Exotic Wildlife at the Framingham RMV?

Who would believe that the Framingham RMV is a good place for watching wildlife? Not me - until I went there last Friday and saw an exotic species of bird I had never seen before, another strange bird that may have been a pregnant mockingbird, and finally a gorgeous red tailed hawk circling overhead!

It was too nice to wait in the car while my daughter was in the Registry, so I wandered around the parking lot a bit. (If you have a camera in hand, I've discovered, you can walk around looking at things without getting weird looks from other people.) I crossed over to the railyard next door, and shot some pictures of the trains. I thought they looked pretty in the bright sunshine.

I was trying to get a picture of a beautiful red tailed hawk as he circled upwards into the sky, when a odd looking bird landed on the gravel about 20 feet away. I was amazed to see what seemed to be a wading shorebird standing in the middle of an ocean of gravel. He had the long legs and long bill of the plover type birds you darting along the beaches of Cape Cod. When I zoomed in on him and saw the distinctive markings, I knew I had never seen a bird like that on the Cape or anywhere else!

But here he was in downtown Framingham, walking around as if he belonged in the dusty railyard behind the Registry of Motor Vehicles. I honestly thought this bird must have escaped from a zoo or been blown in on a strong wind from South America. When I got home and looked him up in my field guide (which was very easy to do; you can't confuse this bird with anything else!), I found out I has spotted a Killdeer. Turns out they don't live at the shore, they are not uncommon, and they're often seen along railroad tracks. These birds have the largest, prettiest eyes I've ever seen, although you can't tell from these pictures. If you ever see one, though, you'll be amazed as well.

When the Killdeer flew off, I went back to the car. I was putting the camera away when a bird landed on the curb not far from me, so I shot some pictures even though it didn't look like much of anything. Once again, though, I was surprised by what I saw in the viewfinder. It had the head and coloring of a mockingbird, but the shape was more like a mourning dove. Not only that, but it had a distinct brownish yellowish tint to it's underbelly.

Even after searching all my bird books and dozens of web sites, though, I still swear this can only be a mockingbird. No other bird has the markings and the head of a mockingbird, but no mockingbird has a big swollen yellow belly. My best guess is that this is a pregnant mockingbird, although I don't really know if they get big and fat like like this even if they are about to pop out an egg or two. Maybe the bird is ill or disabled instead of pregnant, but it acted healthy and alert as far as I could tell.

Believe it or not, all these sightings happened during the forty minutes I spent outside the RMV last Friday at about 3:00 PM. It just goes to show that there are amazing animals all around us; all you have to do is look for them. As a matter of fact, you can see incredible things in your own backyard. The day before I saw a Robin catching his dinner (either a worm or a bug) on our front yard. Robins are familiar and common, but I think the checkerboard pattern around their eyes is pretty awesome no matter how many times I see it!

I also saw that a fierce predator, the little kitty cat known as Midnight, was on the prowl. The birds have nothing to fear from this cat, however. She might look like a kitten, but she's fifteen years old and no longer interested in chasing anything. The gravel in the picture is actually part of our new outdoor drainage system. We now have a drainage ditch around the entire perimeter of the house, and a second drainage ditch along the drive. The steep slope behind us and the all the clay in our soil caused a mini stream to form whenever the snow melted last winter, and to freeze whenever the temperature dropped. There was a frozen river of ice on the driveway and on the street all winter. We had to drive to the mailbox and wear ice cleats on our boots to get to the car.

That is all behind us now, and we will soon have a dry and comfortable house where you can sit on the floor without getting wet. Ours is no ordinary french drain, either. This system is much more comprehensive than traditional perimeter drain systems. It won't fail when the ground freezes, and it isn't susceptible to being blocked by roots or debris. Our system is so effective that when it is installed, most people don't even need gutters on their houses anymore! I can't reveal the specifics about the system, but I can tell you that it was invented by long time Framingham resident Chris Jackson of Jackson Brothers Building and Remodeling. Chris has installed his enhanced system on more than 75 buildings in the area over the last 15 years, and not a single system has failed even once! Compare that to the typical "basement waterproofing" that costs a fortune and inevitably fails within two or three years - assuming you found an honest company or contractor in the first place! (The failure rate in Framingham is probably even higher because of the high water table, thin soils, and all the rivers, brooks, lakes, reservoirs, and aqueducts running through the town.)

Moisture problems like wet basements are bad for your health and bad for your home. Moisture problems can NEVER be permanently solved by sealing the inside of your basement or even sealing the outside of your foundation. Both might be a part of the solution for your particular water problem, but sealing alone will not solve anything for long. It's like putting a band-aid on a crack in the dam; it can't hold. My advice to anyone with moisture problems in the Framingham area is to call Chris Jackman at The Jackman Brothers Building and Remodeling. My advice to anyone with water problems outside of the Framingham area is to do your homework, and understand the options available to you before you sign anything. Don't get scammed.

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