Monthly Archives: February 2016

Endings…and Beginnings….

 ……birdwatching…is the real national pastime, it just isn’t televised.  Jonathan Rosen, The Life of the Skies

A while ago we waved goodbye to 2015, quite a good year in our pursuit of wildlife.  The year began with our wondrous Snowy Owl, Rocky, at Rye Beach, NH. from KIM Rocky wings flat Snowy Owl Rocky, Rye Beach.  Photo by Kim Nagy.

We watched him for all of January until the relentless snow of February kept us from visiting the beach.  We don’t know how long Rocky stayed at the beach, as the snow flew for endless weeks, but we were glad of the encounters we did have with that special owl.

  In March we had a surprise visit of Bohemian Waxwings, a species not much seen in the area since April of 2008.  As magnificent as their cousins the Cedar Waxwings are, the Bohemians take your breath away. from KIM cedar waxwing singing

Cedar Waxwing.  Photo by John Harrison.

Our views of a couple of these birds was in Waltham on Moody St., behind Biagio’s restaurant.   07BOHEMIANWAXWINGWALTHAMXXXXMONMAR0920151522 122

Bohemian Waxwings.  Photos by John Harrison.
In April we heard about a Great Horned Owl pair with one owlet at Forest Hills Cemetery.  We were able to watch this nest unfold for a couple of weeks and were fortunate to be present the morning after it fledged.  We knew the owlet was close by since owlets just after fledging don’t stray too far from the nest.  We searched for the owlet for a couple of hours and discovered it perched on a dead tree about 20 yards from the nest.  It was at eye level right before our eyes and we missed it for a couple of hours.  That’s how well it blended in.  13GREATHORNEDOWLETFORESTHILLSXXXXTHURSAPR2320151528 080
Great Horned Owlet, Forest Hills Cemetery.  Photo by John Harrison.
Five year old avid birdwatcher Mari delights at such a close look at the newly-fledged owlet. Photo by John Harrison.
This owlet’s mother has only one eye but it didn’t seem to hamper her hunting abilities.13GREATHORNEDOWLFORESTHILLSXXXXTHURSAPR2320151528 013Great Horned Owl mother at Forest Hills Cemetery.  Photo by John Harrison.
Great Horned Owl mother in flight, Forest Hills Cemetery.  Photo by John Harrison
Once the Great Horned Owl experience was over, we were at the beginning of spring migration.  It was my best migration season at Mount Auburn Cemetery since I began photographing there in 2000. 18WILSONSWARBLERBELOWTOWERXXXXTHURSMAY1420151533 076Wilson’s Warbler, Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photo by John Harrison.16CAPEMAYWARBLERCEDARAVEXXXXTHURSMAY0720151531 101
Cape May Warbler, Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photo by John Harrison.
It was also a great migration season at Plum Island and our own Mystic Lakes.
  Not long after spring migration, we followed up on a report from videographer Ernie Sarro about an Osprey nest on the Saugus River in Lynn.  We spent many exciting days watching the Osprey parents and their three chicks. 41OSPREYLANDINGWITHFISHLYNNXXXXWEDJULY2220151559 260 Adult Osprey landing at nest in Lynn with a fish.  Photo by John Harrison.
We happened to be there the morning that two of the Osprey chicks fledged. Serendipity. (Osprey video by Ernie Sarro).
    After the Ospreys I checked on a report from Arlington Birds about an American Kestrel family at Tufts Park in Medford,  We had some great moments for about three weeks watching the parents and two chicks as they landed on the light poles surrounding the park.  It was an extraordinary opportunity to watch and photograph this private species.  42KESTRELTUFTSPARKIXXXXTUESJULY2820151560 03340KESTRELLANDINGTUFTSPARKXXXXSATJULY1820151558 301
American Kestrels, Tufts Park, Medford.  Photos by John Harrison.
Their numbers are decreasing so opportunities to see them are less and less.  That they chose Tufts Park in Medford to raise their two chicks was a bonus for us.  
  August found us going to Ipswich River Audubon in Topsfield regularly to watching the beaver family (that we of course named Ward, June and ‘The Beav’)  otters  and minks  August was also the month of the release of Kim Nagy and my book about Mount Auburn Cemetery, Dead In Good Company. DeadinGoodCompany-Front sm 2
The book kept us busy right through the end of the year but we also found time to enjoy fall migration and then the return in December of our favorite Snowy Owl, Rocky, at Rye Beach, NH.  The year ended and began with Rocky.  For us, a Snowy Owl is the perfect way to begin and end a year. from MIMI crop and darkened 0638Snowy Owl Rocky, Rye Beach, NH.  Photo by Mimi Bix-Hylan.
Snowy Owl Rocky, Rye Beach, NH.  Photo by John Harrison.
We thought we would be enjoying Rocky for a couple of months at least but December 20th was the last time he was seen.  There was a rumor that Rocky was removed from Rye Beach by Fisheries and Wildlife because of complaints from residents abutting the beach that this owl’s rock star status was bringing too many birders to the beach that would walk onto their properties to watch and photograph Rocky.  We hope this isn’t so but even if it is, Rocky would have been relocated and is enjoying a beach somewhere else in the area.  He’s a resourceful guy!  We’ll never forget you, Rocky……
