Tree Swallow – Methuen Rookery

April 10, 2014 in Nearby Landbirds

The Tree Swallow is one of the more widely distributed nesting birds in Massachusetts. It is the most abundant species of swallow in the state.  Spring migrants arrive in mid- to late March in the more sheltered swamps and river valleys, and during April they gradually spread out.  During cool, rainy periods in spring, the birds will be found almost exclusively flying low over ponds and lakes, hunting for insects close to the surface of the water. When the weather turns balmy, the birds move out over the countryside to flooded meadows, marshlands, swamps, farms, and open areas. Occasionally, spring snowstorms will bring considerable mortality to the earlier arrivals.

For nesting sites, the birds prefer wooded habitat near water, especially where dead trees are abundant, as in flooded swamps. Originally, they nested in natural cavities and old woodpecker holes in dead trees near ponds, streams, rivers, etc., but with the advent of civilization the birds readily adapted to nesting boxes erected for them on poles and trees. Tree Swallows are not colonial to any extent, although they will form loose groups when many dead trees or nesting boxes are located close together in favorable habitats such as swamps or salt marshes. The birds may be quite pugnacious in their claiming and defense of a nest site, battling individuals of both their own or other species. The song is a series of liquid twittering sounds uttered repeatedly on the wing or from a perch, and the common call note is a rapid silip, which becomes louder and harsher when the birds are agitated.

Great Blue Heron Rookery – Methuen

April 10, 2014 in Nearby Waterbirds

Perhaps no wading bird in Massachusetts is more familiar than the graceful and statuesque Great Blue Heron. This species has very adaptable feeding habits, readily taking fish, amphibians, crustaceans, reptiles, and sometimes even small mammals. Its broad menu has made it a common sight at ponds, rivers, lakes, streams, marshes, estuaries, coastal bays, and meadows across the state in recent years. That hasn’t always been the case, however. A century ago, breeding Great Blue Herons were all but absent from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

Great Horned Owlet

April 10, 2014 in Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned owlet continue to remain in the nest with Mother owl leaving owlet alone for longer periods of time.  Owlet continues to grow in size and is alert to all proximate activities in Heron rookery.

Bald Eagles copulation sequence

April 9, 2014 in Bald Eagle

While checking on a pair of nesting Bald Eagles along the Merrimack River, observed the male launch into flight from a perch on back side of the nest tree. He made a large aerial loop and then seemed to go into a stall above a taller nearby pine tree. Then he began to descend with legs and talons outstretched while making loud calls. To my surprise, a female was atop the pine tree and bowing forward. Up until now, I’m under the impression that at least one chick has hatched and should be large enough to be seen fairly soon, based on prior feeding observations. The bald eagles engaged in a copulation sequence that lasted just a few seconds. Found some commentary on the web that perhaps explains the behavior:

1. Sometimes the male initiates the act, but the male must be careful approaching the larger female, and occasionally, the female injures or even kills the male (Wolfe and Bruning, 1997). In most cases, the female initiates mating. She bows her head, spreads her legs, and raises her tail. The male then approaches the female with his tail raised. The female emits a single-note call, and the male clenches his talons so he won’t hurt his mate and then climbs on her back. He lowers his tail and cloaca to meet the female’s as she raises her tail and cloaca. Copulations occur often during the breeding season but slow down once the eggs are laid and stop after the eggs hatch (Wolfe and Bruning, 1997) .

2. In the book “The Bald Eagle,” eagle biologist Mark Stalmaster says, “Copulation takes place in as little as five to fifteen seconds, but can last one to two minutes, and may occur several times a day. Most copulations occur from six days before to three days following the laying of the first egg. Sex is more common in the early morning hours. The sex act, however, has been observed after construction of the nest, and might even happen outside the breeding season.”

For those with an interest, more sequence photos posted:

Click “next” in upper right corner to advance frames!

Great Horned Owl mother and owlet – Methuen

April 9, 2014 in Great Horned Owl

The owlet continues to be well cared for by mother Owl. The female parent has been seen spending short times away from nest.  These forays may be for catching prey for the owlet.  They spend lots of time catching rays and staying out of the wind!

Great Horned Owl & owlet – Methuen Rookery

April 3, 2014 in Great Horned Owl

The Great Horned Owl pair in Methuen appear to have mated in early to middle of February. The female laid her egg in the middle of February, incubated it 30-35 days, keeping the incubation temperature constant, even during the all snowstorms. The owlet was born in the middle of March and will likely fledge in early June, at about 10 weeks. Owlets open their eyes at one week, and will start to leave the nest at four to five weeks of age. Owlets will then “branch” and then hang around on that branch for another 9 to 12 weeks when they become proficient at flying. The young stay near the parents until the fall, when they are forced to leave their parents territory.

Photos posted: 


Bald Eagle adult male on nest: feeding chick

April 1, 2014 in Bald Eagle

For first 2–3 wk of nestling period, female present at nest about 90% of time, male present about 50% of time; at least 1 adult at nest almost 100% of time. Both sexes hunt and feed young. Adult brings food to nest, tears off small pieces, and delivers them to young at early age. Male provides most of food in first 2 wk, while female tends young in nest . After 3–4 wk, female delivers as much prey as male.   After 3–4 wk, young able to peck at food but not able to tear off food and feed self until 6 wk.  Male was tearing apart food and feeding chick during my observation time late afternoon.

Great Blue Herons – Methuen Rookery

April 1, 2014 in Nearby Waterbirds

The Great Blue Herons nests in large colonies with many other mated pairs. These colonies are usually in forested wetlands or on islands with trees. The herons build large nests of twigs high in the trees to discourage predators, such as raccoons and snakes. The nests are often 3 feet across and almost as tall. The colonies are easily recognized by the many groupings of nests scattered throughout the trees.  The Methuen Rookery is busy with courtship activities and nest building!

Great Horned Owl – Methuen: strong winds

April 1, 2014 in Great Horned Owl

The winds was blowing at 15 MPH this morning out of the north.  The female protected the chick under her wings while her ear tufts were being blown around quite a bit.  A single chick is in the nest, at times with eyes wide open!