Friday, July 31, 2009

Red-tailed Hawk Worcester

I was driving home from work today and near Crompton Park when suddenly I saw this Red-tailed Hawk perched on a light pole near a very busy intersection. Naturally, I find the nearest parking lot to pull over into and whip out my camera to get over there for a decent shot of one of my favorite birds. I got on the sidewalk in which the light pole is on and the hawk gave me "the eye" before it proceeded to hunt for rodents (I am assuming) which are quite plentiful in this area I am guessing due to it being so close to downtown Worcester.
Anyhow, It caused quite the curiosity factor as I was out on the sidewalk on a very busy intersection with a light rain falling from the sky and I could see people staring at the light pole and at the hawk. People pointed their fingers and mouths dropped as they got a really good look at the bird.

The bird just sat there with the rain and the wind falling upon it as it squaked and called.

Suddenly, I could hear something come from behind me and no more than 7 feet in front of me, landed its mate!!! Now traffic is starting to back up as people are all rubber necking trying to get a good look at this magnificent bird as I am sitting there taking its picture!

The bird stares at me as I stare at it and people are honking their horns and either giving me a thumbs up or the middle finger as if I am somehow to blame for the traffic snarl (which I am not obviously as I am on the sidewalk). Sheesh, some people need to have patience. ;o). The bird was so close to the cars that I am guessing this is the first time a lot of folks have ever been able to see a hawk that close by.

Finally, I see a women approach who is petrified to walk past the hawk. She looks at me apprehensively and I tell her to go slow, LOL, because I too have no idea what it will do. The Red-tailed decides to take off into a nearby tree just as we start to get one of the many torrential downpours we had today. I ran to my car obviously but was thrilled to have caught it. Red-tailed Hawks Rock!

Have a great weekend all!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Birding-The Great Meadows in Corcord, MA

I decided to take the day off from work yesterday and take a "me" day as I am been feeling a little burnt out lately due to so much going on. I started the morning off with a 3.5 mile walk/run/hike in my town as well as the Cross Street power lines where I saw a flock of approx 60 European Starlings and approx. 30 American Robins.

I then took off in the afternoon with my friend Alan to the Great Meadows in Concord, MA to see if we could get any birds that we can't get here in Central MA. One of the most frequent birds we saw were these adorable Marsh Wrens that seemed to be in all of the cat tails we went to. Their call is very wren like and distinctive so it was hard not to pinpoint their location. They were difficult to get your eye on though as they spent the majority of their time either in the water underneath the vast cat tails (trying to stay cool) or in the middle of the cat tails which made getting a view of them rather challenging to say the least. Such adorable little wrens though and another check on my list as this was a lifer for me.

The Great-blue Herons were out in full force at the meadows (we did see one Great Egret there too but my pictures came out lousy). One interesting things about these herons is that they are not as afraid of people as the ones in my area are, so getting pictures was easy.

Great-blue Heron trying to cool off! All of the birds seem to be oppressed by the heat lately. It's almost as if it went from May to deep July overnight and both people and birds are having a hard time adjusting to it!

When we arrived at the Meadows one of the first things we saw was an Osprey on a nest box like type structure in the shade just looking around.

There was another one in flight attempting to hunt I presume. I have not seen this bird since late April so it was a real treat to say the least. One thing I noticed about this bird is that its flight patterns is so very different than other birds of prey I have been observing. They have a lot more wing beats per minute, but I guess they have to for the type of hunting they do.

Another birds I have not seen in a while which is the Black Duck. I had thought I heard a Mallard while we were walking the path, but it sounded a little different to me than the typical Mallard and we soon found out why. Notice the white feathers on the Black Duck with its bill facing your computer screen. You will see a lot more white on it than the other which indicates there is some Mallard in it. Not enough to make it a hybrid obviously as it was passed along generational but it was still interesting to look at.

A female Mallard trying to escape the brutal heat.

A butterfly and a moth(?), taken on the powerlines this morning during my walk. Both of them were on this object and I have no idea what it is. I am not sure if anyone can identify it or not, but I thought it was interesting.

Take care all.