  The new year began with a couple of rare visitors.  At Danehy Park in Cambridge an Ash-throated Flycatcher  and an Orange-crowned Warbler hung around for weeks and in Lexington a Common Ground-Dove, a southern bird about the size of a sparrow, was seen for a while.. 01ASHTHROATEDFLYCATCHERDANEHYPARKXXXXSUNJAN0320161587 084 Ash-throated Flycatcher, Danehy Park, Cambridge.  Photo by John Harrison.
Orange-crowned Warbler, Danehy Park, Cambridge.  Photo by John Harrison.
Common Ground Dove
Common Ground-Dove, Lexington.  Photo by Jim Renault.
The flycatcher packed its bags and headed south around the middle of January but as of Tuesday, January 26th,  I saw the Orange-crowned Warbler in the same place in the park where we had been seeing it all month.  These three birds are way out of range here and we wonder what’s keeping the warbler from flying south.  We love seeing it, but we hope that one day soon it doesn’t appear because it’s on its way to warmer climes.   While we were waiting for the flycatcher and warbler, an immature Red-tailed Hawk entertained us.  Mari, at five years old already an avid birdwatcher, named this hawk Hamilton. Danehy Park seemed to be Hamilton’s territory since we saw it there on those occasions when we were searching for the flycatcher and warbler.from MIMI RED TAILED HAWKI crop 1513
from MIMI RED TAILED HAWK crop 1527
Immature Red-tailed Hawk, Hamilton, Danehy Park.  Photos by Mimi Bix-Hylan.
Mount Auburn Cemetery’s Alexander The Great (Horned Owl) and his mate (his 3rd!) seem to be in a nesting mode.  For a while now we have been seeing both of them in the Dell, often a foot or two away from each other. 04GREATHORNEDOWLSINTHEDELLXXXXWEDJAN2720161590 369
Alexander the Great Horned Owl and his mate, Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photo by John Harrison.
from MIMI GHO 1 16 crop 2189
Alexander The Great Horned Owl, Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photo by Mimi Bix-Hylan.
In 2011 when the cemetery celebrated its first successful Great Horned Owl nest, we were seeing the pair often, as we are this year, until, at the end of January, we were only seeing Alexander.  We hoped that meant that his mate, Roxane, was sitting on eggs.  This turned out to be the case and on April 15th we had our first glimpse of the two owlets that we would get to enjoy for the next six months.  So…..If one day soon we stop seeing Alexander’s new mate, that will hopefully mean another nest is on the way.  That would make 2016 an Owlapalooza year!
  Medford, Alaska.  There are days at the Mystic Lakes in Medford that I feel like I’m in Alaska.  So far this year there are (at least) three adult Bald Eagles and two immatures entertaining us on the lakes. ‘Their tree,’ in front of the Medford Boat Club, is where we still often find them. 06BALDEAGLESMYSTICLAKESXXXXTUESFEB0220161592 169Bald Eagle pair on ‘their tree’ in front of the Medford Boat Club.  Photo by John Harrison.
Year after year they claim this tree as their own.  Is it an accident?  We feel that some of the same eagles come back year after year to this lake that they have come to know. 06BALDEAGLEMYSTICLAKESXXXXTUESFEB0220161592 174Bald Eagle in flight, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by John Harrison.
There is always some open water on the lakes, no matter how cold it gets, and this open water is where they are able to take ducks.  The eagles seem to thrive here every year and we’re hoping that even more of them show up before the winter ends.  Photographer Jim Renault caught one of the eagles as it swooped down from ‘their tree’ to take a Ruddy Duck.  It was a striking sequence of raw nature. from JIM RENAULT Bald Eagle approaching Duck fx
Mystic Lakes
from JIM RENAULT Bald Eagle Capturing Ruddy Duck fx
Sequence of a Bald Eagle taking a Ruddy Duck at the Mystic Lakes.  Photos by Jim Renault.
These are the moments that wildlife photographers pray for!  Great catch, Jim!!!!
  We ended January on a fantastic note.  We watched and photographed a Merlin on the weeping beech above the R. H. White Mausoleum at Mount Auburn Cemetery.  The Merlin had taken a bird, a Robin, it looked like, and spent more than an hour on top of the beech eating the bird and resting. from KIM MERLIN eating prey Merlin with prey,  Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
from KIM MERLIN holding foot
Merlin with prey,  Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
Merlin takes off after eating prey.  Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photo by John Harrison.
For the eight or ten of us watching, it was a rare opportunity to watch this species for such a long time.
  The new year has begun in grand style.  We’re only one month down and we have spring migration and whatever other surprises nature has in store for us to look forward to.    We await Mother Nature’s decisions………