Week 12

Quiz 12

Taken September 2005 at Prospect Hill. And since I’ve used this photo elsewhere, it’s already tagged, so click for the answer if you’re impatient.

Duck Hunt

My field trip to the Waltham St. Fields had a rather interesting experience today. We saw a large, immature Cooper’s Hawk sitting in the trees along the channel. Once we got up to the water, we were getting good looks at the Wood Ducks and Green-winged Teal that were mixed in with the Mallards when the hawk decided it wanted one for lunch. It dropped over the water and hovered above the ducks for several seconds. The ducks flapped but didn’t take off and the hawk had to return to the trees. This repeated several times and by the third or fourth time I remembered I had my camera. Pictures aren’t great, but they do show a bit of the action.

The hawk was clearly concentrating on the smaller ducks but the ducks were smart enough to stay on the water, so it remained empty-taloned.

Cooper's Attacking Ducks

Cooper's Attacking Ducks

Cooper's Attacking Ducks

Cooper's Attacking Ducks

Place 7 – Farm Meadow

Farm Meadow is a field in Lincoln, MA best known for being the last place where Henslow’s Sparrows have bred in the state. In recent years, it hasn’t been planted in a way to encourage grassland birds but it’s still a good spot in migration.

To reach Farm Meadow, park at the commuter lot beyond the lot at the Mall at Lincoln Station (on Lincoln Rd.). It’s a pay lot during the week, but since it’s probably full then anyway, it’s not a concern. If you have to park elsewhere, Mt. Misery or Old Concord Rd. off 126 are probably the best (see below for details). A trail starts right by the parking lot (it’s worth checking the train station first as there’s often a lot in the brush along the edge). Follow the trail for a couple minutes walk and you’ll reach Farm Meadow.

The trees that border the railroad tracks are often loaded with migrants. On year on an MBC trip, we spent over an hour just working the hundred yards or so that the trees run. Once you reach the little treatment station, work to the right. In fall, the piles are often loaded with sparrows and other birds. Hawks often buzz through and woodpeckers (including Pileated) can be vocal.

You can also work along the close edge of the field and the field itself. Obviously, if things change and the field is planted again, stay out of any planted area. When the field was a big hayfield, it was loaded with Bobolinks. The Henslow’s were present in 1994, so it’s been quite some time.

After checking the field, if you enter the woods and then cross the railroad bridge, you can enter the Codman Estate or take the trail that starts to parallel the railroad tracks. That ends up at a small field on 126, right near Old Concord Rd. and you can enter the Lindentree and St. Anne’s fields from there (and continue on to Mt. Misery if you want a long walk).

Since I haven’t spent much time here outside of early spring mornings and fall, I can’t say much about the insect life but I’d imagine a good number of the regular butterflies and dragonflies can be found.

Week 11 Answer

So, it’s clearly a moth. General shape and pattern led me to the genus Idia.

Scanning through the MPG plates, I presumed it was the American Idia (Idia americalis). With some assistance on Bugguide, that was confirmed based on the exact shape of some of the lines. See the photo there for details.

It appears to be a fairly common moth, flying in late summer in Massachusetts. Several other Idias can be found as well, presumably for fairly similar flight seasons.

Quiz 10 Answer

Whoops, once a week somehow turned into 3+ months. But since I’m sitting around with nothing to do while the Red Sox play, it’s time to get going again on this.

Quiz 10

So we have a funky looking bird. Based on the short tail, the streaking on the body, and the oversized head, we can guess that it’s probably a juvenal. The bird appears to have dark wings and looks to have a fairly thick bill. Those two features scream out Scarlet Tanager, which is exactly what it was. My ID was made easier by the bright red daddy coming over to shove food down this one’s throat. I thought I took a picture of that, but apparently not.

Scarlet Tanagers are fairly common spring to fall in Waltham. I find them regularly at Met State, the Paine Estate, and Prospect Hill and have found young ones like this guy at Met State and Prospect Hill. I’m sure they breed at Paine as well, although the one I saw chasing a cowbird this year apparently was just hanging out as a Red-eyed Vireo hopped over and fed the cowbird.

