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.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Mother's Day Bird Walk with Haynes and Alison

Mother's Day Bird Walk Group
Dire weather predictions for Sunday morning - rain, showers and clouds after a long, rainy, drizzly, raw week. However, at the last minute, the report changed and it was actually quite nice and held out until the very, very end of our walk. It was a mother's day miracle!

We had a great turnout. 19 people showed up and at this point, so many of us return from year to year that it's turning into a big reunion which only adds to the joy.

Yellow warbler testing her new nest
We started at the river and worked our way via the pond and soccer field to the lower and upper gardens. We also explored Woodcock meadow. This year was far more productive than last year with the heavy snows and extended winter. If you missed it this year, be sure to join us next year. P.S. Someone almost stepped on a perfectly camouflaged American Toad (see picture at bottom).

I'm sure Haynes' list is more complete than mine, so please check it out below!

Haynes' List:

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)  2
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)  3
Wild Turkey (Meleagris gallopavo)  1,  soccer field
Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura)  1
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus)  6
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)  3
Baltimore Oriole
Chimney Swift (Chaetura pelagica)  6
Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris)  2
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)  2
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)  1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) (Colaptes auratus auratus/luteus)  2
Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius)  1, boyscout trail
Warbling Vireo (Vireo gilvus)  4
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)  3
Tree Swallow (Tachycineta bicolor)  15
Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica)  8
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)  X
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)  6, wing-flutter
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)  2
House Wren (Troglodytes aedon)  6
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)  2
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula)  2
Robin in nest
American Robin (Turdus migratorius)  8
Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis)  6
Northern Waterthrush (Parkesia noveboracensis) 1,  pond
Black-and-white Warbler (Mniotilta varia)  3
Nashville Warbler (Oreothlypis ruficapilla)  1, w/btbw, boyscouts walk
Yellow Warbler (Setophaga petechia)  15
Black-throated Blue Warbler (Setophaga caerulescens)  1, m
Palm Warbler (Yellow) (Setophaga palmarum hypochrysea)  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (Setophaga coronata coronata)  15
Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)  3
White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis)  4, boyscout trail
American Toad
Savannah Sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis)  3
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)  6
Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus)  1
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)  6
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)  1, m
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)  12
Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)  8
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)  1
Baltimore Oriole (Icterus galbula)  16
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)  4

View this checklist online at

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Warblers blowing in!!

Yellow Warbler Couple
Arrived at the park around 7:30 a.m. It was 45 degrees and slightly overcast.

It goes without saying that the tree swallows are in abundance but so were the yellow warblers! At first, I thought there was just one, but as I walked around it was clear there were several. It's so nice to hear them singing their "sweet" song!

Their were song sparrows, white-throated sparrows, lots of robins, a cardinal, house finches, titmice, a house wren, a blackbird couple, chickadees and a house sparrow. Gulls few overhead, and later a beautiful blue heron. In the large crabapple tree at the beginning of the path to the upper gardens was a male yellow-rump looking quite splendiferous. Turned out there were a lot of them today.

Chipping Sparrow
In the upper garden were more of the same, but also a catbird, some goldfinches and a red-bellied woodpecker. At this point, I ran into Jonathan and we walked around together. It's always nice to have company and another pair of eyes. He had had some nice sightings at Halls Pond in Brookline.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Down by the soccer field, he spotted a robin already in it's nest! It's been so cold, it's hard to imagine the urge to nest, but there it was.

The river was very active with Savannah sparrows, white-throated sparrows, chipping sparrows,
mourning doves, blue jays and cardinals etc.

Woodcock meadow turned out to be somewhat of a hot spot. As we were looking at Savannah's and juncos on the ground, Jonathan was saying that he heard palm warblers have been seen elsewhere. No sooner had he said that, then one appeared
Palm Warbler
in a bush, right in front of us! We couldn't believe it. It then joined the other birds on the ground. This isn't a great pic because it's a little hard to see it's bright indian red cap, but the warblers were quite busy.

There were several yellow-rumps in the meadow as well and there must have been at least 4 palms. A flicker was seen as well as a downy with it's red, white and black that was quite striking in the pink apple blossoms.

And when I got home I was greeted by a house wren in my yard. What a lovely ending to a great morning!