It was a crisp but bright morning when four early birders joined me for a 7:00 AM walk at the Boston Nature Center in Mattapan. I first birded this location in my free time way back in 1969 when I was a second year resident in psychiatry at Tufts New England Medical Center. All of the teaching hospitals had a unit at the Boston State Hospital on that site. Those buildings were demolished decades ago and Mass Audubon built its eco-friendly headquarters on 68 acres of the much larger hospital tract. It has lots of varied habitat and is maintained in a casual- and bird friendly- way in contrast the the Arnold Arboretum and other green locations here about. The BNC is renowned for its healthy flock of Wild Turkeys; we probably saw more than a dozen, often displaying their stuff:

Male Wild Turkey

I was hoping for another target bird this morning. Killdeers have nested in the victory gardens on the property almost very spring but today they were not to be seen; too bad as they are a nice bird:

You have to look closely to see the four well camouflaged eggs beneath this Killdeer that nested in the gardens in 2015

The “frequent flyer” that we did see- everywhere- was Baltimore Oriole. We saw at least a dozen, mostly males:

Two male Baltimore Orioles

The group also got good looks at several spring warblers:

Northern Parula

Black & White Warbler

Male Yellow Warbler

Perhaps our best bird didn’t pose very long, so some missed it:

The White-crowned Sparrow in breeding plumage shows very distinct black and white stripes on the head, and an orange-pink bill.

At the very end of the walk someone picked up a call and thought it might be a towhee. I questioned that, but when I played the call on my iPhone there was no mistaking it. We never saw the bird; this is what we missed:

Male, above, and female Eastern Towhees are quite different in appearance, but both are striking.

The birding was good enough that no one complained that we ran over time. Here is our list for the morning:

Boston Nature Center Wildlife Sanctuary (Mass Audubon)
May 9, 2019 7:00 AM - 9:20 AM

30 species

Canada Goose 3
Mallard 4
Wild Turkey 12
Mourning Dove 3
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Warbling Vireo 5
Blue Jay 4
Tree Swallow 10
House Wren 2
American Robin 30
Gray Catbird 3
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 7
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 1
White-crowned Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 3
Eastern Towhee 1
Baltimore Oriole 12
Red-winged Blackbird 9
Common Grackle 12
Northern Waterthrush 1
Black-and-white Warbler 2
Northern Parula 4
Yellow Warbler 15
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Northern Cardinal 4
House Sparrow 8

View this checklist online at

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

The Boston Nature Center is a special place for experiencing nature close up within the urban environment. They have many programs focused on kids including a certified pre-school (which my granddaughter attends), school vacation and summer day camps, and other activities year around. They deserve everyone’s support. One way is to support the Center’s Bird-a-thon team, which will join other Mass Audubon birding groups throughout the Commonwealth, competing to see and hear as many birds as possible beginning at 6PM Friday May 10th for the next 24 hours. I’ll be part of the team this year and if you care to support our efforts you may do so on my donor webpage. Thanks and good birding!