Day 6

Today would be another try for the Swainson’s and then a trek back to Norfolk and flights home.

We were out again early. This time McDonald’s was open and close to prepared. We headed for Alligator River, making a brief stop at the Bear Road spot we had tried the other day without anything.

We went to the Superspot. As we passed the marsh, there were some odd calls but nothing we really made note of. Further on, I spotted a Barred Owl perched on the side of the road. We all got excellent views. For some reason, I didn’t feel like dealing with the camera right then and am now kicking myself.

We soon reached the spot where we had been the other day. We parked and began to walk up the road. Pretty quickly we thought we heard something and were soon fairly sure that it was a singing Swainson’s. Finding a decent viewpoint, we stopped and Don played the tape. The bird came right in! We watched it as it moved from a pile of branches onto the ground and stayed more or less in sight for about a minute. I went for the camera pretty quickly, but had forgotten to check the settings, so I was still set on the more distant focus (which changed the close focus point to well over 20 feet). I got some nice blurry habitat photos but no bird (I expected at least a blurry bird in there, but haven’t been able to find it).

I did get a shot of a Five-lined Skink at least:


With that great success and plenty of time, we decided to stop and look for Yellow-throated Warbler on the way out and then head back to Bodie Light and see if there was anything different around. As we passed the marsh, Don pulled the most difficult sighting I’ve ever seen by someone driving when he spotted a King Rail! We were able to stop and back up and all got very good looks at it for a few seconds before it finally disappeared.

On the main road, we stopped at the pines where the warblers were likely. With a good bit of effort we heard one repeatedly and eventually got some distant views. Not great, but everyone did see a bird this time.

This Harlequin Darner also posed quickly:

Harlequin Darner

We continued on to the coast, stopping briefly for gas for the first time of the trip. At Bodie Light, we had a similar assortment of sandpipers and herons. They were closer in and we were able to get good looks at Short-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin, Semipalmated Plover, and Least Sandpiper. A Common Yellowthroat posed extremely nicely at the top of a small tree. I attempted a couple lighthouse shots, but didn’t have a small enough lens to get more than half at once. There were also numerous Seaside Dragonlets flying around.

Bodie Light

Common Yellowthroat

Short-billed Dowitcher

While waiting for people at a bathroom/giftshop break at the car, a Fish Crow made an appearance. And then it was off north. We took a more coastal route for a while, which was loaded with traffic and nothing much. Eventually we stopped for lunch at some tourist-trap looking restaurant just before the Virginia border. The food was pretty good. On our way out, we started talking to some people outside selling jewelry. They told us about the sparrow nests right there and also gave us a tip for cheaper gas back in Norfolk.

We made it back to the airport fairly easily (we got lost at the same spot we did on the way down). The rental car return was out in the middle of a parking lot, it didn’t look like fun for the staff and was a fairly long walk to the terminal.

Inside, we said our goodbyes and headed to the gates. The flight left right on time and went smoothly. I was able to see a few terns as we made our approach, but couldn’t identify any for sure. There was a little delay getting off the plane (another down the stairs, walk outside, back up) but that meant we didn’t have as long to wait for bags.

My parents were waiting at the baggage claim and offered to take Don to his car at Wonderland. That turned out to be a worthwhile detour, as on our way back to the Pike an American Kestrel flew by, which was one of the big misses of the trip.

Back home before dinner, glad I had the next day off.

Day 5

Day 2 on the boat made Day 1 look good. We started out the same, missing the terns again. Once out into the ocean, we had a few jaegers and started seeing shearwaters and storm-petrels.

A bit of excitement came as 3 Pomarine Jaegers buzzed by several times. There were more Cory’s Shearwaters around (one was called a Scopoli’s by Todd McGrath although I couldn’t say anything other than it looked slightly different). A Manx buzzed through, but I didn’t see anything more than just a dark blob moving.

At one point, a Bridled Tern made a distant appearance. This was a bird Nancy really wanted and I started to find her. Someone else shouted “No, Long-tailed Jaeger.” That didn’t make any sense to me and I stopped to take another look. Of course, the bird kept going and Nancy didn’t get on it. I’d say I saw it enough to count, but not great for a life bird.

