Saturday, October 15, 2016

Fall BBC walk surprises

A party of five toured the Park this morning as a Brookline Bird Club walk. It was pretty quite but there were some nice surprises, especially this Brown Thrasher, my latest fall record by three weeks and my first there in three years.

Later in the morning we came across this Hermit Thrush

Friday, October 14, 2016

Crowns in the gardens

I walked through Nahanton Park on Wednesday and Friday mornings. Some interesting birds both days, including an Orange-crowned Warbler and one or more immature White-crowned Sparrows. This morning, a couple of Ruby-crowned Kinglets were showing off also. All this activity was in the lower garden.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Fall Bird Walk with Haynes Miller

Eastern Phoebe
It was a bit raw and dreary with a steady misting rain, but we still had a great bird walk with Haynes.

Ian, myself and three brave souls arrived at 8:00 and toured the soccer field area, the lower gardens and the upper gardens.

We had some very nice sightings including a blue-headed or solitary vireo and all are listed below:

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis)  20
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  1
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  3
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  1
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  1
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus)  4
Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe)  1
Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)  1
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  6
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  6
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  3
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  6
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  3
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)  1
Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas)  4
Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens)  5
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  15
Swamp Sparrow (Melospiza georgiana)  5
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  3
Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea)  1
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  6
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)  8

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Saturday morning at the Park with Chris

Chris L and I met up at 7:30 this morning, and were soon joined by Mary Lou. Still no exciting fall sparrows, but some warblers. At the lower garden I watched this encounter between a Black-and-white Warbler and a Magnolia Warbler --

Later, at the upper garden, we found the first Indigo Bunting of the season, and two of these Black-throated Green Warblers --

There were also several Redstarts at various places, and quite a few Catbirds. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Warbler season

Fall migration is officially under way!

The first bird I saw at the Park was this Philadelphia Vireo, in the Ailanthus at the lower garden. There was also an American Redstart, a Prairie Warbler, and this Blue-winged Warbler.

At the upper garden I found this very tattered Viceroy.

There is a plot in the upper garden with netting over the top. Today was the fourth time I've found a bird  trapped in this evil arrangement: a Nashville Warbler doing its best to escape. I resisted ripping off the roof .... just opened the flap over the door and moved to the other side to encourage the bird to leave. I'm sure this did no good for the bird's feathers, but at least it survived.

Warbler season

Fall migration is officially under way!

The first bird I saw at the Park was this Philadelphia Vireo, in the Ailanthus at the lower garden. There was also an American Redstart, a Prairie Warbler, and this Blue-winged Warbler.

At the upper garden I found this very tattered Viceroy.

There is a plot in the upper garden with netting over the top. Today was the fourth time I've found a bird  trapped in this evil arrangement: a Nashville Warbler doing its best to escape. I resisted ripping off the roof .... just opened the flap over the door and moved to the other side to encourage the bird to leave. I'm sure this did no good for the bird's feathers, but at least it survived.

Sunday, September 4, 2016


Song sparrow munching on seed
7:00 a.m., 60 degrees, cool, clear and sunny - the promise of a beautiful day.

As I was so early and the sun was just coming out in the upper gardens, I headed up there first for a change. It was extremely quiet save for a fair number of robins, a cardinal couple, some catbirds, song sparrows, goldfinches and hummers. The lack of rain is taking it's toll - especially on trees, plants and shrubs that aren't getting watered by the gardeners.

Tithonia aka Mexican Sunflower
Then headed down to the lower gardens where things started to be a little more active. Goldfinches glittered in the sun while a ruby red cardinal glowed from the sun hitting it at just the right angle high up in a tree. The birds were mostly the same as above with the addition of some chipping sparrows, a female common yellowthroat, downy woodpecker and a blue jay. I heard the telltale buzz and looked up to see a hummer not two feet from my face, but it was too close for my zoom lens to pick up. Then it found another hummer and they gleefully chased each other around. A common yellowthroat appeared and was busy checking out each plot to see what seeds might be to its satisfaction.

