Monthly Archives: September 2016

Summer’s End

I believe that there is a subtle magnetism in Nature, which, if we unconsciously yield to it, will direct us aright.  HENRY DAVID THOREAU

  The summer birding surprises didn’t slow down as we went through August and into September.  No August dog days this season.  The biggest surprise was a second clutch of two chicks from the American Kestrel pair at Tufts Park in South Medford.  It’s unusual for birds of prey to have a second brood in the same season.  The two chicks are both male and we were able to enjoy them for almost three full weeks, most of August, before the parents sent them on their way. They were an active, fun pair to watch.
Kestrel kids, Tufts Park, Medford, MA.  Photo by John Harrison.
Kestrel takes off from telephone pole, Tufts Park.  Photo by John Harrison.
Kestrel poses in front of an American Flag.  Photo by John Harrison.
  One wave of Tree Swallows left Plum Island and another wave came in,
from KIM TREE SWALLOWS above bush
Tree Swallows, Plum Island.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
Tree Swallows covering the sky and the road, Plum Island.  Photo by John Harrison.
This phenomenon was available to us for most of August.  The wonder of hundreds of thousands of Tree Swallows as a giant cloud in the sky can’t be adequately described or photographed or filmed.  You have to be there and do a slow 360 degree turn to appreciate this display.  Here are a few videos that will give you an idea of this phenomenon:    And of course Plum Island yields a great variety of shore birds beginning in late August.  Here’s a Greater Yellowlegs in the marsh:
Greater Yellowlegs, Plum Island.  Photo by John Harrison.
  On Saturday morning, August 20, at Hellcat Trail, near the dike, there was a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.  It was a life-bird for me. 56YELLOWCROWNEDNIGHTHERONJUVENILEHELLCATXXXXSATAUG2020161640 270
Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Hellcat, Plum Island.  Photo by John Harrison.
Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Hellcat, Plum Island.  Photo by John Harrison.
We’re used to seeing Black-crowned Night Herons around here – and I ran across an adult of the species in the marsh grass across from parking lot #1 that same morning as well as a juvenile along the water’s edge on the main road – but the Yellow-crowned was the day’s hit.  59BLACKCROWNEDNIGHTHERONPLUMISLANDXXXXSUNAUG2820161643 147
Black-crowned Night Heron, adult, Plum Island.  Photo by John Harrison.
Black-crowned Night Heron, juvenile, Hellcat, Plum Island.  Photo by John Harrison.
And, for once, a Harrier Hawk, working the marsh near the maintenance shed, gave us a great look as it rose and dipped into the grass in its usual manner near the shed.
Harrier Hawk near maintenance shed, Plum Island.  Photo by John Harrison.
Harrier Hawk near maintenance shed, Plum Island.  Photo by John Harrison.
  Horn Pond in Woburn, sadly with the lowest water levels ever seen there, is, despite that, still attracting a great variety of shore birds. 61HORNPONDMONSEP0520161645 119
Horn Pond in late August.  Usually all of the pond would be full of water.  Photo by John Harrison.
There have been Sanderlings, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs,60SANDERLINGHORNPONDXXXXFRISEP0220161644 359
Sanderling, Horn Pond.  Photo by John Harrison.
from JIM FX Yellow Legs at Pond
Yellowlegs, Horn Pond.  Photo by Jim Renault.
and several varieties of Sandpipers, et al, and the regular suspects:  Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Red-tailed Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Green Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, Great Blue Herons, KiIldeer and Kingfishers, etc. from JIM FX Kingfisher at Horn Pond Back Lagoon
Kingfisher, Horn Pond.  Photo by Jim Renault. 
from JIM FX Kingfisher at Horn Pond Back Lagoon with fish
Kingfisher with fish, Horn Pond.  Photo by Jim Renault.  
Killdeer, Horn Pond.  Photo by John Harrison.
Green Heron, Horn Pond.  Photo by John Harrison.
from JIM FX Hummingbird at Dunback on Aster
Hummingbird.  Photo by Jim Renault.  
from JIM FX  Hummingbird at Dunbackon
Hummingbird.  Photo by Jim Renault.
And for a couple of weeks a juvenile Little Blue Heron has been drawing birders and photographers.  This little one has been the Horn Pond rock star of the season.
from JIM Little Blue with frog Horn Pond 2
Little Blue Heron with frog, Horn Pond.  Photo by Jim Renault.
Little Blue Heron, Horn Pond.  Photo by John Harrison.  
Red-tailed Hawk. Photo by Mimi Bix-Hylan.  
Red-tailed Hawk takeoff.  Photo by Mimi Bix-Hylan.
from MIMI COOP  FRX IMG_7068
Cooper’s Hawk.  Photo by Mimi Bix-Hylan.
It has been quite accessible and has given us lots of opportunities for photographs and video. Here is a video look at some Sanderlings near the Sturgis St. entrance to the pond:   Here are some videos of the Little Blue Heron in the lagoon near the victory garden: 
  On Saturday, August 13th, photographer Kim Nagy and I enjoyed our third annual visit to Ray and Deb Cilley’s Alpacas at their Spring Pond Farm in Greenfield, NH. 38SPRINGPONDFARMSATJULY1120151556 150
Spring Pond Farm, Greenfield, NH.  Photo by John Harrison.
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Our visits there have become a favorite tradition.  On one of our visits to the farm, Ray, a pilot, flew over us and dipped his wings in welcome.38RAYSFLYOVERSATJULY1120151556 008
Ray Cilley flies his plane over Spring Pond Farm.  Photo by John Harrison.
  The farm is an idyllic collection of lush green fields and corrals and barns with a majestic mountain view in the background. 38ALPACASXXXXSATJULY1120151556 151
Alpacas of Spring Pond Farm.  Photo by John Harrison.
Deb and Ray Cilley of Spring Pond Farm with their Alpacas.  Photo by John Harrison.
We had waited for this visit until two babies, called crias, that were due were finally born.  The crias were named Polar Bear (the white one) and Onyx (the black one). from KIM two crias grazing
Alpaca crias of Spring Pond Farm, Polar Bear and Onyx.  Photo by John Harrison.
Alpacas in the barn, Spring Pond Farm.  Photo by John Harrison.
from KIM grazing under fence
Alpaca grazing under fence.  Photo by Kim Nagy.  
Kim and I were able to enjoy these new arrivals along with six-year-old Mari and her parents.  Mari was breathlessly excited following the Alpacas for the occasional touch and kiss. Every now and then little Mari would shriek  “I touched one” and raise her hands to the sky in a victory salute.  Her joy was infectious.54MARIANDALPACASPRINGPONDFARMSATAUG1320161638 244
Six-year-old Mari is captivated by the cria Polar Bear.  Photo by John Harrison.  
Little Mari delights in the cria Polar Bear.  Photo by John Harrison.
Little Mari is up close and personal with an Alpaca.  Photo by John Harrison.
Photographer Kim Nagy has an Alpaca moment.  Photo by John Harrison.
(L to R)  Deb Cilley, Ray Cilley and Kim Nagy.  Photo by John Harrison.
  There’s more to the Alpaca world than we thought, as we’ve learned the past three years.  There are Alpaca shows, to which Deb and Ray’s room full of awards will attest.38ALPACACOMPETITIONRIBBONSSATJULY1120151556 163
Some of the competition awards won by Deb and Ray’s Alpaca’s.  Photo by John Harrison.
Award won by Spring Pond Farm Alpaca.  Photo by John Harrison.
And there are stud fees for superior Alpacas much as there are for thoroughbred horses.  The Cilley’s are devoted to their Alpacas and delight in discussing the many aspects of raising them. The Alpacas are sheared every spring, usually, and Deb knits socks, hats, gloves, sweaters, vests and scarves, etc., from their wool which are available in their gift shop. 38SPRINGPONDFARMGIFTSHOPSATJULY1120151556 164
The Spring Pond Farm gift shop.  Everything in view made by Deb Cilley.  Photo by John Harrison.
Alpaca wool is the best insulation in the world.  On the very coldest New England winter day Alpaca socks will keep you warmer than any other wool.  For Kim and me every visit to Spring Pond Farm is like a seminar in Alpaca lore.  One of the other features of Spring Pond Farm is their collection of chickens and roosters.  Of course we’ve all heard the rooster call in film and on TV but I had never actually witnessed a rooster calling until visiting Spring Pond Farm:    Some of the chickens on hand have coloring that any bird of prey would be proud to have:   Who knew there were so many varieties of chickens? from KIM silky rooster wings back
Spring Pond Farm Rooster.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
from KIM herringbone pattern
Spring Pond Farm chicken.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
from KIM striped chicken
Colorful Spring Pond Farm chicken close-up.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
And Deb and Ray have beehives and produce their own honey:   As you explore the area around the farm you might discover riders on horseback, as Kim and I did when Deb gave us a tour on their RV:
   The annual fall fair at Spring Pond Farm, The Wool Arts Tour ( ), is on Saturday and Sunday, October 8th and 9th. There will be vendors on hand with their crafts and for kids there will be hay rides and other surprises. Drive to Greenfield that weekend to experience the magic of the  Alpacas and say hi to Deb and Ray.  They will greet you with open arms!
  Labor Day has passed and fall migrants are beginning to filter in.  My first migrant, a Warbling Vireo, was at the Mystic Lakes early on August 30.  Let the games begin.
Warbling Vireo, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by John Harrison.
Sunrise, Plum Island, Sunday, August 21, 2016.  Photo by John Harrison.