Sunday, April 11, 2010

Binge Birding on a Sunday!

I woke up bright and early today ready to start the day and would make a couple of stops along the way with my main goal for the AM being the Westbrorough WMA because I hadn't been there since last fall. As soon as I got out of the car, I would hear a very familiar tune which was none other than the Brown Thrasher above (FOY bird for me). It was funny in that I knew the song was that of a Brown Thrasher, but seeing it teed up in a tree like that threw me off at first because I am so used to seeing this bird at a lower elevation where I can see their bright rufous up above. The bird was too high for me to see that, so I doubted myself for a little bit, despite the song clearly being that of the Thrasher! Just goes to show you to learn those bird calls and songs!
There would quite a few Yellow-rumped Warblers like the one above and some Palm Warblers too. One thing to note is I actually saw my 1st ever warbler fight between two male Palm's this morning and it was real fun to observe.
After that I went onto Martha Deering WMA in Millbury to see if I could find the Winter Wren that was there last year close to this time. While walking along the path I would see this green leaf above peeking above some standing water and I thought it was cool enough for a photo!
I would also see plenty of swamp marigolds in gorgeous bloom like the one above. I continued along the path and would hear the regulars including the very numerous Pine Warblers, but then I heard a two note call that sounded vaguely familiar but it took me a few seconds to decipher it in my mind. I finally remembered what it was and was glad the bird was teed up high because I used its voice as my guide as I bush whacked my way through some shrubs to see this handsome bird below.
My FOY Eastern Towhee. Was on my target list for this week so I was glad to get it today. Sigh, one of my favorite birds to hear when I run the local power lines so this was really nice to see. I should also note I heard another Towhee at the South Main power lines today so it appears as if others have come back too!
I never would hear the Winter Wren, so dilly dallied while looking for other birds. I could see a clump of feathers of some sort within some bushes and decided to get a better look at it to see if I could figure out what it was.............Warning: Picture below is a little graphic.....
I would sadly find out it was a male Red-bellied Woodpecker. There are tons of them here at this wildlife management area and this one appears to be a victim of something. The tail feathers were on the upper branches while the upper part of its body was on the lower. Don't know what killed it, but it was just recently killed as I could tell by how fresh the wounds looked. Certainly not a raptor because they like to eat on the ground and wouldn't leave that much flesh I wouldn't think. I was thinking a cat, but there were pickers in some of these brambles and cats are not dumb and know how painful pickers can be. Wishful thinking here would have me think for a moment that perhaps it was a recent kill of a Northern Shrike, but I have never seen them this far south before and I would guess most are long gone. Also, could a shrike kill a Red-bellied Woodpecker given its size. I guess it will remain a mystery as I will never know for certain.

While leaving Martha Deering, I would hear a bunch of American Crows causing quite the ruckus, and not the usual ruckus, but a mobbing kind of ruckus. I would bush whack through trees again (don't worry mom, I am no wearing Deet ;-) ). Anyhow, I finally spot the crows on top of a tree and see that they are mobbing the poor resident Barred Owl who finally can't take it anymore and flies off with the crows right behind it. Some of you may not like crows but I love them and one of the biggest reasons why is because they are really good owl and hawk spotters which was evidenced once again today. ;-)
After that rather somber find of the woodpecker, I would yearn for life and found it all around me at Fisherville Pond in Grafton where all around me birds sang and flowers are slowly starting to bloom to life.
Including one of my favorites the bluet's which were everywhere I went today. As I was walking my way along the edge of the pond I would suddenly hear a call I had never heard before but knew it was a raptor of some sort so looked up the the sky.
There before me appeared this Osprey who was perched on a nearby power line and suddenly took to the air because I assumed it was momentarily alarmed by by sudden presence.
To my delight, the Osprey remained low and decided to glide instead of fly which allowed me my best close up looks yet of this bird. One of the highlights of my day. I would also see a Cooper's Hawk about 10 minutes after this so definitely had my raptor fix after that.
Fisherville is not really known for its abundant waterfowl, but one must always scan the waters if they are birding near them because like Forrest Gump said you never know what you're gonna get, like this Double-crested Cormorant above. I was very happy with this find because they are not overly common in Central Massachusetts this time of the year so I consider it a pretty cool find.
I would also see yet again, another bunch of Palm Warblers like the handsome one above.
And here it is flying
I would make my second stop at St Philips today and would see yet another picture perfect raptor, this Red-tailed Hawk above.
I just loved how the sun shone on that tail which really caused the red on it to pop!

I was still determined to get that Winter Wren and figured I would head to Wachusett Mountain, but just didn't feel like driving much so was luke warm over the thought. I suddenly came up with the genius idea of going to Purgatory Chasm instead, because there just HAS to be Winter Wrens in there I think as I hop in my car. I can only handle the place for about 1/2 and hour so so because I had forgotten how crowded that place get so I gloomily head back to my car while in deep though over my next course of movement which at that point would be a couple of stops along the reservoir, Wachusett Mountain for wren and then perhaps Bolton again since I am going to be in the area of course!! While in deep thought, I am suddenly interrupted by the song of a bird that had been going on for quite some time, but was ignoring it because I was too busy planning things in my overwhelmed mind.