As I was about to leave the lower gardens, I saw a squirrel and caught him red-handed! He was climbing out of someones garden and was about to go down the outside of the fence. He had the hugest yellow-orange tomato in his mouth. He looked at me and scurried down the fence and when he hit the ground, he dropped the tomato and ran into the woods. The little scoundrel!

The flowers in the gardens are mature and so colorful. What a beautiful time of year.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Quiet, but beautiful...

Ruby-throated hummer
I got to the park around 7:00. It was 66 degrees, promising to be a beautiful morning with a few clouds in the sky. The sun was just starting to light up the gardens.

I was struck by how very quiet it was in the lower gardens save for the insects of late summer, but as I walked around, little sounds started to make themselves known and the birds started to appear. First, a female cardinal landed on a fence not far away. Then a hummingbird appeared. Song sparrows were busy foraging in the high weeds and sadly several house sparrows were in a huge flock devouring seeds on the tall stems of overgrown grass. Seagulls and then a lone mallard flew overhead.

A seemingly lone house wren scolded from the back of the gardens near where they had nested after the tree swallows. Two eastern phoebes seemed bent on chasing each other from tree to tree. A catbird called from the path. The gardens are so full of bounty. I wish I had a garden there myself.

Morning Glories
The upper gardens were bathed in sunlight - more so than the lower gardens so there was a little bit more activity. A few gardeners were already hard at work. A young robin stood out on a fence while several others flew in. Chickadees and downy woodpeckers were enamored of the sunflower seeds and couldn't get enough. One downy was busy enlarging a hole in one of the bird boxes last used by tree swallows. It was also removing some of the nesting material. Is it looking for a place to roost during winter? Song sparrows were busy exploring food sources.  A couple of tree swallows flew high overhead - dipping and diving. A bluejay called out several times. A hummingbird was feeding in the honeysuckle.

I had to check on the artichokes again. It's so fascinating to see them growing. I didn't realize last week that there are four plants, only two of which have bloomed, but they each have about three flowers on them! I will have to keep an eye on them to see how they develop into the full artichoke. Although I've failed miserably in the past in my own garden, maybe this will give me the impetus to try again.

As I headed to my car, I was so happy to hear a peewee calling from one of it's favorite areas - the woods behind the JCC.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Migration season starting...

Blue-gray gnatcatcher
I got to the park early today - 6:45 a.m. It was 62 degrees, slightly hazy, but clear and pleasant. However, the change of seasons is in the air already. Cooler evenings, shorter days and crickets etc.

The lower gardens had lots of robins. No more tree swallows or yellow warblers, at least this morning. The gardens are bursting with flowers and ripe vegetables and it was a beautiful sight.

There were hummingbirds whizzing about, goldfinches, downy woodpeckers, cardinals, catbirds, and song sparrows. Of special note, I was surprised to see a few blue-gray gnatcatchers out and about as well as a black & white warbler. Saw a few yellowthroat females as well. Ran into Mary Lou who saw a Northern parula.

The upper gardens were very much the same with the addition of chickadees and a flicker. I ran into a
father/daughter team who were out searching for the tanager that had been reported on e-bird, but they couldn't find it. In one of the gardens, I was amazed to find an artichoke growing. It was quite splendid with it's bright purple hairs sticking up and the leaves of the choke starting to form. I don't think I've ever seen one at this stage.

The soccer field had a swallow that was dipping and diving so quickly, I wasn't sure if it was a tree or barn swallow. There were more common yellowthroats and robins, but otherwise fairly quiet. The pond is now dried up, with bright green grass coming up through the mud. I was hoping to see a sandpiper or two, but it wasn't to be.

The river was very quiet and as I headed up to Woodcock meadow, I was greeted by a very thin doe and her fawn. They weren't sure what to make of me. Mom was cautious, but baby got scared and ran in the other direction flashing her white tail as she fled.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Bee Careful!

It was a perfect 63 degrees at about 7:40 a.m. The sky was a rich, cheerful blue.

The vegetables and flowers in the lower gardens are really coming along. It's so much fun to watch the gardens as they progress through the summer. A lot of hard work goes into them.

It was bird family day today. Young birds of all kinds are learning how to make it on their own. There were young robins, catbirds, song sparrows and yellow warblers out and about with their parents still keeping an eye on them. A very young cardinal was carefully hidden in the large apple tree in the center of the gardens as its parents watched from nearby. Wrens scolded to keep others away from their young.

