Saturday April 18th marked the first of a series of spring bird walks in the Arnold Arboretum.  We got off with a bang, the weather was fine, and after this dreadful winter the birders came out in droves; over forty people joined the group.  After first checking the feeders, where there was only a White-breasted Nuthatch, we moved down Meadow Road and found several Tree Swallows checking out the birdhouses on the grassy slope:

Two male Tree Swallows inspecting a nest box.

This is the earliest swallow species of spring, arriving from Central America and Mexico a little more than a week ago.  We now have 15 nest boxes placed around the grounds and many of them will play host to Tree Swallows this spring.

As we continued the walk we began to grow our list of woodpeckers.  We ended up with four species, although two were only heard and none gave us great views. The best sighting was two Hairy Woodpeckers chasing each other around in a territorial or mating display.  This species is uncommon in the area so it was a nice find.

We headed up the grass slope above the Forsythia Path to the top of Bussey Hill; I was determined to find the first warbler of the year for the group.  We entered a group of White Pines where this early arrival likes to hang out; appropriately called the Pine warbler.


Pine Warbler. These warblers are heard more than seen as they spend much of their time high up in conifers. This one was nice enough to come to ground for a photo op.

As we approached the area another recent arrival, a Chipping Sparrow, posed for us and sang its trill; a call so similar to the Pine Warbler that even seasoned birders can confuse them.


Chipping Sparrow

Chipping Sparrow recording courtesy of Lang Elliott NatureSound Studio

Now ready to seek out our target bird, we looked, listened, and even played a Pine Warbler recording- without response.  We moved on with regret, but within 100 yards one of our group heard what she thought might be the bird; its trill is shorter, slower, and softer than that of the Chippy.  Sure enough, we all heard and then saw our only warbler in this early walk!

Pine Warbler recording courtesy of Lang Elliott NatureSound Studio

As we returned to the main gate we ticked off a number of other resident and early migrant species. Here is our total list for the walk:

  • Arnold Arboretum, Suffolk, US-MA
  • Apr 18, 2015 8:00 AM – 9:30 AM
  • Protocol: Traveling
  • 1.5 mile(s)
  • Comments:     51, sun and clouds

31 species

  • Canada Goose  4
  • Red-tailed Hawk  1
  • Herring Gull  2
  • Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  4
  • Mourning Dove  5
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker  1 heard
  • Downy Woodpecker  1
  • Hairy Woodpecker  2
  • Northern Flicker  2 heard
  • Blue Jay  4
  • American Crow  1
  • Tree Swallow  5
  • Black-capped Chickadee  3
  • Tufted Titmouse  1
  • White-breasted Nuthatch  1
  • American Robin  30
  • Northern Mockingbird  1
  • European Starling  2
  • Pine Warbler  1
  • Chipping Sparrow  4
  • Savannah Sparrow  1  seen just before the walk
  • Song Sparrow  2
  • White-throated Sparrow  1
  • Dark-eyed Junco  1
  • Northern Cardinal  4
  • Red-winged Blackbird  12
  • Common Grackle  6
  • Brown-headed Cowbird  8
  • House Finch  2
  • American Goldfinch  10
  • House Sparrow  1

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

The next two Arboretum walks will be back- to- back two weeks from now.  On Saturday May 2nd the walk will begin at the Peters Hill Gate at 8 AM. The next morning I’ll lead a walk for the Arboretum Park Conservancy in Bussey Brook Meadow beginning at the South Street Gate and also at 8 AM. Both walks are free and birders at all levels are welcome.  The migration should be in full swing by then!

Good Birding!