Birding for me is a kind of intermediate term, a place where poets and naturalists, scientific seekers and religious seekers, converge. Jonathan Rosen, The Life of the Skies
After a few weeks, when it looked like it was going to be a slow year for fall migrants, they started filtering in. We always jump the gun and look for migrants earlier than we should. Then I look back at my folders from previous years and see that they always begin coming in later than we hope. This year, once again, they were right on time. The Blackpoll Warblers were here in the greatest numbers, especially at the Mystic Lakes at the small pond next to Shannon Beach, which was really active again this season. Blackpoll Warbler, Mystic Lakes. Photo by John Harrison
I remember that last year there were tons of Blackpolls and tons of Yellow-rumpeds. Though there were plenty of Yellow-rumpeds this year, there weren’t nearly as many as last year.
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Mystic Lakes. Photo by John Harrison
But every year is different in numbers, so that’s not cause for concern. The big Yellow-rumped numbers were most likely scattered about in other places. In addition to the Blackpolls and Yellow-rumpeds, we had quite a few Kinglets – both Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned. Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Mystic Lakes. Photo by John Harrison
Golden-crowned Kinglet, Mystic Lakes. Photo by John Harrison
Northern Parula, Mystic Lakes. Photo by John Harrison
and a few Black-throated Blues were seen at the lakes, too. And there were a couple of fleeting looks at the Nashville Warbler. We also have had several visits by a pair of Rusty Blackbirds. This species is seen along the banks of the small pond every once in a while but one Sunday morning there were a pair of them slowly making their way around the pond and they gave birder/photographer Chris Ciccone and me the best opportunities we have yet had with this species.Rusty Blackbird, Mystic Lakes. Photo by John Harrison
So it has turned out to be a pretty good fall migration after all, especially at the Mystic Lakes. There have been some migrants at Mount Auburn Cemetery, including the guaranteed vireos, both Red-eyed and Warbling, at the sweet bay magnolia trees at Auburn Lake and Willow Pond, but all in all it’s been a slow migration season there. Every migration season has its own personality. Blackpoll Warbler video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z2bGUuqTs04
Medford’s Bald Eagles have been very active lately. It looks like a pair of adults and an immature are making their home in this area. Medford’s ‘Raptor Guy,’ Paul Roberts, keeps close tabs on these eagles and posts their activities and sightings regularly. There have been looks at these eagles throughout the summer and this past month they have made many appearances, often being found on ‘their tree’ in front of the Medford Boat Club. Several times we have spotted one of the adult eagles from Shannon Beach on a tall pine not far from the beach. Photographer Jim Renault caught the adult pair on ‘their tree’ at the boathouse recently and snapped a couple of great moments.
Bald Eagles of the Mystic Lakes on ‘their tree.’ Photos by Jim Renault
The past few years we have always had several bald eagles come down to the lakes from their
habitats in the north. The cold weather usually drives them south and since the Mystic Lakes always has some open water, even during the coldest winters, it’s a good place for the eagles to hang around and find food – especially the ducks on the lakes. We’re all waiting for them to make their winter debut.
On Sunday, November 1st, noted Coyote expert Jonathan Way, author of SUBURBAN HOWLS and MY YELLOWSTONE EXPERIENCE, came to Bemis Hall in Lincoln to tell us about coywolves. He informed us that the Eastern Coyote, a larger version of the Western Coyote, has wolf DNA, thus they are in reality coywolves. Jon’s presentations are always interesting and informative and it was great having him back in the area for an evening. If you are ever able to attend one of his presentations, don’t miss it. He makes this fantastic species much less mysterious. ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPOk-vjQJ-E Jon Way at Bemis Hall).
