Starting the Season

Today was a day spent wandering. I started off at work, hoping to refind and photograph the interesting swallow I had yesterday (which would have made a great WTOW quiz), but no luck. Then it was on to Lincoln to check out parking and access for next weekend’s Menotomy trip. It was fairly quiet and the bridge is still out, so we’ll have to drive around. This Savannah Sparrow did pose nicely at least:

Savannah Sparrow

After checking Farm Meadow and the bridge, I headed to Oxbow NWR, taking the slow route out 117. That turned out to be a good move as I spotted an egret just past Mt. Misery. After swinging back around, I was able to confirm it as a Great, my first spring one in the county. Unfortunately, it took off before I got photos, but did land in the river up ahead (now can I count it for Concord as well?).

And on to Oxbow. It was on the late side for birds, and was a bit cool and not quite sunny enough for bugs, so not great. Still got my first-of-year Purple Finch and Blue-headed Vireo and had a few turkey run by. No luck on any Boghaunters (pdf) and not much in butterflies. A few Spring Azures and a few Elfins, all of which appeared to be Eastern Pine were it. I did have one uncooperative Tiger Beetle down at the far pond and lots of bees and flies and wasps. Some did pose a bit:

Pine Elfin:

Eastern Pine Elfin

One of the Looper Moths:


This bee dug a whole a disappeared:

Bee diggingBee DiggingBee Digging

A couple flies:

Fly #1

Fly #2

On the way out, I ran into Erik Nielsen. He didn’t have much more, but did have a Henry’s Elfin (and as I found out later, 2 Ringed Boghaunters). It cleared up and warmed up a bit, but I was almost back to the car before it was really nice. I headed out and decided to stop at Fort Pond Brook.

At Fort Pond Brook, I headed up the hill and almost as soon as it cleared I started seeing Elfins. The first couple got away, but the next six all turned out to be Henry’s! I had only seen a single individual (happened to be here) in the past, so I enjoyed being able to study the variation.

Henry's #1
Henry's #2
Henry's #3

I continued on, finding a few Azures and a Pine Elfin but not much else. Looping back, I saw something a bit larger land, which turned out to be my first dragonfly of the year. I’m fairly sure it’s a Beaverpond Baskettail, but it’s nice to be seeing them again certain or not.


I tried some of the trails along the river, hoping for more odes. No luck with that, but another Henry’s Elfin showed up. I tried to get out to the marshy area, but decided it was too wet and overgrown at the moment and headed back towards the car. On the way, a Hooded Merganser popped up and started flying around in circles, a nice potential breeder.

Not a bad day at all, even if I had hoped for a bit more.

Answer 6 and 7

Finally something other than birds.

For #6, it’s a mostly black thing with a creamy yellow border. It appears to be flying. With triangular wings like that, it’s got to be some type of Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies). The obvious candidate is the Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa), which is exactly what it is.

Mourning Cloaks are quite common, especially in early spring where they are one of the first butterflies on the wing. In Massachusetts, I’ve noticed them mainly from the end of March to the beginning of May, late June and July, and again at the end of butterfly season in October. The early ones are overwintering adults, the middle ones are likely the newly emerged adults, and the late ones are the June brood looking for winter homes.

For #7, it’s some sort of flower. I’ll confess that I don’t know much about flowers and hadn’t even identified this when I posted it. Searching the web appears to come up with a Snowdrop (Galanthus sp).


Fork-tailed Flycatcher

So a Fork-tailed Flycatcher showed up at Chandler Pond in Brighton yesterday or the day before. Fortunately, I had worked late one day last week and had a few extra minutes to get over there first thing today. As you’ve already seen, the bird was still present and cooperative.

It was bouncing around between several trees. I spent most of my time trying for flight shots. Unfortunately, the camera’s rather heavy and most times when I put it down for a second and started seeing who else was around were the times when the bird flew.

But not every time:
Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Note that the 3 outermost primaries have notches, making this the southern savana subspecies, which is expected.

A few more of my better shots:

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

Note the yellow crown patch visible in that last one.

And one very close to excellent shot:

Fork-tailed Flycatcher

The primaries are more visible here.

Too bad the bird didn’t move the hundred yards or so down the road to the Newton and Middlesex county line.

Waxwing on a stick

Waxwing on a stick

Took a ride out to Groton this morning. Even though there have been in the hundreds of Bohemians up in Newburyport and elsewhere, I wanted them more for the county. Nothing in the trees as we arrived, but after grabbing a muffin and waiting in the car for a few minutes, four waxwings flew over. I jumped out and went back to check the trees and this single bird was sitting way up at the top. The light was awful but I was still plenty happy (although if you want a good picture, look at Anne’s from downtown Boston).

