pictured above). As we neared the pond, we heard a very loud, scratchy call that  we all agreed was some kind of heron. Haynes thought it was probably a black-crowned night heron, but when we got there, it was not to be seen. I've included a picture of a dragonfly that I saw the day before. It was quite eye catching. When I researched it, I discovered it is called the

The river was fairly quiet as was Woodcock meadow. The woods bordering the JCC were pretty quiet too, although we heard the red-bellied woodpecker, saw a pair of nuthatches and got a nice look at a peewee on a bare branch.

Additional sightings not mentioned above are pulled from Haynes' list for the day:

Empidonax sp.  1     Lower garden. Silent, brief look.
Eastern Phoebe  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  2
Northern Rough-winged Swallow  1
Barn Swallow  4
Cedar Waxwing  5
Northern Cardinal  2     Feeding BHCO
Brown-headed Cowbird  5
House Finch  5
American Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  2     M and F in different locations; M again on empty box at upper garden

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Weekend Update

I knew it was going to be a brutal weekend, so went early both days, but apparently not early enough to run into Haynes (see previous entry). I did run into Mary Lou Saturday, and we walked around together.

We saw a couple of Eastern kingbirds in the lower gardens which were my first of the season. Our usuals were out in full force - mourning doves, tree swallows, robins, house wrens, song sparrows etc. There's a yellow warbler nest in the lower gardens I've been keeping an eye on. Mom sits in the deep nest and just the tippy top of her head was showing with her little eye and beak. Also had a nice look at a common yellowthroat male in a shrub near the compost piles.

I love it when the wild roses are blooming. Their deep pink color is so striking against the yellow green foliage. What a feast for the eyes! Since the meadow and it's invasive artemisia is always a topic of discussion, I like to see what wildflowers there might be. Saw some ox eye daisies, purple dames rocket and pink clover.

There's another yellow warbler nest in the upper gardens and I wonder if this couple is new at this. There's is out in plain view and I never see them in the nest. They always seem to be nearby though. I wasn't sure if the warbler at left was a baby flapping it's wings for food or an adult stretching. We saw some titmice, house wrens, catbirds, more swallows, orioles, and a red wing blackbird flying overhead.

Heading down the path through the woods we had a nice look at a red eyed vireo. It either had food or nesting material. We weren't sure which. I think I saw little phoebe heads just barely poking up over the top of their nest. A warbling vireo was calling, but couldn't be seen. I see that Haynes has found it's nest though. I saw a downy fly into a hole in a dead tree across the river. Definitely a nest in there.

We walked through the woods by the JCC. I was looking for lady slippers and Mary Lou was hoping for a scarlet tanager and we found both as well as peewees calling back and forth and several wood thrushes singing. Sadly, we never did get to see the scarlet tanager. It sang for the longest time and we knew it was right above us and yet we just couldn't see it. However, this raccoon resting high in a tree branch was some consolation!

I didn't see any lady slippers where we had seen them last year, but finally, as we got closer to the parking lot, we found a couple that were just barely still in bloom. They probably had bloomed the week before. After the rain and heat, they were a little sad and pale looking, but nonetheless, a magical sight. I see that Matt found some too and has posted beautiful pictures on his blog Wild Newton as well as really interesting information about how lady slippers get pollinated. Check it out!

Back at the parking lot, I saw some cowbirds. Wonder whose nest they have chosen to lay their eggs in… I read somewhere that some yellow warblers are getting wise to them and will toss the eggs.

Sunday was more of the same except I happened upon the red-breasted grosbeak nest in the upper gardens! I just happen to see it in a branch and then it flew to a bush where I saw the nest ass the babies poked their heads up for food. Now that is exciting, eh?

Saturday, June 1, 2013


Summer's here: all nest building an brooding. I got to the park early, 6:30. I found a Baltimore Oriole nest in a tree in the lower garden. Below the nest, a turtle was laying eggs: 

There's also a Song Sparrow nest in a dense bush at the fence of a garden plot at the east end of the lower garden. At the circle near the soccer field, there's an easily spotted Black-capped Chicadee nest:

The highlight was a brief Cuckoo song, Yellow-billed I believe. Here's a list. I missed Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Great-crested Flycatcher. 

Canada Goose  11     single V
Red-tailed Hawk  1
Mourning Dove  6
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1     heard at nature center
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  3     Nest 2' in small snag at lower traffic circle.
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
Eastern Phoebe  1
Warbling Vireo  4     Nest 20' up above sign to soccer field at nature center
Blue Jay  3
Tree Swallow  8
Barn Swallow  2
Black-capped Chickadee  8
Tufted Titmouse  6
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
House Wren  5
Wood Thrush  2
American Robin  15
Gray Catbird  6
Common Yellowthroat  2     singing males
Yellow Warbler  7
Song Sparrow  10
Scarlet Tanager  1     first year male, singing
Northern Cardinal  4
Red-winged Blackbird  4
Common Grackle  7
Brown-headed Cowbird  4
Baltimore Oriole  8     Nest at W edge of small tree in lower garden
American Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  1     M at empty house at E end of upper garden