Monday, April 22, 2013

Here to stay or just passing through ? My New England birding big year continues

A Ruby-crowned Kinglet perches on a branch at Broadmoor Wildife Sanctuary in Natick, Massachusetts. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
It would surprise few people, I doubt, to know that the majority of species of North American birds are phenomenal travelers. Not only do many of them cover remarkable distances every year, but they do so (mostly) under their own power, they also fly without luggage and always seem to find a place to rest or spend the season. To be honest, I'm a little jealous.
This is all to say that migration has begun to pick up, with wetlands across southern New England filled with the distinctive buzzy call and song of male Red-winged Blackbirds looking for a mate and the plaintive, nervous squeak of Wood Ducks as they settle down to build nests and raise their young, it is hard to deny that spring has sprung. Yesterday at Mass Audubon's Broadmoor wildlife sanctuary, these efforts and many more were clearly underway on a day that started off damp and cloudy but soon gave way to sunshine. The fields, forests and marshes were alive with avian activity and I knew the day would be promising as a Northern Flicker took flight as I drove into the parking lot, and as soon as I got out of my car I could hear the rattling call of Chipping Sparrows, newly arrived from warmer climes. Before I was out of sight of the nature center I had 23 species of birds on my list, including the Chipping Sparrows, which brought my New England year list to 114 species.
In the bird feeding area beside the nature center a small, quick little bird caught my eye as it flitted from branch to branch only a few feet away. I stood very still and watched as it inspected the still-bare branches of a tree about to bloom and saw right away a bright flash of crimson atop its small gray head – a Ruby-crowned Kinglet ! Not a new bird for my New England big year, but a first of the year for me in Massachusetts and by far one of the best looks I’ve gotten at these small songbirds. I stayed and watched it for a while, seemingly unconcerned by my presence, then moved on, watching as a Blue Jay, normally among the most raucous of birds, pass silently overhead, nesting material in its bill.

Along the Indian Brook trail I met another birder who was thoughtful enough to motion for me to come over and join her in watching a mixed group of about 20 Pine, Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers as they tumbled along through the budding branches, singing out joyfully as they went. The Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers were two new species for the year, bringing me to 116. As the other birder headed back down the trail I stayed and watched the small birds revel in their spring arrival, while out in the marsh a pair of Wood Ducks flew low over the standing dead trees, a Belted Kingfisher let out a loud call and circled out of sight and Red-Tailed Hawk kept watch from atop a distant pine tree. 

A trio of Painted Turtles enjoying the afternoon sunshine in a wetland at Mass Audubon's Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
Mostly I had the woods to myself, though in the distance I could hear people yelling, people whom I am sure are much more accustomed to the confines of shopping malls and city parks, places where nature is at best subjugated, a second-thought. I was content to let them remain in the distance to get whatever enjoyment they might be able to glean, and to wander the trails quietly, soaking in the sounds, scents and sights of so many amazing birds, some settling down for the season, others just passing through.
Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

1 comment: