Thursday, June 7, 2007

Breeding Birds

6/7/07 - Observed a pair of Scarlet Tanagers in the Charles River Reservation, south of Wells Avenue. It is very likely that these birds were attempting to breed here in Newton. With the spring migration now over, we can turn our attention to breeding birds. Although most birdwatchers are very familiar with our migrants, less attention is given to documenting breeding birds. There is much we don't know about the distribution and abundance of breeding birds in Newton. For example, how often do forest species such as the ovenbird, wood thrush, and black and white warbler breed in Newton, and where? There is an extensive literature showing that many forest-dwelling bird species tend to drop out of smaller forest patches such as those found in Newton. Interestingly Scarlet Tanagers are less likely to be found in smaller forest fragments, but this is less true in the highly forested northeast than in the largely deforested Midwest & Atlantic Coast regions. What about the status of shrubland species such as the blue-winged warbler and brown thrasher in Newton? It would be great to organize a breeding bird survey one year...

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Nesting Season

June is turtle nesting season. Unfortunately, this is also the season that turtles are most likely to be crushed on the road. The painted turtle shown here was killed on Winchester Street during summer 2006. Turtles are long-lived organisms that experience high rates of reproductive failure. As a result, relatively modest increases in adult mortality (e.g. from new roads and increased traffic rates) can have significant impacts on population viability. As a result of this and of habitat loss, many Massachusetts freshwater turtles are on the state endangered species list (e.g. Blanding's Turtle, Wood Turtle, Box Turtle, Bog Turtle). In Newton, our primary species are the Painted Turtle and the Snapping Turtle. It is probable that we have Spotted Turtles in at least one location, and it is possible that we have Musk Turtles associated with the Charles. Watch for turtles on the road. If you stop and help a turtle across the road, please be sure that you insure your own safety first!