Bee swarm
The upper gardens had several titmice performing acrobatics, up in a tree. They must have been looking for bugs. Several of them were hanging upside down and they were quite vocal until I came along. Then they all took off. Goldfinch families were feeding on their favorite seeds.

I ran into Mary Lou, who showed me a bee swarm in a tree on the edge of the path on the far side of the bee hives. I called D. Reilly, the beekeeper. He was down on the Cape. He was surprised that there was a swarm at this time. He'd had seven swarms already this spring which he said was very unusual. He couldn't get up here for a couple of days, so nature must take it's course. It's quite an amazing sight.

As the coreopsis and fleabane wane, the black-eyed Susan's are starting to bloom. I have thrown in some wild lupine seeds in hopes that some day we could have a meadow full of purple, pink and white lupine. In Maine, they grow all along the highways and fields in early June and it's quite spectacular. Not sure if the soil is right for them here, but we'll see....

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Family Day & Eastern Kingbird!

Mourning Dove and two babies
It was 66 degrees at 7:30 a.m. A few wispy clouds and the moon still out, but a nice sunny, summer day.

It was definitely bird family day at the park. A few birds are still in the nest, but mostly the young are out with their parents, learning the ropes.

Yellow Warbler baby
In the lower gardens, there were still a few tree swallows, but their numbers are vastly reduced. As I may have mentioned in a previous post, the house wrens have taken over most of the boxes and are feeding their nestlings, scolding mightily if you get too close to the box. There were plenty of robins to go around and song sparrows. Catbirds are in pretty good numbers too. An oriole family was in evidence - the young ones just gaining color. I saw a young peewee looking like it only left the nest recently, but it was singing it's song already! 

Day Lily
In the upper gardens, I came across a mourning dove. I know their nests are casually placed, but this one seemed to take the cake (pictured above, left). At first, I thought the dove was just resting on the ground. It wasn't until I took the picture, that I realized it's nest was on a compost heap and it was surrounded by two adoring and camouflaged young. 

The yellow warbler baby (pictured above, right), was perched in someone's garden looking very much in transition. A very bad feather day from the looks of it and quite comical, but soon it will be beautiful. Talk about "look what the cat dragged in"...

Song Sparrow with Caterpillar
The bright orange day lilies were in bloom - right on schedule (at least this is when they bloom in my garden). Also foraging around in the gardens were cardinals, house wrens, goldfinches and song sparrows. Unfortunately, several house sparrows are now in evidence at our park. Several in the upper gardens and a few in the lower gardens. It looks like they have taken up residence here over the last few years. What a shame.

Eastern Kingbird
As I headed towards the soccer field and river, I was surprised to see an Eastern Kingbird (pictured at left) hanging out on a rock near the parking lot.

The pond is still in the process of drying up, but the red-winged blackbirds seem to be having a blast in there. In addition to checking things out at ground level, they were also dive bombing insects from above. It was entertaining to watch. It's funny how fast the time goes by. Seems like the birds were just arriving and now their young are leaving the nests and growing up.

We're headed for the dog days of July soon. It's been so pleasant with the cool sleeping nights and comfortable days. Please don't let the summer go too quickly.  I want to savor it and enjoy it but life these days seems to be going at a whirlwind pace. That's one of the things I love about Nahanton. It forces me to slow down and enjoy the moment and put aside all the requirements of our society for an hour or two.

Thank you Nahanton!!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Close Encounters of the Reptile/Insect Kind

8:00 a.m. Sunny and clear. A beautiful day at 63 degrees.

I'm happy to report that I saw several milkweed plants in the lower gardens and that will be a good thing for the Monarch butterflies.

The lower gardens had our usual tree swallows which are still there but many seem done breeding. The house wrens have moved in and are tending their broods. It was fairly quiet. Mostly catbirds, robins, song sparrows and yellow warblers today.