Somewhere along the way we found a large sack of drugs floating on the water and had to sit around waiting for the Coast Guard to pick it up. Interesting, but not enough birds to be thrilled. The fishing was dull as well, with only one caught today.

We did have a few Black-capped Petrels, one of which was cooperative. Again, we had a leader only Band-rumped Storm-Petrel. The jaegers made another appearance and came almost within touching distance before sitting on the water for a few minutes.

The leaders gave up pretty early today and most of the time was very birdless. We ended up getting back in so early that the captain was able to pull off to the side just before going under the bridge and let us watch the terns for several minutes. I finally got a decent look at the Sandwich (thanks Christine for thinking to ask) and took some nice photos of a Royal as well (good enough to see that it was banded). No one even offered a tally for today.

Just to show how Pileateds were everywhere this trip, I saw one flying down a side street as we returned to the hotel. After a quick stop, we went out looking for a nicer dinner. Ken and someone else from the boat joined us (I should have noted names, Julie I think). All were fairly disgusted by the leaders and it doesn’t sound like anyone wants to go out of Manteo again. We ended up at The Full Moon Cafe, which turned out to be very nice. I had shrimp and grits, which was quite good and different. Everyone else’s food looked as good. The service was incredibly nice, splitting our checks even though they have a no splitting for parties of more than 5 policy.

We went back to the hotel, said good-bye to Ken and Julie and started packing to get ready to leave tomorrow.

Today’s photos:

The Jaeger Show:

Light Morph

Dark Morph

Light again

Dark again

Rather close to the boat

Dark on Water

Dark on Water

Dark taking off

On the water with a Greater Shearwater

The Drugs:



Black-capped Petrel

Black-capped Petrel


Cory's Shearwater



Banded Royal

Day 4

Today was the first of two days offshore. An early start again, stopping at the 7-11 with the rest of the hotel and grabbing some food quickly. At the dock, we couldn’t really hear the instructions but not a big deal.

Since I didn’t keep track as carefully of what order things were in, I’ll just list some of the highlights and add pictures at the end (mostly).

We started with terns in the harbor. I missed the good ones (Sandwich and Caspian). Out of the harbor, we had a few loons and gannets and not much else for quite some time. A couple miles out we had an odd surprise with a Chimney Swift buzzing by. Eventually we started seeing a few shearwaters (Sooty and Greater) and many Storm-Petrels.

We had a few jaegers eventually (Pomarine, of which I spotted the first, and Long-tailed). More shearwaters were around, including a few Cory’s and Audubon’s. We also had a nice side-by-side comparison of Arctic and Common Terns right at the boat (brilliantly I took no pictures).

There was a little excitement when a Black-capped Petrel passed through. It didn’t stay and many people missed it. I happened to see it as it came over the horizon and was on it, but I don’t think anyone that only looked once the call went out actually got on it. Rather surprising, it was the only one of the day.

The morning fishing was fairly good. We reeled in 5 or 6 Dolphinfish (Mahi-mahi) and hooked something else that got away. At one point, we had 3 on hooks at once.

Things cooled off for a while. There was a brief rush over a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel that ended up being leader-only. A few Cory’s Shearwaters joined us for some time and some Audubon’s passed through.

After a snack break, we finally had a decent bit of excitement when a South Polar Skua came in, landed on the water and grabbed some of the chum and then left.

The Skua deserves its own segment here:


Cue Jaws theme





Close enough to see the food

Flying Skua

Flying Skua

Flying Skua

Skua with fish

I did get a shot with the head out, but there was a head in the way, so not quite.

Skua leaving

Skua leaving

See you!

After that, things stayed very dull. The leaders decided to move to the color change. Before getting there, we found a few Cobia, an expensive fish that the captain stopped to catch and missed. A little further we saw a few Spotted Dolphins. Shortly after, we found an absolutely enormous pod of Common Dolphins. Mike Tove (who wrote the book on North Atlantic marine life) estimated the numbers in the thousands and said it was by far the largest number he’s ever seen. We also had a Loggerhead Turtle here.

We still didn’t find much in birds, although a Red-necked Phalarope was nice (especially since I thought the flying fish earlier were phalaropes and couldn’t figure out how they kept disappearing into the waves).

