Sunday, May 15, 2011

Class Trip to Fairhaven & Mattapoisett - 5/14

We had a great class trip to the Fairhaven and Mattapoisett area recently. Mark and I had gone down the night before so that we could get the "night" birds in a few of the blocks we plan to atlas this year. So when we met the class at 7, we had already been out birding since well before dawn.We met at the 99 Restaurant in the shopping plaza at the end of Rt. 240 and our first breeding bird of the trip was this House Sparrow nesting in one of the openings in the restaurant sign. Normally you don't get a chance to see this sparrow in the nest, but this was quite visible.

At the conservation area on Little Bay Road we had singing Catbirds (when you could hear them above the noise of the pack of beagles that some jerk was running to catch rabbits.)

And we had lots of Baltimore Orioles -- but we didn't have any sign of the breeding Orchard Orioles that we had the previous year when doing this block for the atlas.

What we did have, however, was a lovely singing White-eyed Vireo....our first of the year....and everyone in the class got great looks at this little fellow singing his heart out.

As usual the place was filled with Yellow Warblers....

We also had pairs of Oystercatchers at several points along Sconticut Neck Road.

This is such a handsome bird, I never tire of looking at that coral bill and the snazzy black and white pattern.

Everyone got great looks at a Red Fox "bringing home the bacon".

It was funny to watch this little fellow just wander down the road...

cut through lawns and gardens...

and finally just disappear over the stone wall. The interesting thing is about a half hour later at the southern end of Sconticut we came across two kit foxes "playing" with a squirrel that one of the parents had brought home and we wondered if they were the offspring of "our" fox from 1/2 mile up the road. We concluded that they probably were the recipients of the previous fox's hunting foray.

At the end of Sconticut Neck we were able to spend some time scoping Angelic Rock and found the cormorant and gull nesting to be proceeding nicely.

From just this one picture alone, I was able to get a count of about 84 breeding pairs of Double-crested Cormorants!

Now about two weeks earlier, Mark & I had spotted a Great Egret sitting in some bushes on the island. We speculated whether or not the bird could possibly be breeding. So when we saw this Great Egret fly in with a full crop, we were quite excited when he landed in the same bushes and saw two other Great Egrets pop up. This is obviously a small, new breeding area for this species....very exciting.

Another real highlight of the trip was watching the displaying Willets on territory. At the small pond along Sconticut Neck Road we had a great display!

We had a pair of Willets flying around and one of the birds (presumably the male) landed on the telephone pole right next to us....calling vigorously to proclaim his territory.

He continued to call for a few minutes, then he settled down and looked around...

and finally flew off to rejoin (or find) a mate. Within about 30 seconds there were then 5 Willets flying all around the pond and the road. What a great opportunity to see these birds close and personal both in flight and just sitting still!We made a foray out to West Island where we had more Willets, Oystercatchers and this nice American Copper at Hoppy's Landing near the causeway.

A few of us walked down the beach at the lighthouse at the end of West Island and came across dozens of jellyfish washed up on shore. This is the same spot where we had hundreds of dead starfish several years ago right after a big storm.Our destination though was to check on the progress of the breeding Piping Plovers....and we weren't disappointed.

When we first approached the enclosure we had both birds running around. The female quickly returned to the nest (which appeared to have 3 eggs) and the male proceeded to draw us away from the area back to where we had come from.

In Mattapoisett we had a Common Tern at the end of Brandt Island Road....exactly in the same spot where we had our first tern of the year a few weeks back. We also had a distant view of the tern activity on Ram Island.

As we drove the roads near Shaw Cove Road, we were looking for more of the grassland birds....hoping for Meadowlark, Bobolink and Savannah Sparrow in the fields.

It was also an opportunity for me to get close photos of English Plantain in bloom. I know it's considered a pesky weed (and it is) but seeing an entire field of it in spring is still lovely.

We did have both Savannah Sparrow and Bobolink, but we dipped on the Eastern Meadowlark.

We don't often do this area in spring (fall and winter are great for geese and lingering shorebirds) so I was enchanted with the blooms.

Some of the fields seemed covered from end to end with Winter Cress (a member of the Mustard family) but we also had smaller patches of Buttercups -- basically a riot of yellow flowers!

We stopped in at the herring run to check on the progress of the nest White-breasted Nuthatch we had found a few weeks earlier, and sure enough both mom and dad were busy shuttling food back and forth to the nest.

And the Warbling Vireos were busy setting up their nesting territories as well.

We ended the trip back in Fairhaven along the bike path off Weeden Road where we had this orange form of House Finch, along with the usual Carolina Wren, towhees and Yellow Warblers.

It was a wonderful blend of migrants and breeders and the class really had a chance to experience spring migration and early breeding behavior. We had seen a lot of species, so there was some speculation as to the totals. Mark decided to wait until we got home for a final tally. So it was exciting to realize that we had done a "century run" on a class trip -- 100 species on the nose! It was a good thing we had made that final push for the Bobolink!!!

This area is fast becoming one of my favorites -- possibly beating out the Westport/Acoaxet area in terms of places to actually get out and hike around. You should try it out if you're in the vicinity.


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