Salvaged birding season

worm-eating warbler from about 2010

For longer than we can remember Marie Pelletier & I have wandered around & around Wompatuck State Park in Hingham, Massachusetts each May hoping to see migrating songbirds. As we were walking there this month, we pointed to a hillside and said “that’s where we saw the worm-eating…” (worm-eating warbler Helmitheros vermivorum) – I looked up this photo I shot and it was 12 years ago! And we still look there for the worm-eating…missed it this year. 

Usually we see lots of the migrating & nesting birds there – this spring was not usual. Cold northeast winds – the exact opposite of what brings the birds up here, blew for 2 straight weeks. Other weather worked against us and just plain dumb luck kicked in as well. It doesn’t really matter, a bad morning birding is still better than [fill in the blank].

Wompatuck is a big patch of woods for heavily-developed southeastern Massachusetts. Over 3,500 acres. For over 20 years it was a Naval Ammunition Depot – was decommissioned in the mid-1960s and has been a state park for many years now. I first went there in the mid-1970s, riding bikes and engaged in other general mayhem. For several years I had a woodworking shop in Hingham that backed up to the park. I used to cut through a hole in the fence and walk there at lunchtime.  (sounds like it’s over 4,000 acres now) 

It’s a great place for thrushes, towhees and ovenbirds. In May you’re guaranteed to hear them everywhere, and often you get to see them. Photographing them is another story – they all like to stay in the shady parts. We snapped some shots of the wood thrush (Hylocichla mustelina)

wood thrush

 And ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla) – one of my favorites.


We have heard hundreds & hundreds of ovenbirds there – and seen quite a few as well. One thing we’ve always wanted to see was one building their nest that lends them their name. Never seen it. Closest we came was this one gathering nest material. 

ovenbird 2019

Today’s birding made up for our previous outings this season. Not in numbers, but in a close-up view of this blue-winged warbler (Vermivora cyanoptera) building a nest.

blue-winged warbler

Blue-wingeds are not as numerous in the park as the ovenbirds, so we were pretty excited to stumble onto 2 of them flitting about. Then we noticed one had bark in its bill. As we zeroed in on it, she dropped down into some grass near the edge of the path & vanished. Popped out a bit later and went back to pulling grapevine bark and other fibers. So that’s how we learned that the blue-winged warbler is a ground-nester like the ovenbird. We stayed for a long time – she didn’t seem to care. At one point she flew between Marie’s legs! So here’s a bunch of shots that made our day – back to woodworking next time.

blue-winged warbler stripping grapevine bark

at one point very suddenly she cocked her tail up in the air – well, that’s a sign if one knows how to read it.

Then we saw the male show up – they’re both very impressive – his tail is fanned, hers is cocked. They flew around like crazy for a little while, then she went back to building the nest. He stuck around a little bit then was gone…

female above male below

here’s a link to Cornell’s site – a great place to learn more about birds

5 thoughts on “Salvaged birding season

  1. As a woodworker, birder and butterfly observer myself, I always enjoy your change of pace birding blogs as much as I do the ones you do on woodworking.
    Thanks, really fun reading.

  2. I also really enjoy your bird adventures!
    I grew up in Vt., so many of your species are familiar to me.
    I am now in SE GA, growing all too fast. You mentioned ground nesters-our whippoorwills and Bob Whites are under stress-I haven’t heard either for at least 2 years.
    Really enjoying the chest videos.

  3. Very interesting diversion. I have also enjoyed birding for years. Took an ornithology class in college in the late 1970’s and went to Jasper Pulaski Fish and Game area in north west indiana when the sandhill cranes were migrating… quite impressive. Saw more than a dozen species of ducks and their kin as well as mature golden eagle. Thanks for the opportunity to reminisce.

  4. Always enjoy the birding stories, you have such a range of birds compared to here. Although it’s not all bad, I’ve moved recently to a town with a remnant of podocarp forest, so it is a real change to have kereru, Hemiphaga novae-zelandiae, weighing down tree branches. Just seven weeks until wrybill fly back in from their winter holidays up north, always a buzz.

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