On Sunday morning 28 neighbors met at my home on Sumner Hill in Jamaica Plain for some casual urban birding.  I have a little game I play with myself; trying to find more bird species than there are birders on my walks.  The last time I did a walk for the Sumner Hill Association there were over fifty people and we got only 14 species.  This year we beat the record, but again didn’t come close on my game.

Starting in our side yard, we listened for bird song, and saw a few birds as well.  Everyone got a good look at a Gray Catbird, true to it’s name it is all gray except for a rusty patch under the tail:

Gray Catbird showing off it’s “butt”. The official name is undertail coverts.

As the group moved on I noticed that we had several very young people among us; and some of them were into birds.  A next door neighbor arrived with her twin daughters who had just graduated from college in western Massachusetts. They had not spent all their time on the textbooks; they knew their birds.  Even more impressive, several youngsters still in grade school were using their binoculars with dexterity.  And one ten year old clearly had some grownup birding chops.  Turns out his Grandma is the editor of a distinguished birding journal,  and he told me he started birding when he was three!

We continued down to the Southwest Corridor, which runs along the Green Line and Commuter Rail tracks and forms the southern  boundary of our neighborhood.  A birding friend had told me that she was seeing Baltimore Orioles in the area, so I had some hopes of finding one.  No luck.  But we did pick up a Chipping Sparrow along the way:

Chipping Sparrow. This seasonal sparrow arrives in April, breeds in the area, and is gone south by November.

We listened to it’s trill, but it wouldn’t reveal itself.  We got the non-native urban birds, plus some other year round birds. Our ten year old prodigy thought he heard a Red-bellied Woodpecker.  Too eager perhaps?  No, in fact when we put out an iPhone call it responded for many to hear.  Here is it’s call:

The raspy call of the Red-bellied Woodpecker

Sound recording courtesy of Lang Elliott NatureSound Studio

And here is an image of this lovely, once southern, woodpecker; now commonplace in Boston:

Red-bellied Woodpecker, male.  Twenty years ago a sighting of this species would have drawn birders from all over New England; now it nests regularly on the Emerald Necklace.

After admiring a few more Northern Cardinals, the new college graduates saw a White-breasted Nuthatch in a big oak on the street.  Regrettably, it flew before others could see it; here is what it would have been:

The White-breasted Nuthatch is the commonest nuthatch in this area. Look for it moving along a tree trunk, seeking out tiny insects to eat.

Here is our meager list for the walk:

  • Sumner Hill JP, Suffolk, Massachusetts, US
  • May 22, 2016 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM

16 species

  • Herring Gull  2
  • Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  1
  • Mourning Dove  2
  • Chimney Swift  4
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker  1
  • Blue Jay  3
  • American Crow  3
  • Tufted Titmouse  1
  • White-breasted Nuthatch  1
  • American Robin  25
  • Gray Catbird  4
  • European Starling  2
  • Chipping Sparrow  1
  • Northern Cardinal  5
  • Common Grackle  1
  • House Sparrow  20

View this checklist online at http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist?subID=S29833318

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

Hey, Sumner Hill isn’t Mount Auburn Cemetery.  But it’s still a great place for a Sunday bird walk!

Good Birding!