Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Travels with Diana!

Diana was one of the ladies I met in Mount Auburn Cemetery last week. She very kindly offered to show me a few birds around her local places, in & around Boston. She is a very enthusiastic & knowledgeable birder & a fun girl to be around. So, I was not slow to take her up on her kind offer!
 I was out of bed at the ungodly hour of 5am (3rd June), caught the bus, underground & commuter rail connection to Newburyport & Diana, as if my magic, turned up to show me a few birds. The sun was shining & Plum Island looked glorious, far different from my last Snowy Owl visit!
Our first birding stop was at the Purple Martin colony at the entrance to Plum Island. This species is virtually restricted to breeding in artificial nesting situations now. They appear to be doing quite well, although I did see at least two pairs of House Sparrows using the same design!

 The Purple Martins at the top, are decoys!
 Female Purple Martins.

 A fine adult male, Purple Martin.
Singing its heart out!
We drove a little further down the road, steadily clocking up a good variety of birds. We climbed the tower & walked a few of the boardwalk trails. Migrants were few & far between, but we persevered.
 Dense vegetation on the seaward side of the road.
 The boardwalk across the marsh.
 Views from the tower.

 Several pairs of Eastern Willets
were nesting on the saltmarsh.

Tree Swallow.
 Willow Flycatcher.
 How do I know it was Willow?
It was calling!
Yellow Warblers were breeding in the woodland
edge around the marsh.
Best birds: Least Bittern, a fine adult male; Great Blue Heron 3; Great Egret 2; Snowy Egret 3; Black Duck; Gadwall 3; Osprey 2; Red-tailed Hawk 2; Wild Turkey 5; Semipalmated Plover 4; Semipalmated Sandpiper 12; Eastern Willet 6; Common Tern 6; Least Tern 2; Eastern Wood Pewee; Willow Flycatcher 2; Eastern Kingbird 4; Red eyed Vireo 5; Barn Swallow 5; Tree Swallow 2; Purple Martin 10; Marsh Wren 4; Cedar Waxwing 7; Yellow Warbler 5; Chestnut-sided Warbler; Common Yellowthroat 2; Eastern Towhee 4; White-throated Sparrow; Baltimore Oriole & Bobolink 7.
We then moved on to Diana's local patch: Horn Pond, on the outskirts of Boston. It is a mixture of a pond, with some mature woodland around it & areas of secondary growth, & scrubby hillsides.

Diana looking for our main quarry - Field Sparrow.
And she found it!
 Field Sparrow - a localised breeding species
 around Boston.
This locality is good for two scarce breeding species: Field Sparrow & Prairie Warbler. We had good, prolonged views of the former, but only fleeting view of the warbler. It was singing from shade in a large tree & difficult to see.
Best birds: Wood Duck; Red-tailed Hawk 2; Cooper's Hawk; Northern Flicker; Willow Flycatcher; Red eyed Vireo 2; Cedar Waxwing 6; Yellow Warbler 2; Prairie Warbler 2; American Redstart 2; Common Yellowthroat; Eastern Towhee 3; Field Sparrow 2; Song Sparrow 2 & Baltimore Oriole.
The next day (4th June) was a complete contrast to the day before. Dark, dismal overcast skies & intermittent showers. I was meeting Diana at Winchester Commuter Rail Station. I left in plenty of time but had a nightmare journey at rush hour. This culminated in me missing my train to Winchester! Diana very kindly waited for me & we met at 10.30 am. She whisked me off to another lovely spot: the Brooks Estate. The weather was still very overcast & next to nothing was singing. Best birds being a Wood Thrush & great views of a female Swamp Sparrow, in a little piece of swampy ground on the edge of the wood. It was too dark to obtain any photographs.
We then drove to the little nature reserve at Marblehead Neck. It is a pretty little spot, but unfortunately yet again, next to no migrants. We did however, find a film crew, filming a model for a footwear advertisement for TV! It was then time for me to be dropped off by Diana & I had another nightmare journey through the city, as the trains were packed to capacity & my connecting bus didn't turn up!
It is 6th June & I am on the commuter rail again! Today, I arose really early, so I would get to my destination on time. My confidence in Boston MBTA had been shaken recently! So of course, today everything ran on time & I got to Anderson Station one hour early! I passed the time by eating breakfast at Dunkin Dougnuts & I ate my first American doughnut, while in America! I think it may be time to move on, before this US lifestyle really gets to me! I also saw American Kestrel; 4 Red-tailed Hawks & a Bobolink while waiting for Diana to pick me up. Diana mentioned that the American Kestrel is quite a good record, as they have really declined in this area recently.
Today we were visiting Allens Pond near Dartmouth, a site for both Seaside & Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows, both of which I was very keen to see. The weather was superb & we quite quickly arrived as this little reserve.

Some good examples of coastal flora.

It is a good mixture of coastal shingle & beach floras, plus saltmarsh & woodland with a few tidal lagoons. This morning Diana & I concentrated on the saltmarsh, because that is where are target species were.  Or rather we hoped they were! Diana had warned me that the likelihood of finding Seaside Sparrow was slim, but we were hoping to have better fortune with the Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.

 The saltmarsh - prime habitat for our quarry.
 Eastern Willets were breeding on the saltmarsh.
Eastern Willet Displaying high overhead.
Several Turkey Vultures were on show.
Snowy Egret
Red-winged Blackbird is a very common bird
 in New England.
Mourning Dove.
A few pairs of Yellow Warblers were nesting
in the more wooded areas on the edge
 of the saltmarsh.
 Diana scoping successfully for our prey!
 We only found Saltmarsh Sparrows in a
relatively small area of the saltmarsh.

The chosen & successful spot!

 Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow.
 Finally, after quite a time, we obtained good views.
Best birds: Double-crested Cormorant 8; Great Egret 2; Snowy Egret; Mute Swan 10; American Black Duck 3; Osprey 4; Killdeer 2; Eastern Willet 4; Common Tern 4; Least Tern 2; Eastern Phoebe; Willow Flycatcher 2; Eastern Kingbird 2; Cedar Waxwing 4; Yellow Warbler 4; Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow 7 & Song Sparrow.
Eastern Cottontail Rabbit.
We left & ran straight into heavy traffic coming into Boston. I felt sorry for Diana, as she wasted one & half hours in a traffic jam with me & after she dropped me off, she still had to get through yet more traffic to get home! We had a great three days birding together. Thanks a lot & till the next time!

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