County bird #256!

Waltham 2008

Here’s a list of birds and bugs seen in Waltham in 2008 with date of first sighting and place. Italics is on the yard list and Bold is new to Waltham.


  1. Canada Goose (1/4, Main St.)
  2. Mute Swan (1/4, Charles)
  3. Wood Duck (1/19, Charles)
  4. Gadwall (10/22?, Hardy Pond)
  5. American Wigeon (3/7, Hardy Pond)
  6. American Black Duck (1/4, Charles)
  7. Mallard (1/1, yard)
  8. Blue-winged Teal (11/7, Purgatory Cove)
  9. Green-winged Teal (4/11, Lyman Pond)
  10. Ring-necked Duck (1/4, Charles)
  11. Black Scoter (11/1, Cambridge Res)
  12. Bufflehead (3/30, yard/Hardy Pond)
  13. Common Goldeneye (1/4, Charles)
  14. Hooded Merganser (1/4, Charles)
  15. Common Merganser (1/4, Charles)
  16. Ruddy Duck (10/22, Hardy Pond)
  17. Pied-billed Grebe (10/26, Hardy Pond)
  18. Horned Grebe (11/8, Cambridge Res)
  19. Ring-necked Pheasant (3/23, Lot 1)
  20. Wild Turkey (4/24, Met State)
  21. Double-crested Cormorant (4/26, Leitha)
  22. Great Blue Heron (1/4, Charles)
  23. Green Heron (7/14, Lyman Pond)
  24. Turkey Vulture (2/25, Beaver St)
  25. Sharp-shinned Hawk (1/19, Charles)
  26. Cooper’s Hawk (1/18, Miriam)
  27. Red-tailed Hawk (1/9, Leitha)
  28. American Kestrel (3/21, yard)
  29. Killdeer (3/12, UMass Field Station)
  30. Solitary Sandpiper (5/5, Met State)
  31. Spotted Sandpiper (5/13, Hardy Pond)
  32. American Woodcock (3/21, Lot 1)
  33. Ring-billed Gull (1/1, yard)
  34. Herring Gull (1/2, Lexington St.)
  35. Great Black-backed Gull (1/11, Hardy Pond)
  36. Rock Pigeon (1/1, Trapelo)
  37. Mourning Dove (1/1, yard)
  38. Common Nighthawk (8/17, Leitha)
  39. Chimney Swift (5/5, Hannaford)
  40. Ruby-throated Hummingbird (5/28, Paine)
  41. Belted Kingfisher (6/3, Leitha)
  42. Red-bellied Woodpecker (1/5, Met State)
  43. Downy Woodpecker (1/1, yard)
  44. Hairy Woodpecker (1/5, Met State)
  45. Northern Flicker (1/2, WHS)
  46. Eastern Wood-Pewee (5/29, Prospect Hill)
  47. Eastern Phoebe (4/3, Prospect Hill)
  48. Great Crested Flycatcher (5/14, Prospect Hill)
  49. Eastern Kingbird (5/11, Met State)
  50. Blue-headed Vireo (5/5, Met State)
  51. Warbling Vireo (5/5, Met State)
  52. Red-eyed Vireo (5/12, Paine)
  53. Blue Jay (1/2, Lexington St.)
  54. American Crow (1/1, yard)
  55. Fish Crow (1/19, Charles)
  56. Common Raven (4/7, Prospect Hill)
  57. Tree Swallow (5/2, Hardy Pond)
  58. Northern Rough-winged Swallow (4/11, Lyman Pond)
  59. Barn Swallow (4/25, Hardy Pond)
  60. Black-capped Chickadee (1/1, yard)
  61. Tufted Titmouse (1/1, yard)
  62. Red-breasted Nuthatch (5/8, Beaver Brook)
  63. White-breasted Nuthatch (1/1, yard)
  64. Brown Creeper (3/13, Prospect Hill)
  65. Carolina Wren (1/4, Charles)
  66. House Wren (5/12, Paine)
  67. Winter Wren (1/5, Met State)
  68. Golden-crowned Kinglet (1/4, Charles)
  69. Ruby-crowned Kinglet (2/24, Charles)
  70. Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (5/8, Beaver Brook)
  71. Eastern Bluebird (1/5, Met State)
  72. Veery (5/9, Beaver Brook)
  73. Swainson’s Thrush (5/27, Met State)
  74. Hermit Thrush (2/3, Lot 1)
  75. Wood Thrush (5/5, Met State)
  76. American Robin (1/1, yard)
  77. Gray Catbird (5/5, Met State)
  78. Northern Mockingbird (1/1, yard)
  79. Brown Thrasher (4/24, Met State)
  80. European Starling (1/1, yard)
  81. American Pipit (10/24, UMass Field Station)
  82. Cedar Waxwing (3/23, Lot 1)
  83. Blue-winged Warbler (5/11, Met State)
  84. Nashville Warbler (5/5, Prospect Hill)
  85. Northern Parula (5/5, Met State)
  86. Yellow Warbler (5/6, Kennedy)
  87. Chestnut-sided Warbler (5/9, Beaver Brook)
  88. Magnolia Warbler (5/9, Beaver Brook)
  89. Black-throated Blue Warbler (5/11, Met State)
  90. Yellow-rumped Warbler (4/19, Lot 1)
  91. Black-throated Green Warbler (5/5, Prospect Hill)
  92. Pine Warbler (4/10, Paine)
  93. Prairie Warbler (5/11, Met State)
  94. Palm Warbler (4/19, Lot 1)
  95. Blackpoll Warbler (6/2, Met State)
  96. Cerulean Warbler (5/8, Beaver Brook)
  97. Black-and-white Warbler (5/5, Met State)
  98. American Redstart (5/9, Beaver Brook)
  99. Ovenbird (5/5, Met State)
  100. Connecticut Warbler (9/23, Met State)
  101. Common Yellowthroat (5/7, Leitha)
  102. Wilson’s Warbler (8/19, Paine)
  103. Canada Warbler (5/21, Prospect Hill)
  104. Scarlet Tanager (5/11, Met State)
  105. Eastern Towhee (4/24, Met State)
  106. American Tree Sparrow (1/1, yard)
  107. Chipping Sparrow (4/21, Prospect Hill)
  108. Field Sparrow (4/16, Met State)
  109. Savannah Sparrow (4/19, Lot 1)
  110. Song Sparrow (1/4, yard)
  111. Lincoln’s Sparrow (5/9, Beaver Brook)
  112. Swamp Sparrow (4/24, Met State)
  113. White-throated Sparrow (1/1, yard)
  114. White-crowned Sparrow (5/10, yard)
  115. Dark-eyed Junco (1/2, WHS)
  116. Northern Cardinal (1/1, yard)
  117. Rose-breasted Grosbeak (5/2, yard)
  118. Indigo Bunting (5/8, Beaver Brook)
  119. Dickcissel (11/3, UMass Field Station)
  120. Bobolink (8/19, Met State)
  121. Red-winged Blackbird (2/15, Charles)
  122. Eastern Meadowlark (4/6, Met State)
  123. Common Grackle (2/24, Charles)
  124. Brown-headed Cowbird (4/6, Met State)
  125. Baltimore Oriole (5/4, Miriam)
  126. Purple Finch (5/11, Met State)
  127. House Finch (1/1, yard)
  128. American Goldfinch (1/1, yard)
  129. Pine Siskin (11/12, Paine)
  130. House Sparrow (1/1, yard)

