WIR 11/24-11/30

Tuesday 11/24: Lyman Pond at lunch: 1 heron, 2 hoodies, 2 cormorants, 100+ regular geese.

Wednesday 11/25: Had to run to the mechanic before work, so made a couple stops along the Charles. About 9 Wood Ducks along Charles River Rd and Edgewater Dr along with a Pied-billed Grebe and 3 coots. One grebe at Forest Grove (just on the Waltham side of the line). Stopped at Hardy Pond at noon, about 10 hoodies, one ruddy, and a ton of juncos.

Thursday 11/26: Out to New Salem for Thanksgiving. Odd goose at the rotary caused a detour but it appeared to be a domestic. One moth in the house was about the only thing of note, appears to be Grote’s Pinion.

Friday 11/27: Rain canceled plans to head to Otis, nothing interesting on the ride home from New Salem. Big flock of robins over the yard and starlings over Leitha late in the afternoon. Red-wing and Red-belly calling from the end of the street.

Saturday 11/28: Charles midmorning, absolutely nothing (45 minutes and I had 8 species). Heron flying down the street below the houses was interesting in the neighborhood as was this sharpie in the yard for over an hour:

Yard Sharpie

Yard Sharpie

Sunday 11/29: Another MacGillivray’s and a big milestone. Also 2 meadowhawks still around.

Monday 11/30: Lunch at Hardy Pond: 2 Common Mergansers, many Hooded, 1 Ruddy.

Mac 2

The Fenway MacGillivray’s isn’t the only one currently in Massachusetts. One was found on 11/21 in Medford by Anna Piccolo. It’s in an area that’s less accessible than Fenway and isn’t as cooperative, but it’s a new bird for me in the county so I headed over today.

After a bit of GPS confusion, we arrived at Wright’s Pond and started to look for the correct spot. Luckily, Leslie and Barry were walking out successfully. They told us that there were plenty of people looking so we hurried over.

At the correct spot (which was only a short distance away), we ran into Anna and Patience and could see Marj and Renee working down below. Almost immediately I heard the bird chipping right up close. It proved to be illusive but after starting down the hill, I got two brief flashes of yellow (enough to count it combined with the chipping).

Everyone moved partway down the hill and we began to wait. There were long periods of silence followed by a quick chip or two. Occasionally there’d be a little bit of movement but it never stayed in one place and was very hard to get anything approaching a view. At one point I did get it on the ground and could pick up the eye arcs and gray head but couldn’t get anyone else on the spot.

This continued for almost an hour. At times the bird was fairly noisy but the call was very hard to pinpoint (often sounded to be bouncing back and forth between several spots). Finally, it popped up in the open at the bottom of the slope and everyone got acceptable views. I even managed a couple photos, the best (I use that loosely) of which is below.

Medford Mac

Not surprisingly, everyone took off after that. So, county bird #268 but more importantly, county year bird #200. That’s the first time I’ve hit that number and is not overly easy to do working full time (although given the number of regular birds I’ve missed this year, it shouldn’t be all that hard). The lousy butterfly season ruined my goal of 325 combined birds, butterflies, and odes, but that appears to be a decent goal and hopefully one for next year.

WIR 11/17-11/23

Tuesday 11/17: Beaver Brook North before work. Raven (is that notable still?), few red-wings, not a whole lot else. Paine at lunch, nothing of note.

Wednesday 11/18: Purgatory Cove at lunch looking for Green-winged Teal and Screech-Owl. Neither of those and not much else. Pied-billed Grebe on the river, heron in the cove. Ring-necked Duck popped up as I was driving off.

Thurday 11/19: Field Station at lunch. One Song Sparrow and one Tree Sparrow in the gardens so I went to Fernald to look at geese without finding anything unusual.

Friday 11/20: It was supposed to be rainy but it looked nice so I went to Prospect Hill instead of Hardy Pond and found very little. Two meadowhawks still. They’ve already survived a night in the 20’s and with nothing close to that in the forecast I wonder if one may make it to December.

