Category Archives: birding

Tern 4

After a mediocre BBC walk at Mt. Auburn yesterday, I decided to swing over to Nahanton and finally catch up with the Yellow-throated Warbler. Took an hour and a half but I got brief, but good views (and a bit of song).


Had to get home after that, but after the grebe/Long-tailed Duck show on the res yesterday, I figured it was worth a quick check. I started by doubling back almost immediately to check some ducks before West St. that turned out to be Ring-necks. I had to double back again almost immediately as some dark blobs popped up as I started off again by Sylvan Rd. Those turned out to be 2 Horned Grebes and if I was patient I might have had some really good photos.

Horned Grebes

Around the bend there were two more blobs way out. Scoping, they had paler cheeks and I eventually realized Red-necked Grebes.

Red-necked Grebes

There were also a huge number of cormorants out by 128, haven’t gotten around to counting yet but somewhere between 100 and 200 easily (and many were already flying off).

I continued along, stopping at every opening or two for a quick scan. Most of the way down, I noticed a bird in flight. Actions looked a bit odd for a gull and the bit of pattern I could see wasn’t quite right. Two cars were passing me right then, so I had to wait a couple seconds to hop out and couldn’t refind it.

Fortunately, it came back and I confirmed the black cap, big black wedge on the wings, and huge size for a Caspian Tern. It then vanished again and took another few minutes before I was able to snap some lousy photos.

Caspian TernCaspian Tern

At this point, the phone came out. Not too surprisingly, Marj had just been there. She hadn’t seen it though. She (and Erik, who I knew was in the area) were there within 10 minutes but we never saw the bird again (whether it was just hiding, in a different corner of the res, or long gone I don’t know).

So that’s tern species #4 for Waltham! Arctic, Forster’s, or Sooty next?


I was planning on a quick run around the res this morning, but it appeared to clear up a bit so I ran to the Arlington Res first. Turned out that it wasn’t very nice but it was well worth the trip.

For a change, I went to the main parking lot. Two Herring Gulls were on the close islands and I could see more on the flat across the way. A quick scan showed one looking very white. There had been a very bleached one lately, but this looked different. A quick photo seemed to show an interesting bill pattern, so I hurried around to get better views.


Nothing obvious got me to pause on the way, so it only took a couple minutes to get to the far side. And as expected, the bird looked like a young Glaucous Gull.

Unfortunately, at this point, it hopped onto the rocks for a few seconds, then got up and started flying. I got some nice flight views and shots but was disappointed to watch it drift off instead of coming back in.




The rest of the walk was too windy and I barely avoided the heavy rain, but no complaints (I would trade days though…).


With the rain today, wasn’t expecting to go out (had debated circling the res but didn’t bother). A 3:15 call from Marj was a nice surprise then.


Glad someone was out and about, thanks Simon!


Today was supposed to be on the lousy side. I planned to be a bit lazy and then go on a quick check of the res and maybe some other ponds and the School St. fields if it wasn’t too bad. Instead it was bright and sunny, so I headed out early. A full loop of the Arlington Res was pretty quiet. One pintail, one Blue-winged Teal, and a snipe were about it on the water and nothing interesting among the sparrows at Busa.

Moving on to Sandy Beach, I had a couple Blackpolls but none of the other warblers that had been around (should have gone last week). A quick scan from the boat club had nothing, so I headed out to Acton. Construction made for a slow ride and there were no birds visible in the field. More construction on the way back and nothing but cormorants on Flint’s Pond.

From here, I decided a quick check of the north end of the Cambridge Res would be a good idea. I drove up and could see Bob getting into his car. I somewhat jogged down but he was long gone. A quick scan showed a few small ducks and some interesting lumps (which turned out to be lumps). That was enough to double back for the scope.

As I got the scope out, I could hear a good number of geese coming in. Once I was back at the opening, I gave them a quick count, saw nothing of interest among them, and went back to the ducks. Two wigeon were close (and a Greater Yellowlegs had wandered out) and there were teal further out. After some staring, I decided two were Blue-winged and the rest Green-winged. There had been a couple in fairly close too, so I panned back to confirm my count. The geese were swimming through and I noticed one looked very short-necked. Checking more carefully, it was also shorter-billed and smaller overall.


Feeling pretty good for Cackling, I attempted a couple photos (light is not good in the middle of the day here), then gave Bob a call, figuring he’d still be nearby. While waiting for him, the goose swam across and climbed out onto the far shore. The size difference was quite obvious as it crossed.


Bob arrived to confirm pretty quickly and Marj was a minute or two behind. Although distant, views actually were a bit better. As they fed, we got good comparisons at all angles. It was interesting how some views made it very obvious and others made it hard to pick out.


After a few minutes viewing, we all moved on. Marj went back later in the afternoon and got much better photos. So how many teal?

More Patch Ticking

After yesterday’s double (decided I wasn’t totally comfortable with the Lesser Yellowlegs), I agreed to lead a BBC chase for the sparrow, which would have been the 300th bird in the club’s Big Year. I decided to walk again, but since it was an early start, I went straight up Trapelo.

I did go down Emmaline and check conditions at the West Meadow (was soaked 1/3 of the way down and no obvious flycatchers), so I came in from Dawes. Almost as soon as I got through the gate, a warbler gave a couple chips to the left. I took a quick scan and saw what looked like a yellowthroat. However, on getting bins on it, the entire belly looked yellow and there was a fairly obvious eye-ring. I fumbled for the camera and managed a photo quiz quality shot:


The bird moved a bit and I lost track. Moving a bit closer to try and refind it, I heard another chip up high. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be coming from this:


My first August White-throated Sparrow.

I then met up with the large crowd and we fanned out. No luck with the Lark Sparrow and no luck refinding either of these goodies. Back home, seeing the photo on screen made it very obviously a Mourning Warbler and a quick email around was good confirmation. So my second for Waltham, first overall in fall, and a third patch tick in 2 days (only fourth of the year).