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Tuesday, May 8, 2012

May 6 in Petersham

The grass was damp from the early morning dew. From down the grass covered hillside blackbirds, warblers, and sparrows screeched, whistled and jingled. Bobolinks' black and yellow heads peeked up from the green depths of the meadow. It was May and I was loving it!

I was standing on the top of a slope, below me was a meadow behind which was a three tree apple orchard, a small lily pad covered pond and a thick woodlands filled to overflowing with Ovenbirds and Pine Warblers. I was accompanied only by Theo (the dog of the family).

As I started down the hill my mind flipped through the photos I had recently captured. Most were of Blackburnian Warblers (of which I had seen at least ten in the last couple of days) but other species were featured in my mental playlist, Yellow-rumped Warblers, Wood Thrushes, Chipping Sparrows and scores of other species.

I was distracted from my internal photo album by the burbling of a House Wren which was joined by a Gray Catbird and a pair of Black-and-white Warblers. None of the birds showed themselves but I didn't mind - their songs were enough for me. I looked up as a pair of Scarlet Tanagers flew over calling. The male in a vibrant red suit, the female a dull olive yellow.

A Chestnut-sided Warbler sang from my left "very pleased to meet cha" and was answered by a Common Yellowthroat "witchity-witchity-witchity witch" (I thought that was rather unfair to the friendly Chestnut-sided who's never deserved such a harsh label).

A Wood Duck flew up from the pond and whizzed overhead wings whirring, vocal cords vibrating to form the classic squawk of the woodland dwelling duck.

I momentarily stopped scanning the skies, although I kept my ears peeled, to photograph my beautiful surroundings. The pond, the grass and the flowers that surrounded me.

I was unable to find some of the main species we had seen the day before, mainly Least Flycatcher and Eastern Meadowlark, so I decided it was time to try a different spot. 

Here's a full list from the North Common Meadow

I returned to headquarters (my grandparents house, but headquarters sounds way cooler) after about an hour of birding. It was now 6:30 am. I entered headquarters only briefly to return the pup then I started out into the back woods.

I didn't get far before stopping to listen to the roar of birdsongs; Ovenbirds, B.T.Green Warblers and American Goldfinches were everywhere. With them I could hear catbirds, robins, crows, jays, sapsuckers, woodpeckers, Blackburnians, Black-and-whites and Chestnut-sided Warblers. The woods echoed with their songs.

Finding a pair of Ovenbirds by the path that leads deep into the Harvard Forest I stopped and decided to try to call them in close using recordings. My ploy was successful and I was instantly confronted by the male bird, hackles raised he flitted by my head chipping and then landed in a tree where he sang his informative song "teacher teacher teacher".  He flew to another tree where he sang again. Around and around the handsome bird went. Determined to best this unseen rival aka my ipod. Twice he flew to within five feet of me only to fly from his perch seconds before I had my camera focused.

The male Ovenbird protecting his territory fearlessly 
I spotted the female meandering under the fallen trees and over the fallen leaves. Sneaking after her, careful as to not get too close I was able to snap off a few shots of this shy little bird.

The female Ovenbird watches the camera warily as her mate sings
I was happy to hear a Great-crested Flycatcher calling in the distance, along with the Blackburnians this was a new yard bird.
A male Blackburnian Warbler
I spent two and a half hours out in the woods watching and photographing the feathered ones before returning back tick coated and starved to headquarters for lunch. 

Here's a link to my eBird checklist from the walk

Later that day on a run through the Harvard Forest I picked up a Northern Waterthrush singing somewhere in the midst of a small beaver city. 

Da Mink on da log!
On the return trip back to Providence in the afternoon we stopped by Wells State Park in Sturbridge where we found yet another Northern Waterthrush (also in a small beaver city), a Prairie Warbler and a Blue-headed Vireo along with a Mink!

Petersham is not the only place that has given us some awesome Spring species, with our daily, early morning forays to Swan Point Cemetery we have picked up such species as Wilson's, Tennessee, & Canada Warblers, Swainson's Thrush, both species of Cuckoo, Eastern Screech-Owls, Least Flycatchers and a bunch of other great birds such as Blackburnian Warbler and Northern Waterthrush. Disappointingly we've missed a Kentucky Warbler and an Olive-sided Flycatcher and I managed to miss (though my brother got them) a pair of probable Mississippi Kites.

Well done to anyone that ID'd the Wood Duck in the last photo quiz. Here's your next quiz:

This one was taken this April at RISD Beach. It should be easy but good luck anyway.

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