Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Looking Back: 2Q2015

New Birds:
Bicknell's Thrush
Eastern Meadowlark
Grasshopper Sparrow
Least Tern
Piping Plover

My 2015 bird list is up to 197 (so close to 200!) and my yard list is steady at 43.

New Butterflies:
Brown Elfin
Henry's Elfin
Indian Skipper

New Places:
Bay Circuit Trail, Wayland, MA
Blackstone Valley Bike Path, Millbury, MA
Blithewold Mansion, Bristol, RI
Brierly Pond Conservation Area, Millbury, MA
Ponemah Bog, Amherst, NH
Willow Farm, Ware, MA

So far this year, I have seen red foxes, woodchucks, mink, muskrat, white-tailed deer, porcupine, rabbits, gray and red squirrels, and chipmunks.

Biggest Surprises:

#1  Coming face-to-face with a porcupine on one of my hikes!

#2   A leucistic American Robin

Favorite Photos:

Nesting Birds:
American Robin
Baltimore Oriole
Barn Swallow
Black-Capped Chickadee
Canada Goose
Chipping Sparrow
Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Kingbird
Eastern Phoebe
Gray Catbird
Great Blue Heron
Hairy Woodpecker
House Wren
Least Tern
Purple Martin
Tree Swallow
Tufted Titmouse
Yellow Warbler

I had my first Eastern Bluebirds take up residence in the nesting box I put up last year.  I was so excited!  Five sweet little light blue eggs.  Five gangly naked ugly babies.  Five feathered little beauties.  But....before they could fledge, something got to them.  I remember the day it must have happened.  A hawk was in the tree out front, and I thought the birds were just nervous about its presence.  From that day on, the bluebirds were no longer sitting on the wire across from the box, and after two days of not seeing them, when I nervously checked the box (I had a bad feeling), it was empty.  I was heartbroken.  I'll have to try to make some adjustments before next year to see if I can make it safer for them.

Baby Birds:
Baltimore Oriole
Barn Swallow
Canada Goose
Downy Woodpecker
Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Kingbird
European Starling
Gray Catbird
Great Blue Heron
Hairy Woodpecker
House Sparrow
Mute Swan
Piping Plover
Red-Winged Blackbird
Song Sparrow
Spotted Sandpiper
Tufted Titmouse

American Redstart
Black-and-White Warbler
Black-Throated Blue Warbler
Blue-Winged Warbler
Chestnut-Sided Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
Magnolia Warbler
Northern Parula Warbler
Palm Warbler
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Yellow-Rumped Warbler

I also participated in one amphibian survey at Beals Preserve, digging in the leaf litter of the forest in marked off quadrants to search for salamanders.  We didn't find much, and I worried about ticks and poison ivy and throwing out my back, so it was an experience I'm not likely to repeat.  The woman I was paired with did find several salamanders.  She had a better eye for picking them out than I did.

During 2Q2015 I visited an additional 29 town/city halls while on my trips around Massachusetts.  I hope to see them all eventually, but I am not trying to complete it within any specific time period.

MBC Field Trip to Willow Farm

Brian K. led a very enthusiastic and appreciative group on a walk through a portion of Willow Farm (his private property) in Ware, MA.  We were able to add two new hairstreak species (banded and striped) to the 72 butterfly species he has recorded so far.  We also enjoyed native wildflowers, indigo buntings, gray catbirds, common yellowthroats and several interesting moths.  It was a beautiful day!  We were warned about ticks, so I wore my treated pants, but Freddie found at least 8 ticks crawling on her as we drove home.  Later, I found two more on the passenger side of the car.  She was quite a tick magnet!

Great Spangled Fritillary
on possible coyote poop


Cabbage White
(in the remains of a fire)

Banded Hairstreak

Ctenucha Virginica moth

Wild Columbine

Eastern Comma

Indigo Bunting

Spotted Apatelodes Moth

Brian knew the name of this moth, and told me twice, but I knew I'd forget!  It was long!  I'll keep looking.  Found it!

Little Wood Satyr

Gray-Cheeked or Bicknell's Thrush
(I did not pay enough attention to the song to distinguish between them later.)

Silver-Spotted Skipper

Beautiful meadow of Fleabane

Violet Dancer
(the only violet damselfly in the Northeast)

Eastern Pine Elfin

Striped Hairstreak

Purple-Flowering Raspberry

Eastern Tailed-Blue

Striped Hairstreak

Monday, June 29, 2015

Gray Catbird Bookends

Some days are filled with sightings, while others are more quiet and I wonder where everything has gone.  Today was a full day with lots of interesting sightings.  My hike began with Gray Catbirds.

Gray Catbirds

There's a lot of squeaking (baby bird style) in the little woods by the parking area.  A Gray Catbird flew out and landed on a nesting box, followed shortly thereafter by a juvenile.  The juvenile appears to have a bit of a deformed bill.

At the next nesting box (halfway up the hill), a male Eastern Bluebird brought a mouthful of food to his nestlings.  They are so small they aren't even visible at the nest hole.  This box is a bit risky because of the shrub that grows so close to the opening.  I hope they survive!

Swamp Milkweed

Swamp Milkweed is in bloom in the new pollinator garden on the hill.

mystery bird

I was crouched down next to an apple tree, trying to get a photo of the above mysterious yellow bird.  When I got back up again, I was shocked to find a White-Tailed Deer quite near in the meadow behind me.  Of course, it took off running and jumping, and the one photo I got of it jumping I cut off its head.  So it goes with my limited ability to capture something that surprises me!

White-Tailed Deer

Red Milkweed Beetles

Savannah Sparrow (near wetlands)

Red-Winged Blackbird (juvenile)


Eastern Bluebird

 Cedar Waxwing

(one of two seen, both ovipositing)


How can I tell?  It's not nectaring on a flower.  It's underneath the leaves (hiding eggs by laying in safe place).  Body is curved up toward the milkweed.  Milkweed plants are the only plant that Monarchs will lay eggs on because it is the only plant that the monarch caterpillar will eat.  There has been so much press about this in the last year, because of the declining population of the migrating monarchs, that most everyone is probably aware of this!

Great Spangled Fritillary

Eastern Tailed-Blue

Eastern Kingbird

Gray Catbird (juvenile)

My hike also ended with Gray Catbirds.  I peered into the little woods by the parking area to try to isolate the squeaking sound I heard again as I was leaving, and I found the cute little juvenile in the photo above!