Friday, April 30, 2010

A great way to end the month! More FOY Birds

I had the day off today so took off to do some birding w/ Alan as the weather was so nice and the winds had died down some so we were hoping we would get some first of the year birds, with warblers being on the top of our list. We would decide to head to Oxbow and of course we rubber necked some of the spots at Bolton Flats that could be seen on the way from route 117 and we would see this one lone Greater Yellowlegs in the middle of a very small body of water. I am really trying to focus some of my learning this year on shorebirds and have been reading up on the this bird in particular and have read they are often in deeper water than many of the other shorebirds which you can clearly see here as it is so submerged in water, you can't even see its yellow legs.
After that we would go to Oxbow and the first bird we would hear when we got out of the car would be a Warbling Vireo. I was very happy I knew the song once I heard it as last year I would always confuse this song with the House Finch but that would not be the case this morning, so I am hoping the mental cramp from last year is a thing of the past. FOY bird for me and a lot easier to see than the Blue-headed Vireos so I was able to get a lousy photo of one before it flew off across the path
We make our way around the paths and to an area the Northern Water Snakes are known to be at so took our time in the area hoping to see some, but there wouldn't be any today, but we did see this Great-blue Heron above. Not the best photo by any means but thought it was interesting due to that spot of blue you can see near its scapulars. Have never noticed that before today and not sure if its normal or not.
We would continue along the way and come across a few pockets of birds including the many Blue-gray Gnatcathers like the one above. A little further down the path we would come across our first pocket of warblers with all of them being the Yellow-rumps but then suddenly we would hear a different warbler song coming from the other side of the river which was indeed music to our ears as it hadn't been heard since last year and it would be that of the Northern Parula!!

At first we would hear a rather faint zeeeeeeeeeeee-yup and we would stop dead in our tracks and look at each other as recognition started to take hold but we weren't sure yet as we were not expecting it today. Alan would play the Ipod song of the bird to confirm it was in fact the parula song and that would draw the bird a little closer to us where not only would it sing its typical song, but its other song that sounds like Porky Pig singing his classic ah-bee ah-bee, ah-bee that's all folks!! He would do that song a couple of times and then switch back to his normal song with a few call note in between. The warbler would never make it close across our side of the river to get a visual on it, but there would be no mistake that it was a Northern Parula so it will be interesting to see how long it decides to stick around.
On our way back we would get another reminder that it is indeed spring as we saw this pair of Canada Geese crossing the path and entering the water with goslings in tow!
We would head back to Bolton because I really wanted to get a look at the Pectoral Sandpiper as I have been striking out on it and as soon as we got out of the car we would hear many Yellow Warblers like the one above. Such a fantastic bird to see and another FOY bird for me (should also note there was a Warbling Vireo here too)
When were first scanned the mudflats we would see no shorebirds, but soon enough some Greater Yellowlegs flew in and shortly after that we would see two Pectoral Sandpipers so I decided to try and digiscope one despite how far away it was. Another FOY for me and one I have wanted for over a week now so it was nice to finally get.
We would head to Barre Falls next hoping to finally get that Louisiana Waterthrush I couldn't get last weekend and while we never did get that bird, we did get our FOY Black-throated Green Warbler that I managed to get a lousy photo of. Seriously, I have forgotten how challenging getting decent photos of warblers can be because they are so darn small and too darn quick. Not to mention they like to be up high and now there are leaves on the trees so it makes it quite the challenge. Still nice to see because it's such a beautiful bird and another one of my favorite songs to hear when in the coniferous woods. We would also hear the unmistakable call of a Broad-winged Hawk in the locality and get a quick look at it as it flew somewhat low in the forest under story which was nice to see.
After that I would go home but take off on my own later in the evening. Not much to see but I did finally flush a Ruffed Grouse from Brierly after trying now for only the past couple of months so it was nice to finally get it there and then I would see this Eastern Towhee above in the midst of a tune at one of the local powerlines. There would also be some Yellow Warblers there too so I am guessing this weekend there will be more of them and other warblers which can't come soon enough for me.

