Monday, February 20, 2012

February Bluebirds

Eastern Bluebird, Charles River Peninsula, Needham, MA
The bluebirds have been active for a while now at the Charles River Peninsula.

Saturday morning I had six fly from a single tree. (A nice total for the GBBC, which flagged it for confirmation).
Today there were three in close proximity. Lots of vocalization.
And at least one couple seemed to have paired up. Have I already missed the courtship phase?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

A great morning at Eugene D. Moran Wildlife Management Area

View of Moran WMA from Fobes Hill, Windsor, MA
In the Berkshires overnight. Got up before dawn and arrived at Moran WMA just before sunrise. Northern shrike reported in the area. A nemesis bird.
A great area to visit in the winter. A thick walkable crust of snow with a new inch or so on top. Scrubby edge environment galore.
I started with Fobes Hill, still in shadow.
A dim glimpse of some sort of raptor. Size and shape of a merlin, but don't know for sure. Not much other activity. Moved on to the northern parking lot and started walking down the road. Immediately, familiar Zzzing sounds.

 Waxwings! A gazillion (I counted around 50) in a crab apple tree. Some robins in there too.
Cedar waxwing, Moran WMA, Windsor, MA
They let me get pretty close.
Cedar waxwing, Moran WMA, Windsor, MA
Good views of waxwing crab apple eating styles.

And when you see cedar waxwings in the winter, especially in a boreal-like habitat such as Moran WMA, who might also appear?
Bohemian waxwing, Moran WMA, Windsor, MA
Yes. Their bohemian cousin. Check out the red under-tail coverts.
Beaver dam on Windsor Brook
Given such a snow-less winter in Eastern Mass., it was a delight to see snow-scapes. I made it down to the beginning of the spruce forest before I ran out of time and had to turn back.
Spruce forest, Moran WMA, Windsor, MA
As I trudged through the snow on the way back, I spotted a large gray bird with an up-and-down flight pattern. It landed atop a small tree in the snow-covered meadow and flipped its tail. Well I'll be darned--the northern shrike.
Northern shrike (can't you tell?)
A nemesis bird, finally spotted. Not exactly a high-quality encounter, but an encounter nonetheless. A great morning at Moran WMA.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Ridge Hill Reservation: Muir Path Trail & Field View Trail

The last time I posted about the Muir Path Trail was about four years ago. At the time it was completely neglected, overgrown, and I basically had to hack my way through. Here's a photo. Now it is stunningly open, easy to walk, and a real Ridge Hill gem.
It circles a small pond. As I walked by recently I flushed a great horned owl. I wonder if there is a nest atop one of those tall white pines?
In fact the only downside is that the trail is short. If you come from the north you will reach a fork. Going to the left, which allows the clearest views of the pond, takes you back to the Ridge Hill driveway. Going to the right takes you to the gas line easement. It appears from the official map that you can simply follow the easement north to hook into other Ridge Hill trails.
Whether you do or not depends on how comfortable you are walking through someone's back yard...

The Field View Trail can be reached via the easement (in two spots: just north of the backyard above or just south of the spur off of North trail) as well as from the Ridge Hill field. (There is also access via a trail that begins just south of the picnic area).
Entrance to Field View Trail from the Ridge Hill field.
It is apparently named the "Field View" trail because you have to walk through a bit of field to get in. From the woods itself you will not be viewing any fields.
I think a better name might be the "swampy" trail, as the path is often muddy, running as it does through and along quite a bit of wetland. Note: this is not a knock against the trail. The wetland environment makes this area particularly birdy.
Old "You are entering private property" sign, slowly being consumed by tree.
Because of its many access points and the number of spurs leading in and out, the Field View Trail can be somewhat confusing to navigate. Of particular concern is the status of the easement. Is this private property or not? The signage may or may not be up to date.

I hope you have enjoyed this series of Ridge Hill posts. There is a meeting about the future of Ridge Hill on February 9 at the library starting at 7:15 p.m.