Owl Nest

Among other things, I took a walk around Lyons-Cutler Reservation today. Walking through the woods, I noticed an eggshell on the ground:

Egg

I started looking up and noticed a couple sticks in the tree right on the path. Looking carefully, a tail was visible:

Tail

At this point, I was fairly sure it was an owl, but not convinced. I took a few steps off the path and couldn’t find the bird. A few more steps however:

Ear Tufts

Guess that confirmed it. That’s Block Framingham 4. If the owner of the block wants more details I can try, although it was pretty much see the egg and look up.

Also had at least 4 Great Blue Herons on the nest.

Yard Sharpie

Yard Sharpie with Mourning Dove remains


Unfortunately the dove was just about finished when I got home. Every last bit of meat was plucked off. After the hawk left, we walked over and looked around and could barely find a trace other than the feathers.

Watching the hawk as it finished was quite interesting. Working on the last piece appeared to be difficult. The bird was having trouble holding it down to rip off the meat and kept pulling it up from under its other foot. Eventually, it moved to a branch where it was able to hold it down. After finishing, it spent quite a while wiping its bill on the branches, before shaking off a few times and taking off.

Winter List for Waltham 2006-2007

Stealing an idea from the Canadians, here’s a December-February list for Waltham. Dates and locations are the first sighting. Birds in bold are my first Dec-Feb sighting in Waltham.

  1. Canada Goose (12/1, Leitha)
  2. Mute Swan (12/2, HP from yard)
  3. Wood Duck (12/25, Lyman Pond)
  4. American Wigeon (12/9, HP from yard)
  5. American Black Duck (12/2, Charles)
  6. Mallard (12/2, HP)
  7. Green-winged Teal (1/21, Charles)
  8. Ring-necked Duck (12/8, Charles)
  9. Common Goldeneye (2/1, Charles)
  10. Hooded Merganser (12/1, HP from yard)
  11. Common Merganser (12/1, HP from yard)
  12. Ruddy Duck (12/2, HP)
  13. Great Blue Heron (12/2, HP)
  14. Turkey Vulture (12/17, Gore Estate)
  15. Cooper’s Hawk (12/17, Lexington St)
  16. Red-tailed Hawk (12/2, Prospect Hill)
  17. American Kestrel (12/28, UMass Field Station)
  18. Merlin (12/13, Hardy Pond)
  19. American Coot (12/2, HP)
  20. Ring-billed Gull (12/2, Lexington St)
  21. Herring Gull (12/1, Trapelo at Lexington)
  22. Iceland Gull (1/31, Stanley)
  23. Great Black-backed Gull (12/2, HP)
  24. Rock Pigeon (12/2, Trapelo)
  25. Mourning Dove (12/1, WHS)
  26. Eastern Screech-Owl (12/17, yard)
  27. Great Horned Owl (12/17, WHS)
  28. Belted Kingfisher (12/17, Charles)
  29. Red-bellied Woodpecker (12/20, Paine)
  30. Downy Woodpecker (12/2, yard)
  31. Hairy Woodpecker (12/2, Prospect Hill)
  32. Northern Flicker (12/17, Met State)
  33. Blue Jay (12/1, yard)
  34. American Crow (12/1, Trapelo at Lexington)
  35. Fish Crow (12/16, Charles)
  36. Black-capped Chickadee (12/1, WHS)
  37. Tufted Titmouse (12/1, WHS)
  38. White-breasted Nuthatch (12/1, yard)
  39. Brown Creeper (12/11, Paine)
  40. Carolina Wren (12/17, Lot 1)
  41. Golden-crowned Kinglet (12/2, Prospect Hill)
  42. Eastern Bluebird (12/17, Met State)
  43. Hermit Thrush (1/20, Met State)
  44. American Robin (12/1, WHS)
  45. Northern Mockingbird (12/2, yard)
  46. European Starling (12/2, Smith St.)
  47. Yellow-rumped Warbler (1/4, Charles)
  48. American Tree Sparrow (12/6, Waverly Oaks Marsh)
  49. Song Sparrow (12/2, Charles)
  50. White-throated Sparrow (12/1, Leitha)
  51. Dark-eyed Junco (12/1, Leitha)
  52. Northern Cardinal (12/2, yard)
  53. Red-winged Blackbird (12/17, Charles)
  54. Common Grackle (12/17, Hardy Pond)
  55. House Finch (12/1, yard)
  56. American Goldfinch (12/1, yard)
  57. House Sparrow (12/1, yard)

Dec: 1: 16, 2: 33, 6:34, 8:35, 9:36, 11:37, 13:38, 15: 39, 17: 49, 20: 50, 25: 51, 28: 52

Jan: 4: 53, 20: 54, 21: 55, 31: 56

Feb: 1: 57

So final total 57, which is the same as last year. Overall total is now 74, with the additions of Brown Creeper, Eastern Bluebird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Hermit Thrush, and Iceland Gull. From my calculations, there were at least 210 on the overall Massachusetts list this year.

Early March

A few pictures from the weekend:

Green-winged Teal

American Coot

Both at the Charles. And at Lyman Pond:

Eastern Screech-Owls!

