Monday, April 29, 2013

Green Heron at Hammond Pond

House Sparrow
 It was slow at Hammond Pond yesterday. Granted my noon time stop at the pond following errands probably wasn't the greatest time; I'm sure if I had ventured into the woods earlier in the morning there would have been more birds. The most numerous birds present were house sparrows and Canadian geese. Though I did catch the lively song of a house finch and a chorus of calling blue jays. And of course there were some robins and grackles present as well. The rowdy red-winged blackbirds livened up the pond as the males jockey for territory. I was surprised that a single mallard was the only duck accounted for. The highlight though was a green heron on a mudflat on the far side of the pond. While the heron was too far away for a half-way decent picture, I think you can still kinda tell it is a green heron. The oddest thing though is that the heron appeared to have sat down! At least I couldn't see her legs. This made me wonder if she could have been on a nest, but this sighting is quite early for green herons around Boston (and the earliest at Hammond Pond), so I doubt they've stated breeding already. Then I read at All About Birds that they build their nests in trees, so I have no idea what this heron was doing. I did however learn a really cool fact while looking up their nesting habits, apparently green herons are one of the few birds that uses tools. They apparently drop bait in the water, such as bread, bugs, or feathers, and then they catch fish as the swim up to investigate!

Green Heron

P.S. As an aside, I just learned that a team from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology just broke the North American record for most birds seen in a single day with 294 species. I haven't seen that many in my lifetime! To read more and see some pictures you can read an article here.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Earth Day Birding at Chestnut Hill Reservoir

Palm Warbler
 I haven't gone birding the way I would like recently, but I had to go birding yesterday morning in honor of Earth Day! With that in mind, I made a quick stop at Chestnut Hill Reservoir on my way to work. I had pine warblers on the brain as I had a lot of fun last April observing one at this location.

After encountering some of the year round residents, a song I didn't recognize drew me to spot a palm warbler. Interestingly it was not the palm that was singing, but as my first migrant warbler of the spring I took a few minutes to bask in his presence and enjoy the rich yellow and chestnut plumage. When I started to get back into birding, a palm warbler was the first warbler that I encountered and was able to identify ( I was already familiar with yellow-rumps). The palm warbler is probably one of the birds that sparked my return to birding, so I always feel like I need to spend a little extra time with them. My palm warbler from yesterday morning though must have flown in last night as he seemed rather tired and as though he needed to rest and warm himself in the sun.

Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Male)
When the palm warbler finally had enough sun and flew off (I did not tire of him), I started focusing more on the odd exuberant song that first brought me to this spot. Finally something clicked in the back of my brain and it dawned on me that it was a ruby-crowned kinglet! My first for MA! Sure enough he finally came down out of the pines where I could enjoy this slightly less conspicuous kinglet. Shortly there after I also found a male yellow-rumped warbler and two blue-gray gnatcatchers. Their wheezy little voices are so endearing and their coloration reminds me of a miniature mockingbird. From what I can tell they were both males as they had strong black "eyebrows". I had my work cut out for me trying to photograph warblers, kinglets, and gnatcatchers. A smaller and more restless group of birds would be hard to find.

While mindful of the time, I primarily birded around the wooded hill in the eastern edge of the reservoir. That probably limited the water birds I found to, Canada geese, a mallard, and a common merganser. But the large raft of ruddy ducks more than made up for it. I kept hoping to see a blue bill, but they all seemed intent on napping in the sun with their bills tucked away.

As I left the reservoir, it barely even registered that I didn't find the pine warblers this trip.

Full List

Canada Goose
Common Merganser
Ruddy Duck
Ruddy Duck
gull sp.
Downy Woodpecker
Blue Jay
Tree Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
American Robin
Palm Warbler (Yellow)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)
Chipping Sparrow
Northern Cardinal
Common Grackle
House Sparrow