Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Class Trip #4 to Beartown SF ~ Saturday, 5/31

We ended May with a wonderful class trip to the Berkshires to visit Beartown State Forest.  We met at 7 and were back at our cars just after 2, having entered from Lee not far from the Mass Pike and coming back through Tyringham.  Most of the park is in Great Barrington and Monterey, and we did a one-way drive through the major road with a very productive side-trip on the Mt. Wilcox loop.
This area has some fantastic habitat and quite varied too.  As we drove in from Lee you're on a narrow mountain road that follows a stream all the way up -- which is where we heard Louisiana Waterthrush.  This is Beartown Mountain Road and it eventually branches off to the left and you are on the main road through the park:  Benedict Pond Road.

At this point you level off and you're in a wonderful area where the stream slows down and creates some marshy pools.  When Mark & I were here the week before to check out the roads for the class trip we had some great odonates in this area...but we didn't have any this time.
We did have lots of Least Flycatchers calling and warbler song was still quite good.
We had great looks at Yellow Warblers chasing each other and setting up nesting territories...
 ...but by far the most common warbler of the trip was Chestnut-sided.  This gave everyone a great opportunity to really listen (and hopefully learn) their call.  It can be quite variable and sometimes sounds can be confused with the Yellow Warbler.  Since Mark keeps exact numbers of what we're seeing and hearing, it wasn't surprising to find that when he did the tally we had 85 Chestnut-sideds just in Beartown!
 We also had Common Yellowthroats...but they were overshadowed by the little gal above.

We stopped several times along Benedict Pond Road to let the class walk the road and check in the marshes for birds.  Even at this high altitude we found a Wood Duck, a female Hooded Merganser and a Great Blue Heron.
 And we found this pink form of Tartarian Honeysuckle ready to bloom.
Probably the most exciting bird for many on the trip was finding an Olive-sided Flycatcher.  This bird used to breed in the state but is most often seen in migration only.  We spent almost 20 minutes just watching him fly catch and got great looks through the scope so that everyone was able to identify the critical field marks.
 As we started up the Mt. Wilcox loop the habitat changed a bit....more spruces along the forest brooks and we saw some nice wildflowers....like the Foamflower.
 But clearly the dominant wildflower was the Wild Columbine....it was everywhere along the road.
We also started to get some looks at other breeding warblers...like this Black-throated Green Warbler
But probably the most impressive is this male Blackburnian Warbler.  Everyone was thrilled with the looks they got at this guy, since these birds usually stay high up in the deep spruces and you don't always get looks at them out in sunny deciduous trees.
And as Mark was leading the class in looking at the birds, I started to find some dragonflies.  It was interesting that most of the odes I saw were on the Mt. Wilcox loop road and in some of the higher forest clearings...like this young Chalk-fronted Corporal.
 And I was thrilled to find an American Emerald....you can notice that its left forewing is a bit damaged.  That's probably where a bird tried to catch him as he was emerging...or it may just be that when the wings were their softest right after he emerged that he got caught on a twig or something...they are extremely delicate when in the teneral stage.
 Here's another American Emerald -- this one seemed like his wings were fully intact.
I also got two quick shots of this young dragonfly.  I've studied all my reference books and the best I can do is identify it to family -- it's a whiteface (even though you can't see the white face).  But it will probably have to go down without the exact species...
 Unlike this young Dot-tailed Whiteface...where not only can you see the white face, but when I blow up the photography I can just make out the yellow dot on the proper place on the abdomen (the tail).
We also had some butterflies on the mountain road as well...like this American Lady feasting on the blossoms of an old apple tree.
At the top of Mt. Wilcox is a fire tower and some microwave relay equipment.  It's also a great place to park and grab a bite to eat.  This is a place where we've had Mourning Warblers migrating through in past years, but we weren't so lucky this year.  We did have the usual suspects....Chestnut-sided and Common Yellowthroat warblers, Rufuous-side Towhees and Scarlet Tanagers..and Dan Berard found us this nesting Least Flycatcher.
 Now I can't imagine what possessed this little bird to pick a tree with no leaves or protection of any kind right out in the open...but there she was and we were able to put the scope on her and get great looks without getting close enough to disturb her.
We made a couple of more stops in Beartown as we wended our way out of the park and found this Hermit Thrush out on a dirt road picking up insects.  We had seen lots of Veerys throughout the park and certainly heard them, but this was the only Hermit Thrush we managed to get looks at.

Once out of the park we went into the tiny town of Monterey and took the Tyringham Road back north so that we could check out some of our favorite birding spots in this wonderful valley.
The Appalachian Trail runs through the Tyringham valley and there's a great place where you can park along a dirt road through some fields and come to the old Town Pond.
Going through the fields we had Eastern Kingbirds and Bobolinks flying around....
 ...and the pond itself was alive with tadpoles -- like this teeny Spring Peepers.  We didn't have any waterfowl on the pond, but everyone thought Mark would love this upside-down swan since they know just how much he loves finding Mute Swans on ponds...NOT.
We did have an Eastern Phoebe who was nesting under the dock in the middle of the pond.  It was really a dark morph of this species and not one you often see.
Now no trip to Tyringham is complete until we stop at the cemetery on Church Road near the Cobble.  Mark loves to show people the grave of Jean Brown who was a Tyringham resident.  Ms. Brown was an avid collector of Surrealist and Dadaist art and counted Marcel Duchamp and other famous artists among her friends.  Her grave is a simple granite obelisk with an eyeball metronome at the top....certainly not your usual grave site.
Our last stop of the trip was at the Wildlife Management Area along Meadow Road where we had a fantastic display of Ragged Robin...
...and found this very unusual moth!
It's called a Plain Plume Moth and definitely was odd when it flew and when it perched looking like a 'T'....I have to believe that their appearance is great camouflage since it looked like a piece of dried grass.
We were back at the car just after 2 and everyone jumped on the Pike and headed home.  It's only about 90 minutes from Worcester to Exit 2 in the Berkshires, but it's such a different place to bird.  We ended up with 72 species after 7 hours in the field....plus great wild flowers, Red Efts, tadpoles and, our course, dragonflies.  Anyone passing through this area, should definitely carve out some time for a drive through Beartown -- it's totally worth a visit.


No comments:

Post a Comment