Sunday, June 23, 2013

More Rails!

On the day following the session with the Sora, I did some wading to a dry section along the back dikes where a family of Virginia Rails have been active.  I saw one juvenile and an adult.  Some pictures.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Great Meadows Rail Show

When people talk about the "rail trail" at Great Meadows in Concord these days, they don't mean the old Reformatory Branch rail bed.  This is the rail trail:

Heavy rains in early June have the Sudbury, Assabet, and Concord rivers at flood stage, and over the weekend Great Meadows became a water world.  And with flooding, birds and all manner of wildlife come out of hiding.  For several days now people have been reporting spectacular Virginia Rail shows, with at least one Sora making frequent appearances near the parking area.  Today, two Sora put on a show, with many photographers in attendance.  With the birds virtually at our feet, I managed a few shots.

One bird had been carrying food to a location off the dike, and while foraging a second rail, presumably its mate, joined it for several minutes.

Showing some wing.  This is a handsome bird.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

"Uncommon and Local"

Here in eastern Massachusetts we have a lot of trees, but we lack extensive, unbroken forest.  Concord is blessed with one of the biggest (over 1000 acres) tracts of unbroken forest: Estabrook Woods.  So, it is there we go looking for specialty interior forest species that breed locally, like Winter Wren and Northern Waterthrush.  One species, the Black-Throated Green Warbler, prefers hemlock stands, but these are now threatened by wooly adelgid infestation, and healthy hemlock stands are very uncommon and highly localized.  While this bird is quite common on migration, come late May and early June, it is tough to find them in eastern Massachusetts.  However, according to Breeding Bird Atlas 2 data, they are on the increase in the east.

I had heard reports of breeding B-T Greens in Estabrook in a remote hemlock stand, and Willy Hutcheson confirmed one bird while running.  Today I hiked in to this marvelous area, located on a rocky knoll upslope and east of the large and mysterious white cedar swamp in northern Estabrook, and immediately heard two singing males.  One was very cooperative and posed, sort of, for a few quick shots.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Breeding Season

Migration was very busy and I posted little because I was in the field as often as possible.  Overall, this year's migration was a bit strange, with very delayed birds due to some high-pressure blocking patterns which recurred.  These were followed by storms systems and a dump of migrants, especially on days like May 11th when several coastal and inland areas experienced "fall-out" conditions.  The following Saturday was Birdathon, with a significant arrival of Bay-Breasted and Wilson's Warblers, along with many Black-Billed Cuckoos.  Overall, though, migration sort of sputtered along and trees were fully leaved by the time the "good birds" arrived.

I was asked yesterday whether the Concord Birds project "missed anything."  Yes:  Louisiana Waterthrush and Olive-Sided Flycatcher, but those are stretches anyway.  It would have been nice to have had Kentucky Warbler and Red-Headed Woodpecker and Grasshopper Sparrow, but these are recorded infrequently (if at all) in Concord.  Birds that barely registered, however, were more frustrating:  King Rail and Common Gallinule (Moorhen) were observed only a few times at Great Meadows.  It is unknown if Pied-Billed Grebes stayed to breed, but perhaps two pairs of American Coots definitely have stuck it out at Great Meadows.  A potential Worm-Eating Warbler just over the Carlisle line hasn't been confirmed yet.

Our current focus is to confirm (or at least observe) Black-Throated Green Warblers and Hermit Thrush in Estabrook Woods, where they have historically bred in a stand of hemlock east of the Cedar Swamp near the Carlisle line.  This area might contain other scarcities—potentially Blue-Headed Vireo or even Blackburnian (although this species is even scarcer in eastern Mass since Breeding Bird Atlas 1).  Coming soon will be post-breeding wading birds.

Now to Ludlow G.'s list!  My five readers will recall that our year goal was 200 birds.  We are now at 191 (192 provisional pending confirmation of Worm-Eating), which means shorebirds, waders, fall sparrows, geese, and vagrants will push us well past 200 and into the territory of the historical checklist for the area established by Dick Walton in his Birds of the Sudbury Valley in 1984.

Now it gets interesting!