Friday, April 27, 2012

Sing, Sing, Because it’s Spring!

1. song sparrow-kab Song Sparrow at bog 4-25-12

I’ve been going back and forth between the bog and the park all week long trying to count birds. Everyday i look for something new. On Wednesday I found a lone Yellow-rumped warbler in the poplars at the northwest end of the bog but other than that, it’s been the same old same old. But the birds are coming! I can feel it!

2. SHP green-kab Just look how green it is getting down along the river at Sacred Heart Park!

3. Swollen shawsheen-kab The Shawsheen river is swollen with water since Monday’s rain!

4. swollen river-kab Everything is turning green!

5. singing sparrow-kab I think I’ll lift my voice and sing!

6. cloudless sky-kab On Thursday I was back at the park again. See the darkness by that really green maple tree? That is the path I take to get down by the river and into the woodland.

7. Savannah sp-kab As I walked around the edge of the soccer field I found the Savannah Sparrows again, only this time I had my camera!

8. squirrel-kab Down in the woods the gray squirrels were at the tops of the trees eating buds!

9. lookout-kab Don’t ask me what this guy was doing at the top of this dead snag near the water. I guess he just wanted a better view!

10. turtles-kab All the turtles in the pond were sunbathing on this log. I counted 24 of them!

11. sing, sing-kab So lift your head and sing!

I am currently down in Connecticut visiting my mom again. It is the annual Mother and Daughter luncheon at her church this weekend and my sister and I will be attending with her. Mom is doing really well since her chemo and she just started her radiation treatment this past Monday. Of course, while I am here I also hope to get some birding in! I’ve brought my camera and binoculars and I hope to bring back stories and photos! Have a great weekend! See you on Monday!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Goose Flight Sky

1. Canada goose DSC_0067 Canada Goose in flight at Sacred Heart Park, Andover, MA 4-26-12

I was down at the park again this morning hoping to find some warblers or something but nothing new showed up. However, as I was standing by the river I heard the distinct honking of a goose in flight, so I readied my camera and looked in the direction of the sound. As the goose came flying over the treetops in a cloudless blue sky I followed it with my camera until it was gone. You can see additional photos of geese in flight in the post below when I went birding at the bog earlier this week when we Finally got Some Rain. Happy Skywatch Friday and don’t forget to click on the links!

2. Canada Goose DSC_0068 

3. Canada goose DSC_0069 

4. Canada goose DSC_0070

Skywatch Friday 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Finally Some Rain

1. Goose_0132 Canada Goose flying up from bog 4-23-12

After four days of grandkids and a rainy Monday morning it looked like the skies were clearing so I grabbed my camera and binoculars and took a walk down to the bog. I could hear the grackles and red-winged blackbirds before I even arrived. In the silver water and among the greening reeds the Canada Geese floated or grazed, but all the time I was there they were taking off and landing at various times.

2. silver water-kab We really needed the rain around here. Last week when I was here I noticed that the water levels in the bog were dropping. The weather forecasters have been reporting that it’s been over three months since we have had a good soaking rain like this. Now as I stand here at the bog trying to count and identify swallows the skies are looking leaden once again.

3. muskrat-kab Below me I watch as a muskrat swims into view and stops to feed at the bottom of the bank I am standing on. A little beyond the muskrat I find a pair of Green-winged teal paddling around in the water. Just as I raise my camera to try to get a shot, they duck behind some stumps and are lost to my view. These are the first teal I have seen here in over a year.

4. Goose-kab I hear a loud honking and look up to see a pair of Canada geese taking flight.


5. bog-kab Everything is much greener than the last time I was here and I am sure it will be greener still, now that we have gotten rain. As I stand here watching birds and wildlife a gentle rain starts to fall. I am hoping it is just a brief shower and so I tuck my camera under my shirt and tuck myself into the shelter of one of the roadside pines. When the rain stops, I step out and start watching and counting again.

6. rain clouds-kab But it isn’t long before another shower starts up and I decide it is time to head for home!

