After the Big Show

  Birding is a world of small gestures, but small gestures can change the world.  THE LIFE OF THE SKIES, Jonathan Rosen                  
    The fantastic spring migration ended and summer is here.  Summer wildlife is a very different experience.  As we learn early in our pursuit of wild things, there are no guarantees.  As I mentioned last time, the Woburn Peregrine Falcon female was sitting on eggs.  We were all excited about that and were looking forward to an exhilarating season with this falcon family.  Last year the pair had one chick and it was fun following its antics.  We had visions of three or four chicks this year.  However….The nest failed.  No chicks. It’s frustrating not knowing why.  We’ll have to wait until next year.  But we can’t help wondering what might have been.
  The Tufts Park, Medford,  Kestrels didn’t disappoint us, though.  They had one chick and we’ve been having a great time watching this one.  I had a glimpse of the chick in the nest at the corner of the building on Sunday morning, June 18th.
Kestrel chick, Tufts Park, Medford, Sunday, June 18, the day of or the day before it fledged. Photo by John Harrison
It was our first proof that this was a successful nest.  It was a great relief to us.  This chick fledged on either the afternoon or early evening of June 18th or early Tuesday morning of June 19th.  When I arrived at Tufts Park on the morning of June 19th, I quickly discovered the lone fledgling on a light pole next to the baseball diamond.  It stayed on that light pole for the three hours that I was there.  A great opportunity.  The fledgling was probably a little afraid to do any more flying so we were able to watch and photograph the parents flying in and out regularly with food.
Kestrel mother bringing food to the fledgling on its first full day, Mon. June 19.  Photo by John Harrison
Kestrel fledgling taking food from Dad.  Photo by John Harrison.
Mother Kestrel (L), father Kestrel (R) and fledgling (center).  Photo by John Harrison.
Kestrel fledgling a couple of days after fledging.  Photo by John Harrison.
  As we watched for the next few days, there were many food drops for the fledgling and on Thursday morning, June 22nd, a couple of intruder Kestrels flew into the park and repeatedly buzzed the Tufts pair.  After a while they flew off.
    Of course uppermost in our minds was the question of whether there were going to be any more chicks.  After a week it became obvious that there was only going to be this single chick this time. The last couple of years this pair has had two or more chicks in every clutch.  Last year this pair even had a second clutch so we were watching Kestrel chicks through August.  We’re hoping that they repeat this rare feat this summer.  Another August of Kestrel chicks would be a bonanza.
  The Mystic Lakes, which is a great habitat for so many species, had an Eastern Kingbird nest in a tree along the upper lakes just past the stone bridge.  I was watching one of the adults and saw it fly into the nest.  For the next couple of weeks I watched the nest for a while on most mornings.  I learned that Kingbird mothers like feeding the chicks – three of them in the nest – dragonflies.
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Mother Kingbird with dragonfly to feed chicks.  Photo by Kim Nagy.  
There were many photo ops of the mother shoving the dragonflies into the beaks of the young.  The three chicks fledged on the morning of July first.
Mother Kingbird inserting dragonfly into the mouth of a chick, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by John Harrison.
The three Kingbird hatchlings, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by John Harrison.
Usually Kingbirds build their nests higher in trees so having this close access to this species for a nesting season was especially rewarding.  

  While watching the Kingbird nest,  we also saw a few Wood Duck families in the lake.  There were only adult females of the species with the young. The male Wood Ducks are not usually seen in the summer.
Wood Duck female and ducklings, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by John Harrison. 
Wood Duck female and ducklings, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by John Harrison.   Also on the lakes during this time were the ever-present Swans and cygnets.  We only counted four cygnets when we saw them day after day.
Swan and cygnets, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by John Harrison.
They probably started with at least double that amount of cygnets, but these young swans are vulnerable to predators, especially Red-tailed Hawks.  By the time these cygnets are large enough to no longer be so vulnerable, half of them are gone.
