Saturday, January 19, 2013

West of Boston: Lincoln, Concord and Natick

This morning I managed to get out of bed and into my car by 7:45, a herculean task if ever there was one.  For my efforts, I was rewarded with some terrific birds, as I drove back and forth across several towns in the Metro West area. My general plan for the day was to check out Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, MA, with stops before and after along the way.My first stop was at Newton City Hall, where before I even got out of the car I added bird #50 to my year list - a Song Sparrow. It was still quite cold at 8 this morning, but I did a fairly thorough check of the city hall area where the small group of American Green-winged Teal can still be seen.  The last few times I've been there I've seen a total of 5, 4 males and 1 female, but today there were only 4 of these colorful little ducks present, 3 males and 1 female.

My next stop was the parking area at Norumbega which is used by renters at the Charles River Canoe and Kayak shop across the Charles. I stopped here more on a whim than any concrete ideas about adding to my list and was totally surprised (and exhilarated) to see two Canvasback ducks as soon as I pulled in. The light wasn't so great, but I jumped out of the car with my binoculars and camera and got an excellent look at these noble birds and took a few decent photos. Not only was species # 51 for the year in my Bay State Big Year count, but the first of 3 new life birds I would add to my list today.

Two Canvasback ducks swim in the Charles River near Norumbega Park in Newton, MA. The Canvasback is not a common bird in Massachusetts, but several have been seen this winter in and around Boston. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
While I was watching the Canvasbacks I also decided to take some time to look more closely at the gulls which were right in front of me and to take some photos. Gulls are not easy to identify, appearing in different plumage at different stages of their lives and in different seasons. Today I managed to pick out a number Ring-billed gulls - both adults and juveniles, as well as Herring Gulls and a single Greater Black- backed Gull.

An adult Ring-billed Gull (left) and adult Herring Gull (Right) are seen feeding near the Charles River in Weston, MA. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
Finally I arrived at my destination - Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. In the summer this place is generally quite crowded, but in the winter it's very peaceful for the most part, and a good place to look for birds which favor open fields and brushy areas. I started off watching the feeders where I saw lots of White-throated Sparrows, Juncos and Black-capped Chickadees, then moved to the other feeders behind the Audubon Store. It was here that I added another bird to my year and life list - a Pine Warbler - definitely out of season and unexpected. At first I wasn't sure, but after watching it for a while, consulting my Subley's guide and taking a couple of photos, I am convinced it was a Pine Warbler. The photo below was the best of several that I took - in it you can see the overall shape of the bird, the yellow around the head and throat and its wing bars. Through binoculars I could also clearly see light streaking on the breast.

A Pine Warbler sits atop a bird feeder at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary in Lincoln, MA. This small bird is not usually seen during the winter in Massachusetts. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
As I moved on I added two more year birds, an Eastern Bluebird and a Hermit Thrush (also a new life bird for me. Needless to say, to have added 3 new life birds before noon was pretty exciting. I also got a nice look at a large Red-tailed Hawk and an accipter of indeterminate species sweeping across an open field.

A Hermit Thrush sits silently in a tree at Drumlin Farm Wildlife Sanctuary. This was year bird #54 and life bird #204 for me. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
After a while I decided to move on and stopped for a quick sandwich at the Whistlestop Gourmet in Lincoln center. One of the fun things about this big year project is that I end up finding all kinds of out of the way restaurants and new places to explore. Lincoln center is probably one such place I would have otherwise never come across - composed of a few stores, a post office and grocery store beside the MBTA tracks, it would be easy to miss. My next stop was at the Codman Estate, a place I came across while heading toward Walden Pond. There was only one other car in the parking lot, and the place looked fairly deserted, but I decided to take a walk around anyway, thinking there might be some birds in the open fields or gardens. At night this place could feel decidedly creepy, but during the day it was pleasant enough - I only saw two birds, and ID'ed one (a White-breasted Nuthatch) but it looked like it could have potential in the spring or summer. There were several nice open fields with brushy/woodsy edges and a small pond close to the road, so I may very well stop in again when it gets warm out.

The Codman Estate in Lincoln, MA was built in the 1790's by Chambers Russell, one of the founders of the town of Lincoln. The estate sits on on an expansive property containing gardens and open fields. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
After wandering around the Codman Estate grounds for a while I got back in the car and headed to Walden Pond. In retrospect this was an awful idea, but I figured I was close so I should at least check it out and see if there might be any birds around. I must have temporarily forgotten that generally speaking, state parks and reservations, especially those easily accessible from suburban Boston, are generally pretty terrible places to find any semblance of peace and quiet, and hence, tend to be pretty bad places to look for birds or other wildlife. Anyway, I went and had a terrible time. The pond itself is beautiful, but otherwise it's not such a fun place to go if you want to observe the natural world - hordes of screaming kids, people walking their dogs right past the sign that says "no dogs allowed,"  etc., Even in Thoreau's day of course this was a bustling place, but I would gladly take the sound of blacksmiths at the forge, farmers at the plow and other auditory fruits of honest labor over people shouting into cell phones or yelling to each other down the trail. Yes, Walden Pond is beautiful, but if I go back it will be in my kayak, where I will paddly out to the middle of the pond and float around a safe (and blissful) distance from the crowding masses.

Walden Pond in Concord, Massachusetts is a popular destination for swimmers in the summer and draws tourists year-round, While the pond itself is quiet picturesque,the large number of people it draws makes it a less ideal site for birding. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
After this less-than-stellar experience at Walden Pond I was in serious need of some actual nature, so I headed over to Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick. I didn't add any more birds to my list at Broadmoor, but I did take a nice hour-long walk where I got to enjoy the peace of the forest and watch the sun set. I even got a really nice look at two White-tailed Deer feeding in a meadow as the sun went down behind the trees.Overall it wasa splendid day of birding and exploration.

The sun sets behind the trees at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, Massachusetts. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

1 comment:

  1. congratulations on the lifers! Nice you're getting out to see lots of birds this month.It's nice you mixed in a tour of the area!