Thursday, April 30, 2009

Raptor Nests

A few weeks back while driving down my street, I noticed a medium sized hawk fly over the road and land in a White Pine tree. Naturally, I stopped to take a closer look, it was an adult Cooper's Hawk perched beside a nest, the bird was holding a dead leaf in its bill. On my way into work eariler this week, I stopped and noticed one of birds was near the nest, I took a few photos through my binocular.

Notice on the left side of the nest, it appears to be the tail of the other "coop" sticking up over the edge of the nest. The whitish tip of the rounded tail shows best.
The tree is in the front yard of a residence, though the house lots on the street a fairly good size.
This morning, 4/30 I had stopped along a powerline just off rte 2 in Lancaster, hoping to see or hear a Blue-winged Warbler. I missed the Blue-winged but noticed a large bird, which seemed to be carrying a stick, dissappear behind a pine grove. My first thought was it might be a Great Blue Heron, when the bird reappeared on the other side of the pine I could clearly see an Osprey with a nice piece of "lumber" in tow! My camera was in the car, but the bird was circling and slowly gaining altitude. I ran back to the car and managed the few shots below.....

Can you find the Osprey in this shot? Its an obstructed view. No need to seek copywright protection for this shot!

After this winter's ice storm, it shouldn't be too difficult for these birds to find a few branches.

Out of focus, but you can see its got nice piece of stock for the project.
Another obstructed view, almost like watching a hockey game (from the cheap seats) in the old Boston Garden, landing to the upper left of the tower.
This bird, I only saw one "OS' today, was nest building on the cell tower pictured above, which is not uncommon for Ospreys. There are a few bodies of water near by, Spectical Pond and Fort Pond to name the 2 closest and the Nashua River is not too far to the east.
While Ospreys continue to do well in the New England, there are very few nesting pairs in Central Massachusetts. In the first two years of the Massachusetts Breeding Bird Atlas project, only 4 of 179 Worcester County blocks have confirmed nesting Ospreys in them....make that at least 5....I think another new nest or two have been discovered in the southern part of the county this year.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Leominster Birds 4/19

I did some "altas Scouting" in the Fitchburg 12 block, on 4/19, which is entirely within Leominster. There is diverse habitat ranging from relatively remote and large wooded tracts of conservaton land in the hills to 1100 feet elevation, a good deal of heavily populated areas in the city limits, with lower elevations to 300' along the Nashua River. Leominster is my hometown, I grew up within the boundaries of this block, so I should be visiting some places I haven't been to in 30+ years.
The lowest location in the block is a marsh that border's Priest Street, Rte 2 and the Watertower Plaza. Watertower Plaza is the former sight of Foster Grant, the sun glass "people", once a prominant employer in town. According to reports the dumping of chemicals and fumes were linked to many cases of autism (childern of neighbors and former employees) in the area, a portion of this marsh was likely one of the dumping sites.
My first confirmed nester, of this block, was a Canada Goose, that I spotted just before I was to leaving the previously mention marsh.
An incubating goose keeping a low profile.
A few moments later I spied this goose, some type of a two headed "spawn" from the chemical dump? Or a tuning fork?
A little cropping and rotating of the photo below, but the neck postion looks very uncomfortable. I have seen a fair number to "low profile" geese near their nests before, but never one with the posture of this bird. It looked particularly odd because its body was hidden behind vegetation.

It then stretched out a its neck bit more and lowered its head to keep a lower profile.

Looking a bit serpant like.
At the top of a steep embankment I saw this chickadee excavating a nest hole.
Kiss my .....
... well you get the point.

Just missed a great shot!

When I was in high school, I HEARD, you could get a case of this stuff for just under 3 bucks!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Westminster Loons 04/18

I birded parts of Winchendon, during the morning of 4/18, to scout the Winchendon 12 Breeding Bird Atlas block, then stopping by the Barre Falls Hawkwatch site to enjoy passing raptors. On the way home from the hawkwatch, I stopped to look at a pair of Common Loons on Mare Meadow Reservoir, in Westminster, that were fairly close to the road.

Common Loon Pair on Mare Meadow Reservoir, in Westminster.

From 1999 to at least 2004 the Biodiversity Research Institute (Maine) captured and color banded many breeding and or territorial loons in Massachusetts. These close loons presented an opportunity to see if either of this pair were banded. One of the pair was cooperative, showing both legs, the left leg was: Blue/White and the right leg: Blue (stripe)/silver (the metal band with the info).

This bird "flashes" its left leg, revealing the Blue/White bands.

A number of years back I had email the folks at BRI for the color combinations on the Massachusetts loons they'd from that.... This bird is a male that was captured on Paradise Pond (Princeton, ma.) in 2003. Paradise Pond is only a "stone's throw" away, the pair had bred there, successfully for a few years, before "moving out" 2 years back. Perhaps they will find success on Mare Meadow, which has several small islands and no boat traffic.