Take care all

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Peregrine Falcon Update: Yes Virginia there is a nest!

Picture taken from last year of the female

I am now almost certain the Peregrine Falcons are nesting on top of the Unum building in their usual nest box. I saw both of them for the first time in weeks, right at the ledge of the nest box; they were in the midst of a nest switch off, I believe. The falcon on the ledge would remain there for only a few seconds until it went inside the nest box, presumably to incubate eggs. On another note, I spoke to Emily and it doesn't appear that Fish & Wildlife will be making a visit to the nest site until banding is done this summer, so it looks as if there will be no egg count. I will post updates as I get more information.

Just thought I'd share!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday Birding-North of Worcester

I did some birding today in Northern Worcester County with my 1st stop being Barre Falls in hopes of getting a Purple Finch as I had get to see one this year. Plus, Barre Falls in one of my favorite places to bird so I was curious as to what would be there so off I went.

Edited to add: I Figured I would share my lousy picture of the Northern Mockingbird that was taken at Barre Falls Sunday as from what I now hear, they are not seen there much so figured this picture that was once just a boring old mockingbird picture is now kind of cool! I would see this bird flying past the field and land on a tree an immediately break into song.
I would pull up to the main area of Barre Falls and would hear a Purple Finch singing as soon as I got out of my car. The bird was high up in a tree and wouldn't respond to pishing so I had to settle for the picture above. I would run into quite a few other Purple Finches that morning and they would all be singing and teed up on the highest branches of a tree.

Another thing I noticed is how solitary they are compared to House Finches who seem to always travel in a gang. I know many people get confused between Purple Finches and House Finches and while the field marks are important to know, it also helps to know behavior. Purple Finches prefer moist and cool coniferous forests and prefers to forage on the higher and outer branches of trees and this is also the area where males like to sing the most. House Finches on the other hand will usually always forage in flocks and prefers to forage on the ground and can be found in more of an urban or city type habitat.
I decided to start off at the Mid State Trail with one of my goals being a running stream nearby where I saw a Louisiana Waterthrush last year. I would pish the area and even play its call at various places near the stream and would never get the bird. I would also run into Donna and Dave who were looking for a L Waterthrush in another area of the falls that they are known to be at, and they wouldn't see one either. Despite the disappointment I would continue further down the path and actually hear my first Ruffed Grouse drumming which was awesome! I would also hear quite a few Brown Creepers singing and get a good look at Hermit Thrush who was on a tree stump so I was able to get a really good look at it.
Another reason why I wanted to go to Barre Falls was for a hopeful Broad-winged Hawk and while I knew hawkwatching for the most part is over there, I figured it would still be a good place to get one as I have seen them there before during non migratory times. I would strike out on the Broad-winged too, but did see this Cooper's Hawk who flew by fairly close which allowed me to get a picture of it.
I was hoping the hawk would be an opportunistic hunter and grab one of the MANY Brown-headed Cowbirds that are all over the place here, including some of the deep woods as I could hear them all over the place.
While leaving, I would see one of the Common Ravens perched on a tree. I really like this shot despite the poor lighting solely for the silhouette it shows. Check out the shaggy throat and wedge shaped tail which are good field mark indicators for this bird when trying to distinguish it from an American Crow.
I would decide to go to Wachusett Meadows after that as I will normally get a Broad-winged Hawk here 9 times out of 10 so I liked my odds. Funny enough, I was getting toward the street the meadows is on, I would see a hawk teed up on some branches. I looked for a place to pull over that was safe and got a look at it through my bins and was able to confirm it as a Broad-winged. I would then roll down my window for a record shot, and the little bugger would fly away before I could even get the camera into focus. Glad the hawk flew at the angle that it did so I could see the thick white band they have on their tail which always ceases any doubt I have on whether or not it is a Broad-winged Hawk. I would also be reminded at how small they are because it was the 1st thing I noticed when I saw the hawk perched while I was driving. Despite me getting the hawk, I still wanted to head to Wachusett Meadows because I hadn't been there for a while. I would see many passerines including the Hairy Woodpecker above.

