There was a major shift in the weather compared to yesterdays walk on Hemlock Hill and Peter’s Hill, and the turnout reflected that. Nearly 50 folks showed up for this walk, sponsored by the Brookline Bird Club, the Arnold Arboretum and the Arboretum Park Conservancy(APC).  The APC developed and helps to maintain this 28 acre section of the Arboretum where AA researchers study the impact of the urban environment on native and non-native invasive plants. It also provides a pleasant link to the Arboretum from the Orange Line Forest Hills MBTA.  We first walked in the grass along South Street where a coalition of groups is working to build a walk and bike pathway that will connect the Roslindale commuter rail station to the Southwest Corridor at Forest Hills.

There was a lot of familiar bird call as we began the walk; Song Sparrows, jays, cardinals, robins and Baltimore Orioles.  But the birds were hard to locate at first.  When we returned to the main Blackwell Path we spotted the first of only two warbler species we had on the walk; Yellow-rumped Warbler.

You can barely see the yellow patch above the tail on this male bird, giving it the nickname “butterbutt”.

Farther down the path we kept hearing the song of a Yellow Warbler but couldn’t locate it; some hear it saying “sweet, sweet, little more sweet”.  Finally a sharp-eyed birder located the bird:

Male Yellow Warbler

Also heard in the same location was another early migrant, Warbling Vireo:

Sound recording courtesy of Lang Elliott NatureSound Studio

While we were listening to this melodious song someone noticed a nest high in a tree that appeared to have a bird in it.  My first guess was that we were looking at a partially built oriole nest, but when the bird flew out others saw no yellow on the exiting bird, putting my call in question.  Indeed, the bird, and the nest, was that of the singing vireo!

Warbling Vireo on nest.

I stood corrected!  We saw another nesting species on the walk:

American Robin on nest. Robins build heavy nests often low down in the landscape.

We were never able to locate a Baltimore Oriole at nest (too early I think), but we had lots of great views of this lovely spring migrant.  At one point several orioles were chasing each other about and seemed oblivious to our large group as they buzzed by at eye level!  This was the high point of the walk for many.

Two male Baltimore Orioles in a territorial stand-off.

An oriole captured taking out the trash. If you look closely he has a “fecal sac” in his bill; removing fledgling waste from the nest behind, to deter odors that might give the nest away to predators.

I had done some scouting for the walk earlier in the week and on two occasions I saw an unusual bird for urban Boston, Solitary Sandpiper:

A lovely Solitary Sandpiper in fall plumage in one of the main ponds in the Arboretum. The eye ring is distinctive

This was the Solitary Sandpiper I saw two days before the walk in BBM.

But the bird had apparently moved on. They only migrate through our area, heading for nesting territory in Canada and Alaska.

As we returned to the parking area we again saw and heard a number of the birds we teased out earlier.  Overall the walk produced limited species diversity, but a lot of fun. Here is the total list:

Bussey Brook Meadow, Arnold Arboretum, Suffolk, Mass May 7, 2017 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM Comments:     56, sunny, windy

23 species

  • Red-tailed Hawk  1
  • Herring Gull  2
  • Mourning Dove  2
  • Chimney Swift  1
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker  2
  • Downy Woodpecker  2
  • Warbling Vireo  2
  • Blue Jay  4
  • Tree Swallow  2
  • Tufted Titmouse  1
  • White-breasted Nuthatch  1
  • American Robin  15
  • Gray Catbird  3
  • Yellow Warbler  1
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler  4
  • Chipping Sparrow  2
  • Song Sparrow  5
  • Northern Cardinal  4
  • Red-winged Blackbird  6
  • Common Grackle  5
  • Baltimore Oriole  8
  • American Goldfinch  2
  • House Sparrow  3

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

I will not be leading walks next weekend as that Sunday is the Lilac Sunday festival and I will be doing botanical tours then.  And on Saturday May 13th I will spend the day birding with some friends in the southeastern part of the state for Mass Audubon’s Bird-a-thon. We will try to identify 70 or more species, weather permitting, in support of Boston’s urban sanctuary, the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan.  If you are interested in supporting the programs at the BNC you can go to my fundraising page.


My last spring walk in the AA will be on Saturday May 20th beginning at the main gate off the Arborway at 8:00AM

Good Birding!