Wednesday Morning Birding Report, July 8, 2020

This Wednesday we completed our final episode of the “pilot” for pandemic-era Wednesday Morning Birding, during which we practiced a new list of physical distancing and health-safety precautions. We are now ready to open Joppa Flats’ foundational birding program to the public again. We will continue, of course, to carefully evaluate and adapt this old-but-new program as we go forward. And MAN, it has been great to go birding with our good WMB friends, no matter what the birds are up to. They have been interesting, even in their occasional absence.

Cedar Waxwing – Bob Minton

On July 8, Susan Yurkus and I met a small group at Martin Burns Wildlife Management area in Newbury. It is that time of the season when the fledglings and chicks are plenty big and hungry. Parent birds therefore have little time to do much but stuff protein into young mouths. We therefore had no evidence of birds that we know are common at that site. We never even heard the following birds:
Great-crested Flycatcher
Blue-winged Warbler
American Redstart
Yellow Warbler!
Chestnut-sided Warbler!!
One excuse for that is that the program begins at 9:30 AM, and we knew that if we had been there much earlier there would have been evidence of species which are otherwise common in the intentionally disturbed habitats that are managed at Martin Burns.

Baltimore Oriole – Tom Schreffler

But our little adventure was not a bust! As we walked in the road towards the open areas, some woodland birds were still singing. Of course one of the things that makes Martin Burns special are birds that like edges and open areas. We had great looks at male Indigo Buntings belting out their songs despite the growing heat. Common Yellowthroats just can’t help themselves. Gray Catbirds are never to be out done, and they sang, called, and flitted all over the place. Eastern Towhees sat up and leaned back, singing in the open. When a Scarlet Tanager sang a few phrases off in the distance, it was such a short little burst that it was hardly worth mentioning, but he made it onto the list. That is the way it is with birdsong these days: a male who is feeding his young pauses to do a little bit of territorial defense, but quickly returns to his pursuit of being a food-providing machine.

Indigo Bunting – Tom Schreffler

As we slowly wandered along, catching up on a social level and enjoying birds that no one would write home about for their rarity, it was more clear than ever to this observer that sharing birds with others magnifies the joy of it. Many of us have done some nice birdwatching this spring and early summer, and we have even done it with a friend or two. For me at least, observing the distant silhouette of a Ruby-throated Hummingbird sitting calmly beneath a singing Indigo Bunting was much better with eight friends all enjoying it alongside me.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird – Bob Minton
Eastern Towhee – Tom Schreffler

When I say that you are my friends, the truth of that comes to me now with great force. What we have been going though makes it ever more clear how precious are the bonds we have formed with with each other, with our beloved Plum Island, the Great Marsh, all the other nooks and crannies of the area, and the incredible teeny feathered dinosaurs that inhabit them. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder. We have experienced loss and struggle in a very short time, and the degree of that challenge makes what we do together ever more deeply meaningful. Nothing will stop us from continuing this pursuit, because it is the pursuit of wild creatures that has always compelled us to preserve what we can of nature in the onslaught of industrial expansion.

Now we are forming an even greater vision for how all us nature people of Mass Audubon can be of use to our world. We have various ways of chasing moments with nature, whether it is with birds, or bugs, brook or forest, or even simple awe of sand and sea. What ever it is that most connects us to nature, that connection means something now that we didn’t imagine before. While we have always known that nature is healing and vital, part and parcel of us, we now know that it is with nature alone that we will save ourselves from what human industry has wrought on the planet.

But we can’t simply set nature aside and hope for the best anymore. Rich, biodiverse ecosystems are now appearing as tools that will help us engineer our utterly necessary return to balance in the atmosphere and waters, in the very soil our food comes from. We are going to have to learn to restore our ecosystems on a large scale, to gently encourage their return following the laws of natural processes. What better thing could we be charged with? And what better signals of our success could we ask for than the birds that draw us out over and over again? Knowing this and holding close the moments of incredible beauty we see is what brings me to every birding expedition we show up to, any project or chore related to Mass Audubon. I am so thankful you are with me.

Our List:
Mourning Dove 1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Turkey Vulture 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Red-eyed Vireo 3
Blue Jay 2
Tree Swallow 8
Black-capped Chickadee 10
Tufted Titmouse 5
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
House Wren 1
Carolina Wren 1
Veery 4
Wood Thrush 1
American Robin 6
Gray Catbird c
Cedar Waxwing 6
American Goldfinch 8
Chipping Sparrow 2
Eastern Towhee 8
Baltimore Oriole 3
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Ovenbird 5
Common Yellowthroat 6
Scarlet Tanager 1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 1
Indigo Bunting 2

3 thoughts on “Wednesday Morning Birding Report, July 8, 2020

  1. Marsha Richelli

    Earlier today during my daily walk near a tennis court in an open area with a few maple trees, i received my daily verbal and
    attempted aerial assault.
    The guardian of the area, a male Eastern kingbird sits openly on a branch guarding its nest. He literally buzzes by my head.
    His warning simulates an active power line.
    This activity has been present for a week.

  2. Pam abd Gordon Pettengill

    David. Wonderful and uplifting to get your recent bird report. You write so well, and we can imagine being with you all in the field. Photos pretty special too. Thanks to the photographers.

    I’ve being painting a journal of life in a small meadow during this past year. Being with nature has helped my spirit these grim virus days. Bluebird and tree swallow nest in boxes here. Surprisingly, the bluebird laid her second batch of eggs on the first nest. Usually, she builds a fresh one. Lots of house sparrows nests in a few other boxes, and much competition, so maybe that’s why.

    Thank you.


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