Back into the harbor, the same terns were around, which I again missed. I did see some Oystercatchers and a Ruddy Turnstone, both new to the trip. In not much of a surprise, no one stayed around to hear the day’s totals.

We wandered around for a little while looking for dinner and finally just went back to the country kitchen. Again, cheap and decent. The White Ibis right on the side of the road was quite different from roadside birds at home.

Greater Shearwater and Storm-Petrel

Pomarine incoming

Pomarine outgoing

Pomarine sitting

One of the day's catch

Greater Shearwater on the water


Splashing Shearwater

Flying Greater

Greater taking off

Common Dolphin

Common Dolphins

Day 2

Today was an early start as we wanted to be back at the Croatan and get the singing Bachman’s Sparrows. We slowed briefly on the way in to listen to a Yellow-breasted Chat and a mystery noise that was likely a Red-shouldered Hawk, although being next to a farm we weren’t sure it wasn’t something more exotic (another farm up the road had guinea fowl running around). We went straight to the place we had the sparrows last night and had no luck whatsoever (one quick distant song was it). We did have more Brown-headed Nuthatches, including one that came close to posing, a gnatcatcher at a nest, and a perched Turkey Vulture.

[Update: I had the Stokes CD on recently and with a month to ruin my memory, the mystery noise sounded a whole lot like the Barn Owl.]

Brown-headed Nuthatch

Turkey Vulture

Great Crested Flycatcher

Eventually, we moved back to where we had the woodpeckers last night as it was in the general direction of that single song. The woodpeckers made a brief appearance and we had a Red-headed or two as well. Prairie Warblers were everywhere as well.

After poking around for a good bit of time, Don decided to try another spot mentioned in the book, which was up and around the road. Just as we turned I spotted a Wood Duck high in a tree and another Red-headed Woodpecker came through. Down the new road, we had brief looks at a couple Bobwhite right at the side of the road.

We soon reached the spot and started to walk a bit. It was slightly more open here and Don decided to try the tape quickly. Almost immediately a single bird flew up onto a short branch at eye level maybe 50 feet in and sat there. The shape was incredibly distinct, looking like nothing else (I don’t remember the Botteri’s I saw in Arizona being this different). We all got excellent scope views. I snapped a couple pictures, but the lighting was awful so they are just short of being silhouettes.

Bachman's Sparrow

With that success, we went to try the spot here for Swainson’s Warbler. Although it supposedly required wellies, the edges were dry enough that I was able to go around without testing my boot covers. No sign of any Swainson’s, but we had nice views of a Hooded Warbler (overhead!) and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. I made a pit stop on the way out and had a second Hooded buzz by. We heard a few Prothonotaries as well, but didn’t spend any time working on.

We took the long drive back to the VOA site without seeing much of anything. Heat waves were worse today. Again Don and I thought we heard a single Henslow’s sing once or twice but weren’t sure. Given that we could only really see a very short distance out, it was quite likely to be there and just not be visible. We did hear a Grasshopper Sparrow and there were several Common Nighthawks working overhead. [Update: I saw posts on Carolina Birds] from people who had them fairly easily later on.]

Eventually we gave up and started for Manteo, looking for lunch on the way. We found some sort of southern country buffet that wasn’t particularly good. It was all that was available when we wanted food, so it was fine anyway.

We continued on and made a stop at Alligator River NWR (Buffalo City Rd) on the way. We alternated between driving a short distance and walking. At the first stop, we heard a Kentucky Warbler (glad I had the one at Mt. Auburn the Sunday before to keep it fresh). I found another new dragonfly, a Great Blue Skimmer.

Further down, we got a nice Prothonotary Warbler, right out in the open. Great looks at this bird finally. And after that first one, they were getting in the way. At the far end of the road, we walked the side trail a bit. A Yellow-throated Warbler was singing. I got a brief, but good look at it as it crossed the trail and then kept going, but everyone else missed it.

Prothonotary flying

Palamedes Swallowtail

We finally reached Manteo, and quickly checked in at the Duke of Dare. It apparently was dumpier than last time (and wasn’t all that great to begin with), but since we were basically just crashing it didn’t matter too much. For dinner, we went to Big Al’s (owned by the captain of the Country Girl). The food was ok, although portions were small and it was noisy. We decided that it wasn’t worth trying for Black Rail and that was it for the day.

