Saturday, April 6, 2013

Phoebes, Turtles and more at Broadmoor

A Painted Turtle sits in the Spring sunshine at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, Massachusetts. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

I've seen Canada Geese try to nest in all sorts of crazy places, from a floating piece of a wooden dock out in the middle of a pond to a mud flat that was regularly flooded. I suppose it's not the fault of the geese - after all, such spots probably look perfectly suitable, otherwise, why would they choose to build their nests there ? In any case, today I saw some more sensible geese who have chosen to build their nests this year in places that are less likely to be flooded, float away or expose their young to potential predators in an obvious way. Even as I continued my New England birding big year quest this afternoon I was extra careful to try and spot Canada Geese nesting in out of the way places in the marshes and ponds at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, Massachusetts. The goose in the photo below seems to have found a pretty good spot to build a nest, on a level rock in the middle of a small pond.

A Canada goose rests on a nest it has built on a large rock in the middle of a pond. Image copyright Daniel; E. Levenson 2013.
In addition to the Canada Geese I saw 23 other species of birds, including a beautiful male Wood Duck and three Ring-necked Ducks. My most exciting birds of the day were the three Eastern Phoebes I spotted during my walk, each one in a different kind of habitat. The first one I saw was calling quite loudly from an exposed branch near the board walk, at the edge of open water. I heard this bird first, but I have to admit I had no idea what it sounded like, I only knew I was hearing a bird call that I didn't recognize, so I went over to investigate and sure enough it turned out to be an Eastern Phoebe, its tail bobbing distinctively as sang out from the branch. I came across another phoebe at the edge of a meadow and ran into one more that was in a tree near the old orchard. This bird brings me to 104 species in my big year quest, and I'm hopeful that as temperatures warm up and migration increases I'll be able to boost my number significantly in the next 4 to 6 weeks.

The frogs were quite vocal today, greeting me with a rousing chorus at every vernal pool, wetland and pond. I also came across a Wood Chuck, many Painted Turtles, a Chain Pickerel and the first snake I've come across this year.

The Garter Snake is a common sight throughout Massachusetts in the warmer months. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
Despite the slightly chilly temperatures there was a lot of bird activity throughout the sanctuary, with Eastern Blue Birds visible in the old orchard, Song Sparrows singing loudly in many places and at least a dozen Tree Swallows actively feeding and starting to take up residence in bird boxes by the wildlife observation pond. I also spotted a Pine Warbler moving frenetically from branch to branch at the top of a conifer along the Indian Brook trail.

A Tree Swallow rests atop a pole at the edge of a pond at Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary. The Tree Swallow is among the first migrants to return to Massachusetts in the spring. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
With temperatures expected to rise in the next few days I'll definitely be on the lookout for other early arrivals, including Barn Swallows, Purple Martin and Blue-winged teal, three birds I'm eager to add to my year list.According to Cornell University's e-bird website the next week or so should bring many more returning birds and I would highly recommend checking out their migrant forecast, whether you're chasing a big year or just eager to get outside and welcome back the birds that fill the New England landscape with sound and color throughout the spring and summer.

Thanks for reading.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

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