Saturday, November 23, 2013

Towhees love Nahanton!

Eastern Towhee
It was 41 degrees and sunny at 8:00 a.m. It was dead quiet, save for some City workers who were removing a few of the large rocks that now border the parking lot and the meadow and transferring them to another park…

The lower gardens were so still, I didn't even hear or see any of our winter regulars - not even a robin at that point. I finally saw a shape on a shrub and when I looked through my binoculars, I was staring at the male towhee!!! Still here! Now, it really is getting late. He was a beautiful specimen and I scrambled into the brush near the center crabapple tree to get a better look. I think the female was foraging in the leaf litter, but I really didn't see her. He then flew off, and as I emerged from the scrub, there was Haynes! He had seen the towhee fly off across the path.

Ian showed up a few minutes later and then the towhee started calling from where I had first seen him. He posed right out in the open and gave me a chance to capture him for posterity! Isn't he elegant? We could hear goldfinches overhead and some blue jays. Eventually we saw robins, a few song sparrows, house finches, juncos and a Coopers hawk, but it was unusually quiet.

Double-crested Cormorant
The upper gardens were a little more active. We saw several juncos, a white throated sparrow sunning itself while perched in the fork of a tree branch as well as several goldfinches, some song sparrows and several American tree sparrows, many of which were in the oak trees behind the gardens as well as some shrubs near us. A white breasted nuthatch was combing the bark of one of the old oaks. Ian saw a swamp sparrow.

The soccer field was quiet and the pond had a tiny little bit of water in it from the rain this week, but no signs of life. As we headed to the river, Ian spotted a Double- crested cormorant gliding down the river. I was amazed, as in my four years of coming to the park, I have never seen one in this area. Seems pretty late. Doesn't it want to be in Florida?

We walked through Woodcock meadow and the woods behind the JCC but didn't see anything of note.

How long will the towhees be with us?

Haynes' Official List
Canada Goose  2
Double-crested Cormorant  1     swimming on the river
Cooper's Hawk  1
Blue Jay  6
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
American Robin  20
European Starling  2
Eastern Towhee  1     Continuing. Male, calling and visible, SW corner of lower garden. Possibly a second EATO there too. Photo.
American Tree Sparrow  10
Song Sparrow  8
White-throated Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco  12
House Finch  4
American Goldfinch  20

Click to view online.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Our bluebird friends appeared - finally!

8:00 a.m., it was 43 degrees and cloudy.

I toured around the lower gardens seeing chickadees, juncos, cardinals, white-throated sparrows, song sparrows, blue jays and robins. A carolina wren called from the golf course side.

Several house finches gathered together on a shrub. A mourning dove flew off from it's perch near the sumac. A towhee male appeared in that little triangle of scrub near the meadow where the seeds were attracting goldfinches and song sparrows in large numbers and American tree sparrows foraged nearby on the ground.

Ian appeared and I went around again with him. The large flock of cedar waxwings that Haynes saw yesterday flew from tree to tree and then back again. It's so nice to see birds in larger numbers than one or two. Ian spotted a bluebird in one of the trees of heaven and then we saw a second one on another branch. We were just saying a few weeks ago how no one has seen a bluebird this fall at the park and it was so strange, so better late than never! One bird was clearly a male, but we had some discussion as to whether the second bird was a young male or a female as it was grayish in color, but with more blue on it's back then I think the female normally has, but hard to say…

It seems at this time of year, the upper gardens are much quieter than the lower gardens and why that is, I have no idea. We did manage to see a white-throated sparrow, a flicker and a pair of cardinals.

The soccer field yielded some titmice and later a female towhee munching on some bright red, yummy looking berries. The pond has been waterless for some time now, thus living up to its reputation as an official vernal pool.

Looks like the kids from the Nature Center programs have filled up some of the bird feeders! The cardinal couldn't wait to get in there.

