Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Eagles Have Landed.

Aimed at a distant bird, a flutter of white wings, he may feel – as it spreads out beneath him like a stain of white – that he can never fail to strike.  Everything he is has been evolved to link the targeting eye to the striking talon.  J. A.  Baker  The Peregrine  

The new year continues to delight.  We have been enjoying a pair of Peregrine Falcons in Woburn.  Watching them reminds me of the beginning of Superman episodes…’Faster than a speeding bullet….Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound….’  That’s Peregrines!  from JIM Perigrine Falcon Holton St 2from JIM Perigrine Falcon Holton St 1

Peregrine Falcon taking off.  Photos by Jim Renault.


Peregrine Falcon taking off.  Photo by John Harrison

There’s an adult male and a juvenile female on the sheer rock wall all the time.  Occasionally an adult female shows up to check out the male and see if he’s the ‘right guy.’  So far they have all moved on.  And the feeling is that the young female that has been hanging around isn’t old enough yet to breed. So this might not be a nest year for these Peregrines,  But meanwhile we get to watch them in action, day after day.  All things considered, they are very dependable.  I often arrive at the site around 7AM.  Sometimes one or even both of them are on the rocks in separate places.  The young female often perches on last year’s nest site.  If they are not present at 7AM we don’t have to wait too long.  Very soon one will fly in and soon after the other.  And now and then they will take off and fly around for us.  Sometimes the adult and juvenile fly around together.  Great 11PEREGRINEFALCONSWOBURNXXXXTHURSFEB2520161597 196


Adult and juvenile Peregrines flying together.  Photos by John Harrison  

photo ops for us. The author of THE PEREGRINE, J. A. Baker,  also notes in his book, “Subtle as a harrier, soft-winged as an owl, but flicking along at twice their easy speed, she was as cunning as a fox in her use of camouflage.  She clings to the rippling fleece of the earth as the leaping hare cleaves to the wind.”  If you are interested in following a Peregrine season this book is a must.  Here are a couple of video looks at the Woburn Peregrines.

