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 narrow 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

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3

We’ll do it again next spring.

Good Birding!