Still haven't seen the fox sparrows...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Eastern Towhees and Fox Sparrows

I finally had a chance to catch up with the late Towhees and the Fox Sparrows at the Park this morning. Very birdy, especially the lower garden. Here's what I found: 

Canada Goose  75     flock of 60 flying off golf course
Mallard  3     river
Red-tailed Hawk  1     im., nature center
Ring-billed Gull  1
Downy Woodpecker  2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)  2
Blue Jay  10
Black-capped Chickadee  8
Tufted Titmouse  4
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Carolina Wren  3     lower garden, pond, Woodcock Field
American Robin  75
Northern Mockingbird  1     nature center, harassing RTHA with BLJAs
Cedar Waxwing  15     incl flock mixed with AMRO at nature center
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  2     Woodcock Field
Eastern Towhee  2     Continuing; first observed by Suzette Nov 10. Both F, one lower garden, one upper garden.
American Tree Sparrow  6
Savannah Sparrow  1     above lower garden
Fox Sparrow  2     Woodcock Field, continuing
Song Sparrow  20
Swamp Sparrow  1     upper garden
White-throated Sparrow  4
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  55     mainly lower garden
Northern Cardinal  3
House Finch  12
American Goldfinch  15

Friday, November 15, 2013

Towhee Obsessed!

I had an email from Donna today. She had found a nest in her asparagus when she was cleaning her garden and she was hoping I could take a look at it so I headed to the park after I dropped my daughter off at school.

Took me a while, but I finally found the little nest on the ground in the ferny remains of the asparagus. Funny, but Haynes had thought there were song sparrows building a nest in the asparagus in the spring as he had seen song sparrows flying in and out, but try as we might, we were never able to see the nest. Aren't they amazing?

As I quickly walked around a bird caught my eye in the crabapple in the center of the lower gardens. It was a female towhee and I was most excited. Then I realized there were two more towhees near her - both males! And darn, I didn't have my camera.

Ran back home, got the camera and rushed back!

This time, I found them foraging in the leaf litter in the scrubby little area between the meadow and the lower gardens.

They got wise to me and flew off to another area where I followed them. They travelled around the gardens in their little group. It's very exciting that they've been so visible.

You never know what you are going to see. There was also a red-tailed hawk that was making some of the birds nervous. It clearly has been hunting as there were several feathers of a bird on the ground that had definitely been eaten. I couldn't identify what type of bird it had been, but it did have fairly long feathers so it was a larger sized bird, possibly a blue jay.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A very late Eastern Towhee migrant!

Tufted titmouse
It was 8:15, 44 degrees and cloudy when I arrived at the park.

The path near the meadow and parking lot was loaded with titmice, nuthatches and chickadees. The nuthatches surprised me because they were foraging on the ground instead of on tree trunks but as soon as they saw me, they flew up to safer locations. The titmice seemed quite tame as they paraded around while I watched. Chickadees were busy flitting from branch to branch in search of berries and other good things to eat.

The lower gardens had dozens of robins and some jays. Families of goldfinches scoured one of their favorite gardens where the weeds have been cut down this week, but the birds seem undeterred as they searched the ground instead of perching and eating. Our usual song sparrows, juncos, house finches, cardinals and white throated sparrows were busy as well. I was still hoping for a fox sparrow, but it wasn't to be. Several cedar waxwing families were gathered atop various trees, very busy for themselves.

Surprisingly, I didn't see or hear one bird in the upper gardens. I couldn't believe it. However, with the leaves starting to fall, I've been finding nests all over the park that I had no idea were there in the breeding months. Despite the nests we did find this summer, it's amazing how many more nests were hiding in plain view. You have to admire these little guys and gals.

Eastern Towhee
The soccer field path and pond were quiet as well, save for lots of robins on the field and the odd downy woodpecker. Woodcock meadow had a few jays, robins, cardinals and juncos. A seagull flew overhead. Finally, I saw a couple of yellow-rumped warblers in a cypress tree which was a nice treat.

As I headed back to the car, I decided to take one more look around the lower gardens. Saw what I think were a couple of chippers on the ground (although I was thinking possibly tree sparrows, but didn't see the spot on the chest). Once inside the lower gardens, I caught a glimpse of what looked like a very weird robin, but as soon as I got my binoculars on it, I realized it was an Eastern towhee! It had a beautiful black head and back, the rufous sides and smaller than a robin. I had a really good look at it in two different locations. Although it's not the most flattering view from the backside, I was glad to have some evidence of its presence, since it is quite late, but not unheard of, for a towhee to be seen. Is the same one we saw a few weeks ago?

Monday, November 4, 2013

This just in from Mary Lou….

5 Fox sparrows together in field behind boat rental. Seen at 8 AM in the fruit trees on narrow path that parallels and is closest to river.