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.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

January 15, 2014 in Nearby Landbirds

While checking for the Snowy Owl this morning with no luck, the consolation prize was this beautiful sharpie perched near the top of a nearby tree!

Snowy Owl in Methuen!

January 14, 2014 in Nearby Landbirds

The winter of 2013-2014 has been filled with endless surprises!  Snowy Owl sightings in unexpected places leads the hit parade of pleasant surprises.  A good friend who serves as the Catholic priest chaplain at Holy Family Hospital in Methuen calls on my cell phone.  He is bubbling over with excitement about the Snowy owl sitting on the roof atop the chapel, of all places!  What a treat to be able to stop by and capture a few close up photos of this beauty!

A few photos posted on the Snowy in light snow conditions:   Click “next” in upper right to advance frames1


Red-tailed Hawk in flight

December 27, 2013 in Nearby Landbirds

While observing one of the Bald Eagle subadults near the water on prospect Hill in Lawrence, had a nice opportunity to gaze upon this soaring Red-tailed Hawk!

Coopers Hawk in the neighborhood!

September 18, 2013 in Nearby Landbirds

While making way northbound over the Duck Bridge on Union St., observed a Coopers Hawk glide by in pursuit of prey.  The Coopers landed on a rooftop at the north end of the Duck Bridge and rested for just a few minutes.  It then departed in northerly direction and out of sight.  Minutes later the Coopers was found on a rooftop peak basking in the bright morning sun!


Nesting Eastern Kingbirds!

July 11, 2013 in Nearby Landbirds

Eastern Kingbirds are found in many locations along the Merrimack.  The habitat along the river is very favorable for establishing a nest.  They frequently build nests ona tree limb over water. The nest usually consists of weeds, twigs, and grass. This nest was found at the north end of the Duck Bridge on Union Street.  It was very easy to view from the west side of the bridge and a joy to watch the parents incubate the eggs and later feed the hatchlings!  The adult has gray upperparts and white underparts with a black bill.

Killdeer in parking lot!

July 8, 2013 in Nearby Landbirds

What a terrific surprise to first hear, and then to see, a Killdeer in a parking off of Union St. on the north side of the Duck Bridge.  It may have anest nearby so we will keep a sharp lookout for further activity.  They are ground nesting birds that are well known for hiding their nest right out in the open for all to see.  The Killdeer has two very distinct black bands cross the upper breast.

Warbling Vireo along the Merrimack River

June 19, 2013 in Nearby Landbirds

According to the Mass Audubon Breeding Bird Atlas, the Warbling Vireo is the most drab and unassuming in appearance.  It more than makes up for this, though, with its effervescent and melodious song.  Warbling Vireos can be heard singing throughout the breeding season in Massachusetts, and their breeding range within the state has expanded considerably.   Warbling Vireos seldom appear in Massachusetts before May, but most of them arrive within the first two weeks of that month.  Pairs may arrive already attached, but they quickly find each other even if they arrive singly.  Males sing constantly throughout the breeding season.  They make take a brief hiatus while the dependent fledglings are being raised, but will pick up again during the late summer.  The pattern of the Warbling Vireo’s rollicking, whistled song is sometimes remembered by the amusing mnemonic, “If I could see one, I would seize one, and would squeeze one, till it squirts!” or some similar variant.  Most of the nest-building is done by the female, who locates a suitable forked branch high in a deciduous tree.

Bank Swallows

June 13, 2013 in Nearby Landbirds

Found over much of the world, the Bank Swallow (known as the Sand Martin in Eurasia) is one of the most wide ranging of the North American swallows. In Massachusetts, it is a locally common species but is limited in its distribution by the availability of suitable nesting sites. The smallest of the six swallow species that nest in the state, it is the only one that rarely uses artificial nesting sites.   According to Mass Audubon State of the Birds Report, “the Bank Swallow requires riverbanks and gravel pits for nesting, but its distribution in Massachusetts has declined significantly to a somewhat restricted level in recent years. This is possibly due to the fact that these habitats have become more restricted or because of a general decline in the abundance of the flying insects that constitute the species’ diet.  Discovered this nesting colony recently and observed a beehive of activity! 

3 photos posted from heavy overcast morning:   Click “next” upper right to advance frames…enjoy!

Eastern Kingbird pair on nest!

June 9, 2013 in Nearby Landbirds

According to Mass Audubon Breeding Bird Atlas, Eastern Kingbird nests are generally placed from 2 to 60 feet high in a shrub or tree, often near or over water.  Heights ranged from 4 to 40 feet. Both sexes gather straw, twigs, grass, and even string and strips of cloth for the construction of a bulky cup nest, which appears somewhat rough and ragged on the outside but has a neat interior lined with fine grasses, rootlets, hair, and plant down. The earliest date for nest building in the state was May 10 (CNR).  Typical clutches consist of three or four (rarely five) eggs, which are white with irregular brownish blotches.  The female does most of the incubating for 12 to 14 days, while the ever-watchful male remains perched nearby. 

5 photos posted including images of ever watchful male:  Click “next” upper right to advance…enjoy!