Birds species seen at the bog on April 23, 2012

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mallard
  3. Green-winged teal
  4. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  5. Northern Flicker (yellow-shafted)
  6. Mourning dove
  7. Tree Swallow
  8. Barn Swallow
  9. Blue Jay
  10. American Crow
  11. Belted Kingfisher
  12. American Robin
  13. Eastern Bluebird
  14. European Starling
  15. Song Sparrow
  16. Red-winded blackbird
  17. Brown-headed cowbird
  18. Common Grackle


World Bird Wednesday 

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Family Visit

4-23-12 family visit

Chris, Trey, Brooklyn, Melissa and Cameron 4-22-12

This past week I had the pleasure of a visit from my son and his new wife and my grandkids. We went to playgrounds, took a trip into Boston, and just relaxed at home. I didn’t get much bird watching in, but that was okay. However, I did bring my binoculars to Boston with me and was surprised to find a Hermit Thrush in the Boston Public Gardens! I’ve been waiting to see one but never expected to find one in the city! We got some much needed rain yesterday and today but I did make it down to the bog this afternoon to count birds. I thought the rain had stopped, but when it started raining on me again I tucked my camera under my shirt and headed for home!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

New Birds at Great Meadows NWR

1. Savannah sparrow-kab Savannah Sparrow 4-14-12

Gus and I went Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, MA on Saturday. I have only been here three other times and my list for this location was pretty short with only 28 species. After today’s visit though I added 10 species to my Life List for this location for a total of 38 species! Among the 26 species I saw today were a couple of Savannah Sparrows and,

2. Virginia rail-kab Virginia Rail

Life Bird* number 424!

I did not even know I had seen a Life Bird until I entered my data into eBird. I thought I had seen this species in the wetlands of the Great Salt Lake in Utah in the early 2000’s. If I did, I have not entered that data into eBird yet. I will have to check this one out. The Rail is also a new species for my Massachusetts Life List. I have to admit that I am a “Lister” and keeping these lists is just a fun game I play with myself. By entering my data into eBird I have found a way to make my obsession useful! But, the main point of all of this is to just get outside and enjoy nature and enjoy the birds themselves!

3. goose-kab Canada Goose on nest

4. turtle-kab Turtle

World Bird Wednesday 

(Just click on the link to enjoy even more birds!)

5. nesting-kab

Birds seen at Great Meadows 4-14-12:

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Mute Swan
  3. Wood duck
  4. Mallard
  5. Ring-necked duck
  6. Pied-billed grebe
  7. Double-crested cormorant
  8. Great Blue Heron
  9. Turkey vulture
  10. Red-tailed hawk
  11. Virginia Rail*
  12. American Coot
  13. Red-bellied woodpecker
  14. Yellow-bellied sapsucker
  15. Downy Woodpecker
  16. Tree swallow
  17. Black-capped chickadee
  18. Tufted titmouse
  19. White-breasted Nuthatch
  20. American Robin
  21. Chipping sparrow
  22. Savannah sparrow
  23. Song sparrow
  24. Red-winged Blackbird
  25. Common Grackle
  26. American Goldfinch

Species in italics are new for this location.

*Life Bird: new to my Life List of species I have seen.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

An Encounter with a Cooper’s Hawk

1. COHA-kab Cooper’s Hawk at Sacred Heart Park 4-17-12

I am up early this morning and out the door, headed for Sacred Heart Park in Andover. I was here yesterday in mid-morning and saw a Palm Warbler and two Savannah Sparrows, both new species for this location. However, I did not have my camera with me then, so I am coming back today hoping I might still be able to find a warbler or even two!

Yesterday the temperature rose to 92 degrees here in my yard. While it is not suppose to get quite as hot today, it is already warm for April at 71F at 9:45 AM. There is not a cloud in the sky as I pull into the parking lot and mark the time. Already I see a couple of robins hopping about on the green lawn of the soccer field. Though there are a couple cars parked over by the playground area, there is no one on the field. I head counter clockwise around the grass away from the playground and toward the path that will lead me down to the Shawsheen River. As I walk along the treed edge of the field I am on the lookout for birds. My ears and eyes are open and I am scanning, scanning all the time. I hear the chirping of House Sparrows in the bushes where they usually hang out along Burnham Road. Yesterday I found the Savannah Sparrows at this location but they are nowhere to be seen today.

2. Path-kab

I pass the opening to the road where I usually enter if I walk over here. I am nearing the pathway to the woodland area with the river below. Here the trail cuts between the woods and the houses that rim the street. I pause for a second to scan the brushy area at the edge of the woods where I saw the Palm Warbler yesterday, but there is no sound and no movement in that location. As I turn to head down the path suddenly I see a winged creature coming at me at break neck speed up the path. It is flying low to the ground on powerful wings and coursing straight towards me! I can barely take in what I am seeing before it swoops by at knee level between me and the bushes. It is so close that I could have reached out and touched it as it flew by if I had wanted to, if I was quick enough. But I am not quick enough for this bird!

