The Chestnut-sided Warbler in Fall Attire

August 23, 2019

Roger Tory Peterson was the first to coin the phrase “Confusing Fall Warblers” in his Field GuideTo the Birds first published in 1934 and devoted separate pages depicting those birds and pointing with arrows the significant points to look for during the fall migration. John Dunn in his Field Guide to Warblers of North America (Peterson Field Guide Series-1997) states: “Despite the fearsome concept of “confusing fall warblers” the identification is generally straightforward given adequate views”. Before fall migration, many species of warblers lose their bright and distinctive spring plumage and molt into duller or drab colors for the winter months.

So how does the new birder identify warblers in the fall?  First remember that there are basic features such as wing bars that help to identify the warbler in any plumage, then there is habitat preference, the Common Yellowthroat likes marsh and other wet habitats; the Wilson’s and Canada warblers tend to be found low in thick shrubbery and many others prefer the tops of trees- exactly like they do in the spring. Watch for distinctive behavior, the American Redstart always fans its tail, the Palm and Prairie warblers raise their tails. Warblers rarely sing in the fall so you need to familiarize  the call notes or chips they make, this is a bit more difficult but it easy to start with the Yellow-rump’s fairly distinctive  loud “check” call.  One warbler species-the Chestnut-sided has a very different look in the fall; I like to call it the Lemon and Lime Warbler. Gone are the bright chestnut sides, gone is the yellow cap, a beginner would probably never think of a Chestnut-sided. (more…)

Join us for A Nighthawk Watch at Washington Tower in 2019!

July 20, 2019

The Nighthawk is a member of the nightjar family which include the Whip-poor-will. All members of this family are rather cryptic in color with tiny bills and huge mouths. Join us for a Nighthawk Watch this summer at Washington Tower:

Tuesday, August 20th at 6PM

Wednesday, August 21st at 6PM

Tuesday, August 27th at 6PM

Wednesday, August 28th at 6PM

The flight of the nighthawk is unmistakable as it wheels erratically chasing insects. The Nighthawk nests most often on open cultivated fields, gravel beaches, rocky outcrops and burned over woodlands.  It is also well known to nest on flat gravel roof tops especially in cities. Locally birds have nested in a number of different places in Cambridge and Somerville as well as the Back Bay and South End sections of Boston. The roofs of many of these buildings have been converted to rubber and are no longer appealing to the nighthawks. (more…)

The American Goldfinch

July 4, 2019


The American Goldfinch pictured above (Photo by Jeremiah Trimble) is perhaps one of the most familiar and appreciated songbirds in our area. The noted ornithologist Frank Chapman wrote: “Panoplied in jet and gold the merry, care-free goldfinches flit in the summer sunshine. They wander happily about, singing, wooing, mating, eating, drinking and bathing all summer without family worries.” (more…)

Wildlife Success Story: Eastern Red-Backed Salamanders

June 4, 2019

Mount Auburn provides critical habitat for a variety of animals. Amid urbanization and loss of open green space, the Cemetery can play an important role in bringing them back to the Boston area. This year, we are thrilled to see the successful return of another native species to our landscape. Ecologist Brooks Mathewson has been working since 2017 to reintroduce one of the most ecologically-important animals of the New England forest to Mount Auburn, the eastern red-backed salamander.