Monday, April 21, 2008

Yellow-rumped Warbler and other Sightings at the Charles River

I took a walk at the Charles River Sunday and had quite a few exciting spring sightings. The first of which as a yellow-rumped warbler. I spent some time up close to it on the bank of the river. I took a lot of pictures but need to perfect my craft since I only ended up with one good shot:

I was also excited because I was able to locate the songbird that I recognize from the beach at the Cape. I spent some time listening to it and attempting to photograph it at the very top of a tree. Here are my best attempts. Based on what I can see in the photo, but mostly thanks to its call I think it's a Savannah Sparrow.

Another familiar bird I was able to stop and capture was a Red-winged Blackbird- a regular at the River:

I also spent some time photographing a pair of Song Sparrows (?). Sparrows can be tricky though- I spent a lot of time with my guidebook and this was my best guess.

I also followed the call of a Northern Flicker and got these pictures from far away:

It was such a beautiful day and I'm so glad I got down to the river for a walk. I'm also glad I had my camera with me and spent some time really trying to identify the various calls- all of which were familiar to me. It's really important to start matching up the calls I've heard my whole life with the birds I'm used to seeing but in a different context where they're not singing- at a feeder for example.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Charles River Lunchtime Birdwatching

It's been a while since I've been able to do this, but I went for a walk during lunch last Wednesday (April 9th) and was surprised at all of the birds I heard and saw. Unfortunately I didn't bring a camera but I'll do my best to report on what I saw.

I came across several ducks, and interesting ones that included a Common Goldeneye pair (or so I think- male had a mostly white body and black head), as well as a pair I saw in which the male had white rings around its all-black neck. My Sibley Guide is really helpful since I encountered the ducks as they were taking flight, and it includes illustrations of ducks in flight. The Harlequin Duck has the same white rings I saw, but according to the description it's a coastal bird, so it's unlikely I would have seen it in an inlet of the Charles River. But currently, that's the best guess I can make.

I heard many red-winged blackbirds throughout my walk. At this part of the Charles River the banks are very close to one another so I was able to hear birds on the other side of the river as well. The first red-winged blackbirds I heard were on the other side, but on my loop back to the office there were some on my side also.

One of the surprising calls I heard was what I call a 'shrill beach bird.' It evokes memories of my grandparents' beach in Wings Neck, Pocasset (Cape Cod) since this bird was always there to keep me company on days I spent at the beach alone. This is actually at the top of my list to identify because I am so curious what it actually is after all these years. During one of my few trips to Monument Beach last year (local public beach where I grew up) I was able to spot the bird making these calls, but at the time didn't have my Sibley Guide and also didn't have a camera. If I remember correctly it was a rather nondescript bird that was very muted in color. I would say it was a very light brown, with no distinct features. I do have a disc with bird calls on it; however, so I'll try to spend some time today listening to it to see if I can eventually narrow it down. I know that once I hear it I'll immediately know it- it's more a matter of choosing the right birds whose calls to listen to.

Finally, I had a larger bird sighting that I have not been able to identify at all. This bird was roosting very high in a tree and did fly between the tops of adjacent trees but never came down low enough so I could see it. This would be where my much-needed binoculars would come in handy! It was also a sunny day so it was difficult to look up for that long. The most distinguishing feature I could see was that it had a slight crest on its head. Its overall color was light brown/taupe and it had a distinct call. It was large as I mentioned, at least 10" long. My initial thought was that it was some type of Flycatcher, but I'm having trouble matching it up with any of those.

I suppose one way to solve some of these difficult identifications is to make a return trip this week!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Red-tailed Hawk Attacks a Girl at Fenway Park

Apparently there are three resident red-tailed hawks at Fenway Park. One of them attacked a middle school student from Connecticut while she was there on a tour of the park. She received a scratch on her forehead and was treated and released from Children's Hospital.

John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

What a terrible thing to happen, but at the same time I'm fascinated by these Fenway Park hawks. has full coverage with both a news story and a pictorial giving a high-level account of the story. I recommend taking a look at the pictorial by clicking on the image above because there are some amazing pictures in there.

WCVB,, also covered the story and has a video of the hawk watching visitors in one of the luxury boxes. The video captures both angles- the visitors chattering behind the glass and of the hawk perched in front of the window watching them critically. Click on the image to view the video (taken by reporters touring the park) on their site.

It's reported that the hawk has been building nests there since 2002, but is usually shooed out before Opening Day. In the end Animal Rescue League removed the nest at the direction of MassWildlife or the Department of Fish and Game. The Red Sox spokeswoman referred to the agency as Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife. I'm not sure who it is then since as far as I know that agency doesn't exist.

After learning about habitat management from Dave Scarpitti it occurred to me the hawk chose Fenway since it's an open tract of land in the heart of an urban center where it can hunt (groundskeepers report seeing it catch mice and small animals in years past) and have other habitat needs met.

What are your thoughts? Did anyone else see this in the news?

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Six Word Birding Meme

I was tagged by fellow Cape Codder Bennet over at Pish to write a 6-word meme about birding. I received this tag March is now April 2nd...can you tell I was a bit intimidated by the task?

I did some brainstorming and initially I wanted to talk about birding while jogging, but you already know how much I like that so that's not interesting. Instead I decided to look to my roots:

Birding cultivates knowledge and inspires grace

I've included a picture of my late grandmother, a woman who embodied both of these qualities and shared her love of birding with me. I think of her every time I see a Baltimore Oriole- one of her favorite birds.
Now I'm charged with the task of tagging 5 more bloggers. I'm afraid a lot of the bird bloggers I know have already been tagged, but I'll take my chances! I've tagged: John at Birds Etcetera, Larry at The Brownstone Birding Blog, Rob at The Birdchaser, bootstrap analysis, and Beginning to Bird.
Here are the rules:
1. Write your own six word memoir
2. Post it on your blog and include a visual illustration if you’d like
3. Link to the person that tagged you in your post and to this original post if possible so we can track it as it travels across the blogosphere
4 .Tag five more blogs with links
5. And don’t forget to leave a comment on the tagged blogs with an invitation to play!