Saturday 11/21: see post

Sunday 11/22: Long walk around Met State. Heard-only Winter Wren was about it other than good numbers of common stuff. Several meadowhawks still. Great Meadows later, very little there but a huge flock of grackles on the way.

Monday 11/23: Heron overhead on the way to work. Paine at lunch, checking the pines for owls so not much of anything.

November Excitement

Considering that most of the migrants have moved on and not all of the winter birds have settled in, November’s a pretty good month.

I planned on going to look for the MacGillivray’s Warbler that’s been hanging around the Fenway area today but decided to take a quick run around Dunback first. I parked by the tennis courts as I was thinking about checking the Waltham St. fields quickly as well. Walking in along the stream, there were quite a few sparrows including a couple Tree. After that it got pretty dull and I didn’t see anything of note walking all the way to the bridge. I headed back to check the pines and stopped to sift through some juncos at the intersection. A creeper almost in the brush was interesting, but the highlight was a Fox Sparrow that sat up chipping:



It eventually flew off (with a second one) and I continued on. Almost immediately I ran into Marj and James walking in. We enjoyed the creeper working on a tangle and then went back for the Fox Sparrows which immediately popped up. We worked down towards the bridge again but didn’t find too much. On the way back, I pointed out a kinglet in one of the fruiting trees and Marj gave a couple screech-owl calls. Birds flocked in and at one point we had 2 Fox Sparrows, 2 Baltimore Orioles, and an Eastern Towhee basically in a single field of view. Quite the combination. Once they moved on, we headed to the woods where there wasn’t anything beyond a pile of dove feathers. I decided not to check the fields and headed off.

After a quick stop at home to pick up my parents, we headed into Boston. Parking a little distance away from the gardens, we walked over quickly (stopping to look at a heron and take a quick scan through the piles of black ducks and mallards). Reaching the gardens, other people told us that the bird was seen earlier. We went to the other end but had no luck (and barely any birds at all). After circling a bit, we ran into Jane and Jane and I decided to check the other side of the river.

I ended up making a complete loop around, seeing a Blue Jay, 2 House Sparrows, and assorted waterfowl. I started through the gardens again when my phone rang. Apparently there was no reception in the area as this was the 4th call telling me that the bird was being seen. I rushed over but it had moved on.

I decided to start through the gardens again but staying within view if it popped up by the bridge again. However, three trees down I picked up two birds flitting in the branches. One was an Orange-crowned Warbler and the other was the MacGillivray’s! The views were fairly good, if brief as both birds moved constantly. Pictures were not so good:




MacGillivray’s on top, 2 of the Orange-crowned below

The two Janes had gone off to look for the chat but had mentioned that they wanted to see the Orange-crowned, so we started to look for them. Unfortunately both warblers took off. I started through the gardens again as I had a brief view of the Orange-crowned on the other side. After not having any luck, we joined a crowd of people including a few that we hadn’t seen in quite some time.

We were getting close to running out of time on the parking meter, so we said good-bye to everyone and were about to leave when someone called out the bird again. Everyone headed over and got excellent views and it foraged among and below a large brussels sprout plant.

MacGillivray's Fenway


Once the bird moved out of sight, we realized that we absolutely had to go. Fortunately there was no meter maid in sight and the couple minutes extra weren’t an issue. The chat would have been nice (it was apparently popping up fairly regularly) but wasn’t a huge miss either (coincidentally, my first chat was here in 1999, either minutes before or minutes after my only other MacGillivray’s Warbler).

Although that made up most of the day’s highlights, a late afternoon trip to check out a few recently reported birds on the Charles was quite good as well. Most of the birds were still around, including 2 shovelers, 3 coots, and a Pied-billed Grebe at Charlesbank and the Ring-necked Duck at Purgatory Cove.

WIR 11/10-16

Tuesday 11/10: goose

Wednesday 11/11: Day off, so Minuteman Trail (falcon sp, few tree sparrows), Great Meadows (2 Pied-billed Grebe, big flock of red-wings, etc), Cambridge Res (goldeneye).

Thursday 11/12: Charles, next to nothing.

Friday 11/13: Beaver Brook ponds again, no goose but a few hoodies and a kingfisher. Lots of geese at Fernald but didn’t give them a thorough check.

Saturday 11/14: Poured all day, nothing much at the feeders.

Sunday 11/15: Arlington Res with Menotomy: 6 shovelers and basically the same as last week. One meadowhawk may or may not have still been alive. Quick check of Beaver Brook (barely anything) and Fernald (only a handful of geese) and a swing around the Res (kingfisher, Wood Ducks, goldeneye).

Monday 11/16: Prospect Hill: Red-breasted Nuthatch (finally for the county this year), several Hairy Woodpeckers.

WIR 11/3-11/9

Tuesday 11/3: Started for Prospect Hill at lunch but thought there was voting and the gate was closed, so ended up circling the Cambridge Res. Of course, finally had taken the scope out of the car, so the 3 interesting blobs way out had to stay unidentified. Stopped at Hardy Pond to eat, nothing much there.

Wednesday 11/4: Went to Paine at lunch, only to discover there was a major fallout of scoters and stuff all over. Hermit Thrush, Cooper’s, many meadowhawks and a couple Shadow Darners were the best I managed.

Thursday 11/5: Tried Cambridge Res before work. While dodging traffic, a Pied-billed Grebe, 2 Bufflehead, and a big flock of sleeping scaup. Cormorant at Hardy Pond. Lunch at the duck ponds with nothing of note.

Friday 11/6: Lot 1, quiet beyond a few Hoodies.

Saturday 11/7: Cambridge Res: late Osprey. Flint’s Pond was quiet. Trail building at Beaver Brook North: Harrier. Afternoon trip around Arlington Res had good numbers of all the expected dabbling ducks, 6 Killdeer, 1 snipe

Sunday 11/8: Fresh Pond after the Menotomy trip to Dunback: 12 Canvasback, 75 Ring-necks, 1 Bufflehead, 50+ Fish Crow.

Monday 11/9: Prospect Hill: Shadow Darner, sulphur, Autumn Meadowhawk, nothing much for birds.

Beaver Brook Goose

After 2004’s still unidentified goose, I’ve been on the lookout for similar birds. Yesterday, John Crookes reported a probable Cackling Goose at Beaver Brook.

Unfortunately, it was too dark to run over after work, but I was there before 7 this morning. There were quite a few geese but nothing different. Quick checks of Fernald and Lyman Pond found many more geese but no Cackling (a couple looked slightly smaller, presumably more northern migrants).

I went back to Beaver Brook on my lunch break. The geese had moved to the other pond but there weren’t any different ones. I walked to the other pond, which only had a few black ducks and then started back, trying to decide if I had time to run to Lyman again. However, a few more geese had flown in and I stopped to scan them. One jumped out as smaller. Looking carefully, it was about 3/4 of the size (give or take) of the others. The breast was noticeably darker than all the other birds present. There was a hint of a darker chin stripe and a couple white feathers where the neck and breast meet. Bill and head shape were slightly different but not hugely so from the Canadas. I didn’t notice any obvious difference in back or body color, although the sides look slightly darker in the photos. Several more flocks flew in and began bathing noisily and I eventually lost track of it (one or two of the new arrivals appeared to have a breast approaching if not as brown). So what is it?












As always, click through to the flickr page and hit all sizes for a larger view.

I should note that there are lots of geese around and there very well may be a Cackling among the ones I didn’t see. I don’t know if John had any photos to say if it’s the same bird.

WIR 10/27-11/2

Tuesday 10/27: Hardy Pond: Pied-billed Grebe in close was about it

Wednesday 10/28: Beaver Brook Ponds: nothing of note

Thursday 10/29: Paine: 1 Palm Warbler

Friday 10/30: Purgatory Cove: about 50 Ring-necked Ducks, 10 Wood Ducks, first Red-bellied Woodpecker along the Charles, Sharpie. Hardy Pond in the late afternoon: 4 Ruddy, 1 Pied-billed Grebe, 4 American Wigeon.

