Friday, January 31, 2014

Birding at Mt. Auburn Cemetery

The temperature climbed above 40, the sun was out, it was Friday, and I could not keep working.  I took the afternoon off and jumped in the car to do some birding at Mt. Auburn Cemetery.  I drove slowly through the narrow roads, windows down, listening for birds.  I stopped when I heard the squawking and squeaking of hundreds of European Starlings.  They were filling at least 4 treetops, but shortly after I got out, they all flew off.  I should have taken a video, because the noise was unbelievable!

I enjoyed many beautiful, but common birds.

Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker (male)

 Gray Squirrel (eating sap)

 Northern Cardinal (male)

Northern Cardinal (female)

White-Breasted Nuthatch

White-Throated Sparrow (sigh)
(what a cooperative model)


Brown Creeper

Now, I was just heading back to the car to call it quits, when I noticed a tree just filled with birds:  Black Capped Chickadees, Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, White-Throated Sparrows, all squawking and hopping from branch to branch.  I couldn't ignore that!   I moved closer to investigate.  They were upset over something, but I couldn't figure out what.  Whatever it was, it had brought them all together to fight it off as brothers.

The magic tree!
(Cardinal, White-Throated Sparrows, Black-Capped Chickadee, and this is only one section)

Then, an opossum walked quickly from under one shrub to another.  I was so surprised that I didn't get its picture!  The birds did not give up their battle cries, so I knew it was still there somewhere.  I looked around the shrub until I caught a glimpse of its little white face.

 Northern Cardinal (he was really mad)

Opossum, the evil intruder
(first live one I've seen since I began blogging)

I read that opossums eat bird eggs, so maybe it is hated by birds for that fact alone.  I don't know.  It's winter now, though and no eggs are at risk.  It almost seemed as if the birds themselves were at risk.  Is an opossum fast enough to kill a bird?  


American Goldfinch
American Robin 2
Black Capped Chickadee 2
Blue Jay 12
Brown Creeper 1
Dark Eyed Junco 15+
Downy Woodpecker 3
European Starlings 200+
Northern Cardinal 6
Red-Bellied Woodpecker 2
Tufted Titmouse 4
White Breasted Nuthatch 2
White-Throated Sparrow 20+
Yellow-Bellied Sapsucker

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Nature All Around

It was 11 degrees this morning.  I knew it was supposed to be a sunny day, but with few to no clouds in the sky, a spectacular sunrise was out of the question.  I still drove over to Farm Pond because it had been a long time since I had been there for a sunrise.

I had my landscape lens on the camera, so when a Golden-Crowned Kinglet flew out of the brush, I wasn't prepared to take a picture.  I didn't want to bother removing my mittens, unzipping the bag and changing the lens with the off chance that I'd miss the sunrise and the bird would fly away.  I am glad to add it to my year list (#56) and had a nice look at it.  I also heard a Carolina Wren singing and caught a long-distance view of it.

Meanwhile, it was pretty darn chilly waiting for the sun to come up!

But worth it.

Back at home, there were 4 White-Tailed Deer foraging in the woods next to the house.  The other three were more shy.

At lunch, I walked at Breakneck Hill Conservation Land.  It's harder to see much nature there now (at least not close up) because it's very noisy crunching through the snow on the edge of the trails in order to avoid slipping.

I was surprised to see a thrush in the woods near the picnic table.  It flew off quickly so I didn't get a good look at it to identify what type.  I followed it (crunching along) as it flew to distant branches 3 different times, but never got another look at it and lost sight of it.

Eastern Bluebirds, perched in the meadow

Eastern Bluebird

As I headed back to my car, I could see Norm, the Northern Mockingbird, perched in the usual spot, as if waiting to say good-bye to me.


I saw:

American Crow
American Goldfinch
American Robin
Black Capped Chickadee
Blue Jay
Dark-Eyed Junco
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Bluebird
House Sparrow
Northern Mockingbird ("Norm!")
thrush species
Tufted Titmouse

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

American Robins

Today I spent my lunch hour birding by car (mostly) due to the cold temperatures and wind chill.  My best sighting was a flock of American Robins eating freeze dried apples on Middle Road in Southboro. I also saw:

Dark Eyed Junco 8
European Starlings 15
Mute Swan 1
Red-Bellied Woodpecker 2
Song Sparrow 1

A beautiful sight to fruit-eating birds wintering in Massachusetts.

Monday, January 27, 2014


When I pulled into the parking lot at Breakneck Hill Conservation Land, I had the urge to yell "Norm!".   Everyone at Cheers (television sitcom) would yell "Norm" when he, a regular to the bar, would walk in the door.  My "Norm" was for my friend the Northern Mockingbird, regularly perched in the thicket next to the parking lot.  Actually, NORM is a pretty good nickname for this bird.   I just looked up the alpha abbreviation code for this bird, but it is NOMO.  I thought it might be NORM, which would be hilarious.  Or would it be hilarious?  I may be turning into a bit of a bird nerd....

Northern Mockingbird

Today was a warm interlude between icy cold days of the polar vortex.   It rained hard most of the morning, but I was determined to get out to hike at lunchtime regardless of the weather.  Luckily for me, the rain stopped.  It was about 43 degrees and the skies looked threatening, but I had a beautiful hike at Breakneck Hill Conservation Land without any rain!  It was so good to get out and move again!  It felt like Spring, but we all know the polar temperatures will be back again tomorrow.  I was glad it wasn't too slippery!

During the first half of my hike, the sun was peeking out through "holes" in the clouds, causing rays to shine down through the clouds.  I was too lazy to change my camera lens so I didn't take any pictures of it, but believe me when I say it was beautiful!