3. trees-kab 

I spin to follow the path of its flight as it winds its way through the brush and trees. I see a dark back, pointed wings, and a long barred tail. My mind starts to process what I have seen and I am wondering if I just saw a Merlin! I think the small raptor has landed in the trees at the edge of the field, so I head back that way trying to confirm my possible ID. I scan and scan the trees, moving slowly and circling around. I do not see the bird, but it sees me and it flies out of the trees into the open across the field. Now in the bright sunlight, it almost looks white and gray like a Northern Goshawk, but I know it can’t be that bird.

4. pines-kab 

I watch as it swoops upwards where it lands in some tall Eastern White Pines at the edge of the grass. Now I am walking back, trying to be cautious, but excitement urges me on. I walk into the cool green shade of the tall pines and circle around to get the sun at my back. My neck is craned to the extreme as I search the branches of the towering pines and then, bingo! I spot the bird!

6. Coop-kab 

To my surprise, it is a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk! I see the long tubular body, the long barred tail and the vertical brown stripes on its breast. I see the capped appearance it has to its head even in this juvenile plumage. I try to focus through the pine tree branches to document what I am seeing and as I look at the bird I realize how important it is that I have taken the time to pursue the bird and be sure of what I saw. This is definitely a Cooper’s Hawk and NOT a Merlin! The dark appearance to its back must have been the shade. The pointed wings were just they way they were bent in flight as the bird swooped along the ground and through the trees. The long tail had given me pause as a Merlin has a shorter tail. I learned a good lesson today, a lesson taught to me in the field and by the birds!

7. NOCA-kab 

I now retrace my steps and head down the path towards the river once again. Yesterday when I was here a chorus of frogs was singing and the sound was almost deafening. They are singing once again today, but it is not nearly as loud. Though I am here earlier today it seems a bit quieter and I am not seeing quite as many birds. A few robins hop about on the grass and in the woods. I hear the "wicka, wicka, wicka" call of a flicker, then see a pair fly up onto a dead snag near the turtle pond. They cling to the dead wood and move around the trunk seeming to talk to each other. Before I can get close enough for a shot they fly off into the woods again and are lost in the trees. Blue jays are calling today and flying raucously overhead. On a slim branch a male cardinal sings relentlessly.

9. Tree tops-kab 

I walk up into the coved area where I usually like to stand quietly and wait to see what shows up, but it is really quiet here today and I am seeing nothing. Then a little goldfinch starts to twitter and I try to locate it. I am standing on the bank above the pond near the woods. I can hear this bird but cannot seem to find it. I am scanning the treetops, scanning the bushes but I cannot seem to locate it and I know it is right here in front of my eyes! It sounds like it is down low near the water, so I search the muddy edge without luck. I move to one side of the tree and then the other. I scan the trees across the pond hoping it might be up there, but the sound is coming from below me it seems.

10. AMGO-kab 

I move again and search again and finally I find the bird on the branch of a bush overhanging the water right below where I am standing! He, too, is singing his heart out, but if there is a female nearby watching his performance I do not see her!

The sun is getting warmer and I decide it’s time to move on. I walk back down along the edge of the pond until I am near the Shawsheen River. It is flowing merrily along its way, sparkling in the sunshine. We really need some rain around here! Chickadees are moving through the trees around me and a Tufted Titmouse is calling from a twig in a bush near the river.

11. WTSP-kab 

As I move up the hill toward the other field in the park I see a small flock of three white-throated sparrows hopping around on the grass. Yesterday I had 25 of them in my yard and I counted a dozen over here, but today there are only three. I think the white-throated sparrow has one of the prettiest bird songs around and I love their black and white striped heads set off with those yellow lores! They are indeed, so handsome!

12. red sq-kab 

As I reach my self-imposed boundary line of my eBird Site Survey for this location I stop to look at a red squirrel that has climbed a sapling near the river. We look at each other curiously before I turn back to the path and up into the soccer field again.

13. soccer field-kab

I continue my walk counter-clockwise around the field but am disappointed at how quiet the woods are today. Usually there are robins and woodpeckers hanging out in the edge, but there is little movement or sound. I look ahead to the playground where I will male my turn back towards the parking lot. The flowering pear is in full bloom and looks glorious against the bright blue sky.

14. chickadee-kab

As I near the pear tree I find yet another chickadee moving through the brush. It is unafraid and pauses briefly to look at me over its shoulder before moving on.

15. pear tree-kab

Then, as I near the playground I look up into the flowering pear tree where I see bird movement. A northwest wind is blowing, making it difficult to focus on the birds in the center of the tree,

15. RWBL-kab

but when I finally get a clear view I am surprised to find three female Red-winged Blackbirds! They seem to be eating something from the tree but what? Are they eating insects, buds, or blossoms? I do not know.