Saturday 10/31: Out to New Salem for the day where it was dark and nasty. Two creepers were about it for highlights.

Sunday 11/1: Started at the Cambridge Res. Red-necked Grebe! That’s 181 for Waltham. Also the first Common Mergansers of the fall. On to Flint’s Pond where there wasn’t much beyond a bluebird. Continued to Meriam’s Corner where there wasn’t much and then on to the Waltham St. Fields where there were 2 White-crowned Sparrows and more bluebirds. After a stop at home, went to look for Cackling Geese with the parents. No geese along Rt. 2, so we stopped at the prison fields quickly. Luckily a Cackler was in the first flock, so we didn’t have to stay long. On to Great Meadows, with a late Spotted Sandpiper and a few Blue-winged Teal.

Red-necked Grebe

Great shot, huh?

Monday 11/2: Not much. Field station at lunch with nothing of note. Too dark by the time I get home now to do anything, but at least it’s light again in the morning for a few weeks.

Week in Review 10/20-10/26

Tuesday 10/20: Prospect Hill at lunch: Raven, Mourning Cloak, Autumn Meadowhawk.

Wednesday 10/21: Met State: Blue-headed Vireo, another cloak and meadowhawk, not a whole lot else.

Thursday 10/22: Owl. Turns out to be #100 at Prospect Hill as well.

Friday 10/23: Hardy Pond on the way to work: 3 Ruddy, 1 Pied-billed Grebe, 1 Grackle. Lot 1 at lunch: Swamp Sparrows, first of fall Hooded Mergansers.

Saturday 10/24: Cambridge Res: Black Scoter, 2 Hooded Merganser. Flint’s Pond: 2 Hooded Merganser. Merriam’s Corner: Pipit, huge flock of Savannah Sparrows, 7 Bluebirds. Nine Acre Corner: huge flock of blackbirds.

Sunday 10/25: Rock Meadow/McLean: not much of anything. Great Meadows was totally dead other than a surprising number of meadowhawks still around, along with one presumed Shadow Darner (a presumed one in the yard as well).

Monday 10/26: UMass Field Station before work to check on a possible Clay-colored. No luck, but the sun was just coming out above the trees when I had to leave so there wasn’t much activity. Lots of blackbirds overhead and 2 herons went by squawking at each other.


I had a sandwich for lunch today, so decided to do something I haven’t done for a few months and check the back end of Prospect Hill (it’s a bit too far if I can’t eat as I walk). The walk in was pretty dull with just a couple titmice and a junco or two. I took the steep stairs up and headed to Little Prospect. It was equally quiet there and a bit hazy so scanning the sky didn’t reveal anything.

I started back downhill and figured I’d have time to check the wet areas way in the back. But passing the Summer House, I heard a couple screeching jays and saw a flash of something bigger. Moving closer, I quickly got on the bird and had a great look at a Barred Owl!

Watching for a couple minutes, the jays chased it back a couple trees deeper into the woods, but still a completely unobstructed view. I spent a couple minutes watching it (and it was clearly watching me) as several people passed by completely ignoring it (and me). I started to head out but decided that I should probably give my parents a call. They decided to run right over and I decided it was easier to wait by the bird than explain where it was.

They came fairly quickly but while waiting a bunch of other birds found the owl. The ones that came the closest to it were nuthatches but there were plenty of chickadees and titmice as well. The owl pretty much ignored these (as it had ignored the jays except for when a jay buzzed right at its head). More people walked by and no one bothered to look. Once my parents arrived, I pointed, made sure they followed where I was pointing and raced back down the hill and back to work (surprisingly only about 15 minutes longer than I normally take).

Not that it was unexpected, but it was a new one for me in Waltham (#180!) and I’m not aware of any other records at Prospect Hill.