Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary
Birding Community Newsletter

Issue 2017-12 | Thursday, July 06 2017 | 935 Subscribers
Spread Their Wings
The Summer Solstice Marks the Passing of a Season in the Rumney Marshes ACEC
High Summer in the grassland of the Rumney Marshes ACEC.  A distant shimmering curtain obscures the bustling modern world that grew-up around a timeless estuary.  Bearing witness once again, open vales provide safe harbor for the first unsteady flights of both fledglings and pollinators as they spread their wings and glide over fields of wildflowers.  Offering fruits as sweet as candy, the residents of the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary begin building reserves to sustain themselves on the long journeys and the leaner times to come.
 June 25, 2017 Annual Summer Breeding Bird Survey II
Bear Creek Sanctuary
(restricted access) , Saugus, Essex County, Massachusetts, US

June 25, 2017
7:57 AM - 11:00 AM

Protocol: Traveling

3.5 Mile(s)

42 Bird Species

American Black Duck  2

Mallard 17

Wild Turkey  1

Double-crested Cormorant  10

Great Blue Heron  2

Great Egret  1

Glossy Ibis  1

Osprey  5

Red-tailed Hawk  2

Killdeer  4


Spotted Sandpiper  3

Willet  1

Herring Gull  40

Common Tern  1

Rock Pigeon  15

Mourning Dove 2

Chimney Swift  30

Willow Flycatcher  2

Eastern Kingbird  3

Warbling Vireo  2

Northern Rough-winged Swallow  3

Tree Swallow  20

Barn Swallow  8

Cliff Swallow  1

American Robin  3

Northern Mockingbird  2

European Starling  5

Cedar Waxwing  8

Common Yellowthroat  3

American Redstart  1

Yellow Warbler  12

Savannah Sparrow  26

Song Sparrow  5

Northern Cardinal  2

Bobolink  20

Red-winged Blackbird  40

Common Grackle  5

Brown-headed Cowbird  3

Baltimore Oriole  3

House Finch  5

American Goldfinch  15

House Sparrow  10

This week's bird-er of the week goes to a longtime friend of the sanctuary, Mark.  The man with his finger on the pulse of the Raptors in the Rumney Marshes, Mark went the extra mile this summer. 

Upon confirmation that one of the American Kestrel nesting sites in the Rumney Marshes ACEC had been disturbed by construction activities, Mark went to work re-purposing enough items to make two American Kestrel nesting boxes.  

Note the clever perch design at the top of the nesting box.  The rigid wire is sturdy enough to support the weight of a Kestrel or two, but will bend unsteadily if a larger predator attempts to raid the nest box.  Great job Mark.  We are big fans of the nest boxes and the reuse of materials in this manner. Thank You.
Runner-up this week goes to the family of five gathering Red Mulberries in the shrublands.  Mulberries are as sweet as gumdrops, everybody loves them.  Living on a grassland island surrounded by a 2,200 acre estuary means there is a good chance that Momma Skunk was taught this trick by Grandmomma Skunk, and now she is passing on the collective memory of this seasonal food source to the little tikes.  Momma led the babies from Mulberry tree to Mulberry tree throughout the upper shrub zone of the living shoreline.  

This is the first large fruit crop of the season, and an important opportunity for all of the sanctuary's residents to start building up their reserves for the leaner times to come.
During the breeding season, the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary conducts two annual breeding bird surveys.  We just completed the second survey on June 25th.  

During the first survey, performed on Sunday, June 11, participants observed 43 bird species in the sanctuary. In the second survey, June 25, participants observed 42 species.    
The 2017 breeding bird survey total is the fourth highest tally for summer resident bird diversity at the sanctuary.  

We also documented three new species in the sanctuary during the breeding season. They are the Cliff Swallow, the Tufted Titmouse, and the American Redstart.
Cold, wet springs are difficult on grassland species.  Happily, our recorded number of adults are on par with our ten year average and the regional trends.  