When beautifull birds are mentioned, I've never heard Swamp Sparrow brought up. But, this "Swampy" looks pretty darn sharp!

There were plenty of Red-breasted Nuthatches in the Winchendon 12 block this morning, out numbering White-breasted 8 - 2.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Westminster and Gardner Birds 4/16 and 17

The "Upper" Marsh, a 1/3 mile in from the Smith Street entrance at High Ridge WMA

Thursday evening I birded the "Upper" marsh, off Smith Street at the High Ridge Wildlife Management Area, on the east side of Rte 140 in Gardner. It had been a few weeks since my last visit here and it was about time to see if an Amercian Bittern had arrived yet. I hadn't even made it 1/2 way to the wetland and I could the hear the bittern's "water pump-like" calls from the distance. A moment later I heard what sounded like a Pied-billed Grebe, that turned out to screams from the prison, another 3/4 mile beyond the marsh. Nothing too serious though, it was likely an inmate's softball game, but from what I've been told it is in fact... serious business.
A Great Blue Heron passed over head, a snap shot through the "bins"
Closer to the marsh I spooked up a Wilson's Snipe, while there are usually a few around this wetland, during early spring, there is simply too much cover and I usually only detect them they flush and give their raspy calls. Small numbers of Common and Hooded Mergansers were on the open water, the Commons should be moving out soon while a few of the Hoodies will stay and nest. I looked hard to get a "visual" of the Bittern but it was "burried" in the cattails and not to be seen.
Two female Hooded Mergansers at rest.
A single Merlin passed over, continuing northeast and appeared to be making the most of a fine spring day and racking up some late day milage. As dusk quickly approached I tried to call in a Barred Owl, one called out a few minutes later and continued calling intermittently until I left. On the walk out a few American Woodcock where giving their "preent" calls.

I took a walk into High Ridge WMA from the Westminster side this morning 4/17, entering from Overlook Road and continuing to the "lower Marsh", which is off East Gardner Road. I was pleased to see an Eastern Meadowlark in one of the fields along with several Robins and 4 Northern Flickers. Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers (3) , a few Palm Warblers (one was singing), Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Swamp Sparrow (3 or 4), and a Savanah Sparrow were new nice additions to the local year list.

A "bin-shot" of a circling "Sharpy"

..and another

On marsh was an Amercian Bittern, this time I had a nice look while it was in flight and soon it disappeared on the far side of the marsh. I have always suspected there are more than one pair nesting at High Ridge, but they do move about and feed in and call from the hay fields.
A very abstract "bin-shot" of an American Goldfinch at my feeder last week.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Eagle "fun and games"

Juv. Bald Eagle on the Conn. River in Hinsdale, NH.

Last Saturday 4/4, I saw this Juv. Bald Eagle (above) on the Connecticut River in Hinsdale, NH. At first glance there appeared nothing noteworthy of this bird, but upon closer examination, I could see it had something in its left talon. It was not a prey item, which was my first thought, but what appeared to be a short piece of PVC pipe, about 6 to 8"!

The foreign object in the bird's left talon.

This youngster hung onto it for about 5 minutes, to the point I thought it may have been entangled with the foreign object (the word foreign object brings to mind old-time cheesy professional wrestling...but I digress). The eagle finally released the pipe, then proceeded to grab a few sticks and drop them as if playing "pickup sticks".

After being displaced, from the log, a Great Black-backed Gull returned as the eagle looks on.
On 4/9, I was watching several dozen Tree Swallows along the Nashua River, in Pepperell, Ma., when a 3rd year type Bald Eagle flew in and "caught" what looked like a clump of debris. It flew off with the "catch", but returned empty handed.
While I haven't seen eagles do this before, I suppose it may not too uncommon. Once, while hawkwatching on Mt. Watatic, I watched a Red-tailed Hawk catch a leaf and release it a few times, a fledgling Peregrine Falcon in Sunderland did the same with a feather. Perhaps, there is an urge for these young eagles to grasp at nesting materials even though it maybe a bit premature?

Digi-bin practice on moving Tree Swallow. There was about 120 over the river and 1 barn Swallow, but the Barn never offered a chance to be photographed.

Another Tree Swallow

This Eastern Bluebird posed nicely for a shot.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Woodcock and leucistic Chickadee

Thursday evening 4/2, I checked Lake Wompanoag to see if the breeding Common Loons had returned, the lake was ice free but I did not see or hear the Loons. Perhaps, they were around the corner from my vantage point or simply not back yet.
Just up the road I had exsquisite views of 2 American Woodcock at the Wompanoag MAS, the 2 digi-scope shots below are not nearly representative of the looks I had, both on the ground and in flight .
With a low ISO setting on the camera, but too slow a shutter speed for hand-held digi-scoping.