Those should be the first birds I’ll confirm for the BBA

And today I found my first Killdeer of the spring at the UMass Field Station. Too bad it’s going to be frozen to the ground tonight and the rest of the week. Things should be picking up after that.

Townsend's Again

My father decided that he really should see the Townsend’s, so we went back over this morning. Although the sun made the drive over pretty rough, it was well worth it. Before we even rounded the corner, the bird was sitting on the fence at the front of the yard. It alternated between the fence and tree for a while, before dropping to the ground. Eventually, it flew to the big tree on the street and then took off. Not only did we get excellent looks, but we heard it calling this time, a very different buzzy note.

Given that it was on the fence, I got a few pictures, much better than the previous ones.

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend's Warbler

Townsend's Warbler

#450!

Today I finally caught up with the Townsend’s Warbler that has been hanging around in Cambridgeport for the last few weeks (at least).

After spending almost 5 hours last Sunday (with one person getting a likely sighting) and another 3 hours yesterday (seen 10 minutes before and several times after), today’s effort was almost too easy. We left the house at about 6:50 and were parking by 7:10, which was pretty good for lots of red lights and a detour at Mt. Auburn. We walked over, said hi to Phil Brown and a minute later the bird popped up and proceeded to sit in the open for probably 45 minutes.

Townsend's Warbler

I took several photos, but that’s the only one that’s good enough to show publicly.

So that’s 450 in the US now. Should have gotten to that in New Mexico, but within 3 months isn’t too bad.

Iceland in Waltham!

Today was an early release day, so school got out right about when I normally head for lunch. I waited a few extra minutes and in that time my boss came over and told me to go pick up a computer at Plympton that appears to have a virus.

That wasn’t a big deal and got me over to Prospect Hill instead of the Paine Estate for a change. Not that there was much more doing there, but I did finally get a Golden-crowned Kinglet for the year (think it’s at least 2 years running now I’ve managed Ruby-crowned first). I then headed over to Plympton, and as I walked in, noticed that although the name of the computer was for Plympton it was labeled Stanley and had a moved to ST (temp) note. A quick walk through the library and a call back to the office confirmed that, so off to Stanley.

I grabbed the computer pretty quickly and headed back out. Walking to the car, I noticed a handful of crows with something above them. They didn’t seem to be that interested in it, but I still hoped for an eagle and figured it was a Red-tail. A couple seconds later, it turned and I could see the grayish upperwing of a gull.

I got to the car and started digging the keys out (not easy with a big tower in your hands). The gull came in closer and I was rather shocked to see that there was no black in the wingtips! Very definitely an Iceland Gull although I would have been much happier with an extended view. Unfortunately, it completely disappeared while I was getting into the car, so I couldn’t find any justification to chase it while I was supposed to be heading back to work. Suddenly the wild goose chase was worth it.

Forty Twelve-Monthers

At lunch today, a Turkey Vulture flew overhead. Not only did I get a great view of it, but it was the first one I’ve seen in Massachusetts in January.

A few years ago, I started making spreadsheets of how many birds I had seen in each half of a month. The original idea was to get a sense of when birds were around. Pretty quickly, I realized that a single lingering bird ruined the yes/no aspect of that. I don’t think it’s worth adding in actual counts or number of sightings to make that more accurate (I can always make a bar graph if I really want to know). However, I soon found that adding birds to each half month was a lot of fun.

With some shoddy record-keeping I had some really obvious holes in there. For example, I didn’t have a Rock Pigeon for September. Of course, this was when I was going to school and therefore wasn’t around to see one. I debated about making a trip across the border just for that purpose, but luckily I found a slightly better reason. I’ve eliminated most of those holes now (at least at the Massachusetts and Middlesex county levels, Waltham has a ways to go), but it’s still fun to look for birds bordering on the edge. And there’s quite a few on the edge. I dug through my stack of Bird Observers and Birds of Massachusetts and think I ended up with 70% of all possible blocks checked off.

Back to today, not only was the vulture a new month bird, but January was the only month I was missing. I’ve now seen one in all 12 months, and as you can probably guess from the title, this is the 40th bird that I’ve done that with. Only 100 to go. And then it’s the halves.

Concord CBC

Yesterday I joined the Concord CBC for the first time. After some initial discussions about being in either Wayland, Weston, or Lincoln, I was assigned to cover section 7 in Sudbury. Section 7 is bordered by Wayland to the east, Rt. 20 to the north, Brimstone Lane to the west, and Framingham to the south. Other than at the Wild Birds Unlimited feeders, I don’t think I’ve ever birded in the area. Luckily, I was given a list of 3 places to try and some directions.

We had gone to scout Lyons-Cutler Reservation last weekend, finding 4 Brown Creepers and not much else. Otherwise it was all completely new to us. Driving there, we did see a field or two that were part of Great Meadows. However, today was the last day of hunting season and that area was labelled “Hunter Parking Only” so we weren’t about to stop.