Where there would be a Downy in the tree right next to it.
I would decide to take a rest for a while on a bench at the wetlands to give my feet a rest and could see two raptors in the air. I would initially see one, but then another came into view fairly quickly and at first I thought I was going to be witnessing an attack of some sort, but it would soon turn into a form of synchronized flying as they would both mimic each others flight pattern. I would turn away for a minute to see yet another buteo and I was praying for a Red-shouldered, but alas it was another Red-tailed who was up much higher than the other two. After a while they would all take off in another direction but soon be replaced by yet another Cooper's Hawk looking for some lunch. I would finally think I got my Red-shouldered Hawk because I was convinced I could hear on in the woods, but would soon find out it was a Blue Jay doing an incredible imitation of one.
On my way back, I would stop at St Philips where I would see the two Northern Flickers perched in a tree and gazing into each others eyes. I would take out my bins and see that they were the two males again. :-p. I guess the Coops got the female last week and these two have formed some kind of male bond or something because they didn't appear to be fighting with each other this time. Interestingly enough though, I would count three flickers while there so maybe the one who "got it" last week was not part of the normal love triangle I see whenever I am there.
My final stop would be some local powerlines in town I am going to because it is a sure spot for a Rose-breasted Grosbeak so am keeping my eyes and ears out for it. I would never get the grosbeak, but would see this Red-tailed Hawk above that caused me to questing my initial call as soon as it changed its body some which would cause its tail to look longer than I am used to seeing. I would also be taken aback at how the plumage looked with the lousy lighting as you can also see in the picture above.
I would watch the bird and be mesmerized by its flight, to be brought back to reality thinking I heard a House Wren calling so would stop looking to the skies and focus on where I thought the sound was coming from. I would suddenly hear the sound of a Goldfinch and would leave wondering how the heck I could confuse the two of them.
I would take off to Bolton Flats with Alan in the evening where we saw the Three Greater Yellowlegs again and also see our first of the year Spotted Sandpiper who was flying really close to the waters edge and had a real distinctive way of flying that I had never noticed before so it was really neat to see it and recognize it.

I would go back to the powerlines again this morning wondering if I did in fact hear a House Wren yesterday and would hear them as soon as I got out of my car. I had to navigate through some scrubby brush to get to it and would realize they were in someones yard. I would keep a respectable distance and would get a look at one, but wanted a record shot so started pishing like mad hoping to get them a little closer to me. I would glance over near the side of the road where I would see a man walking his dog who was just standing there and staring at me as if I were some kind of freak or something. :-p. I sheepishly explained to him that I was trying to attract a bird I hadn't seen all year a little closer to me and he would proceed to tell me he lived in the house where the wrens were (how embarrassing!). Anyhow, I apologized and he told me not to worry as he too looks forward to the House Wrens return as he has them in his yard every year and they have been back for two weeks now. Sigh, you just gotta love spring.

Take care all.

Barre Falls List:

Canada Goose 1
Mallard 2
Ruffed Grouse 1
Turkey Vulture 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 2
Downy Woodpecker 2
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue-headed Vireo 6
Blue Jay 4
American Crow 2
Common Raven 1
Tree Swallow 18
Black-capped Chickadee 6
Tufted Titmouse 4
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Brown Creeper 5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Eastern Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 5
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 9
Pine Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 8
Field Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 4
Common Grackle 12
Brown-headed Cowbird 15
Purple Finch 4
American Goldfinch 3

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Saturday Birding-Worcester County