Day 1

Day 1 (May 23) started with a 6 AM trip to the airport. A Downy Woodpecker in the yard, a Red-tail on 128, and gulls and cormorants on the Pike got things going. After being dropped off, I waited for the outside check-in, although the line was probably a lot longer than the one inside was inside. Still didn’t take much time to get through there and through security.

Waiting for the plane, I went back and forth between the TV and people watching. One guy stuck out as looking somewhat like a birder, but I remembered Don as having a thick mustache. Apparently he had shaved, as he eventually came over and picked me as the other birder pretty easily.

We chatted for a few minutes about equipment and what we wanted to see. The call to board came fairly soon and we started for the plane. Between getting out tickets checked and reaching the plane (which was outside), someone called out to Don. It turned out to be Ken, whom he had met on an Attu cruise. Ken was from California, but had flown in to Boston to try for Sharp-tailed Sparrows, Purple Sandpiper (successful), and Bicknell’s Thrush. He was flying down to Norfolk, running up to Cape May for Curlew Sandpiper, and then taking 10(!) days of boat trips, so we would see him again later.

The flight was very easy. Once it was obvious that the plane was barely half-full, I got a row to myself. No luck finding oystercatchers as we took off. We landed early and quickly made our way down to the baggage claim.

In record time, we not only had our bags, but Lynn and Nancy both arrived. I think we had everyone together and ready to go to the car rental within 15 minutes of getting off the plane.

The car rental took a few minutes, but soon we were on the road. We made a quick stop at the local Subway, grabbed a few bottles of water, picked up our first Laughing Gull, and were off.

We made it into North Carolina with only one wrong turn (which we would make on the way back as well). We took a short rest stop at the Roanoke/Cashie River Center, where we immediately had a first year male Orchard Oriole, which turned out to be the only oriole of the trip. We soon continued on and somewhere along the way I got a Black Vulture that no one else was able to get on at 70 MPH.

Eventually, we reached the VOA site to scout for Henslow’s Sparrow. Don and I both thought we heard one once or twice but couldn’t be sure. We definitely heard Summer Tanager and saw a few Eastern Meadowlarks. The site itself is quite interesting, a giant open field with a bunch of radio towers (short-wave apparently) half a mile or more out in the middle. I also picked up a life dragonfly here with a distant Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) and there were a few butterflies as well.

After a few minutes here, we moved on and eventually reached our hotel in New Bern, where we had a few minutes to relax. But not too long as we headed out to bird the Croatan National Forest (pronounced Cro-a-tan as we eventually found out, although Croe-tin and Cow-tan were in the running) and had a quick meal at Wendy’s.

There were a few farms on the road into the Croatan. Hiding among the horses at one was a number of Cattle Egrets.

Cattle Egret hiding

We arrived at the Croatan and began looking for Red-cockaded Woodpecker. The first spot didn’t have any, even with a good bit of trying, although a Common Nighthawk circling and landing and a flyby Pileated were both very good.

We moved on to a second location and fairly quickly heard something that sounded like it could be one. After bushwhacking a good distance, I spotted a single bird way off. Fortunately it flew in much closer and sat around long enough for everyone to get excellent views with the scope. A second bird soon flew in and also gave good looks. Both birds eventually went into their own holes and didn’t come back out, so they must have gone in for the night.

Red-cockaded Woodpecker

Happy with that success, we continued down the road a bit, mostly to get further down so we’d have more room to hopefully have a Chuck-will’s-widow on the ground. Several had started calling, and at our next stop several Bachman’s Sparrows were singing as well, although it was too dark to see them. Unfortunately on the drive out, a car zoomed past us, which pretty much eliminated any chance of there being any nightjars on the road.

Total for the day was about 47 species.