The sun is getting higher and hotter in the sky. It is time for me to leave. I walk the final section of the soccer field back towards my car and the parking lot. As I do, I pause to check out the edge of the parking lot as yesterday I thought I saw two Chipping Sparrows fly up from here, but they disappeared into the pines before I could positively identify them. Today I am cautious and careful but though I scan the ground along the edge with my bins, I do not see any tiny birds on the ground. However, as I move along, I keep hearing this soft little chip. What is it? Where is it? I stop. I listen. I look. Nothing. This is so frustrating! As I near my car suddenly a little bird flies up over my car and onto the tip of a pine tree twig. Then, it starts to sing! Its song sounds like the staccato song of a chipping sparrow, but I discovered yesterday that Palm Warblers, pine warblers and juncos all sound similar and I am not skilled enough yet to distinguish the difference. As I raise my binoculars to focus, it flies further into the tree. I move under the tree and try to locate the bird. It flies out over my car again and onto a small ornamental tree at the edge of the parking lot. But now the sun is behind the bird and it is little more than a silhouette! I try to focus in. I can see the small shape, and the chestnut cap, but the palm warbler has a chestnut cap too, though I don’t think it would fly out into the open like this.

16. Chip sparrow-kab Chipping Sparrow at Sacred Heart Park 4-17-12

As I move slowly around trying to get the sun at least perpendicular to my body and shining a bit more on the bird the little winged creature does me a favor and lands on the wooden guard rail in full sun. Now I can see the brown, streaky back, the dark eye-line and the faint wing-bars of a Chipping Sparrow! My First Of The Year (FOTY) for this location.

I am hot, tired and thirsty now. It is time for me to go home. I turn to open my car door and watch as a Red-tailed Hawk rises above the tree line to the west and starts to make its lazy circles in the sky.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Patriot’s Day 2012 OWT

1. Statue of Paul Revere-kab Statue of Paul Revere in Boston, MA 10-24-2011

Today is Patriot’s Day here in Massachusetts. It is a state holiday. It is also Marathon Monday which means the Boston Marathon is being held today. These photos are from my visit to Boston last fall with my good friend, Kathryn. I hope they get you in the mood to feel patriotic today or else, get out you running shoes and run!

2. steeple of the old north church-kab The Steeple of the Old North Church

3. inside church-kab Inside the Old North Church

Our World Tuesday

4. Paul Revere-kab

Paul Revere's Ride

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
>From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Muskrat at the Bog

1. Muskrat-kab Muskrat at the Stirling Street Bog 4-10-12

Tuesday was a birdy day for me since I counted birds while doing errands in New Hampshire, and then came home and took a walk down to the bog. It has been a week since I counted birds here and I wanted to see what was happening.

2. Tuesday evening bog-kab It is a warm and calm evening as I arrive at the edge of the bog in full birding regalia with my vest over my shirt, my birding hat on, camera at my side and binoculars on a harness around my chest. I am lost in the world of birds, scanning water, sky and brush, listening to the cacophony of blackbirds as they prepare to settle in for the night. Suddenly a different sound permeates my brain in spite of the clacks, clicks and whistles of grackles and red-winged blackbirds. It is a voice soft and sweet with the high thin notes of a pre-pubescent child. The voice does not sound mean or mocking, but rather, In a sing-song voice this is what I heard: “Bird watcher, bird, bird watcher. Bird watcher, bird, bird watcher!” as I stand there and listen I slowly turn and look over my shoulder. In the field behind me and across the road I se three young boys playing catch with a baseball and gloves. I do not know which one was singing, but I smile to myself and turn back to my birds all aglow. I’ll take that label any day! Birdwatcher I am!

3. goose-kab I find a Canada Goose picking among the reeds…

4. heron-kab I spot a heron out in the swamp wading and hunting for food…

5. mallards-kab On a nearby log a pair of mallards are soaking up the last rays of the setting sun,

6. hole-kab And then I spot this hole near the bank. Who lives here?

7. Muskrat-kab It isn’t long before the occupant returns home!

8. swimming-kab The muskrat heads for shore…

9. closer-kab then ducks under a log and emerges again even closer to the den.

10. land ho-kab It climbs out onto the bank with something red in its mouth.

11. watching-kab After a quick look at me where I am standing breathless and still …

12. blur-kab It darts for its hole in a blur…

13. dive in-kab and disappears into its den! I thought I could hear little voices squeaking from inside. I hope there will be little ones and that they will live to swim in the waters of the Stirling Street bog.

14. forsythia-kab Forsythia at the edge of the bog 4-10-12

So…I am not just a Birdwatcher, I am also a Wildlife Watcher as well!