Monthly Archives: April 2016

At Her Best In May

Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! Sitting Bull
  The heralds of spring are here.  We are seeing Red-winged Blackbirds everywhere.
21REDWINGEDBLACKBIRDHORNPONDXXXXTHURSAPR0720161607 019 Red-winged Blackbird, Horn Pond.  Photo by John Harrison
And there are also reports of Pine Warblers and the occasional Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers. I saw my first Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers at the Arlington Reservoir on Sunday, April 17th.
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Arlington Reservoir.  Photo by John Harrison
Palm Warbler, Arlington Reservoir. Photo by John Harrison
 Last year, after the spectacular winter of snow, I saw my first Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers on Sunday, April 26th, again at the Arlington Reservoir. On Wednesday, April 20, a birder at the Arlington Reservoir told us there was a Pine Warbler way up in a pine tree.  That species has eluded me for 15 years.  Finally it showed itself for me.
23PINEWARBLERARLRESXXXXWEDAPR2020161609 448 Pine Warbler, Arlington Reservoir.  Photo by John Harrison
Palm Warbler, Arlington Reservoir.  Photo by John Harrison.
Spring is unfolding as it should.  Our favorite rite of the year, spring migration, is only weeks away. In one of his great songs, French crooner Charles Aznavour wrote, “Paris is at her best in May, when spring and youth possess her and gentle winds caress her….”  Birders might have written those lyrics somewhat differently. “Sweet Auburn’s at her best in May….” or Plum Island’s at her best in May…..” or  “The Mystic Lakes is at her best in May…”  We’ll soon know.
   Another rite of spring, the Masters of Flight show at the Stone Zoo in Stoneham, is also getting ready for an exciting summer. Director of the World Bird Sanctuary in Valley park, MO, Jeff Meshach, arrived with this year’s inventory of birds on Wednesday, April 6.  The raptors are now in Masters of Flight boot camp preparing for their opening on April 30th.  We stopped by the arena to get a preview of the birds on Sunday, April 10th.  The Sanctuary’s Leah Tyndall and Matt Levin showed us the birds in this year’s lineup, among them a Bald Eagle, juvenile Harris’ Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl, Barn Owl, Black Vulture, Red-legged Seriema ( ) and, this year for the first time, a magnificent Golden Eagle.  It’s going to be a raptor summer at the Stone Zoo.
LEAH AND MATT  fx use SUNAPR1020161607 277
World Bird Sanctuary’s Leah Tyndall and Matt Levin.  Photo by John Harrison.
Six year old Mari is enthralled by her close look at a Barn Owl.  Photo by Mimi Bix-Hylan.
Leah Tyndall of the World Bird Sanctuary gives six year old Mari a close look at the Barn Owl.  Photo by Mimi Bix-Hylan.
  There’s a Swans nest at Horn Pond, in the same area it has been for the past few years.  The female is sitting on eggs and we should be seeing little cygnets in mid to late May.
  On Saturday, April 9th, photographer Kim Nagy and I watched and photographed a pair of Wood Ducks at Shannon Beach at the Mystic Lakes as the female, it seemed, was trying to find a suitable nesting cavity.
from KIM WOOD DUCK FEMALE head in hole Female Wood Duck checking tree cavity, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
from KIM NAGY female checking out nest
Female Wood Duck inspecting tree cavity, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by Kim Nagy.  
from KIM WOOD DUCK wings spread-3
Male Wood Duck, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by Kim Nagy.  
Male Wood Duck on tree, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by John Harrison.
As we watched she flew to several trees poking her head into cavities checking them out.  We hope that she finds just the right tree for a family so we can watch that cycle unfold.
  For two days we thought we were going to have another Great Horned Owl’s nest at Mount Auburn Cemetery.  The female was sitting, it seemed, in a tree at the edge of Ivy Path.  There was a broken egg beneath the tree and we hoped that there was another one or two eggs beneath her. It was an odd place for a Great Horned Owl to nest and it was a little late for her to be sitting. But we were hopeful, nevertheless.  I saw her sitting on Sunday, March 20 in the late afternoon and then the next morning, Monday, after it had snowed overnight.
Great Horned Owl sitting on eggs (?), Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photos by John Harrison.
