Sunday, July 21, 2013

An abundance of birds, despite the heat

A male Northern Cardinal pauses on a branch to survey the shrubbery around it. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

With seemingly endless heat and humidity battering New England for the last few weeks I haven't spent too much time out in the field exploring and birding. Today, however,I managed to get out to Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, Massachusetts where with a little effort I managed to find a number of species which seemed undaunted by the intense summer weather. When the temperature rises many animals will minimize activity and seek out ways to keep themselves cool, and humans are no exception, so today I made sure to drink plenty of water, wore a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, and focused on moving more slowly. I focused on taking the time to examine promising little pockets of habitat where I though birds might be have gone to seek shade or look for food at this time of year. Although many birders prefer to look for shorebirds (or engage in other activities altogether) during the hottest part of the year, this is actually a great time for the birds themselves. Between the cover provided by thickening vegetation and the abundant supply of bugs, berries and seeds, the middle of summer is proabbly a pretty good time to be a songbird.

By mid-July fields and meadows throughout New England are often covered in thick vegetation, providing ideal habitat for a wide range of insects and bird species. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
This afternoon I was lucky enough to stumble upon one really nice spot right at the intersection of the forest and meadow where I stopped to listed to a pair of Northern Cardinal calling and soon added ten more species my list for the day, including two Gray Catbirds which were quite loud and whiny as they attempted repeatedly to land in a tree the cardinals seemed to have claimed as their own. The tree in question was covered with berries, and as the cardinals chased off the interloping catbirds I watched as a Song Sparrow pulled a berry loose from a branch and attempted to eat it - unfortunately for this hapless bird the berry proved to be too big for its bill and the berry dropped from its grip and disappeared into the tall grass below. While standing in this same spot a Blue-Gray Gnatcather also showed up, moving frenetically from the very tip of one branch to another, searching for tiny insects, and a female Common Yellowthroat also arrived, hanging around long enough for me to get a really good look at the a species where the male is much more striking and easily recognized.

I finished up by exploring another meadow where the plants and grasses had shot up to head level, providing convenient cover as I scanned the open areas above the field, looking for additional birds. After a while the humidity and Deer Flies began to take their toll and I headed home, already thinking of fall migration and cooler days but eager not to let the hidden pleasures and surprises of summer birding slip away just yet.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.