A search for migrant birds in the Arboretum

The weather report was iffy for this spring Brookline Bird Club walk in the Arnold Arboretum this morning but the rain mostly held off. There was a large group of 23 birders, including several hawk-eyed youngsters and representatives from western MA and the UK, to enjoy the birds as well as the flora on the cusp of Lilac Sunday. With able assistance from Andrew Joslin and Will Cochrane, we saw a varied collection of resident and migrant birds with some good looks, although the flat light and expanding tree foliage made warblers tough to see.

A Rose-breasted Grosbeak was high up in a tree but easily seen, and it sang endlessly.  Such a beautiful bird:


Rose-breasted Grosbeak, male
Photo: Bob Mayer

Yellow Warblers that nest in the Arboretum were everywhere, and many were singing:


A singing male Yellow Warbler
Photo: Bob Mayer


We had ten species of wood warblers, which are migrating through Massachusetts now. One of the better seen ones was a Chestnut-sided Warbler:



Chestnut-sided Warbler. Note the yellow crown, black face mask and bold chestnut flanks in this lovely male
Photo: Bob Mayer

A Wood Thrush was heard coming from the base of Bussey Hill in the beech collection. These migrants are hard to see because they stay in the forest understory, but they are as pretty as their song:


Wood Thrush
Photo: Bob Mayer

We finished off with good looks at a striking, and more and more common, woodpecker:


Red-bellied Woodpecker, male.  This species has moved farther north in the last several decades and now nests in the Arboretum.
Photo: Bob Mayer

Woodpeckers hammer away on trees and other things (transformers, metal siding) to define territory, prepare nest holes and maybe just for fun.  On impact, their heads decelerate at about 15 times the rate that would cause traumatic brain injury in people. How is it possible that they avoid brain damage? Learn the answer at a talk this Thursday. arboretum sponsored talk. 

Here is the complete list of birds seen on the May 11th walk:
Arnold Arboretum, Suffolk, US-MA
May 11, 2013 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
Comments:     60, cloudy
45 species

Canada Goose  2
Great Blue Heron  1 flyover
Red-tailed Hawk  2
Herring Gull  2
Mourning Dove  7
Chimney Swift  2
Belted Kingfisher 1 flyover
Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
Downy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Eastern Kingbird  1
Warbling Vireo  3
Red-eyed Vireo  1
Blue Jay  2
Tree Swallow  2
Black-capped Chickadee  2
Tufted Titmouse  1
White-breasted Nuthatch  1
Wood Thrush  1
American Robin  30
Gray Catbird  12
Brown Thrasher  1
European Starling  3
Cedar Waxwing  4
Black-and-white Warbler  4
American Redstart  1
Northern Parula  5
Magnolia Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  8
Chestnut-sided Warbler  1
Black-throated Blue Warbler  2
Pine Warbler  1
Yellow-rumped Warbler  2
Black-throated Green Warbler  2
Chipping Sparrow  6
Savannah Sparrow  1
Song Sparrow  3
Northern Cardinal  2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  1
Red-winged Blackbird  10
Common Grackle  20
Orchard Oriole  2
Baltimore Oriole  5
American Goldfinch  5
House Sparrow  6

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S14070545

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebi

The final spring bird walk in the Arboretum will be held next Sunday May 19, beginning at the South Street Gate at 8AM and co-sponsored by the Arboretum Park Conservatory.  We will explore the newest section of the AA, Bussey Brook Meadow and Marsh.

Good Birding!

A neighborhood bird walk

This morning a group of more than fifty people gathered for a bird walk right in their own neighborhood.  Sumner Hill is an historic district in Jamaica Plain with mostly residential homes and some commercial buildings and is bordered by part of the Southwest Corridor on the west side.  Originally the walk was planned for the Arnold Arboretum but we decided it would be interesting, even if less fruitful, to confine the walk to the 365 acres of the neighborhood district.  As expected, given the urban limitations and dealing with a very slow spring migration this year, the yield of bird species was small, but that was more than made up for by beautiful weather, lots of early flowering trees and a very enthusiastic group of birders of all ages.

We started off by examining the differences between two birds singing loudly from my side yard; Northern Cardinal and Carolina Wren. The birds were very obliging, singing alternately so all could absorb the differences: the harsher repetitive call of the wren against the more melodic but crisp song of the cardinal. Later the wren flew in, allowing some up close viewing.  How this tiny bird projects such a loud and resonant sound is a mystery.


Carolina Wren
Photo: Bob Mayer


Next we walked down to the Southwest Corridor, a wonderful garden way that follows the subway and commuter train lines from central Boston to Forest Hills.  I had been put onto a nest in a small shrub right next to a kiddie playground there.  There were way too many people to allow everyone to get in close enough to see a Northern Mockingbird sitting nervously on the nest, so I took only the kids to see it; the adults will have time to revisit the site on their own to watch the nesting progress.

As we walked farther through the small streets we saw and heard other common species here and there:  Blue Jays, American Robins, White-breasted Nuthatches and several lovely Northern Cardinals.  There were no exciting early migrants to be found anywhere, but I told the beginning birders that given the slow start to the passerine spring migration we would likely have not done much better in the Arboretum or even at Mount Auburn Cemetery across the river.

As we concluded our stroll and headed to a fine brunch hosted by the neighbor who organized this walk, a local mocker put on a full show for all.  He was perched on a huge chimney doing a medley of imitations, some of which were easily recognized.  In between singing he flew up, almost dancing, a few feet above the chimney cap and displayed the diagnostic flash of white in wing and tail of the Northern Mockingbird, then settled back down for more vocal.  A mockingbird clinic!


Northern Mockingbird
Photo: Bob Mayer

Here is the list of birds we saw or heard:

Sumner Hill JP, Suffolk, US-MA
May 5, 2013 8:00 AM – 8:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.0 mile(s)
Comments:     46, sunny
14 species

Herring Gull  3
Rock Pigeon  2
Mourning Dove  1
Blue Jay  2
American Crow  2
Black-capped Chickadee  2
White-breasted Nuthatch  2
Carolina Wren  2
American Robin  20
Northern Mockingbird  3
European Starling  12
Song Sparrow  1
Northern Cardinal  7
House Sparrow  30

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S13996607

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

We’ll do it again next spring.

Good Birding!