By that afternoon she was back in the Dell next to her mate, Alexander.  We don’t know what this was all about.  One theory is that this new mate of Alexander’s is too young and didn’t really know what she was doing.  If she stays in the Dell maybe next year she will be ready and we can have another fantastic Great Horned Owl’s nest as we did in 2011.  While watching the owls in the Dell recently, a striking Hermit Thrush landed on a holly bush.
21HERMITTHRUSHDELLXXXXWEDAPR1320161607 328 Hermit Thrush in the Dell, Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photo by John Harrison.
And Flickers have been all over Mount Auburn.  Another sign of spring.21FLICKERRHWHITEXXXXFRIAPR1520161607 394
Northern Flicker, Mount Auburn Cemetery.  Photo by John Harrison. 
The Osprey pair in Lynn that we watched and photographed with their chicks beginning last July are back for another Osprey summer.  It’s amazing that every year all over New England Osprey pairs return to the same nests they’ve been using,  sometimes for years.  How they find their needle-in-a-haystack nest when they return, without Garmin or Waze, isn’t understood.  There are theories but we don’t really know.  It’s good that there is still some mystery.  They are in the process now of shoring up their home.  As we spent time there lately they showed up every now and then bringing branches to the nest. It’s a great opportunity to photograph them as they hover above the nest with a branch in their talons and then land and work the branch into the nest.
from KIM OSPREY almost touching
Osprey about to land on nest with branch, Lynn.   Photo by Kim Nagy.
They have a strong work ethic and labor diligently making the nest ready for their next family.  Last year they had three hungry chicks on the nest and we would watch the adults fly in with fish on a regular basis. from MIMI OSPREY fx IMG_4713 Osprey in flight with fish, Lynn.  Photo by Mimi Bix-Hylan.
We were even fortunate to be there on the day that the last two chicks fledged.  It was exhilarating to catch that.  This year we’re at the beginning of the breeding cycle.  Around the end of April the female will be sitting on eggs.  We will be able to watch as the male brings fish to the female throughout the day.  Once the chicks hatch, in about a month, the male will be especially busy bringing fish to the nest for them. The chicks will be on the nest 7-8 weeks before fledging.
  While watching the Ospreys in Lynn recently, we got to watch a couple of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets.
Snowy Egrets, Lynn.  Photos by John Harrison.
The Saugus River, which is close to three sides of the Osprey nest, is a great habitat for shore birds.  As the next couple of months pass at that Lynn site, we will be seeing Sanderlings, Sandpipers, Yellow Legs and other shore birds.  
  Fresh Pond has been the home of a couple of Screech Owls for a few years.  There’s a path down to the pond from Huron Ave. and the Screech Owl (sometimes two of them) can be seen in the same tree cavity they have occupied for a long time.
23SCREECHOWLFRESHPONDXXXXMONAPR1820161609 302 Screech Owl, Fresh Pond.  Photo by John Harrison.
I’ve been there several times lately and was even fortunate to catch the Screech Owl hooting on video on April 18th.  It hooted once and I quickly turned on the video hoping that it would again.  About eight seconds after turning on the video, it did hoot again.   A couple of days later I caught another active scene with the owl.
  We were hoping to hear word that there was another active fox den at Salisbury Beach.  That doesn’t seem to be the case this year.  But that didn’t keep regular photography contributor to this blog, Jim Renault, from discovering a fox – right in his own back yard.
from JIM RENAULT fx fx Grey Fox 4_9_16 Gray Fox.  Photo by Jim Renault.
As Jim tells it, he has had glimpses of this fox now and then for quite a while.  But it never hung around long enough for Jim to get a photo.  But finally it did.  Here’s a look at this Gray Fox in Jim’s back yard.  Jim also caught a nice moment recently with the male peregrine Falcon in Woburn driving off a male intruder Peregrine.
from JIM RENAULT two male peregrines doing battle 3
Woburn male Peregrine Falcon fights off intruder Peregrine.  Photo by Jim Renault.  
  Next time we will sum up this year’s spring migration.  Every year is different.  Last year was off-the-charts magnificent.  There was an abundance of migrants everywhere.  Mount Auburn was sensational as was Plum Island, the Arlington Reservoir and our own Mystic Lakes.  Let’s hope this year’s spring migration is another memorable one.
While seeking warblers at the Arlington Reservoir this week, we were entertained by a muskrat.  Photo by John Harrison.