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.

Calendars and Reading Comprehension

First, if you haven’t requested one yet, the Barataria-Terrebonne National Estuary Program is taking requests for next year’s spectacular bird calendar.

If you want one, the BBC had information. You can also find that link on about 50 deal of the day sites and apparently readers of those can’t find the email given in the middle of the instructions and are sending the BBC Webmaster (me) requests. SixTen of them today.

Sep update: link’s been pulled as the deal-of-the-day sites swamped them and the calendars are now out of stock. Another 15 requests to me as well, including several that didn’t bother with a mailing address. And exactly one of them thanked me for sending them the correct instructions.

Places 3 and 4 – Lyman Estate and Lyman Pond

Sure didn’t take long to fall behind on this. And by making the list up ahead of time, I was hoping to draft things in advance and just have to publish. Maybe soon.

Places 3 and 4 are very close together: the Lyman Estate and Lyman Pond. The Lyman Estate is right at the Beaver St. rotary in Waltham, there’s a pulloff right next to Lyman St. I only go on weekends when the gate is closed, in which case parking is along the short road that borders the rotary. If the gate is open, you can drive in. The area to cover is quite small, one field, and then all the bushes and trees along Beaver Brook. I can’t say I’ve been here often, and have never found much of anything, but it’s worth a stop on the CBC.

Lyman Pond on the other hand, is a very good stop. Since it’s technically on private property between Gardencrest and Bentley, I won’t give directions. Way down to the left (actually bordering the Lyman Estate) is a slight widening of the brook. This spot often has Wood Ducks and is where a pair of Eastern Screech-Owls appeared to have bred in 2007.

The stream is not overly interesting (although both my records of Harvester are along the stream), but the main pond can be excellent. This is where I first discovered the Goose. In late summer, it also supports the only mud flats I’ve found in Waltham. Most shorebirds are peep, but I’ve seen Lesser Yellowlegs and Solitary Sandpiper occasionally. Green Herons, Spotted Sandpipers, and Wood Ducks all appear to breed somewhere right nearby. In late summer, the Wood Duck numbers can be huge (40+).

Plenty of dragonflies can be found on the pond. They’re pretty much all the common ones, but they put on a good show here and I did have my only Lilypad Forktails from here. It’s also interesting to walk along the edge and note how the species variety changes in different spots.

I almost always find something of interest at the pond. Even in the middle of winter, the water is often open and there’s a good duck or two around. Always worth a stop passing by.

And one more place and I’ll be caught up and can start writing more detailed descriptions.

Place 2: Hardy Pond

Already behind on this, so I’ll do a simple one.

Hardy Pond is a pond in Waltham that often has a nice variety on it. It’s a very easy place to scan and can be reasonably covered in just a couple minutes.

Access is off Lake St, either by going to the end of Shore Road or by the street on the other side of the baseball fields (Princeton or Hiawatha) and then pulling in to the boat launch. The Waltham Land Trust owns Smith Point, which is somewhere nearby, although I’m not entirely sure where.

About all you can do is stand and scan the water. A scope is almost a necessity as many of the ducks will be on the far shore. Herons are often found around any of the edges and there are often cormorants in season on the rocks towards the middle. Ducks are mostly dabblers, mergansers, and ring-necks with some ruddies and occasional others mixed in. Watch for raptors as well. Osprey are regular migrants and I’ve seen Merlin several times (including one on the ice one winter).

If you go to the end of Shore Road, there’s a little weedy spot worth checking. I had a Field Sparrow there one fall and have had other migrants that were only slightly less interesting. If you’re at the boat ramp, there’s a small wooded area and some other trees worth checking.

There’s often a few dragonflies around, although I’ve yet to find any unusual. Butterflies aren’t exciting along the edge.

In recent years, the pond has been dredged and cleaned. Although good in the long term, I’ve had far fewer ducks since that completed. The pond was also mentioned in a Bird Observer article (A Middlesex County Duck Hunt by Matt Pelikan in the October 1997 issue).