Never got around to posting a picture for last week’s BPW. I was intending to show a Bobolink from last year based on the ones I saw over the weekend, but I’ll do better than that and show one I found this weekend in my home atlas block.


Rock Meadow is in the process of having the meadows restored with a lot of work being done with invasive plant removal and it looks like it’s paying off. This was the only one I saw but I’d say there’s a good chance of having them breeding by the end of the atlas in two years.

And since I have the picture, this is the one I was planning on using last week. It was a young bird and presumably a postbreeding dispersal in my Dunstable block (they could be in the farm fields but this was not in breeding habitat).


Saturday Fun

Never hit post on this, but fixing the date now.

Yesterday was a long day. I was out of the house and at Minuteman NHP in place to do my yearly survey at 5AM. The survey involves 7 stations and a 10 minute count at each one. Since the stations are all deep in the woods and it’s barely light out, it’s almost all by ear (although I did actually pick up a Wood Thrush and Scarlet Tanager by sight this year). I forgot that I had broken my timer and couldn’t find a good replacement the night before, but lucked out in that my iPod happened to be on a song that was exactly nine minutes long, so I could check the time without too much difficulty. Next year, I’ll make up a 10 minute long blank file that will work perfectly.

With the survey done, I decided to stop in Concord and do a bit of atlas work. I started with a few of the farm fields near Nine Acre Corner. There weren’t many birds around (I did confirm Tufted Titmouse) but along the edge of one field, I found a bunch of nice dragonflies including several Chalk-fronted Corporals, my first Blue Dashers of the year (not that I won’t be seeing them by the thousands shortly), and one or two Delta-spotted Spiketails. Since I was out primarily for the survey, I left the camera at home, but here’s one from Lincoln a couple years ago:


I moved on and decided to drive down Old Road to Nine Acre Corner (quite the name). I saw a parking lot with signs that looked like a conservation area, so I pulled in. There was a big sign about staying on the trails and keeping dogs out of the fields to protect grassland birds, so I zipped down to the fields. There were at least 5 Bobolinks flying about, although they were all males. The field appears to have potential for some other stuff, but other than confirming Red-wing, the only thing of note I picked up were ticks (3 of which needed tweezers later).

I then headed to the Old Rifle Range to pick up pewee and a couple other birds that hadn’t been within safe dates when I last visited. I got all those and heard a somewhat surprising Veery and Ruby-throated Hummingbird (I’m guessing that’s the first heard only hummingbird I’ve recorded).

I then cruised past the Harrington fields and again didn’t find an entrance, but since I found the grassland stuff elsewhere, I’m less concerned now, so I continued to Knox Trail. There was a yard sale sign pointing down the road, even though the only buildings are part of an office park. That proved annoying as lots of cars were driving up and down. The Osprey was a no show and I’m wondering if the nest was abandoned as I’ve yet to see any activity on it but I did find an oriole nest and a few other things. There were plenty of dragonflies about, including first of year Slaty Skimmers and a Cyrano Darner that was making continuous circles along the water. It would have made for a nice photo but again, no camera so here’s one from last year:


Not the best view there, but it’s a big greenish darner with a huge forehead.

I went home for a long nap at this point.

At 6, we headed out for dinner. Two flat tires later, we ended up just getting pizza at home. But in the meantime, I built up quite a good list sitting on the side of the Pike including several Great Blue Herons, a Green Heron, and a couple huge flocks of blackbirds.

Wing me

Since I didn’t bother taking any photos this weekend (Saturday it was cloudy and dark and I have no idea why I didn’t Sunday), here’s an Eastern Phoebe from last weekend:

Where's my wing?

Where's my wing?

I started to post this thinking that the wing looked funny but after looking more carefully I think the tuft on the belly is just obscuring it a bit and it is all there.



Was going for a photo of the Prairie Warbler and Indigo Bunting when the hummer flew in. Unfortunately no time to adjust the zoom to get a better framing. The Prairie moved a couple trees to the left almost immediately and the hummer took off shortly after.

Late Weekend Bugs

Finally catching up with last weekend.

Saturday, I headed out to do my first concentrated odeing of the year. I started at the heron rookery in Littleton (which has dwindled quite a bit). Lots of bugs including many dragonflies (12+ species including FOY Chalk-fronted Corporal, Marsh Bluet, Sedge Sprite, and Eastern Pondhawk), a few butterflies, and assorted other things including 2 true bugs and my first Robber Flies of the year (photos of the last few aren’t good enough to show off).

The only cooperative ode was this pair of Aurora Damsels (actually many pairs were cooperative but this is the one I stopped to photo):

Tandem Aurora

After that, it was on to Fort Pond Brook. I headed for the stream, where I picked up my first River Jewelwings of the year. There were some clubtails buzzing up and down along with many baskettails, but I couldn’t get a swing off. Working back out to the path, I found a mating pair of Stream Cruisers that posed very nicely:

Cruiser Ring

And another Robbery Fly that didn’t photograph well. After restocking on tissues, I headed up the hill where there were lots of butterflies and dragonflies. Butterflies included my first Ringlets and Dusted Skippers of the year and dragonflies included many Lancet Clubtails and first of year Spangled Skimmers and Turquoise Bluets.

Things clouded up and started to look a bit threatening, so I decided not to check one last spot and headed home.

Sunday, I headed to Prospect Hill to check out a few birds. I was quite successful with that. Insect highlights included my first Twelve-spotted Skimmer of the year, an Eight-spotted Forester, and 16 species of butterfly including first of year Northern Cloudywing and Viceroy along with Dusted Skippers for the first time in a couple years on the hill and at least 4 American Ladies.