Red-eared Slider
The same was true of the upper gardens. A gardener has hung some suet and bird food and our dreaded house sparrows are happily partaking. In addition to the species seen in the lower gardens, I can add goldfinches, a pee wee calling from the woods at the back, chickadees, a flicker and titmice. A yellow warbler couple was dutifully feeding it's young which were out of the nest at this point. Paul contacted me yesterday. He had seen a blue-headed vireo, but I was unable to locate it.

Their are several wildflowers blooming now in the meadow as well as two different beautiful native roses - a dark pink variety in the lower gardens and a mid-tone clear pink in the upper gardens. The sumac is starting to flower and Queen Anne's lace is developing buds.

A female mallard stood by the side of the pond (which is almost dried up) while several red-winged blackbird couples foraged in the mud and grasses. I went to the river to check out the rare daisy-leafed moonwort ferns. They were still there, but on the wane. A warbling vireo was singing.

On the way back, I saw a dark mass in the soccer field grass. I was dreading the discovery. I was certain it was a dead bird or animal and I wasn't looking forward to seeing it. However, as I got closer, it was a turtle!!!! A red-eared slider to be exact (you can see a tiny bit of red to the side of his eye. I have just read that although it is native to the southeastern U.S., it has become an invasive up North, outcompeting our native turtles. Hmmmmm....

Garter Snake
Immediately after viewing the turtle, I saw a garter snake, who didn't seem to be the least bit bothered by me. He let me take his picture without any trouble!

It had seemed such a quiet morning. I love the way Nahanton Park is full of surprises. You just never know what you might see.

And by the way, the dreaded invasive swallow-wort is starting to bloom. If you have the energy, bring some snips with you - snip off the flowers and put all in a black plastic trash bag. DO NOT put it in with yard waste. We don't want to spread any more of it around. It's really taking over our park.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Beautiful morning!

House Wren
It was 70 degrees and sunny with a semi-cloudy day. It sure felt warmer than yesterday and that was nice for all of us, birds included.

I was greeted immediately by house wrens and tree swallows. The witchety witchety of the common yellowthroat rang out and I was bound and determined to find him - especially since I spent a week on Hog Island in Maine, only to hear him and never see him. I finally found him in an unusual spot, high up in a tree top. I'll apologize for the picture in advance, but he was quite far away!
Common Yellowthroat

Lots of yellow warblers. We saw one yesterday at the June Doin' event on the Pete Gilmore bird walk. We found a nest and watched as mom flew in to sit on it. That had the people on the walk quite excited. A couple of mourning doves paraded around the path. A baltimore oriole female dropped down into a garden and flew away, presumably with some bugs for her brood. Not sure where her nest is this year as they're not in the same spot they were last year. I think it might be in the oak trees at the back edge of the lower gardens. Of course there were catbirds and robins, a couple of grackles and song sparrows.

Yellow Warbler
A red-winged black bird couple seemed to be enjoying some seeds in the meadow. American crows called from the woods near the JCC. I wasn't sure if some mobbing action might be happening there as it sounded quite persistent. I was quite surprised to see what I believe was a male purple finch. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to see the female which would have helped confirm my id. Having seen purple finch couples every day for 5 days in Maine, I'm fairly certain, but not 100% sure. In addition to birds mentioned in the lower gardens were a pair of cowbirds and goldfinches. The robin pictured at left must have been building a new nest as it sat and posed with mud and nesting material in it's beak. It waited patiently for me to leave so I wouldn't know the location (unless these were bugs, but I don't think so).

The soccer field/pond area was fairly quiet. A red-winged blackbird male was feeding it's baby that
Robin with nesting material
was begging on a branch high up in an oak tree. The water in the pond is low and grasses are emerging. A bull frog sang like a low plucked string on a fellow and a warbling vireo sang out.

The river was quiet save for an oriole calling and a blue jay calling from the JCC woods.

We heard from Larry (Charles River Canoe and Kayak) yesterday at the June Doin' event that eagles have been seen nesting near the river in Waltham. That would be a fun canoe trip.

On my way back to the car, a great blue heron flew overhead. What a beautiful sight.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Lady slipper time of year

Lady slipper twins
It was cloudy at 7:30 a.m. and 59 degrees. Before entering the lower gardens, I took a quick trip to see if the lady slippers were blooming and YES, they were. In some ways they are very discreet in the woods, even if they stand out in this picture. At first, I thought there were only these twins, but later I realized there were three others scattered around for a total of five. Pretty impressive - especially with such a strange winter and a couple of 16-18 degree evenings in April.

