Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Counting Birds Around Town

1. GBHE-kab Great Blue Heron 1-1-12 Lake Cochichewick

On January first I continue my Big January Count by walking with Gus and the dog down to the bog. The sky is bright and the air is starting to warm as we head out through the neighborhood. In the shadows of the large trees the pavement is still a bit slick with ice and we tread carefully.

2. Red Squirrel-kab The trees above are busy with bird life and both red and gray squirrels.


3. bog-kab Down at the bog the brown reeds and cattails poke up through a thin layer of ice.


4. mallards-kab Across the street from the bog the small pond still has open water and Gus points out a flock of mallards that have settled in for a swim.


5. RTHA-kabBack at the bog I spot two Red-tailed hawks in a tall dead tree at the north end, but as I pull my camera up to photograph them they take wing and fly off to the south disappearing over the treetops.


6. SWSP-kab Swamp Sparrow 1-1-12 Stirling Bog, Andover, MA

I look around the silent waters hoping to see something. I hear the honking of a nuthatch and the cawing of a crow. I see some juncos twittering around low in the brush. I make a pishing sound and a little swamp sparrow flies in to see what it is all about. At first it is obstructed by some brush but then flies into a small tree where the sunlight falls softly on its subtle colors.

7. WTSP-kab White-throated Sparrow 1-1-12

As we head back from the bog where I count 10 species I see a few White-throated sparrows in the brush pile at the edge of my yard. The White-throat is yet another species to add to my 2012 Big January List.

After dropping the dog off at home Gus and I hop in the car to drive around town so I could count birds. We make a quick stop at the local donut shop, then head off with coffee in hand to some of my favorite birding spots. Our first stop is the local post office on Steven’s Street in Andover where the Shawsheen River runs by. I see some more mallards there as well as my first Canada Geese of the year. Atop the apartment building across the street a lone Herring Gull stands, and then a few Ring-billed gulls fly low over the river.

8. MUSW-kab Mute Swans in Steven’s Pond 1-1-12 North Andover, MA

From there we head over to North Andover where I am hoping to find some ducks, swans and geese in Steven’s Pond or Lake Cochichewick. As we head down the hill towards Steven’s Pond I start to get excited because I can see the birds on the water already. As we draw near I hear the call of a Blue Jay and more cawing of crows. We pull over briefly and I jump out to count: 85 Canada Geese and 7 Mute Swans on the pond, but no other ducks are to be found.

9. CANG-kab Canada Geese in flight on Steven’s Pond

A few of the geese take flight as I start to photograph them. The swans could seem to care less what I do. After counting a few small birds in the trees, we head on down the road to the South end of Lake Cochichewick.

10. ice-kab Here the south end of the lake is lightly iced over and there are no ducks in the water.

11. lake Cochichewick-kab I can see open water farther out, but still no birds.


12. NOCA-kab But in the trees across the road I hear the sharp chip notes of some kinds of small bird and finally spot this female cardinal in the woods. The road along here is narrow and cars are rushing by. I jump back in and Gus and I continue our journey along Great Pond Road, past the Brooks School to the North end of Lake Cochichewick.


13. N. end Lake Cochichewick-kab View from North end of Lake Cochichewick 1-1-12


14. Rt. 133 N. andover-kab Gus pulls off the side of the road to park and I jump out and walk the narrow shoulder of Route 133.


15. Dam-kab Here by the dam the water is deep and in constant motion. This is where I usually find the diving ducks and today does not disappoint.


16. ducks-kab Far out on the eastern shore a large flock of Ring-necked ducks floats in the silver water.

17. RNDU-kab 










18. RNDU-kab Ring-necked Ducks 1-1-12


19. BUFF-kab 









Buffleheads 1-1-12


A small flock of Buffleheads floats nearby and then, to my utter amazement, I spot a Common Loon far across the lake. It is my first sighting of a loon in this lake and I am thrilled, but it is so far across that the photo I took is little more than a silhouette. Still, it’s block head and the unique tilt of its head are quite visible.

20. GBHE-kab A stump in the woods?

We continue our journey around the lake and I have Gus pull into the parking lot at Mad Maggie’s Ice Cream shop. The parking lot is vacant on this day but I pop out to survey the western end of the lake. I find a gull and a few hooded mergansers hiding out on this secluded arm of the lake and then as I check the surrounding wooded edge I notice something that looks like a stump…yet isn’t.

21. GBHE-kab As I stoop to get a better look the Great Blue Heron spots me. It starts to unfold itself and walks stiffly towards the water.


22. ruffled GBHE-kab It ruffles its feathers and bends over…


23. Ruffled Butt-kab …flashing me with its rump,


24. Grace-kab …then stands back up in a graceful arc and slinks silently off into the woods.

I jump back into the car then, chattering to Gus excitedly about what I have seen. As I sit back down in my seat I look toward the water just in time to see the heron take wing and fly away. Though I am no threat and never even got close to the big bird, it still didn’t like that fact that I saw it, and it saw me. Still, I was thrilled to add this species to my Big January Bird Count!

As we head towards home I spot a flock of pigeons on some utility wires near a Route 495 overpass. Yet another species for my list. I am so far ahead of where I was at this time last year, but then again, we were buried under feet of snow last January and all the lakes and ponds were frozen. Back at home once again I see my last species for the day. Species number 27 is a Hairy Woodpecker who comes to my backyard feeder. Day one has ended. I can only hope day two brings more birds to my yard. And it does, but only one species is added, a Red-bellied Woodpecker.

World Bird Wednesday!

Big January 2012 Bird List


  1. Great shots of that heron's rump. Love that house on the lake. Looks like the perfect place for a Huge set of bins to watch birds on the water. Yet another nice birding adventure.

  2. Kathie, it sounds like you had great sightings for your January count. Happy Birding!

  3. Great post -- some really nice sightings!

  4. Lovely photos of the birds, lovely colours and reflections, but my very favourite is a little squirrel:)

  5. Kathie, herons are like that. Mine takes off at the sound of the chain rattle on the gate, That is why I have taken to climbing through the fence.

    Great count for the day.

  6. Hi Kathie

    Wow what a lovely collection of birds. I really loved the swans and the geese, they were great photos. I really got a sense of movement. I did feel for the poor dog who did not get to go to the donut shop.


  7. Sounds like a perfect day Kathie. It is much warmer here in Michigan too. The Pine River froze last year Dec. 8th and didn't break up till spring. Thanks for taking us along on your first big excursion of the year!
    Happy New Year!

  8. Gaelyn, I agree but I wish I had a huge spotting scope!

    Eileen, it was a great start but now I need to see More Birds!!!!!

    Holding Moments, thanks!

    Pat, thank you!

    Joo, I love the red squirrels!

    Arija, thanks for the laugh while I envision you climbing through the fence!

    Guy, LOL! The poor dog is fat enough! ;-)

    Springman, thank you too. It sure makes it easier to see birds when there's open water around!

  9. I enjoyed each of your scenic and bird photographs; lovely.


Welcome to my nest! I hope you will enjoy spending time here with me and the birds. Thank you for your comments. I will try to get back to you as soon as I get back from counting more birds.