from whalesandwolves.com Sharp-shinned Hawk photo by Darlene Knox Eastern Bluebird photo by Bob Stanowski
Yesterday, 4/14/11, Volunteers John Eykelhoff, Jim Kandefer, and Bob Stanowski assisted me with bluebird nest box maintenance and monitoring and a wide variety of wildlife surveying. Most of the time this type of field work is a case of multi-tasking. While working on the bluebird boxes we frequently scanned the skies for raptors, looked around the fields and edges for other birds and mammals, and listened for any birds or frogs than might be calling. Since it was a nice, sunny, warm day there was a constant concert of bird and frog sounds to enjoy. This included our first Northern Leopard Frogs of the season at the Litchfield Town Beach and in the Icehouse Marsh. Our first Common Snapping Turtles of the year also appeared today. Gerri Griswold and Lee Cook saw a huge one moving very slowly in the Bantam River and I saw a big one sticking its head out of Bantam Lake's N. Bay. Our third first-of-the-year animal found this day was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher behind the Campground Store. Hawk migration activity was very good, with the best viewing being from the Bantam River Field. While replacing a rotted wooden bluebird box pole with a new metal one and replacing a cracked bluebird box front door we saw 3 Ospreys, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, and a Broad-winged Hawk fly over. Turkey Vultures and the resident pair of Red-tailed Hawks were also circling around overhead. These, and 3 other pairs of Red-tails seen elsewhere this day, were engaged in courtship activity. Migrant songbirds seen included Palm and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Eastern Bluebirds were seen at 4 nest box locations, and one of the boxes had a complete nest in it already. Tree Swallows were abundant everywhere. They were joined by a Barn Swallow in the Icehouse Field and N. Rough-winged Swallows at Wheeler Hill, the Bantam R. Field, and Cemetery Pond. Bantam Lake produced lots of action. This included at least 5 Ospreys fishing. Three of them were successful while we watched them, but one promptly lost its catch of a Northern Pike when an adult female Bald Eagle chased and scared it. The Pike disappeared when it hit the water, and the eagle failed to retrieve it. In addition to this eagle, an adult male (possibly her mate) was perched in a White Pine on the east shore, a 3rd-year immature female was flying around and then perched in a tree in N. Shore Marsh, and a 2nd-year immature male was perched in a White Pine at the tip of Lennox Hill Pt. He was being mobbed by American Crows for awhile. Bob was able to get really good Digiscoped photos of these eagles, so I will use them to do a future blog about the ways to determine the ages of immature and subadult Bald Eagles. While the eagles posed for photos, an immature Northern Harrier flew past us and disappeared into N. Shore Marsh, 7 Rusty and many Red-winged Blackbirds called from trees in the Marsh, 2 Green-winged Teal and 3 Wood Ducks swam along the shoreline, and 21 Double-crested Cormorants lazed on the stone blocks in N. Bay. Finally, we ended the day with 3 American Woodcock calling and displaying at dusk at Cemetery Pond. If you take a trip out to these locations, especially in the late afternoon and evening, you may very well be rewarded with these same sights and sounds of nature.