Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fall in Massachusetts - Saturday morning

My job meant I needed to spend another two weeks in America, so having been diligently saving Air Miles, Helen flew out to join me for the weekend. We stayed in a hotel to the North-West of Boston, which gave us easy access to all the places we planned to visit. Also being only partially adjusted to Eastern time, and with Helen just arrived we made a very prompt start on Saturday morning. It was freezing. We'd dressed for a British Autumn, so mild and with persistent drizzle. No sign of the drizzle, or for that matter the cloud cover, so early morning temperatures were much lower than we expected. Luckily Helen and I had packed gloves and a spare jumper, which was just as well otherwise it would have been a short visit at our first stop - the Mass. Audubon Ipswich River Valley Sanctuary.

One of our hopes of the trip was to experience 'fall' in New England, we weren't disappointed:

The first place to look for birds here is around the back of the house as they have a number of feeders set-up. On my way around the back a group of Cedar Waxwings were feeding in the trees, including this one:

On the feeders we saw White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadees and Crested Titmouses as well as some Mourning Doves and a Northern Cardinal.

A real benefit of being out early is that the birds are up and feeding and haven't been disturbed yet by anyone else. The combination of those factors and the confiding nature of some of the birds on the Sanctuary meant we had very good views of, for example, this female Downy Woodpecker:

She seemed oblivious to our presence and hopped about within a metre. A male Downy Woodpecker was also close-by, though higher-up:

The red spot on the back of the head being the distinguishing feature between male and female. The first 'unusual' bird, at least from our point of view, was this Red-bellied Woodpecker (he's worth a closer look):

A Tufted Titmouse:

As you can see here, the day was brightening up and the variety of trees made for some stunning woodland perspectives:

And being Autumn/Fall some elements of nature's larder were filling-up:

The birds that got closest to us were these Black-capped Chickadees, we later learned this is because regular visitors feed the birds from the hand, hence they were mooching around us for food:

Down in one of the swampy areas, this appropriately named/located Swamp Sparrow, was one of a pair chasing each other through the undergrowth:

We also had fleeting glimpses of a wren but no joy photographing one. As it was still so cold we decided to head back-up to the reserve centre for a coffee and to warm-up before continuing. Good timing. There's an open space between the woodland and the centre and perched on one of the Hirundine nest boxes was this Red-tailed Hawk:

We watched the bird settle in a tree and then, watching the ground, launch itself at a ground squirrel:

I was between the bird and the sun so have had to lighten the picture to bring some of the colour out. He missed so went to settle on another tree:

Before flying across the field to another hunting spot. You can see from this picture where they get their name from:

I wonder if this is the same bird that we watched when we were here in June that had been perched up by the reserve office? They don't sell coffee any more but they do have heating which we took advantage of, before setting off again. This time we decided on the large circular walk as there were reports of Ruby-Crowned Kinglets. About halfway however we spotted this Blackpoll Warbler, no sign of the Kinglets:

The third Woodpecker species of the day was this Hairy Woodpecker:

It looks very similar to the Downy but is distinguished by its longer bill and being a somewhat larger bird, though you get small Hairys and big Downys so the bill is the crucial discriminator. On a swamp we saw our first Heron of the weekend, a common Great Blue Heron:

I like how sharp the picture is, even in the substantially variable lighting conditions, the new camera body is a real treat in that sense, with the number of pixels really helping image quality, especially for more distant subjects.

All the way around the Sanctuary we were struck by the colours of the foliage on display:

A great morning, really special with magic moments including the very close Downy Woodpecker and watching a hunting Red-tailed Hawk for five minutes with the bird being no further than three metres away for a good part of that!

Other birds we saw this morning but did not photograph or have not included in this posting were American Robin, Brown Creeper, White-throated Sparrow, House Wren, Canada Goose, Mallard, Wood Duck, Blue Jay, American Crow, Hermit Thrush, Starling and House Sparrow. Next stop Plum Island...

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Blogger Mark Wilson said...

Hi Michael, looks like you had fun again!

Your Ruby-crowned Kinglet on this post is actually a 1st yr Blackpoll Warbler (Ruby-crowns are much smaller - goldcrest sized, also note heavier bill, greenish tones, wing bars and the pale feet).

The 'Least Flycatcher' in the next post is a Ruby-crowned Kinglet.


3:08 pm  
Blogger Mark Wilson said...

Oh, and its 'Tufted' Titmouse, not Crested ;-)

3:09 pm  
Blogger Michael said...


Thanks for the corrections. it was an awesome weekend in fact. Really very good, just surprising how few birders were about.

Best regards,


9:18 pm  
Blogger PratapTambay said...

Hi Michael,

Hope you remember me from your short stint with Patni including our joint trip to Hyderabad.

This is my third visit to your blog. I have it in my bookmarks... I saw the posts about your kerala and sri-lanka trip. I remember talking about it with you. The birds are cute. I intend to visit periodically.

Have fun.



6:03 pm  
Blogger Michael said...

Pratap!! I do indeed remember and thank you very much for both visiting the blog and your comments :) How are you?

7:19 pm  

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