Monday, August 17, 2009

Rails in Warren

In filing my digital photos, I realized that I had never posted some shots from our last trip to finish up the Warren 1 block. Since this was over 4th of July weekend, I normally would have just filed the shots and moved on, but I did want to share a few things we found that weekend. You might remember from an earlier post that I talked about a very bad dirt road with lots of dirt bike and beer party activity. Well we decided to check it out again and didn't find much in the way of birds. We did, however, come across this old town line sign stuck in the woods and proving that the road we were on must have seen better days. BTW this would be the town line between Warren and Ware. While we were birding on Coy Hill Road near one of the great farm views, a local man walking his dog stopped to chat about birds he had seen in the area and what we were finding and so on. He told us that he and his wife had found some huge eagle nests in a swamp just past the elementary school on South St. We told him that most likely he had seen a Great Blue Heron rookery, but that we would check it out.
Sure enough we came across a swamp exactly where he said we would and found an active rookery with at least 6-8 nests. Some were difficult to see since they were against the far shore and there were lots of dead trees so everything blended in together.
We did have great looks at young Red-winged Blackbirds still in the nest area begging food.
And the parent birds were coming and going, busy patrolling the area and somewhat concerned that we had pulled up next to their swamp.
But the surprise for us was to find a very active colony of Virginia Rails. They seemed to be calling from every section of the marsh and we assumed they were trying to keep their young somewhat rounded up together.
We had lots of brief looks of them darting through the reeds....and every once in a while once actually stayed out in the open long enough for me to get a couple of good shots.
What we realized as we were leaving the area was that this marsh was just outside our circle for the Sturbridge Christmas Count. It's amazing to see these places year after year in winter and then see what looks like a totally different place (which it is sort of) when the breeding birds are around.


Monday, August 3, 2009

Visiting the South Shore after a long absence

A few weeks back, Mark & I took our first trip to the coast in quite a while. Between visits to the Berkshires and atlasing, it seems this summer has just fled by. So we headed to the Fairhaven/Mattapoisett area of the south shore to check out some potential blocks for 2010. (Whatever am I going to do when this atlas project is over?) Being a sunny Saturday in August, birds weren't too plentiful on Ned's Beach in Mattapoisett, but we did get some great views of sailboats out enjoying the summertime as well. In the area we had several Great Egrets.....
and a smattering of Snowy Egrets as well.The young Ospreys were still hanging around their nesting areas, so we were able to confirm them for the atlas!
And even though they were perfectly capable of flight, they spent time calling for their parents to bring them a fish.
Towards the end of Mattapoisett Neck Rd. there's a great land trust area with a nice woodland walk to the shore. Most of the song had stopped but we got a few warblers and we heard White-eyed Vireo in the woods. We also came across some really interesting looking coral fungus, since it was definitely a damp woodland.
When we emerged on the shoreline we were overlooking Brant Island Cove and part of Buzzard's Bay. There's a tern nesting colony just offshore, but while some of the terns were still tending young, we didn't have the numbers of Roseates that we usually get in the area. The phragmites were hosting good numbers of swallows, and we got lots of trees, barns and even a few rough-winged.
The key birds of the area, though, were Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows. There was lots of activity with both adult and juvenile birds out foraging in the rack line.
And they responded very well to spishing....popping up to see who was making that unusual noise.
The Sea Lavender had just started blooming, and we were the only folks on this stretch of shoreline, so it was totally magical.
And while there were still lots of pair of Willet in the area, we had hoped to find some American Oystercatchers. This is often an area where we find some young ones, so they must breed nearby.
After leaving this part of Mattapoisett we headed further west on Rt. 6 and poked around Eel Pond and surrounding salt marshes near the Reservation Golf Club. Following a trail out we found this pretty little odenate -- the Seaside Dragonlet. This is the first time I've recorded this species.
There were also quite a few Green Herons in the area, and this young bird was right out in the open near the golf course. Actually he could have been hit with a stray golf ball!
Driving along one of the roads in the area we came across two young Broad-winged Hawks. They, too, were calling for mom & dad to bring them some food. What is it with raptors?
Knowing how much I just love to photograph "lawn trinkets", we had to stop so that I could get a shot of this seahorse near the entrance to a little urban park.
Now while I was out standing on the corner with my camera, looking like a tourist from Iowa or something, Mark stayed back in the little park tracking down any little birds he could find.
When I came back, I was delighted to find that the two Phoebes (who were recently fledged) were still hoping around on the lower branches of a nearby cedar tree.
They still had some down on them, and one of the parent birds was nearby catching insects, so I think they were still being least occasionally.
As we headed back along Rt. 6 towards Fairhaven, we continued to poke down some of the roads to our south. Along the fields near the bike path in Fairhaven we found some Goldfinch in classic thistle habitat.
Our final stop by late morning was at the end of Edgewater St. on Sconticut Neck Rd. This also marked the end of one of the blocks we were checking out, so we didn't go all the way down to West Island. But we did have this adult Green Heron fly in to the shoreline and begin to hunt.
If you click on the picture to enlarge it, you can see just how "elastic" these birds can be when they're stretching to catch something.

And it was here that we finally got some close looks at American Oystercatcher. This is one shorebird that continues to impress me no matter how many times I seem them. I don't know whether it's the shocking coral bill or the flashy black & white pattern in flight, but it always takes my breath away.
What was even better was confirming the pair with two young birds in tow! Each parent seemed to be taking care of one of the young, and I wondered what would have happened if there had been a third youngster.
Anyway, a nice trip to a not-often-visited part of the south shore for us. I think doing these blocks next year for the atlas will definitely be a lotta fun.