First Arnold Arboretum Spring 2016 Bird Walk

As is common this spring, the morning was chilly when 37 birders arrived at the Arborway Gate for a ninety minute bird walk.  By the time we ended, more than two hours later, the temperature heated up, and so did the birding.  The landscape was quiet for the first hour or so but a few birds revealed themselves and gave good looks to the crowd.  We saw a goody number of lingering White-throats:


A brightly plumaged White-throated Sparrow.

The more seasonal Chipping Sparrows could be heard often but were harder to see:


The diminutive Chipping Sparrow showing it’s rusty cap.

The Arnold Arboretum is first and foremost a tree museum, so we spent some time looking at plants opening up to spring.  Along Oak Path we admired several clusters of the protected Large-flowered Trillium, a spring delight!


Picking parts off of a trillium plant can kill it even if the rhizome is left undisturbed, so leave them alone!

Of course the birds most sought after right now are the warblers.  Some of us managed to see a Palm Warbler briefly:


A somewhat washed out Palm Warbler in a cherry tree in bloom.

We had better luck with a (first of year for me) Black and White Warbler; everyone got a look at it after a keen eyed person spotted it high on the big branches of an oak.


Black and White Warbler. Someone in our group compared it to a zebra!

We tried to hear or see Pine Warblers in several places without success.  Next week should be better for this species as we will bird in conifer forest habitat.

Yellow-rumps were everywhere:


One of the earliest warblers to arrive, the Yellow-rumped Warbler, is very common for a few weeks and then gone as they move north to breeding territory.

We picked up new species one by one, ending with a bird we really wanted to see but had only heard during the walk:


Baltimore Oriole, male

I always try to get as many species on my walks as we have people in the group; today was a big challenge given the turnout.  But we came close.  Not everyone got to see every bird, but most folks got pretty good looks at many of them.  Here is today’s list:

Arnold Arboretum, Suffolk, Massachusetts,

Apr 30, 2016 8:00 AM – 10:30 AM

34 species

  • Canada Goose  2
  • Double-crested Cormorant  8
  • Red-tailed Hawk  1
  • Herring Gull  2
  • Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  4
  • Mourning Dove  8
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
  • Downy Woodpecker  2
  • Northern Flicker  5
  • Blue-headed Vireo  1
  • Warbling Vireo  3
  • Blue Jay  5
  • American Crow  1
  • Tree Swallow  2
  • Black-capped Chickadee  2
  • White-breasted Nuthatch  2
  • American Robin  45
  • Gray Catbird  1
  • Northern Mockingbird  1
  • European Starling  4
  • Black-and-white Warbler  1
  • Yellow Warbler  3
  • Palm Warbler  1
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler  9
  • Chipping Sparrow  4
  • Dark-eyed Junco  1
  • White-throated Sparrow  
  • Song Sparrow  6
  • Northern Cardinal  4
  • Red-winged Blackbird  15
  • Common Grackle  10
  • Baltimore Oriole  1
  • American Goldfinch  1
  • House Sparrow  3

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Next Saturday the walk will begin from the Peters Hill Gate on Bussey Street at 8:00 AM. In addition to more spring migrants, we’ll check out this year’s Great Horned Owl nest hoping that the last owlet may still be on nest, or that we will get a look at an adult lurking nearby or one of the two remaining fledglings.  Hope you can join us!

Good birding!

Post Script:  I’ll be doing the Bird-a-thon again this year for Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center.  If you’re inclined to support this effort, and the wonderful programs that BNC provides for urban children,  Check out my page


A Leverett Pond/Olmsted Park Walk

On Sunday morning I led 23 people, many beginning birders, on a ninety minute walk in this lovely section of the Emerald Necklace.  The walk was sponsored by the Brookline GreenSpace Alliance.  We started at the comfortable time of 9:00 AM and the weather couldn’t have been better.  The birds could have been though.  We had no seasonal migrants, although I had four species on a scouting walk four days earlier.  Highlights were three Wood Ducks- a pair on Ward’s Pond and a single male on Willow Pond.  We’re pretty sure there is another female in the duck box on Leverett Pond.  In fact when someone from the town of Brookline went to clean out last year’s nest from the box,  he came upon a female sitting on eggs!  I had insisted that the ducks would not nest again unless someone made the box “broom clean”.  So much for my expertise on wood duck nesting habits!  In any case, if this nesting attempt succeeds, it will the second year in a row that Wood Ducks have nested on the necklace.  Some images of this striking duck:


Wood Duck male sitting on the snow at Leverett Pond last year.

Wood Duck f.

The female Wood Duck is a lovely collage of subtle color. Photo taken in 2002 at Leverett Pond


An image of the Wood Duck family in August of 2015. The female is at left, along with seven young. Let’s hope for similar success this year!