I did some birding with Alan today with the fist stop being the Worcester Airport in hopes of getting my first of the year Eastern Meadowlark. We would get out of the car and all would be quiet on the birdsong front, except for one lone Savannah Sparrow that could be heard at a far distance. It would soon be apparent what was causing it as I would spot an American Kestrel perched on a branch while another one was in the air.
The American Kestrel was in the air trying to escape attack from an American Crow which was rather interesting considering Kestrels are known for their spunk and you don't see them backing down from anything. We would also have a Cooper's Hawk here so it seemed to be very popular with bird eating raptors, hence the bird silence I suppose.
While there would not be that many birds, we would see two deer in the section of the airport where the runway is. Love the picture and the one on the right because it's ears are so big in comparison to its body and I am thinking it's a youngin.
Since we were striking out at the Airport we went on to Mullbury Street to try our luck there, and despite there being a Sharp-shinned Hawk, we would finally see an Eastern Meadowlark who was perched up high on some wiring and singing its heart out for us.

As you can see in the photo above. Seriously, such a stunning bird and one I have missed. Not only is it beautiful, but its song is intoxicating to hear, especially on a day as nice as today with warm sunshine and blue skies.

After that we would take off to Bolton Flats and while I don't have any pictures, I did see some pretty cool birds including a first of the year Greater Yellowlegs. There would be three of them in the same area who were running around in search for food. We would make out way to the "T" at the flats and would be lucky enough to hear another cool bird song which would be that of the Sora who was in another area of the flats but rather vocal so it was easy to ID by ear which would be another bird to add to the yearly list. Since we were on a roll we headed to Mount Wachusett where I got my first of the year Winter Wren. The place would be too crowded for dilly dallying so after we got the wren we decided to head to another area in Princeton where there are known Northern Waterthrushes to see if they had returned yet.

It wouldn't take us long to verify that they were back as less than two minutes of us arriving there, we could hear their "nice old ladies don't chew, chew, chew" song. Yes, that is how I have it programmed in my head as that is how I learned it from one of my CD's and it obviously worked because I knew it right the minute I heard it coming from some thick brush. HA. If you think that's a doozy you should hear some of the other ones. ;-)
A very cool bird to get this early in the year. I should also note that this is the first year I am seeing the warblers with my binoculars. Last spring, I did all of my birding with my camera and let me tell you seeing a warbler up close and personal with your bins is wonderful. I will still normally go for my camera first for a record shot, and once I get that out come the bins for a view and I will always lose my breath for one brief second as I drink in all of the lovely detail I can see on the bird. Sigh, I just love spring.
In the afternoon, I would take off on my own to SuAsCo in Westborough where I would hear a familiar noise coming from the brush pile, so I knelt down low to try and locate it. It wouldn't take me long to spot a Brown Thrasher who was having himself a little snack. This bird is not a neat picker by any means as it would lift up leaves furiously and loudly with its bill. I knelt down like that for 3 minutes or so and it wouldn't even notice me because it was so absorbed in its task at hand.
I would soon find out this thrasher was not alone because I would walk further along the path and run into another one that was on the ground.
And like they say on TVLand, Three's Company and I would see another male perched in a tree and singing its heart out. Another love triangle going on it appears and it will be interesting to see how this turns out. What would be funny is that there would be two males singing away in fairly close proximity to one another and it was so loud you couldn't hear any other bird song because of it.
But while you couldn't hear the birds singing, you could see them including this very handsome Chipping Sparrow above.
And finally a lousy shot of my first of the year Green Heron I would get yesterday morning before work. Wondering where the Great Egret is from last year though and not holding out much hope that it will be around anytime soon as they seem to be somewhat delayed this year with their arrival in Massachusetts. MassBird isn't even reporting on them much yet.

