Monday, April 21, 2014

Finally-Spring at last!

By Beth Sullivan
Really what a joy it is to be able to finally see the changes happening. We all waited so long! As winter seems to have truly lost its strangle hold on everything, we can now begin to stretch a bit, get out and look around and checklist our “firsts” again.
We noted the first osprey a few weeks back, and by now most of the platforms have been staked out, claimed and the birds paired up. There is a lot of wheeling and screaming happening, and sometimes drama as the birds seem to be jockeying for position or partners. Avalonia properties offer many opportunities to observe osprey behavior. You can station yourself safely off the road on Mystic’s River Road by the Downes Marsh. The pair on Paffard Marsh on Rt 1 in Stonington is easily viewed from an adjacent parking area if there are no events at the venue. My favorite place to spy on the osprey is from the trail on Knox Preserve. You can either sit high on the rocky knoll and be almost at nest level, or be closer, almost under the nest, on the lower trail. It is mesmerizing.

Osprey are now paired at their chosen nest sites.

It is also time to welcome other new arrivals. While a few individuals of a species, such as Catbird or Mockingbird, may have hunkered down for the winter here, most are beginning to arrive from their winter homes and make themselves known with their recognizable calls as they take up residence in tangles of shrubs. A Catbird can be quite noisy under an open window at dawn’s first light!
Some Catbirds remain all winter, but most are returning from southern climates.

Mockingbirds may sing at night as they take up residence in a favorite shrub.

People often say “the Goldfinches are back” but in reality they have been here all along, in subtle dull plumage suitable for winter. It is only now that the males are molting their drab colors and showing up fresh and bright yellow with black cap and wings. He looks all -together different, but has been at our feeders, moving about the area, throughout the winter. Dandelions, Forsythia, Daffodils and Goldfinches, all herald spring with yellow.
The male Goldfinch now displays spring yellow!

We will start to miss our Juncos, one day here and the next they are quietly gone. White Throated Sparrows remain until well into May and in the morning and evening can be heard whistling their full spring songs.
Juncos will remain as close as northern New England for nesting season.
White-Throated Sparrows will stay here until May.

They too seem to slip away while we are paying attention to all the new arrivals of Warblers and others that will stream in during the next weeks.
Yellow Warblers will be arriving on warm spring breezes.

You may also one day notice that there are fewer ducks: no Buffleheads and Hooded Mergansers on our coves. Some of our winter ducks fly to the far North and Northwest to arctic breeding grounds. Instead we can be entertained by the antics of male Mallards strutting and showing off glossy green heads, as they try to out-do one another to entice the females. Soon they will be nesting.
Buffleheads are returning to their far northern breeding grounds.

Hooded Mergansers have left already. 
Male Mallards will be competing for their mates.
Such an active time now: take time to observe. Find a spot and watch spring stream in, right before our eyes, on the wings of the birds.

Photographs by Rick Newton and Beth Sullivan.

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