Suddenly, I realize what it is and my former gloomy mood vanishes as I am now on a mission to get this bird!!! I decided to take some audio of it, because the bird was high up in the tree tops and wasn't sure if I would ever be able to get a look at it let alone pictures. Note, you will not see any bird in the video, but hear it's call, but that will make it ever more enjoyable as you can try and figure out what it is just by its song! Oh, and don't mind all of the cars either as they are rather loud. They were everywhere today and all rubber necking me as I was trying to locate this bird wondering why what the heck I found so interesting. I was beyond annoyed as you will see in the video. :-p

The call of the bird would be that of a Blue-headed Vireo, the call of the annoyed woman would be that of myself. I LOL'd when I uploaded the video because I don't even remember saying it out loud, but seriously, how the heck can one bird by ear with all of that racket going on around you. ;-). I would finally see the bird, but it took me 20 minutes of occasional pishing and a real bad case of warblers neck because the bird never wanted to come down any lower. I would finally use my sweat shirt as a pillow and lay down in the woods looking up while pishing for me to get a really good view of it, which I eventually did, forgot how pretty that bird was!! I decided to try and get a record shot and either the darn bird flew away, or I couldn't relocate it again after taking my eyes off of it for a second from my bins to my camera. My best find of the day and a really cool FOY bird as it was on my target list for next week, not this week. :-p

But that's not it all!! I was suddenly energized by the find, and decided to stay local and went back to Martha Deering for the Winter Wren thinking it just had to be there, but I was a victim of bad timing that's all. I come to this hole in a tree and see something that reminds me of feathers so of course, I am drawn to it. I put my binoculars on it and see something that looked like an owl in it so get a little closer for better inspection and am horrified over what I see. Why not only is it an owl, but a very damaged one too I think!! Sheesh, this place is a killing zone for birds I think as i get closer to try and ID it. To my relief and slight embarrassment, it isn't a bird, but some bark in a tree that formed together somehow to kind of look like a bird. :-p. Hey, I had already birded about 7 hours straight at this point with about 8 miles of walking so I was tired and that's my final excuse! ;-)
I would never get the Winter Wren AGAIN, but would get another butt shot of a Pine Warbler like the one above.
My final stop would be Butler Farm in Millbury because I hadn't been there for a while. This place is really good for House Wren's and Eastern Bluebirds and was glad to see the bluebirds out and about.
There are many birds in the area because they love the flowering trees like the one above.
As you can see the bees love them too!
I would make my way to the hill and look around and suddenly realized how tired I was.
I was close to hour number nine of birding and mile number 10 of hiking so figured it was time to call it a day.
I did stick around for a while hoping for one final bird to add to my list with my preferred choice at that moment being a Black Vulture, but alas, not today.
On another note, check out the photo above. I was at St Philips on Friday night in the rain thinking I wouldn't get many birds with the rain and all, but just needed to peace after the rough work week I had. I would be in my car and look up at that sky and see this bird flying directly overhead so I get my binoculars on it which were fogged up from the rain. I whip out my camera and proceed to stick my body out of the car to get pictures despite the rain drops hitting the lense. The first thing that comes to mind are the local Green Herons that are here every year, but the bird looked much too big to be a Green Heron, but more like the size of a Black-crowned Night Heron which I knew it definitely wasn't due to how dark and streaked it was.
The bird fastly dissapears and I am left thinking that it was one of the Green Herons who just looked really big because I hadn't seen them in months so had mis judged their size. I blow up these pictures on my computer and the photo above has me completely stumped because I had never seen a Green Heron with a wing span as large as this. I would then spend about 2 hours on Friday night (yes my life is full!), looking at pictures of the American Bittern vs the Green Heron as the Bittern would be the only logical choice it could be if it wasn't the Green Heron obviously. Despite the size and the pictures, I still think it has to be the Green Heron because I had never seen a bittern here before so dismiss it due to that fact. Still not comfortable with it though, I emailed the pictures to a very reputable MassBird acquantaince of mine to ask his opinion and he agrees with me on the size and wing span which would discount it as the Green Heron. Plus, it's way to early for a them too. I would spend an additional two hours on Saturday night (my life is full), lightening the pictures and blowing them up with notes so I could finally make out some of the American Bittern fieldmarks despite the lousy quality of the photos, and am happy with the answer. Who'd of thunk a bittern in Grafton. How cool is that!! Should also note the bird was headed north so perhaps it is migrating?

Sorry for the rambling and long post today, but I had a lot to share. Take care all!


grammie g said...

When I saw the hole in the tree I could see, of course through overactive imagination, little beaks,-as in baby birds.:) Looks like you had a long day!! Sorry your seach was in vain, but you got some shots.;)

grosbeak21117 said...

Your photographs of the arriving Palm Warblers are excellent! They were MUCH in evidence at my favorite local pond on April 11th.

Chris Ellison


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