Monday, July 27, 2009

This and That

Despite my not blogging much this past week, I have been birding here and there in between a major project I have going on at work and house projects I have put off for the past two months that are just getting done now. Example: Went for a walk around my neighborhood this morning and counted 26 birds including a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that whizzed past my head and a Blue-winged Warbler. Also saw a Great Egret fly past Route 122 in Millbury when I was driving home from work this evening. I tried to follow it but lost it a little before the package store! Went to the two ponds near my house that they are known to frequent and it wasn't there either nor is it at St Philips.Will be keeping my eyes out for it now though. The pictures above is of the Red-tailed Hawk that I see every weekend near the Cross Street Power Lines. I saw this one on Saturday afternoon while doing some local birding and walking. I am assuming it is one of the adults that had the nest that I was monitoring this late spring into summer. I have not seen the juvies in close to two weeks now so I am not sure if they are still in the area or not. Check out the gorgeous plumage in both of these shots. Even with the loss of some primary feathers this bird is still magnificent to look at in my opinion.

One of the Peregrine Falcons on top of City Hall. I loved where it was sitting so had to take the picture. The Rock Pigeons usually roost right around here and you will see dozens of the pigeons flee as one of the falcons uses this spot to perch and preen.

Picture of a Cedar Waxwing on top of a tombstone at the Millbury Cemetery this past Wednesday. This bird was perched near me and watching a feeding frenzy that was going on between Chimney Swifts, Barn Swallows and Tree Swallows. There were dozens of these birds flying in and out of the location all feeding on bugs. The Barn Swallows in particular had no problems buzzing right past my head and going after insects. What was even more interesting was there there were approx two dozens various Dragon Flies in that same area too all feeding off of the insects. I attempted some photos but all three species of bird were far too quick! Very interesting to watch though and am wondering what small bugs were there to cause such a frenzy as I couldn't see them.

And Eastern Kingbird at the Millbury bike path Tuesday morning. Not exactly a clean shot but I liked how I was able to pick up the white tail feathers which is a very good field mark for this bird.

Did some birding with Alan this past Sunday morning and saw a Willow Flycatcher at Sterling Peat. I have not seen one of these birds in close to a month now so it was a welcome site.

Also went to Wachusett Meadows and saw a Red-tailed Hawk getting mobbed by another hawk or perhaps Falcon. The birds were too far away for us to be able to get a good look at it for verification and I couldn't get any decent shots.

And lastly a handsome little bullfrog I found underneath my car this past Saturday. How it go there I don't know, but I just had to get its picture!

Take care all.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Peregrine Falcon Upate-July

It appears as if the lazy, hazy days of summer have taken hold of the Peregrine Falcons here in downtown Worcester, at least for the parents that is. I have noticed over the past day that the intense bond and parental instinct the adults had toward their young juvenile Peregrine Falcons is starting to lesson some. In the past, the parents were never to be seen because they were too busy flying around the downtown Worcester vicinity trying to keep track of their three youngsters!
Not anymore though. Now the parents have found their way back to the nest box area and are chilling out kind of, while still keeping a watchful eye on their young that is.

Here is the male at his favorite perching place keeping an eye out on the skies for potential avian threats as well as making sure his kids stay out of trouble.

Every once in a while, a young falcon would fly by and he would call out to them. I am guessing to say, gain some altitude you are flying too low, or watch out for your sister!!! HA ;o)

The young Peregrines have found their wings and are very rarely out of the air. They soar around the downtown area calling their classic kak-kak-kak call which echoes throughout the air and causes confused downtown pedestrians to look up toward the sky to try and figure out what the heck the thing is that's making all of that noise.

They have also been sharpening up on their hunting skills but one has a long way to go based upon a conversation I had with someone while waiting for the light to turn green at Dunkin Donuts. We were standing their when suddenly we could hear the call of one of the young falcons and we looked up to the sky to see it soar above our heads. He looked at me and grinned and told me those were hawks that lived in downtown Worcester. HA! I told him I knew all about him and gave him the lowdown on the birds including their proper species name and other interesting facts. He told me he is down here every morning waiting for his bus and last week one of the falcons dropped a pigeon on some poor women while waiting for the bus. The pigeon was dead and it fell on her back and she was traumatized and confused of course! Isn't that the coolest thing! They can make the kill but they can't bring it home. They need more practice I guess.
Anyhow, I decided to pay a friendly visit to the male falcon this afternoon so climbed up the 7 flights of stairs to get the best angle on him for a few photos. Here he is giving me the eye as if to say "Oh no, it's her again"!! They are not half as nervous as they were when she was on her eggs so he didn't even give me a warning call. He just looked away after a few seconds to continue to scan the skies.

The female on the other hand spent the greater part of the day back at the nest box.

She was just chilling out and preening some. Its nice to have them back at their old, familiar hangout as I can see them again.

And what would a Peregrine Falcon post be without a special mention to the other downtown Worcester birds (and the primary food source of the falcons), which are the Rock Pigeons. Check out the color on this one above. This bird won't last long being as white as that. It totally stands out in flight when mixed in with the other pigeons.

Here is a lousy photo of what is now a common occurrence around the City Hall area. One or two falcons will take to the air to hunt for food which causes the pigeons to panic and take to the skies. I guess the pigeons are not smart enough to realize the best thing they can do is fly to a ledge and remain there as the falcon hunts in the sky so the result is a magnificent aerial show displayed by both the falcons and the pigeons (who I think are fantastic flyers if you stop to take the time to watch them)

It has been really nice having them back. I can't help but to wonder how much longer the three young females will be here.

Take care all.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Bolton Flats and Wachusett Meadows

I decided to head up North again today in hopes of getting more shorebirds and went to Bolton Flats this morning to get there by 7am. The place was crawling with birds (and bugs, worse I have seen in Central MA so far this year). Anyhow, the water levels made it passable enough to get to the first series of mud banks which are closer to the entrance than they were this spring.

There were over 8 Killdeer, 10 Least Sandpipers and 4 Solitary Sandpipers. The two pictures above are of the Solitary Sandpiper which is a lifer for me believe it or not. These birds are not that shy so getting pictures of them was rather easy despite me not having one of those fancy lenses.

The Killdeer were out in full force as well and I was treated to a Killdeer fight on one of the mud banks. I have noticed a lot of birds fights recently and its always fascinating to watch. These two stared each other down and then one flew after the other to chase it away.

The Solitary Sandpipers appear to be more civil and were able to mingle amongst themselves without any fists flying. ;o)

The Least Sandpipers were out as well. I liked this photo because it shows you the size comparison between a Killdeer and this very small Sandpiper.

I also ran into some of my more common birds which are those I can't identify!!! You see, I am not afraid to admit that I run into a few birds each month that I can't identify despite my field guides, google, etc. There are plenty of expert bird bloggers out there but I am not one of them. With that said, check out the photo above. I saw this bird when I first entered the area and instinct told me it was about ready to fly off because it heard me. I took two quick photos and off it flew through the thick brush which meant I couldn't get a good look at it in flight. I think it's a Great-blue Heron but the thick bill totally throws me off. Perhaps its just the angle of the camera and the lighting. I thought it was interesting though.

And I am not done yet folks! A flock of ducks flew above me and I was lucky enough for one quick shot that came out half way decent. I previewed the picture and was puzzled. Hmmmm perhaps Mallards in eclipse plumage as I heard Mallards and saw them fly off when I arrived. Then I started thinking. If they are in eclipse plumage than how the heck are they flying so well. Sigh, the perils of being a newbie!

I spent about an hour at Bolton Flats and then headed to Sterling Peat in hopes for more shorebirds. There are no mud flats there yet so no shorebirds that I could see of. Of course there were a ton of people fishing there as well so that may explain the absence.

Since I only stayed at Sterling Peat for about 1/2 and hour I decided to head on more a little north to Wachusett Meadows. The last time I was there for a bird census, it got rained out and was disappointed as I had never been there before. The weather was fantastic and birds were everywhere. The picture above is one of 4 Bobolinks I saw.

An American Goldfinch gathering materials for her nest I am assuming.

A female Red-winged Blackbird who decided to pose perfectly for me for a photo. She was in the midst of getting insects for her young. There were quite a few Red-winged Blackbirds doing this today so I am guessing there is a baby boom at the meadows!