A 1600 ISO setting, faster shutter speed, but grainy image and lacking the rich color of the photo above.

Yesterday 4/3, I heard my first singing Eastern Phoebe during lunch break along the Nashua Rive in Groton. While there, I had a nice look at a leucistic Black-capped Chickadee, I have seen a few similar type chickadees over the years. Here is 2 digi-bin shots below.

Other than the a "broken up" cap it appeared and acted like a normal chickadee
A head-on view

Friday, April 3, 2009

American x Eurasian Green-winged Teal "Hybrid" (Bolton 3/25)

I visited Bolton Flats last Thursday afternoon and didn't see too much relatively speaking, but had a nice look at an interesting Green-winged Teal attributes to both the American and European forms of the species. A few digi-scope photos are below:

From behind its looking like a Eurasian GW Teal........
But, the profile show both a vertical and horizontal white markings.

Mid-Coast Maine Birds 3/23 to 3/25

After viewing the Ross' Geese in Essex County I headed north to visit friends, Thom and Sue, in Alna, Maine (Lincoln County). Monday morning Thom took me to a chicken farm in Warren were apparenty they must be "slinging" chicken parts out the back door because the trees were loaded with Bald Eagles. We counted 16 perched in the trees and at least another 4 up in the sky with several ravens. A Black Vulture had been reported from there the previous week, but we could not find it (Sue had photographed one there during the winter of 2008).

Below are a few digi-scope shots of a few eagles from the "chicken farm", the real name is Mainely Poultry.

A few Juveniles, the bird facing away has some very "bleached out" feathers on its upper wings and back.

A Juvenile

A white-bellied
A nice adult.
On Tuesday the 24th, the three of us tried for the Northern Hawk Owl, that had wintered in Bristol, but saw no sign of it. Judging from the old foot prints and tire tracks on the side of the road we were in the right place or rather what previously had been the right place. We continued on toward Pemiquid Point to look for some ocean birds. With very cold NW winds we were not expecting much for seabirds but we managed Common Eider, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Mergansers, Red-necked and Horned Grebe (a few each), 2 breeding plumage Razorbills and Black Guillemots in plumages ranging from winter to breeding.

You know your in the country when.....
you reach Cow Shit Corner!
A winter or basic plumage Black Guillemot at Pemiquid Pt.
The Pemiquid PT. Lighthouse

After lunch we checked on an eagle nest, along the Sheepscot River, just down the road from their house, which had a bird sitting on eggs for at least a few days. We viewed the nest from across the river in a small clearing with a buffer of small pines between the nest and us.

A digi-scope shot through a 32x Scope plus the camera zoom and some cropping.

After about 15 minutes the above bird's mate took flight and began to gain altitude, a gave a look up over its should, similar to the photo below, apparently for another bird. We found the other bird, expecting it to be another Bald was not....BUT it was juvenile Golden Eagle! It stayed up fair high and distant, but features such as , its smaller head, golden nap (through the scopes), whiteish base to the flight feathers (but fairly limited, forming more of a line rather than the classic white patches) against dark wings and body, goldish upper wing coverts, white based tail with thick dark termial band. It kept moving north quartering a strong head wind and there was no interaction between the Bald and Golden.

The Bald settled back down and reappeared a few minutes later, this time it spotted a 4th year Bald Eagle and two interacted at relatively close range, I snapped a few digi-bin photos...

The non-incubating bird sees an interloper.....
Looks like a 4th year bird.
Both birds together
After viewing the nest area we headed toward Wiscasset, and spotted a Turkey Vulture in a front yard working over the remains of a dead skunk. Sue had seen two there the day before, and now the skunk was essentially just a pelt, but there must have been some "goodies" still attached! We pulled over and I got a few shot through the "bins". The best one is below.....

The little blob at its feet are what is left of the skunk..other than the smell.

After birding a bit of the "bay" in Wiscasset we headed back to the house for dinner, a healthy portion of red wine and listened to some CD's in Thom's studio.. to digest a good day in the field.

Not a bad setup to listen to a little or a lot of music!

Wednesday morning Thom and I hung out on the back deck and enjoyed some yard birds, sans Charlie Parker. We had a nice assorment of typical stuff and a few new arrivals such as Rusty Blackbird and Eastern Meadowlark. Raptors from the deck included Bald Eagle, Red-tails, Sharp-shinned, Cooper's Hawk and Turkey Vultures. No Osprey, but I think Thom had one the next day!

A Sharp-shinned through the bins

a passing adult Red-tailed hawk through the bins.

Thom is viewing a passing Bald Eagle
The Eastern Meadowlark's back blends in nicely with the brown grass.