Monday, May 12, 2014

A Perfect Weekend!

By Beth Sullivan
One weekend: Mother’s Day, Migratory Bird day, glorious weather, a perfect trifecta! Had to get out into my favorite habitats and once again, I hit the swamps! This time a hike on Avalonia’s Henne Preserve in North Stonington was the perfect way to enjoy all three elements.
The cooler weather and slow start to the season has kept the trees from being fully leafed out. The northward migration also may have slowed a bit, but the beautiful south breezes this past week have pushed up all the migrating birds, and they were still easy to see high in the trees.
Walking into the Henne, along the grown in fields, Blue Winged Warblers and Eastern Towhees were singing. The forest floor was just greening a bit with Canada Mayflower, also known as Wild Lily of the Valley. Stooping to check out some of the minute flowers, I was aghast to see I had knelt in a patch of just sprouting poison ivy. Beware: its leaves are small and red right now, but still potent!
Wild Lilly of the Valley.

Poison Ivy is small and red and will still make you itch. 
Walking into the preserve, passed a large woody vernal pool and the deep base of a bull frog rang out. They are the last to emerge from hibernation and will be calling for the next month or more. Small wet seeps run down from the hillsides, and they are lined with blue violets and anemones and skunk cabbage. Both color forms of Jack-in-the-Pulpit were really becoming more open and visible along the trail.
Walking along the glacial esker we had a perfect overview of the entire marsh below. The wooded slopes down to the water have several large trees showing signs of ambitious beaver work.
This trail follows along the esker.

Busy Beavers.
Canada Geese were the most noisy and active. Red-winged Blackbirds were a close second for noise. Tree Swallows flashed and twittered out over the grasses and waterways. They seem to have an abundance of tree holes for nesting opportunities.
Canada Goose takes wing.
An osprey screeched from its huge nest atop a large and solid snag in the center of the marsh. From the edges its mate called back and forth. They are likely on eggs right now.
Osprey on tree nest.
As the trail drops down toward the water level we were greeted by the sounds of other wet-shrub land birds: Yellow Warblers were all over, Yellow –throated Vireos chattered and rattled, and Song Sparrows seemed to sing from almost every other bush.

This small stream is lined with violets and spring greens. 
Out on the point we took the time to just stop and look and listen. The beaver dam still stands and the tumbling water sounds were hypnotic. Painted turtles sunned and then plunked into the water when they felt disturbed.
Painted turtles were everywhere, basking in the warm sunshine.

A Perfect Great Blue Heron Mother's Day

The very best show, however, was put on by the Great Blue Herons in the three nests. High in flimsy snags over the water, the birds seem awkward and out of place. As we watched one nest, the parent bird began to fidget. She stood up and began to peck at something down in her nest. She continued this poking and moving for quite a while as we watched and waited. We were rewarded by the sight of two fuzzy heads wobbling at the edge of the nest. A Happy Mother’s day!
Look close-there are two new hatchlings waiting for lunch.


Photographs by Beth Sullivan.

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