Posted on September 29, 2013

This morning was the first of three fall bird walks in the Arnold Arboretum. The walk was scheduled for 8:00AM and 28 folks and my co-leader Andrew Joslin showed up promptly; I appeared 20 minutes late when I realized the 8:30 start time on my calendar was wrong! Fortunately Andrew kept the group interested, and we headed off for a two hour walk on a sunny fall morning. The birds did not disappoint. We saw most of the expected birds of this season, including several passerine migrants, and had a couple of nice surprises as well.

As we were admiring a Great Blue Heron on Faxon Pond a sharp-eyed birder picked up another much less common wading bird sitting in a tree! Well hidden in an oak at pond side was a juvenile Black-crowned Night-heron. With guidance everyone was able to find the bird. This was only my third ever Arboretum sighting of this heron, which seems to be in decline in Massachusetts. Here is a photo of a beautiful adult taken in 2016 in a tree at Leverett Pond edge:

Adult Black-crowned Night-heron in Phragmites in the Fenway
Photo: Bob Mayer

Like so many other species, the juvenile bird has less dramatic coloration:

Immature Black-crowned Night-heron
Photo: Bob Mayer

Just ten minutes later another member of the group spotted a robin-sized bird at the muddy edge of Rehder Pond on the opposite side of the roadway. This one was easy to see but at first hard to identify, until someone proposed Rusty Blackbird- yes that’s it! This is a “good” bird anytime and anywhere in Massachusetts. It was a first for me in the AA.

As we left the ponds we heard a Belted Kingfisher chattering away. A lot of fish eating birds take advantage of the reduced pond levels of fall, which concentrates the fish into a smaller area.

We continued up Bussey Hill Road and back through the Leventritt Shrub & Vine Collection. Farther on we picked up another warbler species and a late Red-eyed Vireo high up in the canopy. New birders became personally familiar with the term “warbler neck” as they strained for a glimpse of these tiny migrants.

As we looped back along Linden Path we came upon a small group of Cedar Waxwings feasting on honeysuckle berries. Many of them were first year birds but some were adults showing their formal attire:

Two Cedar Waxwings in a honeysuckle shrub in fall
Photo: Bob Mayer

We finished the walk listening to the clarion call of a Carolina Wren off in the wet meadow. It was an enthusiastic group. Perhaps some will return for the next walk, scheduled to begin at 8:00 AM on Saturday October 12th. That walk will begin at the Bussey Hill Gate off Bussey Street and we will canvas Peters Hill and part of Hemlock Hill Road hoping to see late migrants and resident birds of those ecosystems.

Here is the full list of birds seem on the walk:

Arnold Arboretum, Suffolk, US-MA
September 28, 2013 8:00 AM – 10:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
1.5 mile(s)
Comments: 64, sunny
25 species

Great Blue Heron 1
Black-crowned Night-Heron 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Rock Pigeon 5
Mourning Dove 8
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 2
Eastern Phoebe 1
Red-eyed Vireo 1
Blue Jay 16
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Carolina Wren 1
American Robin 35
Gray Catbird 4
European Starling 30
Cedar Waxwing 8
Common Yellowthroat 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Chipping Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 1
Northern Cardinal 1
Rusty Blackbird 1 Picking in mud at pond edge, seen well, a female showing yellow eye stripe and white eye, blue-gray rump, streaked rusty breast
American Goldfinch 7
House Sparrow 12

View this checklist online at

Good Birding!

Posted in Arnold Arboretum, Avian, Bird walks