Place 6 – Vischer Ferry

Time for something a bit different. Today I’ll briefly talk about the Vischer Ferry Nature Preserve. Far outside my usual area, it’s located in Clifton Park, New York and was one of the primary areas I birded while at school.

The area is a large wetland complex between the Mohawk River and the Erie Canal. There’s a trail that loops up to the river and back, covering both wetlands and woods. You can also walk a long distance along the canal, covering a variety of woodlands.

Being a place near school, I was only able to visit for part of the year. Spring and fall were both very good (although the insects in early fall were almost unbearable). Winter was not very exciting in the couple visits I made. From the list of marsh birds that could be found, I’d guess summer would be good, but I never was around to visit.

My standard loop was to cross the bridge and head straight out. Check the water for ducks and the edge of the trail for sparrows. There was a short trail to the right that was worth a check (although I don’t think I ever found much in birds along there). I’d continue on past the next open water. In spring, I’d then head down to the right into the wooded area a bit.

The next stop is up at the river. The trail was often very muddy and I never actually saw much of anything, but there were good things reported occasionally. Continuing down to the left, the woods often had nice warblers. Working all the way back around, land birds could be all over and the canal side often had early swallows.

After completing the loop, I’d continue down the canal until I ran out of time. There were more good views of the marsh, often with a good variety of ducks. Once into the woods, I found some different things (Winter Wren for example) that were not likely to be found in other parts. The trail here appears to continue for several miles, I never found the end.

For directions and more, see the Hudson-Mowhawk Bird Club. Their book on birdfinding in the region is especially recommended (and I see they have a new edition out). If you’re in the area, they’re worth joining. Not quite the BBC, but a good club.

And here’s the type of thing that can show up (taken in May 2004 on the marsh side of the canal trail):
Horned Grebe

Catching up

Haven’t been up to posting for a little while now, hopefully I’ll get going with the 100Places and WTOW again soon.

In the meantime, here’s a Fiery Skipper from last weekend. I’d have better pictures if I had the camera with me at work (3! of them at the community gardens last week) and possibly a Connecticut Warbler pic as well, but whatever.

Fiery Skipper

Place 5 – Beaver Brook Duck Ponds

The Beaver Brook Duck Ponds in Belmont are one of the oldest conservation areas in Massachusetts. First established in 1893, the two ponds and associated trails have some pretty good birding. See the DCR for more. The ponds are on Mill St. and parking is just beyond the house mentioned.

The basic setup is two ponds, connected by a stream. There is a waterfall beyond the ponds and the stream continues out towards Trapelo Rd. Ducks (mostly mallards and mutts) are always present on the water, but there’s often other stuff as well. Wood Duck are regular as are Hooded Merganser in season. I’ve had Green-winged Teal several times. The right pond often dries out in summer, leaving moderate shorebird habitat.

My usual route is to start at the parking area and check the Duck Pond (the left one, the other one is the Mill Pond). There’s a trail to the left that runs into the woods and down along the waterfall that I’ll take if I have time. It can get a bit wet down at the bottom, where you cross a couple bridges and end up on the other side of the stream. Follow back to the right and uphill to get to the other side of the pond (or just go around the edge of the pond and don’t take those trails at all, just watch for overgrown poison ivy). Work along the back of the pond. There’s a path that leads close to the edge in the middle and gets you close to the stream between ponds. At the other pond, stay on the back edge and follow around. The bridge is often a productive area. Keep following around. When you reach the open area, you will probably have to go out to the sidewalk as the path inside is often overgrown early. It’s worth checking back along the other edge of the pond (especially for dragonflies) before heading back across the grassy area to the parking lot. The entire area can be covered in 30-40 minutes quickly and probably an hour thoroughly.

I’ve seen quite a variety here and think just about anything would be possible in migration. Expect warblers, shorebirds, and just about anything else. Dragonflies are common in summer (I’ve recorded over 20 species including several darners and Unicorn Clubtail) and there’s a surprising number of butterflies for an area without many flowers and open spots. Overall, I’m up to 65 birds, 23 Butterflies, and 26 Odes.