The birds will have to wait for another time…

Birdathon 2009

Yesterday (well Friday night and yesterday) was Mass Audubon’s annual birdathon. I’ve never really done it before (a few hours in the rain a couple years ago was it) and since I had Mt. Auburn duty the following morning, I didn’t want to go all out.

We started Friday night by walking up to Lot 1. The hope was for a late peenting woodcock but no luck with that. The resident Blue-winged Warbler was singing when we arrived and we heard several other birds that we wouldn’t get on Saturday. Even better, just as it got dusk, we noticed a big lump on one of the bare trees. A Great Horned Owl had slipped in and was sitting out in the open. It ignored us completely as we walked right by it on the way out.

On Saturday, we didn’t get going until close to 8. We started at the Concord heron rookery. Parking here is even more restricted than it was the last time I visited, but we lucked out and someone started to leave while I was turning around. The woods were quiet, but the herons were all over. We also had a couple Red-bellied Woodpeckers and a singing Brown Creeper. A Black-throated Blue Warbler sang a couple times along the road, which was pretty much the only migrant of the day. Unfortunately, the Pileated didn’t show in the minute or two we waited.

The next stop was the Old Rifle Range. On the way, we picked up two Eastern Bluebirds on the wires. At the Rifle Range, we were a bit distracted by some flowers that turned out to be Starflower. The hawks that I hoped for were not showing but we did have a hummingbird moving among the trees.

After a quick check of Knox Trail, we wandered around the little open area on the other side of the shopping center in Acton. Our first Indigo Bunting of the day and another Blue-winged Warbler were the avian highlights but the bugs were more interesting. There were many dragonflies around, mostly baskettails but also my first Common Whitetail of the year and a couple darners. The baskettails ran the range from no black on the wings to very extensive (Mantled?).


There were also many butterflies around including my first Pearl Crescents and Common Sootywing of the year. Several tiger beetles were in the sandier patches including Big Sand (C. formosa):

Big Tiger

Big Tiger

and mating Festive (C. scutellaris):

Mating tigers

Mating Tigers

Mating Tigers

We moved on to Great Meadows, which was surprisingly quiet. There was a turtle walk going on, which made parking a mess. We ended up walking in from the water treatment plant. To make things worse, the trail to the left along the river was closed as it had started to erode at the grate. Most of the hoped for marsh birds were hiding and we didn’t find any sandpipers, but the moorhen was out in the open, with many other Birdathoners watching.


After a lunch break, we headed to Prospect Hill to see if the Hooded Warbler was still around. No luck with that and not much around. I missed a turkey but did get the only Herring Gull of the day. There were a few good insects around including my first Four-spotted Skimmers of the year and this Stream Cruiser:

Stream Cruiser

That was pretty much the end of the day. At 5:30, we walked down to the corner and added Cedar Waxwing. I realized we didn’t have a pigeon and ran over to Graverson to see if any were sitting on the wires there, but no luck. The day ended with 61 species, which wasn’t too bad since we weren’t exactly trying hard.

Hometown Birds

A bit behind on this, but I got two new birds for Waltham this week.

I headed to Met State (which I should really start referring to as Beaver Brook North now) Tuesday on my way to work. I planned to loop around the marsh but turkeys were displaying on Turner Field so I left them alone and headed up the hill. I found my first Wilson’s Warbler of the year up near the Gaebler building and then wandered down to the middle section.

Down below, I heard a song that I wasn’t placing. Chasing after it for a few minutes, I finally located the singer: a Tennessee Warbler, which is only my second in Waltham. The views weren’t the best but I was quite happy. I was even happier a minute later when it flew to squabble with another bird, which showed the orange throat of a Blackburnian Warbler, #175 in Waltham! Unfortunately, both disappeared quickly.

Thursday, I headed for Prospect Hill. I thought the radar had looked good, but there were very few birds around. Several Indigo Buntings were singing and I had a couple of the common warblers. I decided to try the Pine Ledges Trail, which I only recently noticed. I believe that it ends inside my BBA block, so I wanted to go down to the end and see about accessing it without a long hike down the side of the hill. I found the end and started back up without seeing or hearing much of anything. Almost back at the top, I realized that the song I had heard on the way down was a bit odder than I had originally thought and decided that I should bushwhack up the hill and find the source.

It took a bit of effort to track down, but was well worth it when I found a Hooded Warbler! I got a quick view as it moved through the trees before deciding to get out into the open and try to look back. That turned out to not work, so I bushwhacked back in and was able to watch it for a minute. Not only my first for Waltham, but the first one I’ve found on my own in Massachusetts. That made it an excellent day, regardless of the lack of everything else.

Since I don’t take my camera to work, the previous post holds.

Birdathon report coming (which will mostly be insect photos) but since I have to be at Mt. Auburn at 6AM tomorrow (likely in the rain), so that will take some time.

Always bring a Camera

I led a Menotomy trip to Beaver Brook North yesterday. It was rather windy and I decided that I didn’t feel like dragging the camera long. That turned out to be a big mistake.

As we walked through the woods, I could hear several Rose-breasted Grosbeaks singing, but they were very hidden in the treetops so I ignored them, figuring we’d have a better chance later. We sure did. Once the trail opened up, we stopped to look at a Black-throated Green Warbler. While everyone got on that, 4 Baltimore Orioles came in and landed at eye level. A minute later, they were joined by 3 grosbeaks! Things kept going with a Scarlet Tanager up high, but right out in the open with the sun directly on it. Incredible colors on everything.

The rest of the trip was pretty good with my first Swainson’s Thrush and Red-eyed Vireo of the year and a few more warblers (and more orioles and grosbeaks).

Since I blew the chance at a bunch of great photos, here’s a fair shot from a past trip: