Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Birding in West Parish Cemetery

1. gateway-kab Entrance 5-5-2012

2. signage-kab 

Last Saturday Gus and I decided to go for a walk around the West Parish Cemetery in Andover. It is a place we drive by often. I came here during February to count birds for the Great Backyard Bird Count but had to enter a count of zero since I did not see any birds. Still, ever the optimist, I hoped things would be better today, so I brought along my camera and binoculars. If nothing else I figured I could take pictures of the graveyard.

3. archway-kab So, we parked in the parking area and walked in under the archway.


4. detail DSC_0041 

5. gate detail DSC_0040 

6. graveyard DSC_0013 It is a cool and gray day with all the colors of spring on display.


7. pond-kab We walk down by the pond where the fake ducks swim with the real ones.


8. GBHE DSC_0003 I watch a Great Blue Heron hunting frogs at the edge of the pond.


9. bee swarm-kab As we walk along one of the curators points out a bee swam in a tree.


10. monument DSC_0022 This sculpture captures my eye and my interest.

As we are walking up a bit of a hill I am looking all around me for birds. so far robins and chipping sparrows rule the day and I have not seen a single warbler, which is what I am hoping for. At the moment Gus and I have the place to ourselves and we are walking in quiet companionship. Suddenly I hear a bit of peeping and see movement from the base of a pine tree. Then, I am astonished to see a mother duck with ducklings rush out from the nook she was hiding in. Even more astonishing is her small head and the white ring i see around her eye! It is a wood duck! Oh MY! and the ducklings look newly hatched! Wood ducks nest high in tree cavities and when the ducklings hatch they have to leap to the ground and then get to the safety of water. I do not know how long this little family has been nestled here at the base of this tree but now the Mamma and her duckling head for the nearby bushes.

11. duck family DSC_0024 Wood ducks blur.

They are so fast that I barely get a shot off before they disappear behind the foliage. The little duckings run in groups, first about 4 to 6 follow, then a few more. Gus and I stand still and watch. Just when we think they are all safe, the last little sleeper comes rushing out, but he makes the mistake of going to the uphill bushes instead of the downhill bunch where the rest of his family went! Gus and I watch and listen as he peeps and peeps but the rest of the family stays quiet and safe in the brush. I no longer care about photos, I just want the little one to find his Mamma! There is about an eight to ten foot gap between the small bush by the road that he is in, and the larger cluster of bushes where the rest of the family is hiding.

12. hiding place DSC_0028 This is the tree they were nestled beneath and the bushes they ran to.

So Gus and I develop a strategy to reunite the baby with its family. I stand quietly on the uphill side of the small bush. Gus stands at the edge of the bush and the road. We both take simultaneous steps towards the bush to herd the duckling downhill towards its family. All the time we can hear its frantic peeping and see it darting around beneath the small bush. Finally it breaks free and runs downhill and into the Azaleas with its Mom and siblings! OH my! I am so relieved! Now I start wondering, which tree was the nest hole in, and which pond will the mom take the ducklings to? The first pond we walked by is about 1/10 of a mile away to the east and downhill. It is the deeper and wider pond.

13. frong pond-kab Frog Pond by the Chapel

Just uphill and across another slim road is the frog pond with more fake ducks. It is closer but more shallow and with less protection.

14. chapel DSC_0031 Back of the Chapel which overlooks the pond.


15. maples-kab Pond from the other side looking back towards the knoll where the ducks were.

As we walk past the frog pond and the chapel, I spot another wetland with deeper water and cover. I also know that down by the other pond a little brook runs off into the woods. I can only hope that the Mama duck will wait until a quiet time to move her ducklings to safety. More and more cars are starting to show up now, as well as other walkers and children on bikes.

16. chapel front DSC_0036 West Parish Cemetery Chapel from the front


17. gaves-kab DSC_0038 View across from the Chapel

We spent about an hour and a half walking the mile circumference of the cemetery. It was a pleasant walk and I did see many more birds than the last time I was here, but it isn’t hard to come up from zero!

18. Exit-kab Good-bye!

Birds Seen at West Parish Cemetery on May 5, 2012

  1. Canada Geese (heard only)
  2. Wood Duck 13
  3. Mallard 4
  4. Great Blue Heron 2
  5. Red-tailed hawk 1
  6. Northern flicker 1
  7. Blue Jay 2
  8. American Crow 2
  9. Black-capped Chickadee 2
  10. Tufted Titmouse 4
  11. American Robin 8
  12. Chipping sparrow 10
  13. Northern Cardinal 1
  14. Red-winged blackbird 2
  15. House Finch 2
  16. American Goldfinch 4

19. pond-kab


  1. Lovely setting Kathie. That looks like a peaceful place that's beautiful in its own right, the birds are just a great bonus!

    1. Laurence, it is a peaceful place to walk and to bird.

  2. A beautiful setting, love the metalwork on the gates. The picture of the heron catching a frog is amazing. our have captured such beautiful rich colours in your pictures.

    1. Gillian, I love the metalwork also. I have a brother who always pays attention to detail so I put those in there especially for him!

  3. A pleasant and peaceful place to walk around and take photos Kathie, not keen on the bee swarm though.{:) Give them a wide berth.

    1. Roy, no worries about the bee swarm. It was too cold for them to fly. The grounds keeper said it had been there for days and she was worried about them dying if ti didn't warm up soon for them to take off and build a new hive. You can see they are all a blur in their attempts to stay warm.

  4. Kathie, what a beautiful cemetery. Great list of birds. I love the heron shot. Happy Birding!

  5. I think that grave yards are a bit of an under-rated wildlife resource. In many big cites I suppose they could be one of the larger areas of open land.

    Nice set of pictures.

    Stewart M - Australia

    1. Stewart, you are so right and I often look for them when I am someplace new as a great place to see birds. There is a famous one here in Massachusetts called Mount auburn Cemetery. I have yet to go there. It's on my list of places to visit and bird.

  6. So glad you could help out the wayward duckling. Great shot of the heron catching a frog but that bee swarm is kind of scary. Love the architecture of this beautiful place.

    1. Gaelyn, I love the architecture too! the heron shot was just luck but I am so glad I was in the right place at the right time with my camera ready!

  7. Hi Katie...How fresh and lovely are spring leaves and grasses of so many hues of color!! Just a great time of year!!
    Nice one of the heron catching the frog!!
    Hope your not getting this rain we are here!!

    1. Grace, we DID get the rain and we needed it! we were having wildfires in various areas before it came but I believe they are all out now.

  8. What a great story Kathie, with a happy ending. That's a beautiful cemetery -- we've noticed that they are often great birding places (although I've never been as lucky as you.)

    1. Sallie, I am so glad we were able to herd the little duck back to its Mamma. it was causing me distress as well as the ducks!

  9. looks very nice there!!
    the Heron shot is amazing!! wow!! poor frog...but that reflection...GREAT picture!

    that swarm of bees...HUGE!! wouldn't want to be anywhere near there when they got disturbed.

    looks like a terrific place to wander...and relax...and look for birds...


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.