Charles River Path

by Alison Leary

I live an easy walk from the Charles River Path, between Bridge Street and Watertown Square, and that is my green space in an otherwise urban setting. On a hot day, as soon as you step from California Street to the shaded path, heavy with mature pine and aspen, the temperature drops ten degrees and street sounds become muffled and distant.

In spring the Charles River Path is a stopover for many species of migrating birds. This year I spotted several species of warblers, including northern parula, black throated blue, black throated green, black and white warblers, and northern waterthrush. A blue-headed vireo made an appearance, and warbling vireos were singing exuberantly in the canopy. It’s one of the few places within walking distance where I can listen to the ethereal song of the wood thrush, which requires a larger tract of woods than most backyard birds. On an early morning, I spotted red foxes exploring a thicket and a cooper’s hawk diving after a desperate mourning dove.

Many birds stay here to raise their young, including yellow warblers, northern orioles, and kingbirds. From late spring through summer you can try to spot nests and later watch young birds hounding their parents for food, jumping and fluttering with their mouths wide open. Young catbirds are curious and comical, their downy fuzz giving them that “I just got out of bed” look. Juvenile robins are obvious with their spotted breasts and are as big as their parents, who take them out to feed on the fruit of trees and bushes.

On a snowy winter day, Charles River Path is a car free zone to cross county ski. Familiar year-round birds are still there: cardinals, chickadees, nuthatches and downy woodpeckers, as well as a few winter visitors. Ducks are attracted to the open waters of the river in winter, including hooded merganser, ruddy duck, and ring-necked ducks. Other visitors may include common redpoll. If you look up, you may be lucky enough to spot a bald eagle flying overhead.