Winter is the prime time to see Wood Ducks at Leverett. Here are at least 20 on the ice in January of this year.

Other than the woodies, there wasn’t much of a waterfowl show on the walk, but we did get a chance to study side by side the differences between female Mallards and American Black Ducks:

Black #2

American Black Ducks are darker and somewhat larger than female Mallards. When visible, the blue wing speculum is bordered in black.


Mallard ducks are sexually dimorphic (male and female of distinctly different coloration), in contrast to American Black Ducks. This female Mallard, seen here with her brood, is lighter brown, and has a white, rather than black, border on it’s blue wing speculum.

The species seen on the walk were representative of resident birds in this area, leaving us longing for more southwest winds and a stronger migrant flow into Massachusetts.  It can’t be far away!

Here is the list for today’s walk:

Olmsted Park–Leverett Pond, Suffolk, Massachusetts

Apr 17, 2016 9:30 AM – 11:10 AM

20 species

  • Canada Goose  12
  • Wood Duck  3
  • American Black Duck  2
  • Mallard  10
  • Herring Gull  3
  • Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  12
  • Mourning Dove  2
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
  • Downy Woodpecker  2
  • Northern Flicker  2
  • Blue Jay  3
  • Black-capped Chickadee  1
  • Tufted Titmouse  2
  • White-breasted Nuthatch  1
  • American Robin  30
  • Song Sparrow  3
  • Northern Cardinal  4
  • Red-winged Blackbird  8
  • Common Grackle  20
  • House Sparrow  6
  • View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Future spring walks are posted on the Arnold Arboretum website  and on my past post.

Good Birding!

Season Opener Bird Walk

The mid-thirties temperature at 7:00AM did not dampen the enthusiasm of the half dozen stalwarts who showed up for a nice two hour walk at Mass Audubon’s Boston Nature Center and Wildlife Sanctuary (BNC) in Mattapan.  This 60 acre urban oasis is just right for birds; lots of briers, tangles and marshy areas.   There are several “target birds” at the BNC, and we picked up some of them.



Killdeers have nested in the community gardens at the BNC for over ten years; we located only one today but I bet they will nest again.

Wild Turkeys can be seen almost anywhere these days, but BNC is a reliable site for them year around. We had at least 12 today:


This beautiful Wild Turkey was one of several we saw in full display.

Another nice spring migrant gave the group great looks along the boardwalk path:


This Hermit Thrush displays the eye ring, spotted breast and rufous tail typical of the species.

Hermit Thrushes are typically one of the earliest migrants.  We were hoping for some migrant warblers, but struck out on that score.  Here is our list for the walk:

Boston Nature Center Wildlife Sanctuary, Suffolk, Massachusetts, US

Apr 15, 2016 7:00 AM – 9:00 AM

22 species

Canada Goose  8

Wild Turkey  10

Killdeer  1

Herring Gull  2

Mourning Dove  2

Red-bellied Woodpecker  2

Downy Woodpecker  5

Blue Jay  5

Tree Swallow  12

Black-capped Chickadee  2

Tufted Titmouse  3

Hermit Thrush  1

American Robin  35

Northern Mockingbird  1

European Starling  3

Dark-eyed Junco  3

Song Sparrow  5

Northern Cardinal  5

Red-winged Blackbird  6

Common Grackle  40

House Finch  2

House Sparrow  4

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

After the walk I stopped at the Great Horned Owl nest in the conifer section of the Arboretum. Yesterday there was some activity there. A local resident and birder visited the nest and discovered a young bird on the ground.  He made some calls and various agencies were contacted and responded. In contrast to the response for the bird that fell out of this nest about two weeks ago, the decision this time was to let nature take it’s course. This owlet was older, the weather has improved and the baby got itself hidden away pretty well.  Here is an image of it I took yesterday:


This owlet it trying it’s best to look big, brave and scary.

When I revisited the site today I found no evidence of the youngster, dead or alive. But I noticed that the third owlet was alone on the nest; I good sign I think as the mother hopefully was watching over the displaced one somewhere nearby.


The smallest of the trio of baby Great Horned Owls, still on the nest.

Owls never stop fascinating!

My next walk is this Sunday:

Sunday April 17 9-10:30 AM  Kick off Earth Day with a walk beginning at the parking lot on the Brookline side of Leverett Pond, just off Route 9 on Pond Street, behind the Brook House. We will cover Leverett Pond, Olmsted Park and Ward’s Pond looking for spring migrants and any lingering waterfowl on the ponds. Sponsored by the Brookline GreenSpace Alliance.

Hope you can join me. Good birding!