Friday, May 10, 2013

The Warblers arrive

Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary in Norfolk, MA offers a wide range of habitat to explore, including open fields, forest and extensive wetlands and ponds. Image Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
As I read reports this afternoon of birders finally finding Warblers in Massachusetts I couldn't wait to get outside and try to add some more names to the list for New England birding big year. By noon I was reading reports on the ABA Massachusetts list of all kinds of warblers and other spring arrivals, and by 2 PM I was in Norfolk, MA at the Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary and Bristol Black State Reservation, two adjoining properties south of Boston which offer great birding, with a mix of habiat including mixed forest, wetlands, ponds and meadows. I've seen lots of interesting birds here over the years and the boardwalk which runs through the pond and marsh area is a great place to see ducks in winter and herons, Red-winged Blackbirds, Swallows and the occasional Osprey in the summer. In total I saw 27 species of birds this afternoon, including 5 more species that were the first of the year for me.

Canada Geese with goslings. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
As I walked around the sanctuary the woods and meadows were alive with birdsong and the fluttering of wings as I watched Tree Swallows chase each other over an open field, Canada Geese shepherd their goslings as they ate vegetation and Common Grackles fly in graceful swoops from one tree to the next. In one of the first places I stopped to look and listen I soon heard a familiar call and looked up to see my first Chimney Swifts of the year high overhead. I took this as a good sign, and soon enough a male Baltimore Oriole appeared singing from a branch near one of the ponds. Between the Tree Swallows, the Red-winged Blackbirds and the oriole, I felt like spring was really here.

Near one of the small dams I heard some rustling in the grass and stopped to investigate. I thought I might find a sparrow or two, but there was something about the sound of the movement that made me think it might note be a bird - and in fact, it wasn't - as I looked carefully in the grass I saw that it was a Northern Water Snake, not a new bird for the year list of course, but the first of its species I've seen tin 2013.

A Northern Water Snake at Stony Brook WLS in Norfolk, MA. This species of snake is found throughout the northeastern US and preys on a range of small creatures, including salamanders, fish and small mammals. Image copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.
I continued my walk and arrived at the boardwalk, which took me far out into the wetland area and to a small island where I added two more species to my big year effort - a Common Yellow-throat and a Black-and-White Warbler. At this point I was beginning to feel like perhaps the expected tide of warblers had actually arrived and was excited to look for more of them. I took my time coming back over the boardwalk, pausing to watch one of the resident Mute Swans glide past and checking the underbrush for sparrows.

I finished up the afternoon on the other side of the sanctuary where I walked quietly through the forest pausing every few minutes to look and listen.In the woods I saw an American Goldfinch high in the treetops and lower down I saw my first Ovenbird of the year, bringing my New England big year birding total to 129 species.

Copyright Daniel E. Levenson 2013.

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