55 yard


  1. Whitetail Deer (4/16, Met State)
  2. Gray Squirrel (1/1, yard)
  3. Eastern Cottontail (1/5, Met State)
  4. Muskrat (1/17, Lyman Pond)
  5. Wood Chuck (5/9, Kennedy)
  6. Raccoon (March, yard)
  7. Deer(?) Mouse (March/April, yard)


  1. Silver-spotted Skipper (Epagyreus clarus) (6/7, Lot 1)
  2. Hoary Edge (Achalarus lyciades) (6/25, Prospect Hill)
  3. Dreamy Duskywing (Erynnis icelus) (5/21, Prospect Hill)
  4. Juvenal’s Duskywing (Erynnis juvenalis) (5/11, Met State)
  5. Wild Indigo Duskywing (Erynnis baptisiae) (5/29, Prospect Hill)
  6. Least Skipper (Ancyloxypha numitor) (8/1, UMass Field Station)
  7. European Skipper (Thmelicus lineola) (6/13, Met State)
  8. Pepper-and-salt Skipper (Amblyscirtes hegon) (6/2, Met State)
  9. Fiery Skipper (Hylephila phyleus) (9/17, UMass Field Station)
  10. Indian Skipper (Hesperia sassacus) (5/28, Paine)
  11. Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius) (6/2, yard)
  12. Long Dash (Polites mystic) (6/2, Met State)
  13. Northern Broken-Dash (Wallengrenia egeremet) (6/29, yard)
  14. Little Glassywing (Pompeius verna) (7/11, Prospect Hill)
  15. Hobomok Skipper (Poanes hobomok) (6/2, Met State)
  16. Dusted Skipper (Atrytonopsis hianna) (6/2, Met State)
  17. Black Swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes) (5/21, Prospect Hill)
  18. Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus) (5/18, Trapelo Rd)
  19. Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus) (6/7, Lot 1)
  20. Clouded Sulphur (Colias philodice) (5/11, Met State)
  21. Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme) (6/7, Lot 1)
  22. Cabbage White (Pieris rapae) (4/21, Prospect Hill)
  23. Harvester (Feniseca tarquinius) (6/3, Lyman Pond)
  24. American Copper (Lycaena phlaes) (5/28, Paine)
  25. Henry’s Elfin (Callophrys henrici) (5/27, Met State)
  26. Eastern Pine Elfin (Callophrys niphon) (4/21, Prospect Hill)
  27. Eastern Tailed-Blue (Cupido comyntas) (5/21, Prospect Hill)
  28. Spring Azure (Celastrina ladon) (5/1, Met State)
  29. Cherry Gall Azure (Celastrina serotina) (5/11, Met State)
  30. Summer Azure (Celastrina neglecta) (7/19, Met State)
  31. Monarch (Danaus plexippus) (8/1, UMass Field Station)
  32. Red-spotted Purple (LImenitis arthemis) (8/27, Paine)
  33. American Lady (Vanessa virginiensis) (5/11, Met State)
  34. Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) (5/29, Prospect Hill)
  35. Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) (6/12, Hardy Pond)
  36. Mourning Cloak (Nymphalis antiopa) (4/2, Paine)
  37. Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) (4/2, Paine)
  38. Common Buckeye (Junonia coenia) (8/1, UMass Field Station)
  39. Pearl Crescent (Phyciodes tharos) (6/7, Lot 1)
  40. Appalachian Brown (Lethe appalachia) (7/19, Met State)
  41. Common Ringlet (Coenonympha tullia) (6/7, Lot 1)
  42. Little Wood Satyr (Megisto cymela) (5/27, Met State)
  43. Common Wood-Nymph (Cercyonis pegala) (7/10, Met State)


  1. Grape Leaffolder (Desmia funeralis) (6/7, Lot 1)
  2. Crambus sp (5/21, Prospect Hill)
  3. The Infant (Archiearis infans) (4/3, Prospect Hill)
  4. Common Spring Moth (Heliomata cycladata) (5/27, Met State)
  5. Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis) (5/29, Prospect Hill)
  6. Caenurgina sp (5/21, Prospect Hill)
  7. Grapevine Epimenis (Psychomorpha epimenis) (6/7, Lot 1)


  1. Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata) (6/18, Paine)
  2. Spotted Spreadwing (Lestes congener) (9/19, Prospect Hill)
  3. Blue-fronted Dancer (Argia apicalis) (7/9, Charles)
  4. Violet Dancer (Argia fumipennis violacea (8/8, Charles)
  5. Familiar Bluet (Enallagma civile) (6/1, yard)
  6. Stream Bluet (Enallagma exsulans) (6/22, Charles)
  7. Skimming Bluet (Enallagma geminatum) (6/2, yard)
  8. Orange Bluet (Enallagma signatum) (7/8, yard)
  9. Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita) (5/25, Charles)
  10. Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis) (5/1, yard)
  11. Lance-tipped Darner (Aeshna constricta) (8/14, Paine)
  12. Shadow Darner (Aeshna umbrosa) (8/15, Met State)
  13. Common Green Darner (Anax junius) (6/3, Lyman Pond)
  14. Illinois River Cruiser (Macromia illinoiensis) (7/17, Prospect Hill)
  15. Common Baskettail (Epitheca cynosura) (5/28, Paine)
  16. Prince Baskettail (Epitheca princeps) (6/8, Leitha)
  17. Clamp-tipped Emerald (Somatochlora tenebrosa) (7/25, Met State)
  18. Calico Pennant (Celithemis elisa) (6/18, Paine)
  19. Halloween Pennant (Celithemis eponina) (7/8, Paine)
  20. Eastern Pondhaawk (Erythemis simplicicollis (6/11, Paine)
  21. Dot-tailed Whiteface (Leucorrhinia intacta (5/28, Paine)
  22. Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) (6/3, Lyman Pond)
  23. Slaty Skimmer (Libellula incesta) (6/22, Charles)
  24. Widow Skimmer (Libellula luctuosa) (6/25, Prospect Hill)
  25. Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) (6/2, yard)
  26. Four-spotted Skimmer (Libellula quadrimaculata) (5/28, Paine)
  27. Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) (6/22, Charles)
  28. Wandering Glider (Pantala flavescens) (8/1, UMass Field Station)
  29. Spot-winged Glider (Pantala hymenaea) (6/19, Leitha)
  30. Eastern Amberwing (Perithemis tenera) (6/19, Prospect Hill)
  31. Ruby Meadowhawk (Sympetrum rubicundulum) (6/13, Met State)
  32. Band-winged Meadowhawk (Sympetrum semicinctum) (8/1, UMass Field Station)
  33. Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) (8/15, Met State)
  34. Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) (6/12, Hardy Pond)