For Bobolinks, we recorded 20 in total, 12 males and 8 females.  The Savannah Sparrow totals were higher with 35.  

Typically with a grassland breeding bird survey, more males are recorded than females.   This is because the males are more visible singing from perches and defending their territories.  To paraphrase the sanctuary's oldest dear friend, 'It is important to consider the birds you don't see.' 
Interpreting the results of the breeding bird survey is complicated, and the official statistics are tracked by our dear friends, Linda and Tim.  Thank you for your years and years of commitment shaping and managing the grasslands. 

From a resource management perspective, we use the surveys as a sampling opportunity.   It is an inventory of the birds that are observed along an established path at exactly the same time each year.  Two summer snapshots of the sanctuary.

Each annual survey is very important for the sanctuary.  The long term trends that are documented in each inventory, help us to identify and adopt management efforts that will improve the sanctuary over time.
The inventory is also used to identify short term trends.  For example, each survey traverses the grassland on the same path during approximately the same 4 hour period each year.  It is very similar to taking a picture of the same location, at the same time each year.  Looking back at the information can identify the presence or absence of a species, and offer an opportunity to learn something new.

This season, during both surveys, we did not record any American Kestrels, but we did record a juvenile Northern Harrier.  Interesting, we see the Kestrels about every day.  How did we happen to miss them twice during the summer snapshots of the grassland?

Just as interesting, both surveys confirmed that for some reason, our Killdeer population seemed lower than usual this season.
In the week that followed the second survey, we were eager for answers.  After three days of searching, we observed the juvenile Northern Harrier actively hunting for Killdeer.  

What if the Harrier has been regularly pursuing the killdeer fledglings? Their protective parents performing 'the old broken wing trick' would be a dead giveaway that there may be flightless chicks nearby.  Once the Harrier identified this behavioral pattern, it would be easy pickings to repeat this hunting strategy on the remaining Killdeer at the Sanctuary.
Late one afternoon we also discovered a male American Kestrel making high speed runs out from the shrubland edge to try to catch a male Bobolink off guard.  Streaking across the grassland, mere inches from the ground, this Kestrel made three attempts at three different male Bobolinks.  Foiled each time, the Kestrel headed back into the shrubbery.
The Bobolink's behavior was interesting as well.  Each of the males that the Kestrel made a swipe at was perched prominently, singing its heart out.  As the blur of a Kestrel approached, skimming through the tops of the grasses, each male was off like a shot, climbing straight up into the sky.  After reaching a sufficient height, the Bobolinks broke into a fluttery aerial display, spiraling down slowly, as if to mock the poor Kestrel for even considering such a notion.
When the Sunday Morning Bird Walks resume in mid-August, we are certain to discover many more mysteries that need investigating.
  The Sanctuary is currently closed for the breeding season.  The Autumn bird walk season will resume in mid-August. 

NOTE: The Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary is open to the public for guided tours only.  If you would like to visit the sanctuary, please attend one of our regularly scheduled nature walks, or contact us to arrange a private tour.   Thank you.
Special thanks to Soheil, Patricia, Tim, Linda, Alan, Sebastian, Caroline, Mark, Cameron and everyone else who contributed pictures and support this week.  Without your help, this publication could not be produced.

Additional pictures from this season:
The Wheelabrator Saugus Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary is a 370-acre property abutting a 2,274-acre estuary on the outskirts of Boston, located in the heart of the Rumney Marshes ACEC. Maintained and managed grasslands, salt marshes, shrublands and maturing woodlands combine as one of the largest bird migration staging areas on the North Shore and a habitat for nearly 200 bird species, as well as other wildlife such as coyotes, foxes, raccoons and snakes. Visitors can enjoy the more than 14,000 feet of walking trails that permeate the site, a half-acre exhibit garden, and meeting and lecture areas, which are scattered throughout nine of the restored ecosystems. Situated directly behind Wheelabrator Saugus, the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary is maintained and managed by Geoff Wilson of Northeast Wetland Restoration. Follow along with us as the birds change with each passing season!