  In addition to the Peregrines, there’s a pair of Ravens that have a nest and like last year it looks like they are once again going to be successful. 09RAVENWOBURNXXXXFRIFEB1920161595 434
Raven bringing material to nest.  Photo by John Harrison.
Their nest is right in the midst of the Peregrine Falcon action and we wondered about that.  But they seem to coexist just fine.  Occasionally one of the Peregrines will harass the Ravens, chasing them around the site,  but it looks like an opportunity for the Peregrines to play and show who’s boss rather than genuine hostility.  So if we don’t get to see Peregrine chicks this year it looks certain that we will get to see Raven chicks. Here’s a look at the Ravens.
  As unbelievable as it is, we have been dazzled watching a pair of Bald Eagles building a nest – in Waltham.  Not Fairbanks, Alaska.  Waltham. MA.13BALDEAGLENESTWALTHAMTUESMAR0120161599 153
Bald Eagle nest tree, Waltham, MA.  Photo by John Harrison.
I never thought I would get to see this up close and personal.
Bald Eagles, Waltham. MA.  Photos by John Harrison.
Of course we have been watching Bald Eagles at the Mystic Lakes for years and we expected that sooner or later they would nest nearby.  But this opportunity was more than we could have hoped for.  Day after day we visit this Waltham site and they are always there.  Some days they are very active, landing on trees and breaking branches and bringing them to the nest.from JIM Lift Off 3_6_16
Bald Eagle taking off.  Photo by Jim Renault.  
They also bring in clumps of mud and grass taken from the nearby Charles River’s banks. Sometimes they perch on nearby trees….For hours at a time.  On one morning recently I arrived at 7:30 AM and and found the female perched on a dead tree just across from the nest tree.  (We know it’s the female because her head has a little gray on top so she’s not a full adult.  Maybe four years old.  The male has a full white head so we are able to differentiate them that way).  I quickly set up my tripod and aimed the lens at the eagle, hoping it would take off soon…. Photographer Jim Renault arrived about 15 minutes later and set up his tripod.  Two hours later, at 9:30, we were still waiting.  At that point you have so much time invested that you hate to throw in the towel.  So we waited.  A half hour later Jim had to leave.  I continued to wait.  It was a comfortable, especially warm March morning, so other than the strain on my back for standing all of that time, I was comfortable enough. Finally…. at 10:30…  the eagle shook, preened, put her ‘landing gear’ talon onto the branch and took off right at me.  Wonderful.  Worth the three-hour wait!13BALDEAGLEWALTHAMXXXXTHURSMAR0320161599 232 14BALDEAGLEWALTHAMXXXXMONMAR0720161600 185
Bald Eagle takeoff and in flight with branch for nest.  Photos by John Harrison.
Sometimes at the last minute, after perching facing you for a long, long time, it will quickly turn
around and fly away from you.  That’s exasperating but it’s part of the pursuit.  It happens and you accept it. But this time it worked out perfectly.  These eagles even gave us great video opportunities.          
  Our favorite Snowy Owl, Rocky, has been seen sporadically at Rye Beach, NH the past few months.  We had some time with him in February then he was not seen for a while.  He returned, we heard, so photographer Kim Nagy and I went to Rye Beach on a Saturday morning at the beginning of March hoping to see him, since we talked to a photographer who had photographed him in the middle of the week.  Unfortunately he didn’t appear that morning.  But we continued to hear from birders who were seeing him occasionally at the beach.  Kim and I returned on Saturday morning, March 12th, and as we approached the beach parking lot we saw lots of cars and photographers with cameras aimed at the house next to the beach and sure enough, there was Rocky perched on the roof.  We quickly set up our tripods, next to all of the other photographers around us, and waited for Rocky to lift off.  One of the watchers said that Rocky had been on the roof since sunrise.  He looked comfortable sitting there but we knew that sooner or later he would lift off.  Five minutes later his body tipped a bit and he looked like he might be ready and sure enough, up he went.15SNOWYOWLRYEBEACHXXXXSATMAR1220161601 021
Snowy Owl Rocky, takes off at Rye Beach, NH.  Photo by John Harrison.
Fantastic takeoff opportunity.  He flew to a nearby light pole and perched there for a while.  Then he saw something in the marsh and he took off and landed on the ground.from KIM SNOWY OWL leaving house 1
Snowy Owl Rocky in flight over Rye Beach, NH.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
He pulled up clumps of marsh grass but there was no mouse or vole there.  He had missed it.  He moved around on the grass for a few minutes looking for whatever he had seen and then flew up to a stake in the ground and perched on that for a while.15SNOWYOWLRYEBEACHXXXXSATMAR1220161601 060
Snowy Owl Rocky on the marsh grass.  Photo by John Harrison.
Snowy Owl Rocky takes off from post.  Photo by John Harrison. 
He was there for about 15 minutes and then took off and landed on a roof several houses away.  It had been an exhilarating morning with our favorite Snowy Owl.  We look forward to getting back to Rye Beach to see our Snowy Owl pal soon.  Rocky posed for some video that morning, too.  
  At the beginning of March as we New Englanders were enjoying an early taste of spring, photographer Kim Nagy was in Florida photographing birds at Wakodahatchee Wetlands,  Delray Beach and Green Cay.  She snapped a bunch of great species and even had a few moments with a prized Painted Bunting.  This bird is so magnificent it doesn’t even look real.  It looks like an artist’s vision of the perfect bird.  Here are some of Kim’s special moments in the Sunshine State.
from KIM WAKODAHATCHEE GREEN QUAY  cr  painted bunting
from KIM WAKODAHATCHEE GREEN QUAY painted bunting on stick
Painted Bunting, Wakodahatchee.  Photos by Kim Nagy.  
from KIM WAKODAHATCHEE male anhinga feeding chicks
Male Anhinga feeding chick, Wakodahatchee.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
from KIM WOKODAHATCHEE anhinga young close to fleging
Anhinga young, Wakodahatchee.  Photo by Kim Nagy.  
from KIM WAKODAHATCHEE spoonbill leg raised
Spoonbill, Wakodahatchee.  Photo by Kim Nagy.  
from KIM WAKODAHATCHEE wood stork flight over pinesfrom KIM cr green heron with fish
Wood Stork in flight, Wakodahatchee (top) and Green Heron with fish.  Photos by Kim Nagy.  
from KIM WAKODAHATCHEE GREEN QUAY cr  white eyed vireo
White-eyed Vireo, Wakodahatchee.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
Black & White Warbler, Wakodahatchee.  Photo by Kim Nagy.  
FROM KIM WAKODAHATCHEE GREEN QUAY  cr female common yellowthroat
Common Yellowthroat, female, Wakodahatchee.  Photo by Kim Nagy.  
  It’s the middle of March after an easy winter, compared to last year.  We’re only five or six weeks from the first sightings of early arrival spring migrants.  Already we’ve had Peregrine Falcons, Bald Eagles, and Rocky the Snowy Owl.  We’re off to a good start……