I deleted the misc section in the June update as I haven’t been keeping track of most things

2007 Results

5 Answer Finally

Yeah, I’ve been neglecting this.

Clearly a black bird. It has a thin, pointed bill, a dark eye, and is a smooth black without any glossy color. Of the blackbirds, Rusty (and the very unlikely Brewer’s) has a pale eye, Common Grackle is much bulkier, glossier, and with a bigger bill, and Brown-headed Cowbird would have a brown head and thicker bill. That leaves Red-winged Blackbird, which this is.

At the time, it was one of the first ones to arrive for the spring. Now they’re everywhere.

Pine Grosbeaks finally

So it’s an irruption year for Pine Grosbeaks and they’ve done all they can to avoid me. A calling bird that we never found at the top of Mt. Watatic last year did get it onto my year list. This year, we tried in Royalston on a freezing cold day that had all the birds hiding for the short time we were able to stand being out. While out at Ethan’s for a weekend, I did get a very brief fly-by view at the Athol McDonald’s, but that’s not very satisfying.

I was beginning to think I wasn’t going to get any photo ops and wasn’t going to be able to get them on my Middlesex County list (kicking myself for not going out to Groton early in the winter when they appeared to be pretty regular). Fortunately, on Thursday, Paul Peterson reported several at the train station in Lincoln and Marj Rines found them again Friday. Although it was supposed to be nasty all day Saturday, it wasn’t raining when I got up, so we took a quick ride out. The train station trees were just about stripped bare (although a few of the waxwings that had been around showed up along with a bluebird). We wandered down through the community gardens looking for other fruit trees and found some in front of the police station. Unfortunately, there were no birds in them. Continuing on to the Codman Estate, we were rewarded with a fairly good view of a Pileated Woodpecker. The rain picked up, so we headed out.

Today, I started by not doing much of anything ad finally decided to try again around 9:30. The train station looked empty, so I drove past the police station (also empty) and headed to Nine Acre Corner. I attempted to enjoy my first Green-winged Teal and Northern Pintails of the year, but the freezing wind made it difficult. There had been a White-fronted Goose around, but the majority of the geese were behind vegetation or in horrible light. Barbara Volkle and Steve Moore drove up, agreed on the difficulty with the geese and we all headed back to the other side to try from there. No luck with the geese and the Killdeer that Barbara and Steve had seen had also gone into hiding, so I headed back to the train station.

On the way back, I cut down 126 to Codman Rd. to check for the Pileated again (Marj had mentioned that it appeared to have been working on a hole for quite awhile last year). At the stop sign, the car in front of me was being slow, so I looked to the police station and noticed a brighter spot in the trees. The car was still sitting there and there was no one behind me, so I grabbed my binocs and had a Pine Grosbeak. I went back to the train station to park and ran over and found at least 4 birds feeding in the trees right in front of the station, including one gorgeous adult male.

And since I’m sure no one read all that, here’s the pictures:

Pine Grosbeak

Male Pine Grosbeak

Male Pine Grosbeak

Male Pine Grosbeak

Note how many berries he started eating and didn’t finish.

(Update: in the comments, Norm Levey points out that they eat the pips and not the fruit itself)

Male Pine Grosbeak

Male Pine Grosbeak

A couple waxwings joined them as well.

Cedar Waxwing

I headed off to other things but caught Barbara and Steve as they drove up and was able to point them to the police station.

After my parents got home in the afternoon, they decided to take a run over and see them themselves. We got to the police station with empty trees. There was an odd call from across the street and we looked up and all saw a grosbeak. After a few seconds, we realized we were all looking at different birds. They flew back into the fruit trees, giving much better views. Unfortunately no adult male this time, but still good for everyone to get them.

Pine Grosbeaks

Second bird almost visible there.

Pine Grosbeak