Monday, May 27, 2013

Beautiful Morning at the Reservoir

Gray Catbird
 I visited the Chestnut Hill Reservoir this morning to take advantage of the beautiful weather. I know we needed the rain we've had this past week, but it was nice to take advantage of a warm sunny morning and some of the birds were thinking the same. As soon as I got out of the car, I could hear the songs of Baltimore Orioles and American Redstarts. I also heard several Blackpoll warblers, but I couldn't see them.

Yellow Warbler
The water of reservoir was relatively slow with only some Canada Geese and a few Ruddy Ducks, but no other waterfowl. The main action was along the shores for passerines and above the water for many Chimney Swifts and Tree Swallows. I thought that I might have caught a few note of a Brown Trasher, but wasn't completely sure and was unable to find the singer. While many of the birds seemed to be up in the canopy and happy to stay there a few intrepid individuals came up to investigate me, including this catbird and the yellow warbler. I was particularly excited to get such a great view of this tiny puffball of a yellow warbler. I have only seen a few this spring so far (though Nahanton Park is crawling with them). I always love to see birds up close to admire the details of their feathers and just enjoy the moment of mutual contemplation.

Canada Goose  10
Ruddy Duck  6  
gull sp.  1
Chimney Swift  9
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Eastern Kingbird  1
Baltimore Oriole
Warbling Vireo  2
Blue Jay  2
Tree Swallow  3
Black-capped Chickadee  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Wood Thrush  1    
American Robin  6
Gray Catbird  1
European Starling  3
American Redstart  1    
Northern Parula  1    
Yellow Warbler  2    
Blackpoll Warbler  3   
Song Sparrow  2
Northern Cardinal  3
Red-winged Blackbird  1
Common Grackle  8
Baltimore Oriole  2
House Sparrow  15

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Warblers and Wild Flowers at Houghton Garden

White Trillium or Wake Robin (Trillium grandiflorum)
 In my second blog post when I visited Houghton Garden in the winter, I mentioned that it seemed like a good place for spring warblers. So yesterday morning I decided to visit on my way to work. While driving over I was listening to my Peterson field guide CDs "Birding by Ear" and trying to learn the waterthrush songs, which was very fortunate because the first song I heard when I got out of the car at 9am was the song right after the waterthrushes! It sounded like the two-parted song of the Nashville warbler which would be a first of year for me (more on this in a minute).

Upon entering this small piece of habitat I was able to find black-and-white warblers, yellow-rumps, and an American redstart (the picture is from earlier this week in Boston) were the only warblers that I was able to see. Up in the trees were plenty of black-throated blue and northern parula song, though they stayed up in the canopy and never decided to show themselves. And down in the bushes a skulking common yellowthroat sounded off. Then while standing by the little damn
American Redstart
that keeps the pond full I heard another song I had only just listened to, the 3-parted song of a Tennessee warbler. Now this was a lifer for me. I tried in vain to see the Tennessee but had no such luck. While I was excited to add the Tennessee warbler to my life list, I later noted that it isn't a common bird around Newton. Pete and Haynes both have most of the ebird sightings which primarily come from Cold Spring Park and Nahanton. In addition to warblers, I was also excited to see and hear a stunning Baltimore Oriole.

May Apple (Podophyllum peltatum)
While many of the birds refused to be seen, Houghton Garden's flora was earning its keep. The ferns are all coming up with a wide variety of foliage forms (one day I'll figure out how to identify them) and many woodland flowers were evident. I was particularly impressed with the trillium specimen, but later learned that trillium (and especially trillium grandiflorum ) are victims of their own popularity with gardeners. They have become threatened as most (if not all) plants available were harvested from the wild. I took pictures of some in hope that I might be able to identify the flowers (Do you know what the flowers below are?).

When I got home last night I listened to recordings of the Tennessee and Nashville warblers and am no longer sure about the Nashville's ID. When I have time later I'll another post with recordings and spectrograms.

Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Warbling Vireo  1
Blue Jay  1
Black-capped Chickadee  2Tufted Titmouse  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
American Robin  10
Gray Catbird  3
Black-and-white Warbler  1  
Tennessee Warbler  1
Nashville Warbler  ?
Common Yellowthroat  1
American Redstart  1
Northern Parula  3
Black-throated Blue Warbler  2  
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  1
Northern Cardinal  2
Common Grackle  2
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Baltimore Oriole  1
American Goldfinch  2
House Sparrow  5

Friday, May 10, 2013

Warbler Fallout!

Black-and-white Warbler
 This was quite the morning. I ate my breakfast on the back steps and enjoyed the morning bird song chorus. So far this spring, I've only had palm warblers and yellow-rumps, so imagine my surprise when I heard northern parulas and black-and-white warblers singing up a storm in the backyard and neighborhood (The black-and-white picture is here from Newton). All of last spring I only had 3 warbler species total for the yard, so finding 2 in one morning was quite a treat. Both of these were also firsts for the yard. I continued to hear parulas and black-and-whites all the way into Newton Center. Its hard to imagine how many warblers this must have been.

American Redstart
Then I very briefly stopped at Riverway, off of the T in Boston, and was immediately assaulted by warbler song. Black-throated green and black-and-white warblers popped up first and I just enjoyed them as I left my camera at home. But as I started finding more and more warblers, yellows and common yellowthroats, I started wanting to take pictures so I pulled out my phone to line them up through my binoculars (at least you can tell which warbler is which). I kept hearing songs that sounded like parulas and black-throated blues (I love the color of the BT-Blue) so i thought I was just confused until I realized
Black-throated Blue Warbler
that they were both present. As I kept scanning the trees I also turned up a veery, an American redstart and an ovenbird! I regularly hear ovenbirds in the spring, but this was only my second time seeing one. The trees were full of our little gems of wood warblers and there were even some yellow-rumps chasing each other around to round out the morning with 9 warbler species! There were a few warbler-like songs that I didn't hear well or recognize, so maybe there were a few more that I missed, but it was still one of my best warbler days so far. That doesn't even include the joy of seeing the veery and finding a singing Baltimore oriole. Of course there were many more of the usual suspects too.

Then I later read a Massbird email from Marshall Iliff indicating that there was a major coastal fallout of migrants today, making it probably one of the best birding days of the spring. I hope some of these will stick around for the weekend!

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Turkey Tussle

Wild Turkeys
 My wife came home a little late one day this week, but said I would think it was well worth it. Then she pulled out this video as way of explanation. While she isn't a birder, she was still enthralled watching these two toms have it out in the middle of Newton Center (the original video is quite long I am only showing a portion). It is interesting to note that half way though the video, you can see the object of desire that inspired this battle royale.

P.S. The still photograph was taken in December at Newton City Hall during this outing.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Upcoming Events

While I've already missed the April walk, here are some of the bird and nature walks around Newton this Spring. For more information check out the Newton Conservators or Brookline Bird Club websites.

May 4. Saturday 8am. Bird Walk at Cold Spring Park.

May 5. Sunday 6:30am. Hammond Pond with BBC.

May12. Sunday 8am. Nahanton Park Mother's Day Bird Walk.

May18. Saturday 1pm. Canoe/kayak trip at Nahanton Park.

May 19. Sunday 6:30am.  Hammond Pond with BBC.

May 19. Sunday 2pm. Webster Woods Walk.

May 22. Wednesday 7am. Cold Spring Park with BBC.

June 2. Sunday 2pm. Aqueducts Bike Ride.

June 8. Saturday 1pm. Fern Walk at Houghton Gardens.