As I was leaving Breakneck Hill, I did take the time to change my lens and take this photo of the scenery with the beautiful, threatening clouds above.

Red-Tailed Hawk

I didn't see any "first of year" birds like I did over the weekend, but this hike was so much more enjoyable than birding from the car, or making quick stops and immediately getting back into the car.  That just isn't as good as breathing in the fresh air and feeling the wind against your face.   There's something about being out there that is so refreshing to the spirit.  I really needed it.

American Robin - 5
Black-Capped Chickadee - 2
Blue Jay - 5
Dark Eyed Junco - 1
Downy Woodpecker - 1
Mourning Dove - 8
Northern Mockingbird - 2
Red Tailed Hawk - 2
Tufted Titmouse - 2

No sign of the fox or the rabbit!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Northern Pintail

I've said that if you are dressed properly, you can be outside in any weather.  But for some odd reason (-7 degrees wind chill), I couldn't do it today.

I still wanted to try to find a new bird for my 2014 list, so I drove over to Hager Pond in Marlboro, hoping for an unusual duck.  I lucked out and found a Northern Pintail.  I had seen one here in the past but had completely forgotten about it.  This was basically birding from the car (a parking lot overlooking the open water in the pond).

I stopped next at the Gristmill and the Martha Mary Chapel.  The Gristmill was closed off for the winter with a nasty "No Trespassing" sign across the footbridge.  I guess that keeps troublemakers out, but it bothers me that people can't continue to enjoy the trails in the winter months.  I suppose it's worth it if it keeps the mill itself safe.

On the way home, I stopped at Home Depot and watched a few gulls in the parking lots.  I thought one of them might have been a  Lesser Black-Backed Gull, but I am not able to be certain so won't count it. I sure do miss hiking, and I am getting tired of the bitter cold Polar Vortex.  Enough!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Snowy Owl

I stopped in Chelmsford on my way up to Salisbury in hopes of seeing a Bullock's Oriole that has been reported there at a resident's birdfeeder.  I didn't see it but was able to add Brown Creeper to my year list.

On to Salisbury Beach State Reservation, where as soon as I turned into the access road, a crowd was gathered at the side of the road watching a Snowy Owl.

It was my best sighting of the trip, although I also saw a large flock of Horned Larks, 3 Lapland Longspurs and my first ever Merlin!  I wish I could have gotten a photo of the Merlin.  It was perched on the edge of a boardwalk ramp to the beach and flew off before I could find a safe place to pull over.

Last, but not least, when I was stopped at a light turning onto Route 110, a Bald Eagle flew right over my car.  Again, I wished for a place to quickly pull over, but in the end, I didn't get a picture of the eagle either.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Northern Mockingbird

Sunrise this morning at Hopkinton State Park.  I was the only person there!

By lunchtime, the temperature had dropped to about 14.  I was determined to get some fresh air and exercise, so I switched into my flannel-lined khakis and grabbed my heavy mittens to wear over my running gloves to ramp my layers up a bit.  I stayed toasty warm during the hour I hiked around Breakneck Hill Conservation Land.  Again, I was the only person there.  Cold temperatures really keep people indoors!

There was very little bird activity, although I did see two beautiful Red-Tailed Hawks on my drive over.  I saw several Mourning Doves, a Downy Woodpecker, a single American Goldfinch and a Northern Mockingbird.  By the time I saw the mockingbird, my camera battery had been killed by the cold temperature.  This was one hike I didn't bring my camera pack (where I carry a spare battery), so I took the battery out and warmed it in my hand for a few moments to see if I could re-activate it at all.  I was able to generate 37% battery power to take a few shots of this pretty mockingbird as it ate some freeze-dried apple still hanging in the orchard.

There's something about the layers of gray in this photo contrasted with the bright splash of color in the apple that I really like!  We're definitely in for some cold and snow.  We may get a fresh foot of snow by tomorrow.  That does curtail my hiking, but it may be enough (depending on wind chill factor) to motivate me to get my cross-country skis out!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Eastern Bluebird

Once in a while, I am at the right place at the right time.  And when I am, and I also have my camera near, it makes me so happy. . . especially if it's a bluebird.  I love Eastern Bluebirds!!!!

This hook is on the right side of my deck and the bird's bright blue wings showed up a lot better over there.

Same bird, different hook.  Left side of deck.

Yup, he saw me.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

House Finches

When I tell you the urge to capture a bluebird in a snowy setting is huge, you'll not be surprised that I went back to Breakneck Hill again today.  Skunked again.   Common birds were out in the shrubby area.  No sign of the fox.  Several cross country skiers and walkers.  It was a pretty busy place for a snowy Sunday afternoon, but it was absolutely beautiful.  The sun was out, the sky was blue and all the snow was sparkling.

 American Robin

Black-Capped Chickadee

House Finches

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Red Fox in the Snow

The weather really messed up my plans today.  We had rain/snow most of the morning, and then it switched over to wet heavy snow that accumulated quite quickly starting about 12:30.   At this point, I went over to take a walk at Breakneck Hill Conservation Land.  I had a baggie for my camera, my baseball cap with a winter hat over it and the rest of my "normal" winter gear.  There was one other set of footprints, but no one in sight.

I found the red fox in the back meadow.  We never really got too near each other, but I did enjoy watching it hunt (jumping in the air and then pouncing nose-first into the ground).  The photos don't do it justice, but do show how heavy our snowstorm was.  I was surprised to find about 2 inches of snow on the brim of my baseball cap when I got back to the car!  I should have taken a photo of that!!

You may have to click on these photos and enlarge them in order to see the fox!!