A photographic diary of a birdwatcher. Travelling the world so you don't have to.
Monday, 2 May 2011
Back Bay Fens in Boston April 2011
I found a slight short-cut (reducing the already short walk) to the Back Bay Fens in Boston that brought me out at the Fire Alarm Dispatch at Fenway and Westland Ave (Google Earth Ref; 42 20’ 39”N 71 05’ 28”W).
I could hear Blue Jays and a Northern Cardinal over the traffic as I crossed the road and began exploring the reed beds behind the Fire Services depot. A Hermit Thrush skulked incompetently while a Gray Catbird made a better job, only allowing me brief glimpses.
A Blue Jay was hammering his bill, woodpecker-like into a branch trying to dislodge a grub for another bird that was begging like a fledgling. Do Blue Jay adults revert to immature behaviour or gift giving and receiving as part of a courtship? The begging bird looked far too advanced for April in Boston.
Having just visited the north part of Virginia, near Washington DC, it was immediately apparent that spring was dragging its heels to reach Massachusetts. The willows overhanging the water were flushed in green, but most of the other trees were slow to leaf. The distance of about 400 miles and 3 degrees of Longitude were certainly making a difference to the season. Boston has been suffering from a cold wet spring so far and the skies were overcast again threatening more rain.
Another birder approached and a Black and White Warbler picked above us as he stopped to chat. I invited myself to join him and we set off together a quite a pace. Ryan has a great ear and an impressive turn of speed. Our approach to birding was very different as I like to amble along craning my neck, while Ryan ‘speed birds’ identifying birds from a great distance through their calls and his familiarity with the Fens which he has been visiting daily for 6 years.
He pointed out some Savannah Sparrows which I had to grab a picture of quickly as Ryan moved on. Having imposed myself upon him, I was reluctant to slow him down by stopping for photographs until we reached the southern tip of the fens beyond the sporting area.
Ryan picked out a Ruby-crowned Kinglet shortly followed by some Palm warblers, Northern Parula and a magnificent male Yellow Warbler.
He showed me a very productive spot to the west that I had not visited before. A sign called the area Muddy River Reservation. It was a small pond in a depression surrounded by trees and scrub. American Black Duck moved away from the bank at our approach and Dark-eyed Juncos flashed their pale outer tail feathers as they flew. A Common Grackle seemed determined to eat an acorn which I felt sure would probably choke it.
Ryan continued towards the Charles River and I began the much slower return leg. I revisited the warblers to see if I could get a better look at the tail-pumping Palm Warblers. A Brown Creeper showed well in a fallen mess of branches.
The Yellow Warbler and the kinglet showed again, but evening was upon me and the light was almost gone now. Ryan had identified Eastern Towhees by call, but they came out to be seen on the way back. In the last few rays a couple of Northern Rough-winged Swallows darted across the water close to Agassiz Road that cuts through the fens. Spring may be slow, but it’s coming for sure.
Thank to Ryan for pointing out the warblers and for letting me slow him down.
Bird seen; 34
Canada Goose 25, Mallard 4, American Black Duck 8, Mourning Dove 6, Downy Woodpecker 2, Northern Flicker 4, Tree Swallow 4, Northern Rough-winged Swallow 2, Gray Catbird 5, American Robin 40, Hermit Thrush 4, Ruby-crowned Kinglet 8, Black-capped Chickadee 8, White-breasted Nuthatch 2, Brown Creeper 1, Blue Jay 30, American Crow 2, Common Starling 8, House Sparrow 6, Northern Parula 2, Yellow Warbler 1, Yellow-rumped Warbler 2, Palm warbler 3, Black and White Warbler 1, Eastern Sparrow 3, Chipping Sparrow 3, Savannah Sparrow 6, Song Sparrow 2, Swamp Sparrow 1, White-throated Sparrow 12, Dark-eyed Junco 8, Northern Cardinal 6, Common Grackle 20, Baltimore Oriole 1.