Greater Boston CBC 2011

Sunday was the Greater Boston CBC, so I suppose I’m required to post a bit about it. Too cold for many pictures.

I got up a little before 6, intending to go owling. That didn’t work out as my car really didn’t want to start. On the third attempt, I finally got it to start and decided to just let it run for a few minutes and charge up the battery. I took a quick walk to the end of the street (no owl calling on its own and I wasn’t about to play a tape) and then over to Graverson, where a screech-owl flew in almost immediately. That’s #157 for the year in Waltham, a new high.

Back home, I moved my car out of the way and we went to meet the rest of the group at Dunkin Donuts. Everyone was there within a couple minutes and we headed for Dunback. Before arriving, I got a call from John of the Lexington group, who was waiting for us at Waltham St. We ran over and began to hunt for the Lark Sparrow.

Working along the back, an interesting bird flushed up but disappeared into the brush. We eventually looped the field without finding much. John had to take off to meet with his group, so we started circling back. At almost the same spot, a bird flushed and disappeared again. This time I got enough of the tail to say it was almost certainly the sparrow. We backed off a bit and waited it out. After a good 10 minutes, he came out to the front of the bush and sat for a minute or two. Definitely the right way to start, with a new bird for the count that was a lifer for a good portion of the group.

After passing the word along, we returned to Dunback and headed out. A quick stop to drop Eric’s car off, and we drove through Potter Pond, picking up 2 Hooded Mergansers, a Great Blue Heron, and 4 turkeys in almost the same spot as yesterday’s 4. We then parked on Concord Ave and walked up to the path to the West Meadow boardwalk. On the way to the boardwalk, we had a few woodpeckers and Red-tail. The boardwalk itself was pretty quiet. The far end usually is loaded with White-throats but had none today (plenty of robins at least). I also discovered that my ipod apparently doesn’t like the cold and wasn’t turning on. Fortunately I have the owl mobbing recording on my phone as well, but it failed to attract anything.

Reaching Lot 1, we scanned the pines for owls and came across a nice flock of White-throats. Checking the more open areas for waxwings and thrushes didn’t reveal much and there was nothing on the pond. We hopped into Eric’s car and drove back to Lew’s before heading up the parkway. There wasn’t much around Dawes, so we walked down the parkway. There were lots of American Tree Sparrows and a good woodpecker show including a Red-bellied and our only flicker of the day.

From here, we did a quick drive through Fernald (less than half of yesterday’s geese) and then up to Northeast (nothing). Eric had to leave, so Lew and I headed to Wendy’s to meet everyone else for lunch. Lunch was not exactly good and we all agreed to try somewhere else next year.

After suitably warming up and dealing with the paperwork, we headed back out, starting with the Moody St. part of the Charles. Walking up, we scanned the gulls on the water without finding the Iceland. That was because it was actually flying right over our heads:

Iceland above

We walked down a bit and counted the Mallards and geese but decided not to bother with the whole loop. On to Shaw’s, where I wandered down to the left with my father while everyone else checked the right. We found next to nothing, the rest found a Ring-neck and a few Hoodies.

From here, we actually were pretty much out of places to go, so we headed to the edge (or a little beyond) of the circle and stopped at Forest Grove. Scanning through the ducks on the river by Edgewater Drive revealed not only yesterday’s Gadwall, but a few wigeon and a Green-winged Teal. While looking at those, a Turkey Vulture flew over.

That basically wrapped up the day. We dropped Mark and Barbara back off at their cars and gave Hardy Pond a quick scan (finding nothing that Judy and Nancy didn’t have earlier in the day). That got us home in time to relax for a few minutes before totaling everything up and we even got to watch a few minutes of the Patriots game.

Although numbers were low and we missed a bunch of things that had been around, we still tied my highest species total in the sector (46) and added 4 to the cumulative total (Gadwall, Iceland Gull, Wild Turkey, Lark Sparrow). The sparrow was the third first for the entire CBC I’ve had, although the second stakeout (and Turkey Vulture was the third, which might be more expected than some birds that are recorded regularly).

Already ready for next year.

Greater Boston CBC 2010

Last Sunday was the Greater Boston Christmas Bird Count. As usual, I led the Waltham section. We had a mixed day, on the lower end for diversity (well technically exactly average) but had many high counts.

The day started at 5AM, when I walked down the street hoping the Great Horned Owl would be calling. No luck with that and no luck trying a screech-owl recording at Graverson, so back home to rest for a few minutes.

Out again at 7 to meet the group. All ready and off to our first stop by 7:30. Dunback was pretty quiet. Nothing in the woods. Lots of juncos in the gardens and one of yesterday’s sharpies was around but not much else. From here, we split up. I headed to Lot 1 with Christine and Lew while my parents, Barbara, and Mark worked Beaver St.

After dropping a car at the McLaughlin building, we started walking around Lot 1. We found a few waxwings at the pond and a Hermit Thrush at the edge of the big field. The woods were pretty quiet, so we headed to the West Meadow. Lots of robins and starlings just before the boardwalk (and a Canada Goose with them). A flicker flew over the boardwalk. The path out to Dawes was very icy, so we took the long loop. That turned out to be a good move as we found a large flock of Tree Sparrows along the parkway. More tree sparrows and a ton of juncos were around the building but not a whole lot else. We drove back to Lot 1, checking a couple feeders on the way.

Christine had to leave, so Lew and I headed to the Fernald to meet the rest of the group. The geese were not in the usual spot but we found them further down (and assumed the number was the same as Saturday). Since the others were a bit behind and there was nothing here, we changed plans and met up at the Gore Estate. Lots of geese on the lawn and a few doves around but much quieter than it had been. Part of the reason became obvious when a Cooper’s Hawk popped up as we were ready to head out.

From here, we headed to Wendy’s for a lunch break. Judy and Nancy were already there. They had the best day out of all of us, with a Pine Warbler at Prospect Hill and two pintail in front of the Y (the other group had a bunch of cowbirds at the field station but not much else).

After lunch, we hit the Charles, which was very quiet. No ring-necks and no herons. Did get one Common Merganser and a few Hoodies. The Moody St to Prospect St loop was on the quiet side as well, no Great Black-backed Gulls and no interesting ducks. There was a single tagged Ring-billed Gull, which was banded in Worcester in January and seen in New Brunswick in August.

Since we still had some time, we ran up to the Woerd Ave boat ramp where we finally found a Ring-necked Duck. Then it was back to the cars and the end of the day. I took a quick swing around, hoping to add pintail to my personal CBC list without luck.

Overall, 39 species including 3 new to the section. For a few days, the Purple Finch we had on Saturday was a count week bird, but someone did report one from Sunday eventually. A quick count of my results spreadsheet showed that we had about 12 high counts for the section (based on my numbers, so not official before 2004 and lacking the early years). With decent weather it was a very enjoyable day.