Saturday, May 11, 2013

My birding big year reaches 130 species at Broadmoor WLS in Natick

A frog sits on a mossy, half-submerged log at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, MA. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
By dint of some miracle I was able to get myself up this morning before 7 AM. Though I suppose in reality I know what the reason was: Warblers.

It's almost like I can sense their presence in the newly green leafy canopy surrounding parks, fields and wetlands, and with so many reports of these delightful migrants passing through the area I woke up excited to begin the day looking for them. So with these tiny colorful migrants on my mind I drove over to Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, MA with a quick stop along the way at Whole Foods in Wellesley to fuel up for my morning walk.

An Eastern Phoebe sits on a fence post. These birds can often be found near water where they hunt insects from an exposed perch. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

The weather seemed unsettled today - a bit rainy and overcast in the early morning, then cool and damp,  and finally warm and humid with the sun trying to peek through the gray blanket above. The trails were soft underfoot and the rocks and roots slippery from overnight rain. The birds, however, did not seem to mind as all. Although I tried to find new warblers that I haven't seen yet this year I only managed to see Yellow Warblers, typically one of the first to return and therefore already on my list. However I did mange to find a yellow Warbler nest, which was pretty neat. It was in some brush near the boardwalk and I'm sure I never would have found it had I not been following the flight of a female Yellow Warbler as she returned to it. I only saw one other person when I first arrived, otherwise the woods belonged to the birds and frogs, a spring-time chorus only interrupted occasionally by the sound of gunshots from a distant shooting range.

An Eastern Kingbird perches on a branch in the old orchard at Broadmoor WLS in Natick, MA. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013,.

While the warblers declined to cooperate today I did see many other interesting birds and plants. The Baltimore Orioles were especially active, with males singing loudly from trees near the boardwalk and by the wildlife observation pond. I have heard these birds call many times before but I never really paid attention to their song until today, when I heard a beautfiul four or five note tun coming from within a leaf-covered tree. Something about the birds voice made me think of an oriole, but it wasn't until I spent some time following the sound that I confirmed that it was in fact a male Baltimore Oriole calling. it's a pretty distinctive sound - if you'd like to hear an audio clip of one of these beautiful birds belting out its best the good folks at Cornell University's e-bird have compiled a collection of audio clips that you can listen to if you you can click here.

Like any good walk in the woods, today's outing left me with the sense that I was only seeing a very small sliver of the life and activity around me, not to mention more questions than answers. Perhaps chief among them was the mystery of why a Canada Goose nest I had seen an adult bird sitting on during my last visit to Broadmoor was now unoccupied, with several evidently undamaged eggs sitting in it, right out in the open.  This is a nest I have photographed before and I remembered thinking that the geese had chosen a good place to construct it, on a relatively flat, dry rock in the pond.

This Canada Goose nest on top of a rock in a pond at Broadmoor appeared to have been abandoned. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

I would love to know if anyone else has observed this phenomenon in New England and would welcome any ideas people might have about factors that could cause geese to abandon their nest.

One of the more exciting finds of the day was my sighting of a Pileated Woodpecker, a bird I've been trying to add to my year list for at least a month now. On the west coast my favorite woodpecker is the Acorn Woodpecker, a semi-comical looking bird that likes to sit on top of old telephone poles and caches acorns in the sides of the poles and in trees by hammering them into the wood with their bill. On the east coast my favorite woodpecker is the Pileated, a large, striking bird with a great red tuft which hunts for Carpenter Arts by whacking away at logs and tree trunks. If you haven't seen one of these birds in the wild I highly recommend looking for one. In the meantime, if you'd like to see a few photos and learn something about these birds, you can visit this National Geographic webpage devoted to them.The Pileated Woodpecker was species number 130 for me for the year in New England.

I'm hoping my year list will get a significant boost from the upcoming Mass Audubon bird-a-thon, when I will join the Drumlin Farm team on a quest to see as many species as we can in 24 hours on Cape Cod, an experience I definitely plan to share here on the New England Nature Notes blog.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

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