Saturday, November 28, 2009

Two out of Three Aint Bad-Victory Gardens Boston

Alan and I headed out to the Victory Gardens in Boston this morning in hopes of getting the MacGillivray's Warbler, Yellow-breasted Chat and Orange-crowned Warbler that has been reported via MassBird by many birders in the state.

We decided to take the Green Line from Riverside to the Hynes Convention Center stop instead of dealing with traffic that Boston is always congested with. We made our way through Newton as memories filled my head of visions of my college days when a dozen or so of my fellow classmates would take the T from Newton where I attended college to Boston dressed in jeans and backpacks just as I was today. The contents were a little different though as I had my camera, binoculars, Cliff Bars, Bottled Water and my Sibley's Guide stowed away today vs. the bottles of Ruinite (known then as "Ruin Your Nightie" as one of us would always get sick from it) and we would hide it in our packs in order to ensure safe travel to our destination for the evening which was usually a party at Northeastern as they were always the most fun. While the circumstances had changed since then, I still had that feeling of anticipation in hopes of seeing the MacGillivray's Warbler vs hopes of seeing Nick or John or whoever I had a crush on that particular week. My how times have changed as the only man on my mind at that point was Mac!
Anyhow we made our way through traffic and people toward an oasis smack in the middle of a busy Kenmore. The fierce wind blew strong and the skies were gray but even the depressing weather couldn't take away from the beauty of the garden that still held a certain charm despite the fact that most of the flowers had already bloomed and all that was left were seed heads that still reminded you of the beauty they once held, a beauty you would see again, just not today.

The birds were hidden as most didn't want to battle the wind but that didn't stop the Northern Mockingbird above from perching high in a tree defending its territory which was quite the set up complete with abundant food, fresh water and even lounge furniture should he choose to entertain.
He looked at us defiantly as the fierce wind blew amongst his gray feathers letting us know this was his domain and while we could look, we could not enter.
We made our way through dirt packed rows trying to use our ears and eyes to search for signs of life which was rather difficult considering the harsh winds and overgrown brush that seemed to be everywhere we turned in this 4 acre garden. The nests that were full of life this past summer were finally revealed as the leaves had fallen and the fledglings had flown but the nests remained as a secret no more.
Of course not all of the birds sought shelter from the wind including two Red-tailed Hawks that seemed to delight in it. All throughout the garden we could hear their constant cheeeeeerrrrr as they flew by using the powerful force of the wind to guide them instead of the labor of their wings.
And not all of the flowers were corpses as some still held their beauty on this cold November day.
The sun would tease us occasionally as we had met up with other birders who were there for the same purpose. Various chip notes were heard throughout the garden as we searched for any sign of avian life including this Song Sparrow above who was hunkered down in a shrub in an attempt to escape the wind.

There seemed to be one area of the gardens that was the most active at times which were rows X and Y. Alan and I had met up with two other birders from Rhode Island and we were all in various places of this small section of earth as we had heard a different kind of chip note coming from it. I put my eyes on the tree above and see movement so I motion to the others to get their eyes on the tree.
Soon enough a warbler pops out and perches for one brief second on a branch before it dashes for cover from the wind. While this is not a good shot as you can obviously see, it was the only picture I would get of this bird today and the bird is the Orange-crowned Warbler. The weather would be too much for the bird the rest of the day and it remained out of view for us. Soon enough we heard more chip notes and I saw a colorful warbler fly by and make its way into some deep brush. The bird turns out to the the MacGillivray's Warbler and Alan manages to get a really good view but all I get is a butt shot as I was in a different section at the time. Determined to get a better view and at least a record shot, we keep going and are happy to know that it's at least in the area.
We continue to walk row to row as the Mockingbird continues to defend and the Hawks continue to play. One can't help the surreal feeling at this point as you are in the middle of this avian play land and over your shoulder is the Prudential Building to remind you that you are indeed in Boston and not the country side.
Soon enough a fellow birder motions us to row M as he had just seen the MacGillivray's. We eagerly scan the area and are soon rewarded with its chip call as we train our ears to pinpoint the location. Finally I see it fly by and am dismayed to get yet again another butt shot. Soon enough it decides to cut me a break as I see it land near a fence post low on the ground. I put my binoculars on the bird as it stares back in return as my heart skips a beat and I cannot breathe. The bird is more colorful than I thought it would be and it's eyes so pretty. I snap back to reality to try and describe the location to others so they can see it too. Finally Alan and the other two birders see it and happiness sets in as I'm only happy when both I and everyone else I am with sees a special bird as they are far too precious not to share.
The bird continues to play follow the leader with us with him being the leader as we quietly make our way through dirt paths. He decides to delight us by landing on a wooden bench and stares at us as if to say "what is it with you beings and why can't I ever get any privacy, haven't you ever seen a bird before". We pay no attention to this as we gawk at him as he flies away one more time into lower brush
The wind is too much for him so he decides to go low and slow which allows me to finally get some unobstructed views of the bird as well as a half way decent photo.
He flies from area to area and we follow. We stare at the bird and he stares back in return as he makes his way lower to the ground.
A very special bird indeed and one I hope decides to head further south soon before the really harsh weather sets in. One can certainly hope.
And finally a flower I was attracted to the moment I saw it that goes by the name Love Lies Bleeding. Very fitting name indeed for this flower which is known for it's heartiness. Take care all


Dan said...

I run around that park 2-3 times a week. I never knew there was such a variety if birds there. I'm glad you got to see the one you were looking for.

Kim said...

Hey there Dan. What a gorgeous place to run and would motivate me to get out there for certain! ;-).

Keep your eyes open next time you are there, especially for the Red-tailed Hawks as I am guessing they live nearby. I run a trail in town where a pair lives and spent my summer running after them along rocky trails in an effort to keep up with them. It kept me very motivated and I improved my speed greatly! The MacGillivray's Warbler which was the small yellow bird is a little more difficult to see but very special as its known for being a West Coast bird and has only been spotted in Massachusetts 4 times in history I believe which is pretty note worthy. If you are interested in seeing one while there just look for a bunch of people dressed in funny clothes, carrying binoculars, believe me you won't miss them. ;-).

BTW: Thinking of running the Wachusett Mountain Trail Race this May if I can keep up with my training but not sure as it is prime warbler season during that time...HA

Rich said...

Great Pictures. Great description of your day. Your camera worked great!

The Early Birder said...

Hi Kim. I see you've definitely got the 'twitching' bug and succeeding with some delightful shots. Well done. FAB.

Chris Petrak said...

Very nice sightings - I hope I have time in the weeks to come to follow Mass bird for the rarities - Good birding!

Christopher said...

Good job - not only did you see it well, but you got dome nice photos too! (and did a great job blogging it )

Dan said...

Hi Kim, thanks for the tips. I'll keep my eyes open next time I run through there. Pretty amazing you saw something so rare in MA as the MacGillivray's Warbler.

I'm planning on doing the Wachusett Mt race too. I will be my first time. Hope we get to meet. Happy birding!


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