Sunday, June 17, 2012

American Mink and Tree Swallows, A Glimpse Of Nature in Motion at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary

A series of interconnected wetlands and ponds at Stony Brook wildlife sanctuary provides crucial  habitat for a wide variety of birds, fish, reptiles and amphibians.

Throughout the course of the year, as the seasons and the landscape change, Stony Brook Wikdlife Sanctuary in Norton Massachusetts has an incredible bounty of wildlife to see, whether it's green-winged teal and Hooded Mergansers in the winter or migratory warblers and swallows in the spring, bird watchers will not be disappointed with a f.ew hours spent exploring the fields, wetlands and forests of Stony Brook. In addition to bird life the sanctuary also supports a wide variety of reptiles, amphibians and mammals. It's lso a notable place to visit since it features a "sensory trail"  which offers an easy walking trail equipped with brale and large print signs informing visitors about the environment around them.

At mass Audubon's Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary visually impaired visitors will find several signs with large print and brail describing the landscape.
The birds were abundant this afternoon and I counted 18 species, including two Yellow Warblers, a Great Blue Heron, an Eastern Kingbird, several Wood ducks, two Northern Flickers, and many Red-winged Blackbirds. I was very happy to see the Flickers as well as a Blue Jay, since both species are reported to be declining in Massachusetts. I also had a chance to watch some really interesting bird behavior - at first I wasn;t sure what I was seeing, since it looked like some of the swallows were interacting in mid-air. After some careful observation I managed to get close enough to see that these were adult Tree Swallows feeding juvenile Tree Swallows. The juveniles even perched for a while on a tree beside the boardwalk waiting for the adults to bring them winged insects. I event  managed to get a few photos of the juvenile birds, which you can see in the photo below.

A young Tree Swallow waits on a branch near the board walk for an adult to return with food.

In the big field by the parking lot I was surprised to see relatively few Tree Swallows. In fact, the most numerous birds present in the field were House Sparrows which had taken over the Purple Martin house in the center of the field. As I made my around the edge of the field I came across two brightly colored Yellow Warblers which were singing loudly and moving quickly back and forth in the air across the path, darting in and out of some high brush on both sides. Soon I came to the first bridge where I noticed a family of Mute Swans right away - two adults and 4 cygnets, feeding in the wetlands. A little farther on I came to the boardwalk whee I encountered the Tree Swallows feeding the juveniles, Wood Ducks, and this Spotted Turtle in the photo below, which was resting on a clump of mud close the boardwalk.

A Spotted Turtle rests in the sun on a small patch of mud near the Stony Brook boardwalk.

I spent some time on the boardwalk scanning the marsh with binoculars and saw a number of female Red-winged Blackbirds which appeared to be gathering food and returning to their nests hidden in vegetation at the edges of little islands in the water. Leaving the boardwalk I followed the trail until I came to a tall hill covered in fragrant, shady pine trees. Birdsong filled the air as I stood still, watching American Robbins and Gray Catbirds squawk and move from branch to branch.

Mute Swans have been present at the sanctuary for at least the last few years - this season it appears they hatched 4 cygnets.

By the dam I came across a female Mallard with 4 ducklings at the bottom of the waterfall, and on the top of the dam sat a very worn-looking male Mallard, its head tucked into its body, resting in the sun. As I walked over the top of the dam I suddenly saw something running out of the woods - I didn't have time to get my camera out, but I did get a pretty good look at it. I noticed that it was some kind of mustelid carrying a small rodent in its mouth. I was very excited, as I've never seen a weasel or fisher up close. I stopped in the nature center on my way out and described the animal I saw to the woman at the desk, who told me it was an American Mink. I was pretty excited to see this normally secretive mammal out in the open. Next time I hope to get a photo.

A female mallard takes shelter in vegetation in a stream, in the background of the photo several ducklings can be seen feeding along the muddy bank.

With hundreds of acres of forest, field and wetland to enjoy at Stony Brook and adjacent conservation land, there is  an impressive array of plant life to enjoy year-round.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2012.

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