Today, we left the house at about 7:15. Just before we got to Wayland center, a Great Blue Heron flew by. Not in the territory, but likely to be missed by whoever, so I marked it down. We turned down Pelham Island Road to see if there was anything obvious in the fields once we crossed the town line. Before we got there, a Belted Kingfisher flew over Heard Pond. Also marked down in case it wasn’t seen later.

There was nothing on Pelham Island Road, so we headed over to Lyons-Cutler. Since the way in from Raymond Rd. had some tough walking, we went to the other entrance, near the Israel Loring School. Unfortunately the directions were wrong (the last turn was left and not right) but we did see a few crows while sidetracked. A mockingbird and starling were both calling at the school and several juncos were on the grass.

We started down the road and heard a White-throated Sparrow and Carolina Wren. The actual entrance to Lyons-Cutler is through a private easement that runs on the edge of a rather expensive property. We reached the trail quickly and almost immediately had the bird of the day. A Ruffed Grouse flushed and gave us a brief but good view of it as it flew. A county bird and only the 3rd I’ve seen, although it was in the top 5 of the birds I should have seen in the county by now.

We continued down the trail and headed to the right. A whole bunch of crows flew in nearby and started screaming, but we couldn’t see anything and kept going. We reached the water, where I thought I heard a creeper and there were lots of Mallards and Black Ducks as well as a Mute Swan and a Red-tailed Hawk. The crows were getting louder, so we went down the side path to see if we could get a better view. No luck with that, but we did find a Cardinal and several White-throated Sparrows.

The crows were still screeching when we returned, so I decided that we really should check them out. Unfortunately, they stopped as we got closer (the pines they were in weren’t near any trail anyway). We continued on and tried another side path without finding much.

We reached the spot where we had the creepers and other birds last weekend but it was totally silent today. Continuing on however, we soon heard several chickadees. Stopping to check them out, we found quite a few birds. Mostly chickadees, but a few nuthatches, titmice, and a Downy or two mixed in. We moved to get a better view and a larger bird popped up in the lower trees to the side. Very reddish brown. A Fox Sparrow! It was joined by a junco and started to preen facing away from us. But then a second one popped up and stared in our direction. Very nice birds. And it got even better as a Red-breasted Nuthatch made a brief appearance (the first one I’ve seen in Eastern Mass since May).

We took one more side trail, trying to get another view of these birds but it didn’t quite work. A second Carolina Wren started calling though. Returning to the main loop, we started around and back. Not too far up, a large brown bird took off from a tree on the side of the path. It couldn’t have been anything but a Great Horned Owl. Another excellent bird.

We continued along and this time definitely heard a Creeper at the same spot as the possible one earlier, but never found it. Two Hairy Woodpeckers called as well. A Kingfisher was sitting out in the open over the brook. On our way back to the trail out, we heard another creeper.

Back at the car, we returned the way we came. I hopped out at the Raymond Rd. entrance to walk back up the road and see if there was anything around. A single crow and jay, along with a Tree Sparrow were it, although a Muskrat was in the brook and sat for a few seconds.

We decided that the best course of action from here would be to head to Nobscot Reservation and get directions to the railroad trail at lunch. Although there are several entrances, we ended up at the main one on Nobscot Rd. There were a few of the basic forest birds around the parking lot and by the feeders but not much else. We took the Legion Trail for a few minutes, but since we saw and heard nothing, we headed back. On the way, we picked up a Blue Jay and heard a Hermit Thrush chucking.

Deciding to move on, we went back to Landham Rd. and walked along the edge near the brook. It was very quiet, but we did find a Golden-crowned Kinglet and a Kingfisher put in an appearance as we got back to the car. I called it a second one and think it was likely, although it may have been the one at Lyons-Cutler.

It was lunchtime so we headed to Wolbach Farm to meet with the other Sudbury people. Although we expected several, there were only 4 others. The chili was very good and it felt real good to relax out of the cold for a while. Ron showed me where to go for the railroad, although he wasn’t sure of how easy it would be.

We headed out again around 1 in moderate snow. Parking at Mill Village, we started down the trail. It was a bit overgrown in places and hard to see with the snow picking up a bit. We finally found 2 Mourning Doves and soon came across one good pocket, with many White-throats, Juncos, Titmice, Cardinals, Chickadees, a Carolina Wren, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. We soon reached the bridge. It was slippery and we couldn’t judge the condition that well, so we turned around. Before doing so, a Song Sparrow called, the first one of the day.

Back at the car, we decided to drive around and look for feeders. We tried for 45 minutes but didn’t find any active ones. We did find plenty of Rock Pigeons and 2 Ring-billed Gulls to get the day’s list up to 33.

At 2:20, we gave up and went to Dunkin’ Donuts to get a hot chocolate and add up the totals. We sat around until about 2:50 then went to Wolbach to turn everything in. I didn’t hear much from the other groups, but one did have 4 screech-owls and another had a catbird, so it sounds like everyone had a fairly decent day at least.

We could have stopped after the first bird and had a great day, but the morning as a whole was excellent. The snow hindered the afternoon. Hopefully next year, I’ll find a few more areas to cover and be able to fill out the day.