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Friday, June 24, 2011

Borderland State Park, Mansfield Massachusetts June 24, 2011 10:30-12:40 am cloudy 68`

Today we went for a 7 mile run at Borderland State Park, the best of all our running spots. We heard three or four thrush species (Hermit(?), Wood, Veery and American Robin); their ghostly songs were constantly ringing through the woodlands. White-breasted Nuthatch (seen), Scarlet Tanager (heard), Great Blue Heron (smelled), and Barn Swallows (touched) along with many other birds were all enjoyed on this moist and soggy run. I was considering tasting a Tufted Titmouse but that would go against my vegetarian diet.

But by far the best find of the outing was the exciting discovery of a Vesper Sparrow! A lifer! Vesper Sparrows are much commoner in the West than in the East. Besides it being uncommon they also aren't supposed to be found in moist woodlands. But just the same this was a Vesper Sparrow we found hanging about on the path.

It is an averaged sized sparrow and such a drab bird that at a distance we couldn't see any field marks on its body. In fact the only two ways that we positively identified it was 1. the distinctive white edges to the tail and 2. the fact that we didn't recognize it. Juncos also have white on the edges of the tail but this bird was too light for an immature junco. This leaves Vesper Sparrow as the only possibility. If there was another explanation for this bird then I would definitely take it but there is none as far as I can see.

I really enjoyed the large numbers of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds coming to the Hummingbird Feeder which they had cleverly positioned inches from the window. I got some nice photos of them which will post on my flickr page soon. We all enjoyed watching the hummingbirds (including Theo). They are very agile little birds constantly chasing each other away from the feeders chattering wildly sounding like slightly bewildered Spider Monkeys that being poked in the ears with pokey sticks (at least I think that is what they sounded like).

The only other really exciting find of the day was the nest of a Potter Wasp clinging to the under leaf of a Milkweed plant. It was small pot like structure about half an inch in diameter with a little entrance hole making it into a "pot". Beautifully constructed out of mud it something that I have always wanted to see.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Petersham MA June 17-21, 2011

We recently went running at Trout Brook Conservation Area where we found among other things: 1 Veery (heard), 1 Scarlet Tanager (heard), 1 Prairie Warbler (heard), 2 Barred Owls and best of all a LIFE BIRD Northern Goshawk.

We got a very quick glimpse of the goshawk flying low over head calling! Although the lighting was bad we could just see the gray on it's belly. The other main factor of the identification was the call which perfectly matched recordings of goshawks on our ipods.

The Barred Owls were the only other highlights of the run. I spotted both of the owls. The first one I saw fly to and land on a branch close to the path while chickadees angrily scolded it. It provided great views and even our dog saw it! We could still hear chickadees chattering at it somewhere deeper in the woods when we ran by the spot again. The other owl we found thirty minutes later. This one was much harder to see and not all of us saw it. It flew off soon after we spotted it.

A few days ago we visited our grandparents in Petersham, Massachusetts. There were many really nice bird species, the best being a Barred Owl which I heard hooting while hanging out in the backyard.

The best day of the five day visit was when Theo (our dog) and John (me) went for a walk down into the wet grass, mist and Bobolinks of the North Common Meadows Reservation. The mist was so thick that we couldn't even see the far side of the meadows.
If you study the photo that I took there I bet that you can't see the far side either!

There was grass (not surprisingly, don't forget that it was a meadow) and Bobolinks every where: fluttering about in loose flocks, swaying slowly back and forth (the grass was swaying not the Bobolinks), males chasing the females back and forth, singing their luxurious, bubbling song (this was also the grass) and generally being lazy.

Theo studying a Bobolink

Down by the pond we found: Alder Flycatcher (heard), Eastern Kingbird, Swamp Sparrow and Common Yellowthroat among other things. Both me and Theo saw the Swamp Sparrow; it was the first one I have ever seen in Petersham.

The only other really exciting walk we did was when we visited the nearby town of Amherst where I spotted a probable life bird Louisiana Waterthrush. Although I didn't get a photo of the bird I got a video of it, which clearly shows the main field marks: the pure white eye stripe (the Northern Waterthrush has a dull brown white eye stripe) and the habitat. This bird which we discovered at Amethyst Brook Conservation Area was searching for food along the rocky shores bordering the fast flowing water of Amethyst Brook. I am fairly certain that this is a Louisiana opposed to Northern Waterthrush.

Other highlights of the visit included a probable Snowshoe Hare which would be a life bunny and a life butterfly Harris' Checkerspot which we found in large numbers in the Bobolink field.
Snowshoe Hare?

Harris' Checkerspot note unusual blotch of green on the wing

It was a somewhat extremely exciting vacation!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Petersham MA May 28-31, 2011

A few days ago we visited our grandparents up in Petersham Massachusetts.

We found all the usual species along with a new one. An Alder Flycatcher, the identical twin to the Willow Flycatcher (both species are Empidonax Flycatchers). We found this life bird down by the pond where we had recently spotted the (possible) Least Flycatcher which was also an Empidonax and a life bird.

Empidonax Flycatchers are by far the hardest birds to identify in North America due to similarities in feather patterns and colors. Generally the only way that birders are able to put a name to these tricky little devils is by voice alone (unless you manage to get inches away from it and get an extremely good look at the lower mandible).

There were two of them down by the pond I suspect that they are nesting in the area; it being perfect habitat for them. I managed to get some fairly good photos of them and took a video recording of the song. At the time we weren't positive that they were Alders but when we got home I put the song recording on the internet and some other birders confirmed my suspicion.

Other highlights included: Barred Owls heard hooting late at night, Wood Duck, Indigo Bunting, Chestnut-sided Warbler and Pileated Woodpecker. Later that day at a local Audubon we heard another Alder Flycatcher. It was a great few days.