North Carolina Trip List

Life bird

  1. Canada Goose (many locations)
  2. Mute Swan (1 at Pea Island)
  3. Wood Duck (Croatan and ARNWR Superspot)
  4. Gadwall (Pea Island)
  5. Mallard (docks)
  6. Northern Bobwhite (heard in several places, two flushed in Croatan near Bachman’s Sparrow spot)
  7. Common Loon (several offshore both days)
  8. Northern Fulmar (I missed it)
  9. Black-capped Petrel (1 brief flyby first day, 4 or so the second with much better views)
  10. Cory’s Shearwater (several both days)
  11. Greater Shearwater (many both days)
  12. Sooty Shearwater (I only saw the first day)
  13. Audubon’s Shearwater (about 10 both days, we all missed a Manx)
  14. Wilson’s Storm-Petrel (many both days, leader only Band-rumped both days as well, plus Ken had something different the second day)
  15. Northern Gannet (many both days)
  16. Brown Pelican (all over the coast)
  17. Double-crested Cormorant (along the coast)
  18. Great Blue Heron (handful ARNWR)
  19. Great Egret (many Bodie Light and Pea Island)
  20. Snowy Egret (many Bodie Light and Pea Island)
  21. Little Blue Heron (Pea Island)
  22. Tricolored Heron (Bodie Light and Pea Island)
  23. Cattle Egret (Croatan)
  24. Green Heron (many in flight around ARNWR)
  25. White Ibis (all over Manteo and the coast)
  26. Glossy Ibis (Bodie Light and Pea Island)
  27. Black Vulture (1 on the highway, me only)
  28. Turkey Vulture (all over)
  29. Osprey (all over, many nests in the harbor)
  30. Bald Eagle (1 adult perched near ARNWR)
  31. Red-tailed Hawk (a handful on the highways)
  32. Clapper Rail (calling at the boat ramp between Bodie Light and Pea Island)
  33. King Rail (ARNWR on the road to the Superspot)
  34. American Coot (Pea Island)
  35. Black-bellied Plover (somewhere on the coast, apparently I forgot to write them down)
  36. Semipalmated Plover (Bodie Light)
  37. Killdeer (all over)
  38. American Oystercatcher (flying in the harbor, seen from the boat)
  39. Greater Yellowlegs (Bodie Light)
  40. Willet (Bodie Light)
  41. Spotted Sandpiper (Pea Island, this may have been only me)
  42. Whimbrel (Bodie Light)
  43. Ruddy Turnstone (Pea Island and from the boat)
  44. Sanderling (boat ramp)
  45. Semipalmated Sandpiper (Pea Island and Bodie Light, probably a Western mixed in a Bodie Light)
  46. Dunlin (Bodie Light)
  47. Curlew Sandpiper (Bodie Light, rather unexpected, see Day 3)
  48. Short-billed Dowitcher (Bodie Light)
  49. Red-necked Phalarope (2 offshore first day)
  50. South Polar Skua (1 offshore first day)
  51. Pomarine Jaeger (several both days)
  52. Long-tailed Jaeger (couple both days)
  53. Laughing Gull (all over)
  54. Herring Gull (all over Manteo)
  55. Great Black-backed Gull (all over Manteo)
  56. Gull-billed Tern (Pea Island, I think one flew by at Bodie Light as well)
  57. Caspian Tern (from the boat, I missed)
  58. Royal Tern (Bodie Light, boat ramp, from the boat)
  59. Sandwich Tern (from the boat both days, although I only got on one the second)
  60. Common Tern (offshore both days, probably some on shore as well)
  61. Arctic Tern (offshore both days)
  62. Forster’s Tern (Pea Island)
  63. Least Tern (boat ramp, Pea Island, harbor)
  64. Bridled Tern (1 offshore second day, very distant)