Jonathan Way at Bemis Hall. Medford’s Paul Roberts speaks with Jon. Photos by John Harrison
A couple of rare visitors have shown up recently, a Lark Sparrow in the Shannon Beach area of the Mystic Lakes and a MacGillivray’s Warbler at the Arlington Reservoir. Both of these species are common in the mid west to the west coast. There was a very cooperative Lark Sparrow at Plum Island in late September at Hellcat ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sAD4tUkvI1c )
Lark Sparrow, Hellcat Trail, Plum Island. Photo by John Harrison
and a MacGillivray’s Warbler spent a week or so at the victory garden at the Fenway six years ago in November of 2009. The MacGillivray’s is particularly striking and it’s been a sensation at the Arlington Reservoir. It has been there for more than a week, in the Busa Farm part of the reservoir. Day after day it has been seen in the brush, close to the ground, quickly making its way along the path. Those with patience have been able to capture some great images.
MacGillivray’s Warbler, Arlington Reservoir, Busa Farm. Photo by Jim Renault
MacGillivray’s Warbler, Victory Garden at the Fenway, November, 2009. Photo by John Harrison
As with all warblers, they are like the energizer bunny and flit around endlessly, seldom popping out in the open. But every now and then, it will pop out onto an open branch or onto the grass in front of the brush and give you a second or two to – maybe – manage a photograph. This striking bird is worth the effort, though. Since I had to wait from November of 2009 to this November to see it again, I might not see this species for another six years, so getting to the Arlington Reservoir to catch this rarity was a must. One recent morning a couple of birders showed up for the warbler and had driven two and a half hours from Maine. As we left Busa Farm on Friday, November 13th, a car parked behind us and the two birders in the car told us they had driven up from Rhode Island for this bird. It seems that the MacGillivrays has a rock star following!
Winter Pond in Winchester and Horn Pond in Woburn have both been interesting lately. There have been as many as twenty or more Hooded Mergansers at Winter Pond and the usual Great Blue Heron. Hooded Merganser, Horn Pond. Photo by John Harrison
There have been Bald Eagle sightings at the pond and on one recent morning a pair of Killdeer put on a show for me at the water’s edge ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wl15bO0Y7Yo ). Killdeer, Winter Pond, Winchester. Photo by John Harrison
Only a short drive from Winter pond is the always-exciting Horn Pond. It’s a fantastic habitat for many species. Lately there have been many Hooded Mergansers ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0G4YHmNo0Bw https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zsCsOqeCQ-g ) at the reserve as well as a pair of Green-winged Teals.
Green-winged Teal, Horn Pond, Woburn. Photo by John Harrison
A Great Egret has also been seen quite a few times lately, a couple of times quite near the red bridge, fishing alongside a Great Blue Heron,( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pBe5FZ1YFJY )
Great Egret, Horn Pond, Woburn. Photo by John Harrison
and on one morning I witnessed a very busy Cormorant catch big fish a couple of times within five minutes.
Cormorant with fish, Horn Pond. Photo by John Harrison
On another morning a Cooper’s Hawk flew by me on the path like a gunshot. It looked like it was going to land not far from me, but I couldn’t find it. It was only a couple of years ago that we followed the Cooper’s hawk nest at this reserve and we have hoped every year since that they would nest there again, but we haven’t found a nest since. Maybe in 2016…..
Photographer – and co-editor of the book Dead In Good Company - Kim Nagy is going to be in Indiana for a few days, beginning November 17th, and hopes to photograph the thousands of Sandhill Cranes that gather there every year. We will have images from her adventure next time. Here is a recent sunrise that Kim photographed at Cathedral Ledge in Echo Lake Park in Conway, New Hampshire.
Sunrise at Cathedral Ledge, NH. Photo by Kim Nagy
As the days get colder, there is one big question that all birders around here have….Will there be Snowy Owls this winter?
Snowy Owl ‘Rocky,’ Rye Beach, NH, January 5, 2015. Photo by John Harrison
There has been one sighted already at Hampton Beach and Salisbury Beach (the same one?). There is information from Wisconsin that right now there are more Snowy Owls there than in the historical irruption of 2014. It’s conjectured that the food supply (lemmings) in the Arctic isn’t enough this year for the Snowy Owl population so maybe we will have another glorious winter of Snowies. As we learned in 2014, there is absolutely nothing more exciting than that! More on this next time…..
Turkey and Coyote, Mount Auburn Cemetery. Photo by John Harrison