Take care all

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Rusty Blackbirds in Grafton and other stuff

I had to work in Boston today and decided to make a quick stop at St Philips in Grafton as it is on the way to the train station. I would get out of the car and hear the usual birds including the very vocal various blackbirds like the Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds, but then I heard a call coming from that immediate area that sounded different to me so I immediately zoned into it and was thrilled to hear that of a Rusty Blackbird. I would listen intently for a moment as I have never really heard a Rusty sing before, but have heard it through one of my birding field guide CD's and have been able to pick up on it fairly well because it is an easy one to remember. The field guide says it sounds like a squeeky door, but I prefer it to the sound of a bird saying candy and that's exactly what this bird was saying so off I went to try and find it.
I would use my ears as my guide while I put my binoculars on the various blackbirds. There were now a couple of them singing their song so it made it easier for me as I came to a tree where I would see five birds in another part of the tree and somewhat separate from the Red-winged Blackbirds. I was at a compete disadvantage due to lack of daylight still and the fact that they were perched high up in the trees, but wanted to get some pictures as record shots.

Now of course the funny thing would be that I was dressed in my "smart clothes" as I call them as I was headed to Boston for the day so try and dress up some so here I was in my freshly pressed Ann Taylor trousers that are beige by the way and I was now in the bushes directly underneath the blackbirds in an attempt to get a better angle of them so I could document that pale iris of theres. Finally the misses (I believe) above was kind enough to pose for a moment as I got my first picture of her that would show all of the classic field marks.
And then finally a male would grant me the same honors. A very cool bird to get and one I never thought would be as easy as it was because looking for different blackbirds out of flocks really intimidates me because it can be so overwhelming, but this small flock here made it very easy with their singing. Once again folks, learn those bird songs! If I didn't know that call, I would have most likely over looked them as I was stretched for time to get to Boston.
As I would leave I would also hear the song of a Savannah Sparrow in some shrubs so I pished it out and it posed momentarily for a photo.
I decided to get to Boston a little earlier than normal because I wanted to see if there were any interesting migrators overnight at Post Office Square. I would only have about 10 minutes or so and couldn't do a thorough job and the only birds of note would be the very many White-throated Sparrows that seemed to all be in one concentrated area (I would count 10 in total). Thought this photo was interesting in that I had never noticed yellow flanks on a white throat before so figured I would share the picture.
I would end the day at South Station and had a few minutes before the train so decided to wait outside and just look up at the gulls as there were not only the usual Ring-billed Gulls flying overhead today, but the Herring Gulls as well and being the total dork that I am, I figured it would be fun to distinguish between the two different species while waiting for my train :-p.

Anyhow, I didn't want to appear to be a total dork so would only have my camera and binoculars would be in my bag but then I would see a gull mixed in with the others that caught my eye and I would kick myself for not having the bins handy. I turn my camera on and manage one shot and then off it flies past a tall building that would block my view. I came home, blew the photo up on my screen and this is what I would see. Now obviously the first thing you will most likely notice which was the 1st thing I noticed was the lack of any prominent black wing tips that always sets off a red flag to me. It was smaller than a Herring Gull (at least to my naked eye) and the shape of the head is round like a Ring-billed Gulls so I decide to look in my various field guides for pictures of Iceland Gulls. I am not liking what I see when I compare it to my photo because the gull in the photo above appears to have too much charcoaly gray in the leading edge of its wings but that may be due to my picture and lighting. The tail looks a little too dark for me (and according to Sibley, page 184, the juvenile Iceland "always lacks contrasting markings", which is what I believe I see here), so am not really sure what I have and it doesn't help matters much that I can't see the color of the legs or even the bill for that matter. I have spent the past two hours since I got home pouring over my field guides and still don't have an answer I am comfortable with. It's times like these where I wonder why I didn't pick up an easier hobby like knitting or checkers or something like that as birding still continues to be tough for me at times. Any ideas?y Don't worry, I won't be embarassed if you tell me it's a Ring-billed or Herring Gull, I will just wonder why I didn't see any black wingtips that's all! ;-)

Edited to Add: On hour number three of checking out this bird and decided to blow it up more and can see the dark upperside of the bird. Now thinking this is a very funky looking Ring-billed Gull that is not showing its wingtips that well due to the position of the sun. Officially stopping now as it was driving me crazy but figured I would keep the photo and my ramblings above just so you can see how challenging birds can be with certain lighting conditions. I could be wrong again obviously and will most likely spend another two hours tomorrow morning pouring over other field guides. ;-)

Take care all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

This & That Part Deux

I did a little birding today and decided to hit another trail for a run this morning where I would hear a peenting Woodcock, quite a few White-throated Sparrows, the usuals like the Northern Cardinals, Eastern Towhees and Field Sparrows but as I would running along some thick shrubbery, I would hear a bird tucked deep within, making the mumbled and subdued calls that you will sometimes hear a Catbird do so I stopped dead in my tracks and did some pishing. I could hear it scrambling about in the brambles and sure enough the bird would pop up just long enough for me to get a look at it and a record shot before going back into hiding. First of the year bird for me and so glad to see the Gray Catbirds are starting to come back.
While I was running up a hill, I could sense the presence of a bird overhead and I would be lucky to get a quick shot of this Cooper's Hawk above. Although the picture is horrible, I like it in that it really shows that "flying cross silhouette" as well as the "bull headed appearance" the coops has.
I would take 1/2 hour at work today to head to Notre Dame Cemetery and would be lucky enough to hear a Swamp Sparrow which I finally locate and get my camera ready as the bird is perched really nicely and eating a bug. I turn the camera on and the little bugger flies down near the water. I start pishing and never did get the Swamp Sparrow back, but decided to take a picture of the Song Sparrow above as it was just begging for a picture. ;-).
I would continue in my walk and would see the nesting Mute Swan, some Mallards, an Eastern Bluebird and the other usuals including a very vocal Northern Mockingbird, but then I would see a bird perched rather demurely on a branch in the middle of the path. I would not put my binoculars on her immediately because I wanted to get an estimate on overall size of the bird and bins can distort that so I will sometimes eyeball the bird at first to judge size and other things before looking at it with my optics. Hmmmm....Bigger than a Song Sparrow and smaller than a Robin I think. It looks like a Red-winged Blackbird I think again, but what the heck is up with that notched tail I mumble in my mind while trying to remember if a Red-winged Blackbird has one or not.
She allows me to get really close to her and doesn't make a peep which would have helped. I am convinced its a female Red-winged Blackbird at this point, but the whole scenario doesn't sit well with me as she is all by herself and very quiet which I never think of these blackbirds as and the tail would continue to throw me off, but what else is new. Finally she would fly away which I was happy to see because I thought she was sick for a moment because she was just acting so uncharacteristically un-black bird like.
And speaking of odd, check out Mr Peregrine (I believe) above. I am wondering what the heck happened to one of its secondaries as it appears as if he is missing one or two of them.
Hmmmm...Perhaps the misses doesn't like his choice of dinner or something. ;-). Seriously though, it wasn't like that yesterday so thought it was note worthy as he flew past my window again late this afternoon.
And since I am throwing in everything but the kitchen sink here, I figured I would share with you a picture of this very handsome American Robin who is always in my yard. He is not at all afraid of me as I have been playing a little game of chicken with him where I try and get real close to see how long it takes him to fly to another location, but I can get within a few feet of him before he does so. He is so friendly that even my two kids notice it, and that's saying a lot because they don't notice much about birds or so I thought. They would be cleaning the yard a couple of days ago while the robin followed. Is that not adorable or what! The only worry I have is my neighbors cat who is always in my yard despite me hollering at it. I would hate to see this handsome little fella fall pray to the cat.
I would have no time for birding this evening much to my dismay as there is a Sora at Bolton Flats that I am eager to see, but it will have to wait for till the weekend I'm afraid. I would manage to do some birding by foot around my neighborhood this evening after dinner as I wanted to get some fresh air and move my legs some. The Turkey Vultures would be out in full force and in their usual tree so I decided to watch them.
They would land in the tree only briefly and then fly off and do some circles only to land again. I really like the photo above as it shows off it's back while in flight which I don't see much.
As this is what I am so used to seeing.

Take care all


Related Posts with Thumbnails