And of course I saved the best for last! I was hiking along a wooded path when suddenly I could hear the call of a raptor. You see this is my favorite sound of all as they are my favorite species of birds so my ear pick up on them like sonic radar. Anyhow, I stopped for a moment to try and pinpoint the location through sound. It sounded as if it was coming from the woods which would most likely mean a Broad-winged, but then I decided to try and find an open area as once again I trusted my gut and something told me this hawk was flying. I walked (or rather sprinted) to some open land and this is what I saw.

My first crappy photo of a Northern Goshawk LIFER and a sweet one at that. Sigh, this is one of the birds I just had to see this year besides the Red-shouldered Hawk. I am trying to steer away from lists more as it is not the quantity but the quality and yadda, yadda, but I am voracious when it comes to birds of prey. I want to see them all, and I want to see them now. ;o). If you enlarge this photo you can see the black markings along its eye. Also note how broad the wings are in comparison of a Coopers. I wish I could have gotten better pictures, but this bird was up pretty high and was agitated so didn't stick around for long.

And another picture just to confuse you even more if you are looking for field marks. I took these photos and immediately previewed them and was fairly convinced it was a Northern Goshawk based on its call and its size. I come home and blow them up and spent over a half an hour trying to confirm based on field marks my pathetic little camera could never pick up on due ot the distance of the hawk.

Wachusett Meadows is a fabulous place to go to if you are looking to bird, butterfly watch or hike so it you are from the Central Massachusetts area than I strongly suggest you check it out. Dick and Peg Knowlton and all of their wonderful volunteers do a great job of keeping it up and it showed. I was there for three hours today and didn't even cover all of it.

Have a great week all. I will probably not be blogging or birding much as I have a lot of stuff going on this week. Cheers!!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wachusett Reservior and Local Birding

I decided to head up Northern Worcester county this morning and Wachusett Reservoir to explore some of the various trails. It was foggy, rainy and pretty miserable, but I still managed to get out there, all though there were not that many birds due to the lousy weather conditions and even if there were, I didn't want to risk getting my camera wet. So instead I made the best of it and walked for about two hours and going to the gates I had not gone to before to see what they were like.

The only notable birds I did see while there were two what I presume to be first cycle Ring-billed Gulls over by the historic Church on the reservoir.

The rain didn't seem to want to end so I went back to my area and to Eastern Mountain Sports for more clothes. I figured I had to do something to kill the time while it poured out. ;o). Anyhow, soon enough the skies brightened and the air turned hot and humid again. I decided to try some powerline trails knowing I would not get many birds, but wanted to walk some more. I did see quite a few Eastern Towhees including this pretty female above.

The Field Sparrows who have been in hiding as of late, were out in full force today. This is one of about six I saw today while walking.

One of my favorite sparrows so I am glad to see they are out of hiding finally.

The Eastern Kingbirds were out in full force today as well and doing their little fluttering flying that I love to see them do. When they do that they remind me of the Peanuts when ever they were running. Does anyone besides me remember that. Their upper body would stand perfectly still while their lower body would move around like crazy. HA! This is how my mind works folks, be very afraid. ;o)

Of course I had to go to St Philips to see if I could see the Black-crowned Night Heron again which I did. Here is an over exposed photo of it flying but I am glad to see it was still there today. For those of you in the area who would like to see this bird it is in the far right side of the wetlands and usually on a snag.

I decided to go another way to the wetlands as well and that is on one of the side streets. A homeowner mows a path in a very grassy field so walking around is easy and I just never seem to do it for some reason as the cemetery is very convenient and makes for easy access to the wetlands. Anyhow, I am VERY glad I decided to venture over there today as I saw 5 BOBOLINKS!! I could see these birds perched on various stems and they were making Bobolink type calls but not the ones I am used to. I take this picture and examine it and Bobolink is the first thing that enters my mind, but I quickly dismiss it as the habitat is too grassy and not hay like as I thought they preferred.

Suddenly I spot the male and I am able to confirm that there are indeed Bobolinks over there and if they bred there than they did so successfully!!! Of course they may have bred somewhere else and are just passing through but it is still a great find as I have never seen them over there before. Another bird on my checklist for that area. THIS is why it's one of my favorite spots to bird.

And lastly a family of Tree Swallows all cuddled together on a snag. So cute to see them like that.

Take care.


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