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Birds and Flowers, Turtles and Frogs: Mt. Auburn Treasures

Thursday, April 26, 2012

When I was a college student I would walk to Mt. Auburn Cemetery of a fine fall day with a book I needed to read, and nestle between the cool forelimbs of this beautiful sphinx, leaning back against her curved but unmoving bosom, reading the hours away.

Now I stand and photograph her in the sharp April sun, wishing back that precise golden October light that made her embrace the perfect place to be.

The painted turtles know that light.

And so does this elderly red-eared slider. I guessed, simply looking at this lumpy individual, that it started its life in captivity. The irregular surface of the shell might indicate a calcium deficiency. But the kicker is that red-eared sliders aren't native to Cambridge, MA. Who knows how many years ago this big turkle was swimming little circles in the stinking water around a plastic palm tree, trying to live on Hartz Mountain brand dried flies? It was a dark era for turtles. I'm glad we don't do that any more. Well, not as much.

People let a lot of creatures go in Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Heck, I let a couple of goldfish go there one spring, before I went to Brasil for six months.  Ludivico and Pustefix, are you still out there?

Maybe, said the bullfrog.

Probably not, said the great blue heron.

That's Hodge's little foot for scale. Eep, that's a lotta crap.

A morning that started in the 40's rocketed up to the mid-80's, and I threw on a pair of shorts and hurried to Mt. Auburn for a golden hour of photography before a full day of media and Fenway Park began. There were yellow-rumped warblers absolutely everywhere, it being only April 20. This oasis was just receiving its first wave of spring migration.

The rattling snap of ruby-crowned kinglets sounded from every hedge. They sound like miniature firecrackers.

Predictably enough, the pine warblers sang their mellow trill mostly from the pines.  This drab little male came down into a maple to delight us, though. Hodge's life pine warbler. 

And a great prize for me: a male palm warbler in stunning yellow and chestnut.

Where's the chestnut, you ask? On his hat. He's hopping up to a sturdy branch with a hapless caterpillar 

and showing me his little chestnut cap as he beats it to a pulp.

Vicious things,  those warblers, if you're tiny, soft and green.


I found your blog a few weeks ago and enjoy it immensely. We started our birding adventures when we lived in SE Ohio and try to plan our travels accordingly. Really love your photos... they're better than a field guide!

Ooo--love that lost photo of the warbler, chestnut cap and all.

Well, your paychecks may not be as regular as perhaps you would like, but you receive payment in ways many of us don't.

So glad I finally signed up to follow your blog! ( after tons of recommendations from birding friends). So far it lives up to their promises. Full of details about bird behavior that field guides don't have but I always crave. And so artfully done. Looking forward to learning more. Have also just ordered both your books. Good luck in the real simple contest!

great spring pics, Julie. I've been following for years, just never took the time to comment.
so, finally, thanks, thanks, thanks for sharing your photos and stories with us. I enjoy them immensely!

Posted by joyful gardener April 26, 2012 at 3:38 PM

The Warblers of Mt. Auburn and their Friends: a 2013 calendar. See, it's almost done already.

Posted by DallasD April 26, 2012 at 4:47 PM

Found your blog by accident and I'm glad I did. It's fun reading and I'm enjoying your pictures!

Looks like your mystery plant is a Fothergilla Mt. Airy.

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