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Monthly Archives: March 2012

(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

I’ve been seeing larger and larger flocks of Canada Geese flying over the area recently. In this case — a flock I spotted over Holyoke about a week ago — I caught nearly 70 birds in a single frame.

And that wasn’t even all of them.

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After a winter full of juncos, starlings, and the downtown area’s resident hawks and falcons, last week’s record warm weather seems to have spurred the arrival of a few new feathered friends: grackles and mockingbirds.

Both birds have a year-round range that includes all of Massachusetts, and I did spot mockingbirds here and there over the winter — but now I’m seeing both species in numbers. The grackles, in particular, have been filling up Heritage State Park with their short, sometimes abrasive calls. They’re gorgeous birds, a little iridescent and colored like oil on wet pavement.

Below, photos I’ve shot over the past week, mostly in Heritage State Park and along the canal.

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(c) Greg Saulmon 2012

Last fall I was surprised to learn that blue jays don’t just eat acorns; they swallow them whole.

Hawks, it turns out, eat much the same way, guzzling the skeletal remains of a fresh kill. The other day I watched the hawk above begin its meal on the roof of Open Square, and then finish it off on this utility pole on Race Street. After nibbling at the meat for a few minutes, it picked the whole carcass up, threw its head back, and swallowed everything. Bones and all.

This shouldn’t surprise me — it’s not like I thought they whipped out a set of silverware and cut their prey into dainty morsels. And, I took apart enough owl pellets in elementary school to know that birds can ingest and pass fur and bones.

Still, it was one of those things that you don’t necessarily think about until you see it first hand.

I’m still going through my photos and looking at different zoom levels to try to figure out if that’s a squirrel or pigeon the hawk’s eating. Right now, I’m thinking it’s the better part of a pigeon wing that’s going down the hatch.