The bird excitement has definitely quieted down. There was some singing, but it seems that most of the birds are settling down to their mating and nesting duties. There were robins and warblers sitting on their nests and others in the process of building theirs. Even the tree swallows have quieted down. Some have even had their babies. The lower gardens sported yellow warblers, orioles, song sparrows, cowbirds, catbirds, house wrens and robins.

The upper gardens were similar save for a red-bellied woodpecker, goldfinches and house finches. The plots are going great guns, especially with cold weather crops like lettuces etc. and several gardeners were out working the soil, even though it was early in the morning.

Down by the pond I could hear a warbling vireo and FINALLY heard the wood thrush calling from the area near the JCC! Yay!! Actually, I ran into Ian who said there were two wood thrush and also saw the great crested flycatcher in the lower gardens. I saw a female common yellow-throat with her olivey back and bright yellow breast busily working her way through a shrub. There seem to be a lot of winter moth caterpillars and perhaps that was what she was after. A male cardinal sang and a red-winged blackbird declared itself.

Down by the river were orioles, yellow warblers and more warbling vireos but otherwise, fairly quiet. Woodcock meadow had a catbird and nesting tree swallows and I noticed a chimney swift flying overhead.

I walked the wooded path by the JCC in hopes of finding the wood thrush, but by that time it was not to be heard. However, as I neared the end, I was happy to hear my first pee wee singing off in the distance. It is such a beautiful sound.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Heard but not seen...seen but not heard...

Yellow warbler
Arrived at the park at my usual time - 7:30. It was a little chilly at 51 degrees - not as balmy as yesterday.

Tree swallows and yellow warblers were in great abundance in the lower gardens. While looking for warblers in one of the crabapples, I saw something moving in the leaf litter. It was quite a surprise to see an oven bird busily poking around with its beak. It never made a sound (seen but not heard).

Warbling Vireo
Strangely, the yellow warbler nest that we all saw last Sunday on the Mother's Day bird walk and is pictured in the previous post, has completely disappeared. What happened is all I can wonder. Luckily, some new nests have appeared which makes me feel a little bit better. It's so distressing to see all the work the little birds do to prepare the nest and make sure it is just right for their eggs and then it's just mysteriously gone. I finally spotted a rose-breasted grosbeak which was singing right over my head. It was very high up and the leaves on the tree were out, so it actually took quite some time to finally see it, but it certainly was beautiful. A couple of house wrens were singing. Our regulars of course were there - robins, catbirds, mourning doves, cardinals and song sparrows.

Red-eyed vireo
In the upper gardens, I was greeted by a very vocal Warbling vireo singing it's heart out. There were several orioles, one of which looked a little drab and disheveled. I think it's possible it was a young male. There was a group of 4 male cowbirds in a small crabapple. Caught a very brief glimpse of a common yellowthroat. It was cagey today but hopefully, there will be more chances to see it. A male ruby-throated hummingbird perched nearby and flew to the lilacs to see if there was any good nectar in the flowers. A red-eyed vireo was exploring the catkins in the oaks in the back of the gardens along with a pair of house finches.

I ran into a neighbor, Susan and we walked together to the soccer field/pond area. We could hear more than one Northern parula, but for the life of us, we never could spot them - hence part of the title "heard but not seen...". There were a few goldfinches, several yellow warblers and a female hummer as well as a red-bellied woodpecker. The star of this area today was a great sighting of a black-throated blue warbler.

Black-throated Blue Warbler
It was out in the open and very visible. Sadly, though I thought I was getting great photos, it turned out not to be so, but at least there is documentation of this beautiful bird. Down by the river Susan spotted a warbling vireo and it's nest. Woodcock meadow was fairly quiet.

There is a lot of bird excitement at this time of year. Between orioles and warblers chasing each other around, nest sitting, nest building and singing, it's quite busy at the park. I love this time of year. And it's not brutally hot. What a pleasure.