  The Osprey nest in Lynn that we have been following for the past few years is back in action.  It’s amazing that this pair of Ospreys find their way from wherever in the south they spend their winters to this needle-in-a-haystack nest in Lynn.   We often wonder how they do it. They don’t have WAZE or any other GPS ability that we understand.  Yet they are back year after year.  There are theories about how they do this, but the mystery remains.  This wonderful Lynn Osprey pair that have brought so many chicks into the world through the years are back with us and have had, it seems so far, two chicks.  I was there on the morning of July 4th and saw both chicks for the first time.  They were just able to stand up.  A bit wobbly, but that will change fast.
Mother Osprey and two chicks, Lynn.  Photo by John Harrison.
These birds grow quickly and within a week of my first glimpse of the two of them, I’m sure they will be standing and flapping their wings and calling for mom and dad to bring fish.  We should be able to enjoy this Osprey family well into August.  I was fortunate enough to witness the male Osprey bring in a fish for his kids a couple of times.
Father Osprey coming to the nest with a fish, Lynn.  Photo by John Harrison.
Father Osprey landing at nest with fish, mother to the right, Lynn.  Photo by John Harrison.
And it was a joy watching mom feed them.
  Every June at Ipswich River Audubon in Topsfield the magic Mullberry Tree explodes with fruit. This brings a multitude of birds to the tree for the few weeks that the berries remain.  We spend hour after hour watching Red-bellied Woodpeckers,
Red-bellied Woodpecker on Mulberry Tree, Ipswich River Audubon.  Photo by John Harrison.
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Cedar Waxwing swallowing a Mulberry, Ipswich River Audubon.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
Baltimore and Orchard Orioles,
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Baltimore Oriole, male, on Mulberry Tree, Ipswich River Audubon.  Photo by Kim Nagy.  
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Bluebird on Mulberry Tree, Ipswich River Audubon.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak on Mulberry Tree, Ipswich River Audubon.  Photo by John Harrison.
Purple Finches, Goldfinches, Bluebirds, the occasional Rose-breasted Grosbeak and, especially this year, one or two magnificent Scarlet Tanagers.
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Scarlet Tanager on Mulberry Tree, Ipswich River Audubon.  Photo by Kim Nagy.
Scarlet Tanager with Mulberry, Ipswich River Audubon.  Photo by John Harrison.
Scarlet Tanager on Mulberry Tree, Ipswich River Audubon.  Photo by John Harrison.
To see this species in late June and July is a rare treat.  For these Scarlet Tanagers alone, this summer is memorable.  i 
  Photographer Jim Renault explored a couple of new venues and had some interesting moments, including a Glossy Ibis in Quincy, a Red-headed Woodpecker in Lexington and a Bald Eagle being harassed by a male Kingbird.  He also caught the moment a fish jumped up in a waterfall at the Mystic Lakes dam.
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Glossy Ibis and Snowy Egrets, Quincy.  Photo by Jim Renault.  
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Red-headed Woodpecker, Lexington.  Photo by Jim Renault.  
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Bald Eagle being harassed by Kingbird.  Photo by Jim Renault.
Fish at the dam, Mystic Lakes.  Photo by Jim Renault.  
  Part two of the summer begins.  Usually things slow down for us during the ‘dog days’ of late July and August.  But we will have our Lynn Ospreys to enjoy and maybe the Tufts Park Kestrels will surprise us with another brood.  And, as we have learned,  there are always unexpected wildlife moments during the late summer.  Hopefully next time we will have some of those to share……
 Tomorrow, Saturday July 08, photographer Kim Nagy and I are once again boarding the Thomas Laighton at Portsmouth Harbor, NH, for a cruise to the Isles of Shoals, which includes a ninety-minute stopover at Star Island, where we hope to once again see nesting Great Black-backed Gulls. The Isles of Shoals are about 6 miles off of the east coast of New Hampshire and Maine.  We last took this cruise in August of 2014.  We’re looking forward to a sunny Saturday for this adventure. We hope……
The Thomas Laighton, Isles of Shoals cruise ship, at Star Island, August, 2014.  Photo by John Harrison.
Star Island, Isles of Shoals, August, 2014.  Photo by John Harrison.
Photographer Kim Nagy photographing Great Black-backed Gulls, Star Island, August 2014. Photo by John Harrison.  
Great Black-backed Gull chicks, Star Island, August 2014.  Photo by John Harrison.