  65. Black Skimmer (Bodie Light and harbor)
  66. Rock Pigeon
  67. Mourning Dove
  68. Yellow-billed Cuckoo (calling all over, excellent views in the Croatan)
  69. Barred Owl (1 ARNWR Superspot the last day)
  70. Common Nighthawk (one perched and flying at Croatan the first night, several flying at VOA the second day)
  71. Chuck-will’s Widow (calling in several places)
  72. Chimney Swift (one offshore was rather interesting)
  73. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (ARNWR)
  74. Red-headed Woodpecker (several in Croatan)
  75. Red-bellied Woodpecker (all over)
  76. Downy Woodpecker
  77. Hairy Woodpecker
  78. Red-cockaded Woodpecker (2 going to roost at Croatan the first day, probably the same 2 the second day)
  79. Northern Flicker
  80. Pileated Woodpecker (all over, I have 15 marked down and probably undercounted)
  81. Eastern Wood-Pewee (all over)
  82. Acadian Flycatcher (ARNWR Superspot)
  83. Eastern Phoebe (Roanoke/Cashie River Center)
  84. Great Crested Flycatcher (all over)
  85. Eastern Kingbird
  86. White-eyed Vireo (heard only at Croatan near Bachman’s)
  87. Blue Jay
  88. American Crow
  89. Fish Crow (calling at Bodie Light)
  90. Purple Martin (several places)
  91. Tree Swallow (I missed somehow!)
  92. Barn Swallow
  93. Carolina Chickadee
  94. Brown-headed Nuthatch (they seemed to be in every stand of pines)
  95. Carolina Wren (heard-only! all over, yet we never saw one)
  96. Marsh Wren (Bodie Light, Pea Island)
  97. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (Roanoke/Cashie and a nest in Croatan)
  98. Eastern Bluebird (VOA)
  99. American Robin
  100. Gray Catbird
  101. Northern Mockingbird
  102. Brown Thrasher (Croatan and Norfolk airport)
  103. European Starling
  104. Northern Parula (Superspot)
  105. Black-throated Green Warbler (ARNWR Superspot at Milltail Rd)
  106. Yellow-throated Warbler (1 only me ARNWR Buffalo City Rd, 1 leaving Superspot seen by all)
  107. Pine Warbler (all over)
  108. Prarie Warbler (all over)
  109. Black-and-white Warbler (missed)
  110. Prothonotary Warbler (all over ARNWR, quickest transition from life bird to trash bird in a long time)
  111. Worm-eating Warbler (heard only Buffalo City)
  112. Swainson’s Warbler (singing at Superspot the last day, we tried several other places with no sign)
  113. Ovenbird (heard only Buffalo City)
  114. Kentucky Warbler (heard only Buffalo City)
  115. Common Yellowthroat (all over)
  116. Hooded Warbler (Croatan and Superspot)
  117. Yellow-breasted Chat (heard only Croatan)
  118. Summer Tanager (VOA)
  119. Eastern Towhee
  120. Bachman’s Sparrow (Croatan, singing along road in first night, much further second day)
  121. Chipping Sparrow
  122. Grasshopper Sparrow (heard only VOA, probably Henslow’s as well)
  123. Seaside Sparrow (Pea Island)
  124. Song Sparrow
  125. Northern Cardinal
  126. Blue Grosbeak (VOA)
  127. Indigo Bunting (all over)
  128. Red-winged Blackbird
  129. Eastern Meadowlark (VOA, Bodie Light, Pea Island, ARNWR)
  130. Common Grackle
  131. Boat-tailed Grackle (all over Manteo)
  132. Brown-headed Cowbird
  133. Orchard Oriole (Roanoke/Cashie)
  134. American Goldfinch
  135. House Sparrow

