Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Under blue skies, a hunt for warblers at Great Meadows and Nahanton Park

A Great Blue Heron stalks the marsh at Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, MA. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
The last few days we've had incredible weather in Massachusetts, especially by the standards of what often passes for "spring" in New England. Since last Friday the skies overhead have been clear, bright and blue, the air dry and temperatures in the mid-60's. This oddly pleasant weather feels a lot more like California than Massachusetts, but I'll take it. This past Sunday and today I was able to get outside for a little while and enjoy the sunshine while searching for warblers. While I only managed to add one more species to my year list - a Yellow Warbler, #119 for my New England birding big year - at Nahanton Park in Newton, Massachusetts, I did have the opportunity to take a closer look at spring as it evolves around me and take a few photos along the way, including the one above of a Great Blue Heron which seemed completely unconcerned by the presence of 4 or 5 people taking its photo only about 10 feet away.

This male Red-winged Blackbird is one of many I saw while birding at Great Meadows NWR in Concord, MA. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
One of the most interesting things I saw while at Great Meadows were the many Common Carp, a large alien invasive fish species which, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, made their way into the pools at Great Meadows when the Concord River has flooded in the past. All afternoon as I was scanning the treetops for warblers and checking little hidden corners of the marsh for ducks the peaceful atmosphere was continually shattered as these massive fish rocketed into the air, landing back down with a loud smack or seemed to chase one another into the shoreline vegetation, sometimes only their bellies still underwater. According to the USFWS website many of the carp will die when oxygen levels in the pools drop, but I can't help but wonder why more can't be done to remove these invasive fish which have no business in Massachusetts rivers, wetlands and ponds. I would be very interested to know if electro-shocking or netting has been tried in the past. Since I have seen Osprey there in the past I'm guessing there are also possibly other fish - perhaps Bluegills, Yellow Perch, Chain Pickerel and Large Mouth Bass that get into the pools during flooding as well.

A Tree Swallow rests in the bright April sunshine on a nesting box at Nahanton Park in Newton, MA. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
This afternoon at Nahanton Park the sun was shining bright and the air was full of the distinctive liquid chirps of Tree Swallows in flight. In general this is a fairly promising birding spot, with a mix of woods, brush, open field and gardens it attracts a range of species, and with the Charles River close by there is also always the possibility of spotting wading birds and waterfowl. The only negative thing about Nahanton Park is that dogs are allowed there, and while I love dogs, their presence is not really conducive to close observation of wildlife, especially when their owners ignore the sign reminding visitors to keep their canines on a leash at all times. The same issue lowers my rating of Cold Spring Park, also in Newton, when it comes to birding. Both places have lots of great habitat, but if there are dogs running loose everywhere scaring away the wildlife, it doesn't really make for a great birding experience.

Nahanton Park in Newton, Massachusetts is a popular place for nature lovers and gardeners to enjoy the outdoors. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

Today I was lucky that only one irresponsible dog owner was present letting her dog run free, and they soon drove away, leaving me to explore the hillside and gardens in the late afternoon quiet. I suspect there were more species around than I was able to find, but I did get great looks at the aforementioned Yellow Warbler, as well as at two Yellow-rumped Warblers clinging to the outer branches of a tree about to burst forth with leaves. In addition to the warblers and Tree Swallows I also got a nice look at a Barn Swallow, a Northern Mockingbird, a Mourning Dove and a Chipping Sparrow. My hunt for warblers continues, but I was delighted to add one more to my list this afternoon.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

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