Birding the Beach

13 Aug

Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing

Magazine Beach is a relatively unknown treasure and destination spot for local birding. No, it’s not Costa Rica and you won’t find any Lyrebirds here. You will find lots of familiar faces and wonderful breeding activity during the spring and summer, if you’re patient.

With the addition of small wetland features (aka water storm basins), butterflies and dragonflies abound. Swallowtails and Azures have been seen flitting about.

Beginning at the intersection of Pleasant Street Extension and Memorial, I walked along the edge toward the BU Bridge, watching and listening. Mallards, (especially when they’re in eclipse, in the late summer/early fall) and Double-crested Cormorants often alight on the booms on the other side of the river. House sparrows are everywhere.

On a recent foray in June, I saw or heard thirteen species including Cedar waxwings, Northern Rough‑winged Swallows, and Robins. The Roughies appear to be breeding along the river because I saw feeding activity high in the Cottonwood tree. I found American Robins and the juveniles in abundance this year. The young show the telltale signs of their thrush heritage in the prominent black cheek patches that are visible before they grow adult plumage.

Rough-winged Swallow

Rough-winged Swallow

Because this area provides diverse environments, it encourages a variety of birds to settle in. The water’s edge encourages waterfowl; the high shrubs on the river between the MWRA building and the Magazine, itself, offer protection and food for Yellow Warblers, Red-winged Blackbirds, Song Sparrows, and the elusive, but chatty, Gray Catbird. The tall trees near the river offer nesting sites for Black-capped Chickadees, European Starlings, and Song Sparrows. I heard and saw many cheerful Yellow Warbler high in the trees. Old tree snags encourage Eastern Kingbirds who like to sit at the top of the tallest branch to observe their territory.

Gray Catbird

Gray Catbird

Even though I didn’t see any Black-crown Night Herons on this walk, they do spend time along the muddy edge of the river or in the overhanging branches during the day. If you’re vigilant, you can discern the difference between the flight of Gulls and that of the Herons when they fly back to the Harbor Islands in the evening. Canada Geese and their crèches of babies are visible in large fields all along the river until they grow up. Occasionally, I have seen banded birds.

I will be leading a Magazine Beach Bird Walk on Saturday, September 7, 2013 from 8:30 a.m. to 10:00 a.m Meet at the traffic light at the intersection of Memorial Drive and Pleasant Street Extension (at the Courtyard Marriott). Bring binoculars, scopes, and cameras, if you have them. All levels are welcome.

Janet Crystal

Update: David Craft will join Janet for the tour and share foraging tips. See his description below:

The birds are the real foragers out there, but we’ll do our best to find some plants good for human consumption. We’ll have our eyes out for lamb’s quarters, lady’s thumb, milkweed, burdock root, curly dock, wild black cherries, acorns, and maybe even some mushrooms if the rain gods are pleased.

3 Responses to “Birding the Beach”

  1. John Manning August 13, 2013 at 11:22 am #

    DickThe Cedar Wax wings occasionally visit me in the spring on their way north…they enjoy the seeds still on my overgrown hedges…have plenty of swifts and swallows, buffle heads in the harbor, great blue herons. ..a bevy or Mergansers, cattle egrets in the marsh behind me and best of all I get to watch the the high diving Osprey catching a meal in the harbor also plus an occasonal Kingfisher and a mocking bird lives up in my neighbors yard…my Coreopsis attracts the yellow finches and ny window boxes attracts hummingbirds…love birding here in N. Falmouth and I can’t forget my big red tailed hawk and my speedy Merlin…wish I could drive and join you on the banks of the Charles, but no license anymore…enjoy your day

    • Janet in Cambridge August 21, 2013 at 8:34 am #

      I’ll leave a post of what we see on the bird walk so you can live vicariously! Birds are enjoyable anywhere you see them.

    • Cathie Zusy August 21, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      Mr. Manning,
      Thanks so much for sharing your birdwatching pleasures and finds!

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