Sunday, May 12, 2013

A walk in the park

A group of birders scan the soccer field and treeline for warblers, grosbeaks and other spring arrivals at Nahaton Park in Newton, MA. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
Birds almost never seem to mind the rain, which is one of the things I really like about them. Even when the weather is damp and overcast they still go about their business, finding food, building nests, singing their songs. And so this morning, even though most sensible people were still dry in their beds at 7 AM, I headed over to Nahanton Park in Newton, Massachusetts for a bird walk co-sponsored by the Newton Conservators and the Friends of Nahanton Park. We were fortunate enough to have two knowledgeable guides who were able to not only point us in the right direction to see many beautiful birds, but were also well-versed in birding by ear, picking out the tunes of individual species from among the forest chorus.

We started off the morning under some leafy trees scanning the parking area near the Charles River Canoe and Kayak rental dock, watching Warbling Vireo, Yellow Warbler and Black-and-White Warblers move in short, semi-hidden bursts in the canopy. These smaller birds were also joined by a number of vociferous Baltimore Orioles proclaiming their presence from the tree tops and an unseen Red-bellied Woodpecker which called frequently from the woods.

Flowering trees and shrubs provide food for insects, which in turn attract hungry birds. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

I was particularly keen to try and add a few more warblers to my list today - I think it's not just that they're interesting and colorful birds to watch which make them objects of such intense pursuit on the part of birders, it's also the fact that the majority are travelers just passing through, here for a week or two and then gone again. As we emnerged from the trail one of the leaders saw a Northern Water Thrush, which would have been a great addition to my list, but I missed it. Then someone else heard a Black-throated Blue Warbler, one of the first warblers I ever added to my life list a few years ago when I found one in a tangled section of brush at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk, MA. Today I didn't hear it's song, but about 45 minutes later we spotted one, bringing my year list to 131 species.

The Black-throated Blue Warbler was followed by a Wood Thrush, number 132 and finally toward the end of the walk a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak brought me to 133 for the year. In total I saw 34 species of birds topday, including many Gray Catbirds and Baltimore Oiroles which seem to have shown up en masses toward the end of last week. Up until about the middle of the week I hadn't seen any birds of either species, and then it was like someone had opened up door and they came flooding into eastern Massachusetts. I can't wait to see what follows next.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

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