This walk took place on a crisp (high 30s, after a solid frost), clear (not a cloud in the sky) morning, with a bit of breeze.  The birds were very quiet to begin with, presumably due to the recent drop in temperatures from relatively warm levels.  Mary Byers and her grandson Matt were the only participants, possibly due to the cold morning, but boy, were they in luck!  We had a slow start, with Juncos and Robins being the most visible and active birds, but by the time we had worked our way around the garden and Sapsucker grove to the Casino, the sun had come well up and we started seeing some more activity.  First was a surprising Dragonfly, which spent much of its time sunning itself on the back of a bench, and which Mary worked out to be a Saffron-winged Meadowhawk – a new check on the life list!  Then we picked up some White-throated Sparrows to go with the Juncos and Mourning Doves, but as we got down to the duck pond, the real fun began.  The Mallards were mostly out of eclipse and pairing up, and while there were no other ducks (or herons) in the area, 2 Canada Geese had joined them, and we got to watch them stripping and eating Phragmites leaves (a tough snack even for geese, I would think).  Some Red-winged Blackbirds flew into the sedges and let us look over the female’s possibly confusing plumage, and then as we walked around the pond, in relatively short order we heard (but didn’t unfortunately see) a Bluebird calling, followed by small bird flying in to a willow fairly close, and very obligingly posing.  The first glance showed a strongly marked yellow-green body and wing with bright yellow wingbars, followed almost immediately by the sight of the large round, bluish head and big white spectacles.  This Blue-headed Vireo moved around a bit, but stayed out in the open where we could get wonderful looks at it, and was almost immediately followed by an equally obliging Hermit Thrush which showed us all the field marks we could ask for.  Although we had nothing particularly outstanding in the bird and butterfly garden, as we worked around the fenced-off veggie garden, a large brown ‘shorebirdy’ thing popped off and flew away around the corner, low to the ground, with stiff, fluttering wingbeats, and making a loud twittering sound.  As we came around the corner, it flew up again, and this time turned sideways so we could see the tubby body and ludicrously long beak of an American Woodcock.  It flew into the maintenance yard, where several large dirt piles may have tempted it to stick around a bit despite the cold.  We finished up at the oak trees in front of the Friends’ house, and just as I had finished pointing these trees out as usually hosting Kinglets and lamenting that none were in there at the moment, several very obligingly flew in and let us check them out to end the walk on a high note.

sw-meadowhawkimg_0378