May Highlights

Absolutely spectacular weekend.

After the Cerulean Thursday and lots of good stuff not refinding it Friday, Saturday started out cloudy. Between it being dark and with a chance of rain still, I left the camera at home. I headed to the Arlington Reservoir, hoping for good swallows and other migrants. Lots of birds around, but not necessarily what I had hoped for. Two Scarlet Tanagers were nice, as were the boatload of sandpipers, including 2 Lesser Yellowlegs, several Solitary and Spotted Sandpipers, and about 20 Least Sandpipers. I did find my first Bank Swallows of the year but couldn’t find any Cliff and numbers were on the low side. Warblers were limited with a few singing near the bridge but nothing too exciting.

After the res, I decided to walk along the Mystic Lakes. Almost immediately upon arrival, I found more warblers in the small wood lot than there were all along the res. Lots of Yellow-rumps, Yellow, Black-and-white, Parulas, and others. I spent a few minutes tracking down an odd song and got a quick look at what I thought was a Cape May. I moved for an angle with better light but lost the bird. Backtracking, I did get a nice male Black-throated Blue but still couldn’t find the singer. I circled around a bit and suddenly there was a male Cape May Warbler hopping around right at eye level! I was able to study it for a few minutes before it moved back up to the treetops.

There was another odd song in the area that I started to track down. Unfortunately I only saw it as it was chased away by another warbler. I started wandering down the path and quickly saw my first Black-crowned Night-Heron of the year. There were more warblers and a Blue-headed Vireo by the boat club but nothing unusual. Down at Sandy Beach, I added gnatcatchers, a Solitary Sandpiper, and Savannah Sparrows but couldn’t find a Pine Warbler. Continuing along the path that ends near Wellington Station, I added an American Redstart (a very nice adult male) and a first-year male Orchard Oriole. There were also lots of Yellow Warblers, some singing slightly odd songs.

It was a quick walk back, only stopping for Cedar Waxwings and an Osprey. I checked for the screech-owls that had been reported along the way, but didn’t remember the directions correctly and didn’t find the spot. Back at the wood lot, I finally tracked down the oddball. I had thought it sounded vaguely like a Prairie, but it turned out to just be a Northern Parula. That proved handy to know Sunday.

So on Sunday morning, I headed to Met State to bump up the Field Sparrow to probable breeder (the one that I skipped on Thursday and found the Cerulean instead). I started going straight up the hill. Lots of song including Ovenbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and 3 species of woodpeckers. The warblers were loud but not cooperating at first.

At the top of the hill, I immediately found a singing Nashville and then a very nice Rose-breasted Grosbeak:


I heard the Field Sparrow pretty quickly, so that’s now probable with code S (singing for more than 7 days). However, today it was joined by a Blue-winged Warbler and two Indigo Buntings!


The warblers cooperated as I worked my way town the trail. I’m not quite sure how many as some seemed to be following me but I had Magnolia, Black-and-white, Parula, Black-throated Green, lots of Yellow-rumps, and a late Palm along the way.


BT Green

There was also a pheasant calling and when I poked along a side trail, I did hear a Prairie. A new bird for Waltham and another likely breeder at the spot. Guess I wasn’t thorough last year.

Eventually, I reached the base of the hill where a Wood Thrush dropped onto the trail to feed. It was fairly distant, but I lucked into getting a good shot as it flew off:

Flying Wood Thrush

I checked the spot just to the right with the downed utility poles. More of the same warblers with the addition of a first-year male Redstart. But the big surprise was a Purple Finch. It was female-plumaged but after seeing it I realized I may have been hearing one sing, so it could have still been a first year male (they’re not easily separable until their 2nd October according to Pyle).

Back along the cemetery, one tree was loaded with Yellow-rumps, a Parula, and a Black-and-white or two. Just before the wet spot was my first American Lady of the year.


In the wet spot I found the expected Solitary Sandpiper but there wasn’t anything above. I wandered in the direction of Rock Meadow.

Crossing the bridge, I quickly added Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler and then had an Eastern Towhee. Tree Swallows were all over, often landing on piles of wood chips. Circling the garden, I had a Brown Thrasher singing and then one carrying a large stick. An Eastern Bluebird was hanging around the furthest two boxes. At first, I thought it was likely nesting in the right one, but when two Tree Swallows came towards the left, it hopped over there, so I’m not sure now.

Circling the rest of Rock Meadow didn’t add much, so back to Met State to look for owls. On the way I ran into the Bakers, who had another pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks. I sent them in the direction of all the warblers and then worked my way towards the presumed owl nesting area. No luck with that, but more grosbeaks, ovenbirds, another wood thrush, and similar. A couple Juvenal’s Duskywings were out as well.

After wandering down to the field and back up I heard a Brown Thrasher and spent a few minutes trying to find him without any luck. Several Azures were flying around here, including one that was basking with wings open (post upcoming on these).

I worked my way back, adding even more Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and not much else. A quick stop at Beaver Brook didn’t come up with a Cerulean Warbler or White-eyed Vireo (or anything new on the day) but it was an excellent morning.