I also had 17 species of Odes (new ones included Rambur’s Forktail, Mantled Baskettail, Great Blue and Bar-winged Skimmers, and Carolina Saddlebags) and 10 butterflies (Palamedes Swallowtail was new).

Other stuff included American Alligator, Loggerhead Sea Turtle, Spotted Dolphins, Common Dolphins, Offshore Bottle-nosed Dolphins, Flying Fish, Cobia Fish, Dolphin Fish (Mahi-Mahi), and Hammerhead Shark (I missed the shark).

Bugs June 11

After a fun day in New Jersey at Edwin and Kiki’s 60th anniversary party, I had yesterday off. Started by sleeping late and then went to work on some atlasing. Nothing all that exciting birdwise at Lot 1, although I did get a few more common birds that I had been missing up to now. In the field was a nice selection of butterflies.

Dreamy Duskywing

Hobomok Skipper

Started with the Dreamy Duskywing above and then lots of Little Wood Satyrs, Ringlets, Peck’s Skippers, a single American Copper, some Silver-spotted Skippers, and the Hobomok Skipper above.

Long Dash

Long Dash

On the way out, I had this very nice Long Dash.

After finishing up with Green and Black-crowned Night-Herons on the pond, I headed to the Beaver Brook Duck Ponds to do an ode survey. It had clouded up a bit, so I walked down and around the stream a bit before starting. Once it cleared up, I got going but didn’t find all that much. The mystery clubtail from last week’s survey didn’t show, but I did get a few decent pictures of Skimming Bluet:

Stream Bluet

After a lunch stop, it was still sunny (furthering my belief that it’s best to ignore the weathermen and just do things until it’s no longer possible), so I headed out to do some more odeing. I decided to investigate the Littleton heron rookery and got there around 1:30.

As soon as I started down the train tracks, a train came so I ducked into the brush. There were a bunch of teneral spreadwings, but I didn’t want to handle them, so they were left unidentified. Once the train passed, I continued down the tracks. A fairly large orange butterfly flew by. It wasn’t stopping, so I figured it was just another American Lady (funny saying that after last year) but that turned out to be a mistake.

Variegated Fritillary

It soon landed and was no American Lady. Not only was it a life butterfly, but the Variegated Fritillary was posing very nicely. I would have liked an underside shot, but no complaints.

I eventually continued on (and the fritillary followed) and soon reached the pond. On the way in, I picked up a bunch of first-of-season skimmers. At the pond, it was fairly quiet, except for numerous Marsh Bluets.

Marsh Bluet

Marsh Bluets in tandem

I watched the herons for a few minutes and looked for the Red-headed Woodpecker (possibly heard, but not seen). Other than the bluets, the only other odes were a few Four-spotted Skimmers and a Common Green Darner. Eventually I began working my way back.

When I first came here, I had thought I was hearing the woodpecker on the other side of the tracks, which was also very swampy. I took a walk in and found an Aurora Damsel and a Sedge Sprite, neither of which wanted to pose. On the way back, I took a few swings at some baskettails that didn’t get close enough and refound the fritillary, now showing its underside.

Variegated Fritillary below

Back at the car, it was still nice, so I decided to stop at Fort Pond Brook on the Acton/Concord line on the way home. I wandered around for a while, finding some Lancet Clubtails, many Spangled Skimmers, a Prince Baskettail, and some nice butterflies.

probable Wild Indigo Duskywing

Northern Cloudywing

Lancet Clubtail

After making the loop straight out, I walked the trail along the edge of the brook. I finally caught a few baskettails, all of which were Common. Down on the Concord side, I found a bluet that I eventually figured out as Turquoise, which was a new one for me.

Turquoise Bluet

As I left, I found one last interesting sight, the remains of an Ebony Jewelwing on the ground.

Jewel wings

A fun day to be out.

Big Day

Today was quite the day.

I was co-leading a trip for the Prospect Hill Park Advocacy Group with Judy Marino this morning. The trip started at 8, but I arrived at 7 to scout a bit. There was quite a bit doing and fairly quickly I added a new bird to my Waltham list when a Canada Warbler and Common Yellowthroat started chasing each other. I worked my way uphill and picked up 10 species of warbler, including several new for the year (Magnolia, Redstart, Nashville, Ovenbird). There was also an out-of-place Swamp Sparrow about halfway up. After reaching the water towers, I headed back down and added Waltham bird #2 when a Veery started running across the road. It proved to be annoying, as the bird stayed facing away and eventually dropped into heavy brush. I did finally get a confirming look and also found a second one.

Back at the bottom, we began the trip, which was a good mix of Menotomy and PHPAG people. Almost immediately, we got excellent looks at several Baltimore Orioles and a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The Indigo Bunting was less cooperative and the Canada Warbler had disappeared.

We finished poking around the bottom of the hill and drove up to Big Prospect. Since I had seen a lot just downhill, we headed that way. Almost immediately, a Common Raven flew over, extremely low. I had thought I heard one at the park about 2 weeks ago, so it was great to confirm a county bird.

The hill was nowhere near as active, with just a brief look at a Black-throated Blue and a short bit of Towhee song. We returned to the cars, and as we walked up, 2 ravens flew off the tower! Checking from the other side, there was quite a collection of sticks, so it looks like they’re breeding here. Quite a record.

Raven Nest

Although I didn’t see the birds return, we did spot them several times later.

We moved on to Little Prospect, where we enjoyed the view and this Indigo Bunting.

Singing Indigo Bunting

We moved on to walk around the south end. Partway around, we finally hit a pocket of warblers, including BT Green, BT Blue, Parula, and Black-and-white. They were also joined by a Blue-headed Vireo and another Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Walking around the back, I found my first Common Whitetail of the year.

The trip was clearly a success (even without a Downy!).

I decided to head over to Assabet River NWR and look for more dragonflies. Arriving around 1PM, I had my first Whiteface almost as soon as I was through the gate. It didn’t hold still for a photo (like almost every whiteface today).

The Boghaunter show started shortly after, right at the first wet spot. There were a few whitefaces around as well, but not cooperative enough to ID. One thing that was cooperative was an oddly-marked Azure.


I’m guessing it’s a lucia form Cherry Gall.

A little further on was this American Lady.

American Lady

Another boghaunter showed up near the next wet area, posing nicely.

Ringed Boghaunter

Also in the general area was a single Stream Cruiser (who hid behind a pine) and several Springtime Darners.

Springtime Darner

Springtime Darner

Passing White Pond Road, the numbers increased. Soon there were 2-3 Boghaunters on the road almost all the time and many Whitefaces along the edge. There were also plenty of Eastern Pine Elfins, more Azures, and a handful of Tiger Swallowtails and Duskywings.

I almost got tired of the boghaunters, and gave up counting. However, at one point, something appeared to attack one. I heard the flutter as they collided and saw a second Boghaunter on top. I started snapping pictures while trying to figure out if they were about to mate or one was about to become the other’s lunch.

Two Boghaunters

Two Boghaunters

Two Boghaunters

They turned out to be mating as they flew away and moved into a wheel (not landing enough to get a shot off). I found a second pair in the wheel shortly after.

The whitefaces continued to stop at bad angles, but I was able to find a mating pair of Hudsonian and several male Dot-tailed that were old enough to be distinctive. The only one(s?) I got pictures of appeared to be Hudsonian.


The boghaunters continued in good numbers all the way down to marker #4. I’d estimate that there were at least 30 along the way.

Also along the way was a teneral Four-spotted Skimmer. I really wish everything posed like this one did.

Four-spotted Skimmer

(Click on it and then hit All Sizes to get a really good view)

Reaching Marker 4, I headed down Trail B, which was fairly quiet. However, once I reached White Pond Road, I started seeing more boghaunters and several more Four-spotted Skimmers. I’m guessing there were at least 10 more boghaunters, so that’s about 40. I followed Trail C back, but things slowed down a bit (other than a raven calling). I did find two forktails together (guessing I was just paying more attention after seeing the first to find the second).

Eastern Forktail

Fragile Forktail

Quite the day. Three city birds, one county, and tons of first-of-year stuff.

Early May Fun

Today was an excellent day, good birds everywhere. Starting at Arlington Res with just under 50 species, including 5 species of swallow, 6 warblers, and 5 blackbirds. A quick stop at Arlington Great Meadows was less productive (I was hoping for duskywings and elfins, but the clouds kept butterflies away), but I picked up a few more good birds including a Brown Thrasher, an Eastern Towhee, and a flyby Accipipter.

Later in the day, we headed out to Great Meadows in Concord. It was surprisingly slow, with only cormorants, mallards, geese, and swans on the water. A few Least Sandpipers made the trip worthwhile though.

Quiz: which one’s which?

This parula was singing in a bush well below eye level, wish the shot was a little better.

And this guy was singing right above (and another to the side, and 3 more further, and …)

Now you see me

Now you don’t

That got boring, so let’s sing instead.

No clue what this one was up to

Savannah posed nicely.

As did this Least Sandpiper later in the day at Great Meadows.

Assabet River Vultures

These guys all landed right in front of me. I got a good 60 shots. After I left, they moved on as well, and from the sound of things took the branch off with them.


This one really looks like a turkey at this angle:





Nothing other than these and the butterflies wanted to pose, but there were a few more things about including some Rusty Blackbirds (finally this year) and a Wild Turkey on the way over.