Buck Hill, Quincy, Massachusetts - the birds and their behavior
At 496 feet, the summit of Buck Hill in the Blue Hills State Reservation is a little piece of prime scrubland providing habitat for Eastern Towhees, Field Sparrows, Prairie Warblers, Indigo Buntings, Brown Thrashers, Black-billed Cuckoos and more.
The top of the hill is covered primarily in Bear Oak, which is also known as Scrub Oak. On the hill these scrubby plants grow to about five feet in height at the most. They are dense and form a thicket across almost all the area that is not rocks or trail. The other primary plant of the top is the Pitch Pine. Although not numerous, they form the highest points on the hill along with a loose grove among the Bear Oak on the north edge that attracts species such as Pine Warblers and Red-breasted Nuthatches to the top. Their sparse foliage and short stature also makes it easy to see any birds that might have strayed from the lower elevations as they often do. I've seen Scarlet Tanagers, Great-crested Flycatchers, and Eastern Wood-Pewees all at eye-level in the Pitch Pines and various bleached tree skeletons which the birds so love to sing from. The occasional Eastern White Pine also dots the landscape along with occasional smaller deciduous trees and the low-bush blueberries which form the ground-cover underneath and around the Bear Oaks. The blueberries begin ripening in mid to late June and attract hordes of Cedar Waxwings in flocks of up to thirty or more strong. The berries also attract Northern Flickers which are easy to flush as they forage on the ground. Sweet Fern dot the edges of the trails in dense shrub-like form and many varieties of mosses and lichens are to be found among the weather-worn outcroppings of rock.
While the top of the hill is low and scrubby, supporting certain species, the lower elevations surrounding the hill consist of mostly tall pine woods and deciduous woods, generally separate. These woods support species like Ovenbirds, Hermit Thrushes, Wood Thrushes, Scarlet Tanagers, Great Crested Flycatchers, Red-eyed Vireos, and Barred Owls - to name a few. Certain groves of old pines attract all five species of resident woodpeckers. At the middle elevations, the trees are shorter with more undergrowth around them. Oaks, maples, and beeches abound. Eastern Towhees also venture into the slightly thinner habitat midway up the hill. Large groves of dead, bleached trees with luscious low-growing plant life at their bases are not uncommon.
Below, is a video of footage complied during June 2013. It shows two bird species from the higher elevations, and two from the lower elevations. It includes birds singing on territory and collecting food to feed to their young.
List of bird species and their behavior and timing. Birds in red are breeding birds confirmed either by continued presence and singing throughout spring and summer, adults carrying food, active nest, etc. This is only about two years of sparse data. This is by far not all the expected birds during migration. A few of the bird species names are links to pictures, just hover over them to tell.
Above, a typical winter view showing a Pitch Pine and the bare Scrub Oaks bordering one of the many outcroppings of rock.
Below, a single Cedar Waxwing, one of a flock of thirty plus, perches on a bleached branch that most likely used to belong to a Pitch Pine.
Below, a satellite image of Buck Hill clearly shows the scrubby area of the top and several of the trails that crisscross it. Also easily visible are two additional open areas of dead trees and scrub. One is on the south slope of the hill and the other is on the northeast slope.
Some of the butterflies I've seen on Buck Hill: