Saturday, April 26, 2014

South Quabbin and Monson ~ Monday, April 21st

 Took last Monday off to do some birding....starting to love this semi-retirement thing.  We started our day out at South Quabbin, worked out way down to Monson and ended up at Wells SP in Sturbridge.   We had a beaver at the Rt. 9 marsh near Quabbin and boy did he give us crap for being near "his" pond.  A few good slaps of the tail and then he disappeared.
We hiked down to the water at the old artillery range next to Hank's Meadow....
we didn't have any birds, but the water was incredibly clear.  This photo was taken through at least a foot of water.
At the Enfield Lookout we had a couple of Turkey Vultures flying, but no eagles.  We did have this perky Chipping Sparrow.   It's so nice to have them back everywhere.
At the Quabbin Tower we had fours TVs put up.  They must have been roosting right near the tower since they literally flew up from the ground.  These two kept together the whole time and I'm thinking they could be a mated pair.
We also had Raven come zooming over....very quietly.  It could be one of the birds from the breeding pair near the spillway.
And even though it reminds me of winter, we did have a couple of Juncos as well.  Although I've come to really like these guys on their breeding ground out in the Berkshires.
On our way down we stopped at the orchard to see if there were any birds hanging out in there.  As soon as we got to the orchard we came across two White-tailed Deer....they were very used to humans.  They didn't run away and actually looked at us like we might have some food for them -- which we did NOT.
Of course we did have a few seeds in our pocket for the chickadees.  They are very bold and quite demanding.  Someone must have spent quite a bit of time getting them comfortable being hand fed.
While I took the photo of Mark above with my regular Canon camera, I couldn't manage that when the chickadee flew into my hand....using my I-phone I took my first chickadee "selfie".
Near the spillway we had this Eastern Phoebe checking out all the crevices in the rock formation looking either for food or a suitable nesting site.
After leaving Quabbin we followed the Swift River south towards Palmer and stopped at various points to check the river.  At one of the stops along Bondsville Road we found our first Brown Thrasher of the year.  He was going through his entire repertoire for our benefit, since there wasn't another bird around. 
In Monson we walked in one of the trails at the end of East Hill Rd. below Conant Brook Reservoir.  We had a number of dragonflies in this area last year, so we were hoping to find an early spring ode here.  While we dipped on that, we did have some nice looks at Rufous-sided Towehee and Pine Warblers all the way down the trail. 
Since we were primed for odenates, every time something that wasn't a bird flew, we were on it.  Most of them were bees or flies, but I did get a shot of this Bee Fly perched on the trail.
And we had a fair number of Mourning Cloaks.  From the side this guys looked like he was in great shape....
...but we she opened her wings, it was clear that someone had taken a chunk out of her hindwing.
We did have our first grasshopper when we got to the marshy area at the bottom, and when we got home we were able to identify it with the help of Tom Murray's wonderful book Insects of New England & New York.  Turns out that this is an Awl-shaped Pygmy Grasshopper.  It's found in damp sandy areas around marshes...which is exactly where we were.  Adults appear early in the spring and can be found every month until a hard frost!
We also had a good number of Spring Azures.  This is an interesting butterfly because it has a number of different "forms" and subspecies.  In fact the whole azure complex is still being defined.  With that said, there are 3 color forms generally accepted these days, and the photos below depict two of them.
The "lucia" form above has a dark splotch in the middle of the hindwing when seen from below and a dark brownish margin to the wings.  The "violacea" form below is much paler underneath and lack both those fieldmarks.  The third form "marginata" is similar to the "lucia" but without the splotch.  Wish I had gotten photos of all 3 to show the differences.
Just over the line from Monson there's a road that goes into the Brimfield State Forest.  Tiderman Rd. runs through some property owned by Norcross Wildlife Sanctuary and we found a vernal pool right on the road which had a number of frog eggs.  We also found a large number of Blacknose Dace in this pool...we were hoping to find some salamander eggs, but didn't see any.
We drove back through Monson and spent some time checking out a small heron rookery before heading north past the Partridge Hollow Campground, driving through the heart of the tornado damage from June '11 and taking Rt. 20 through Sturbridge to make one last stop at Wells State park.  Again, hoping to find a dragonfly but also to check on the Spotted Turtles.  We dipped on both species today.  But we did have this Field Sparrow foraging in the marsh grasses...which was a bit unusual.
We visited some great areas, hiked some great trails and saw some wonderful early spring migrants and not a bad day.  But the search continues for my first dragonfly sighting of 2014.


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