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A Taste of a Bird Walk: Mt. Auburn sightings from May 15 & May 18, 2021

By Peter Alden

We had pleasant weather on our last two bird walks amongst the spectacular flowering trees and shrubs accented by rare Dawn Redwoods. As we gathered at the front gate on May 15 a small party of Fish Crows flew by. They utter a weak ca-ha not the harsh caw of the larger American Crow. These little crows are expanding their range northwards and inland especially in towns.


Mt Auburn attracts many bright orange nectivorous/insectivorous Baltimore Orioles each spring with a number of nesting pairs. Our route takes us by a nest hole of a pair of Eastern Screech Owls and this time the little wise owl stared back at us. A highlight was a Cooper’s Hawk on a nest in an ash tree. These have increased greatly in recent decades and is rare to find a nest.


Warblers were not stopping by in numbers this spring. They are declining due partly due to continuing loss of “wintering” habitat in Latin America. We did hear the “pleased to meet-ya Miss Beecher” of a Chestnut-sided Warbler and saw it well. Nearby we heard the lazy “zurr zurr zree” of a Black-throated Blue Warbler and had long close looks at it along with a male Blackpoll Warbler (rarely so low down), a female American Redstart and a friendly Swainson’s Thrush.


On May 18th we were again joined by Arlington-based bird photographer Chuck Carney whose photos appear here. He totes a long lens on a tripod and grabs some impossible shots rather quickly. As the trees had now fully leafed out, we heard more than we could see. An exception was seeing all the Baltimore Orioles as they whistled and sang everywhere.


By learning well the song of the common American Robin, you might pick out the slightly different “robin-ish” songs of two other similar sounding treetop neotropical migrants the Scarlet Tanager and the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The grosbeak’s song is even sweeter and more “warbling” than a robin. Our patience was rewarded with views of the brilliant rose triangle on a cheerful grosbeak.


Bird photos by Chuck Carney


Vireos are like slow moving ghosts of the treetops which sing constantly while hidden. The very plain and colorless Warbling Vireos charmed our ears but denied our viewing. Unlike earlier visits here this May we now heard the :cheer-up cheer-oop” of Red-eyed Vireos that sing 10,000 times a day from May through July even in mid-day heat. A highlight was a Swainson’s Thrush at Longfellow’s grave.


Bird photos by Chuck Carney