Sunday, March 30, 2014

Tree Swallows have blown in!

Song Sparrow
It was about 41 degrees at 7:30 a.m. and the sun was coming out. I decided to get to the park early as the weather reports didn't look very good for later in the day or for Sunday.

I was greeted by song in every direction from a brown-headed cowbird, high atop a tree, to song sparrows, to blackbirds, cardinals and robins. All were responding to the warm temperatures and longer days. As I stood at the entrance to the lower gardens, taking it all in, a group of three tree swallows flew by, chittering excitedly and checking everything out.

There were juncos chasing each other around and an American tree sparrow couple scouring the ground for seed. A house sparrow family flew to a tree nearby, the male looking very colorful and the female very crisp. Titmice called from the woods: "peter, peter, peter". Chickadees appeared before me performing their gymnastic feats; hanging upside down to attack something yummy. A pair of mourning doves flew from one tree to another. A mockingbird worked diligently on extracting some berries from a thorny shrub.

In the upper gardens, a family of goldfinches feasted on long weed stalks, swaying in the wind.
American Tree Sparrow
Canada geese and a pair of mallards and one seagull flew overhead. When I ran into some birdwatchers down near the soccer field, I found out that they had seen and heard the male towhee singing near the Rose of Sharon's in the upper gardens! I was sorry I had missed him.

Down by the soccer field, they pointed out a fox sparrow. It was in a tree and flew to another where we got a great look at it. There may have been more than one, because a few minutes later, we saw another one rummaging in the leaf litter on the other side of the field.

The pond had a couple of pairs of mallards, a pair of Canada geese and I think I saw an American Black duck couple. The mallard's legs were an incredibly bright orange as they stood on a patch of ice surveying the goings ons. We spotted a wood duck hiding behind the birch scrub at the far end of the pond. I wonder if there is a nest there, because he sat there for the longest time. It was nicely screened and he was very camouflaged. I probably wouldn't have know he was there, were it not for the other birders who spotted him.

A red-bellied woodpecker was down by the river, but otherwise, kind of quiet down there. I looked for our phoebe, but I don't think they're back quite yet.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Towhees official residents? Will they breed here this spring?

New sculpture at park?
Couldn't wait to get to the park last night after reading Haynes' post about hearing the saw-whet owl. I got there around 6:20 and found myself in the company of three other people who were also hoping to hear it.

We never did hear it but did catch one woodcock flying over the lower gardens.

Tried again, late this afternoon and no luck again. Saw our winter regulars like chickadees, cardinals, lots of robins, Amercian tree sparrows, song sparrows, a mockingbird, blue jays, a nuthatch, seagulls and two red tailed hawks flirting in the sky. There were large flocks of red wing blackbirds and grackles.

Just I was about to leave, I heard some foraging in some leaf litter. I peered in and there were two male towhees scrounging around, kicking up the leaves with their feet and hopping around. They survived all that cold and snow! I was very happy to see them.

EVENING UPDATE: Was just about to have supper when I saw what time it was: 7:08 p.m. Ran out to the car and drove over to the park. It was a lot milder feeling than Friday evening. The woodcocks were in the lower gardens in full force. Heard lots of peenting and saw several fly around the gardens. On two occasions, two flew up together, high into the sky. I hadn't seen that before. Were they competing at the same time for a ladies affections? It certainly looked that way. Ran into Bev who had been there at noon. She saw the fox sparrow,  a Savannah sparrow, the towhees and a sharp-shinned hawk!

And some evening, I still hope to hear the owl....

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Signs of spring

A stop by Nahanton Park, Newton, late this afternoon, revealed some interesting birds - 
American Woodcock, at "Woodcock Field" above the Nature Center. There were 2 or 3 of them, circling and then peenting. The clever way to bird this spot is to park at the small overflow lot entered off of Nahanton St between the Jewish Community Center and the main entrance to Nahanton Park. You see the birds better with the sunset behind them. AMWO was reported this very evening from three other sites in Middlesex County. 
Northern Saw-whet Owl, in woods between lower garden and the golf course. Several toots, at 6:00 PM. I observed this species there on Jan 1 this year, and as Matt noted it was reported there in late afternoon on March 3 as well. Nahanton seems to be the place to go for this bird!

Fox Sparrow, in copse near the lower gardens. 

Common Grackle, flocks of 5 - 30. As many as 130 total, but the same flock could have appeared several times. 

Here's a complete list. Sorry about the Latin.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  4
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  5
Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus)  1
American Woodcock (Scolopax minor)  2     Possibly 3. Two in flight together. Appeared 7:07, 20 minutes after sunset, Woodcock Field. Peenting display.
Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis)  1
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  1
Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus)  1     Several hoots, from woods between lower garden and golf course. 6:00 PM
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)  3
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  4
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  1
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  1
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  15
Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos)  1
American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea)  3
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)  1     Copse at lower garden
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  2
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) (Junco hyemalis hyemalis/carolinensis)  2
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  10
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  130     flocks of 5 -- 30 , some mixed with RWBL

Monday, March 3, 2014

Northern Saw-whet Owl Returns

Having not seen any recent sightings on the blog I decided to check out sightings on eBird. Apparently a Northern Saw-whet Owl was seen Sunday evening! 

This is certainly on my short list of cool birds I'd like to find.