Sunday, January 19, 2014

Very quiet...

It was 31 degrees and overcast when I arrived at Nahanton at 8:00 a.m. No sooner did I start walking around then it started snowing lightly. It was very pretty.

A birdwatching couple arrived around the same time. I asked if they were looking for the shrike and they were!

The lower gardens were dead quiet save for a few blue jays and robins. No sign of any kind of sparrow. I did hear a goldfinch but never saw it. I was hoping for the towhees but no sign of them today.

Didn't see one bird in the upper gardens, although the couple saw a few juncos etc., so I headed down to the soccer field where the shrike had been seen. No sign of it. We did see a cardinal couple, an American tree sparrow and a few juncos.

The river has thawed with all the rain and that seemed to attract the birds as well as the feeders and suet that the kids at the Nature Center had put out. It's so nice they are feeding the birds with all the cold weather and bouts of snow. There were two male hoodies in the river. Saw some nuthatches, a song sparrow and chickadees in the trees and brush by the river banks. We heard the red-bellied woodpecker's distinctive call.

At the feeders there was quite a group of juncos, white throated sparrows, a tree sparrow and titmice. A pair of mourning doves looked down on the activity, probably waiting for their chance to catch some morsels on the ground.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Northern Shrike Reported!

I was just reading massbird and saw a post saying that a Northern Shrike was seen between the pond and soccer fields at 3:30pm this afternoon!  Hopefully he will hang out a little bit.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

This just in from Mary Lou...

Two male towhees kicking up leaves in the wild area on the golf course--to right of path from Nahanton lower garden.

Red fox seen in woods near JCC.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Winter of the Towhee?

Coopers Hawk
There seemed to be a difference of opinion on the temperature this morning at 8:10 a.m. My cell phone declared it a balmy 25 degrees, but the car thermometer differed at 17 degrees. Either way, it was cold, but clear and sunny.

First off, I saw a robin and a couple of blue jays but not much else. As I trudged through the snow to the sunny part of the lower gardens near the golf course side, I heard the distinctive call of the towhee. It seemed to be coming from the golf course, so I went down the path to the golf course, but it had stopped calling and I couldn't locate it.

Eventually, the sun spread to the woodsy/swamp side of the lower gardens where I saw some chickadees. Silently, a Coopers Hawk flew in to survey the situation. It was there for quite a while… A nuthatch was making its nasally sound and a pair of juncos appeared as I headed to the upper gardens. Three flocks of Canada geese flew overhead.

Near the soccer field was a beautiful cardinal, a robin, a crow flying, several juncos and a few goldfinches. I know there is a bitter battle about bittersweet, but I have to say, it seemed to be the main attraction for the birds today - especially when the snow is covering up so much. I was hoping for a golden crowned kinglet which I didn't see, but had another surprise instead.

Cold Hermit Thrush
Up above me, high on a branch was a bird with dark brown spots on it's breast, looking like a thrush, but it seemed too small. It kept flicking its tail and had a rufous sort of coloration. There was a slight eye ring and it's beak was orange with black at the tip. I thought at first it might be a Veery because of its small size, but that seemed unlikely in the winter. I knew others had seen a Hermit thrush and I've seen them before in the past, but somehow, I imagined it would be bigger. Finally when I got home and I opened my book, I realized it must be the Hermit thrush. I learned they are smaller than other thrushes and they have a habit of flicking their tails, so that decided it.

If anyone disagrees, please let me know! Thanks…

All in all, for such a cold and quiet day, it turned out to be quite nice.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Towhee, the Evening Star, and the Hunt

Eastern Towhee
 For the third year in a row, I was able to stop by Nahanton Park on New Year's Day. This year though, I didn't arrive until 3:30pm in the fading light and cold temperatures. I started making my way around the garden and my first year bird at the park was a Black-capped Chickadee calling from the brush around the lower garden. It was very quiet. But soon a robin called and I heard rustling on the ground in the back corner of the gardens. I was quite shocked to find 2 male Eastern Towhees flipping through the leaf litter. They are getting to be pretty late for this far north, and a great New Year's Day find.

Sunset with Venus, the Evening Star
As I was watching the Towhees, two birders appeared. I was excited to share the late Towhees and as we neared the other birder asked, "Have you heard it?"
   "Heard what?" I was confused.
   "The Northern Saw-whet Owl!?"
And this was how I learned of Haynes' find the morning of New Year's Day. What a fantastic bird to find.

So we made introductions and started to keep vigil hoping to hear the monotonous, incessantly repeating "toot toot toot" call of the Northern Saw-whet Owl. We made a few passes around the lower gardens not wanting to stray too far. Tim was able to put me onto an American Tree Sparrow, which I always think is a great New Year's Day bird.

As the light started to fail my eyes turned to the sky while my ears still were tuned in for owls. After viewing Jupiter on New Year's Eve, I was primed for gazing up. With the sun set behind the horizon, the Evening Star made itself evident in the western sky (click to enlarge if you can't see Venus). Upon raising my binoculars, I could just make out that Venus was not a solid round disk, but instead a crescent. Apparently, Venus will be its closest to Earth on January 11th, which means it will be directly between the Sun and Earth. For a couple of weeks on either side of this date, Venus will be just a sliver of a crescent (see article). The second picture I should have taken with a higher shutter speed to more fully appreciate how narrow the crescent really is. I read
The Crescent of Venus
that last night, only 3.4% of the planet was illuminated! Even though such a small portion of Venus is illuminated, its bightness and proximity to us makes it appear quite large in the sky.

At 6:30 I was frozen. My shoes and socks were too thin to keep the cold of the frozen ground from creeping into my feet. After one last loop around the area without hearing any owls, I decided to head home to thaw. Even just the Towhees and Tree Sparrow would have make it a great afternoon (full list here). Then throw in a crescent Venus and the hunt for the Saw-whet Owl and I had a wonderful start to the New Year at Nahanton.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Toot, toot, toot, ...

A new bird for me at the Park: Saw-whet Owl, heard from the back corner of the lower garden. The unmown Wildflower Meadow seems to have attracted some interesting birds. Most of the sparrows were hanging out in the weeds there. There were a few mergansers on the river.

Hooded Merganser  3     1 m, 2 f
Common Merganser  1     f
gull sp.  2
Mourning Dove  5     jcc
Northern Saw-whet Owl  1     Heard only: sequence of breathy toots, medium pitch, varying slightly. From corner of lower garden.
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1     f, jcc
Blue Jay  10
Black-capped Chickadee  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  2     jcc
American Robin  4
Northern Mockingbird  2     upper and lower gardens
American Tree Sparrow  4
Song Sparrow  4
White-throated Sparrow  1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)  8
Northern Cardinal  1
American Goldfinch  2