Saturday, March 22, 2014

Concord, Uxbridge and Gloucester

I was all over the state today!

Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts

I started the day at Great Meadows NWR.  It was COLD!  I walked around the lower impoundment and only had to use my Microspikes on 1/4 of the walk (in the woods)!  Progress toward spring!  Bird song filled the air:  Red-Winged Blackbirds, Northern Cardinals and Song Sparrows!

 Song Sparrow

 Brown Creeper

 Red-Winged Blackbird

Uxbridge, Worcester County, MA

Later in the afternoon, there was a report of American Kestrels, Killdeer and Eastern Bluebirds seen at Uxbridge Community Gardens.  George and I headed out there to see if we I could locate the American Kestrels, which would be a life bird for me.  No luck.  It rained while we were there, and the wind had picked up, so that probably limited bird activity.  We did see the Killdeer and the Eastern Bluebirds, though!  We also saw:  Northern Mockingbird, American Crow, American Robin, Red-Tailed Hawk, and Song Sparrow.


Eastern Bluebird (female)

Gloucester, Essex County, MA

I signed up for the "Creature Feature:  Salamanders & Frogs" evening program at Ravenswood Park.

There were blooming Snow Drops in front of the Discovery Center building!

We watched a short movie on vernal ponds, and then a volunteer from the Cape Ann Vernal Pond Team spoke, answered questions and showed us the various tools he used in the field in order to certify a vernal pond and what was required to certify a vernal pond.  One of the last things he pulled from his backpack was a pillowcase.  There was a Black Racer Snake inside that pillowcase, something he said we might find near a vernal pond.

Suddenly, I felt like being able to do volunteer work in vernal ponds was probably not for me.  (Excuse #1 for me not doing this important volunteer work!)  Sigh.  I really, really, really do not like snakes, but you should have seen the little children touching them and showing so much enthusiasm.  The next generation of potential ecologists and naturalists may have been in the room!

Actually, after I noticed the fly fishing uniform the volunteer was wearing and asked him how deep vernal ponds are (up to 3 feet) and how cold the water is (sometimes there is ice floating on top), I found two more excuses for why I probably wouldn't do it.  And...I suspect that one of the other creatures mentioned in the movie, leeches, is probably the nail in the coffin (Excuse #4). you know what a vernal pond is?  A vernal pond is a body of water that is temporary.  It exists in the spring but dries up by the time summer rolls around.  As a result, it does not support breeding fish.  There are three species of creatures in Massachusetts that can only exist because of vernal ponds.  They are:  Salamanders, Wood Frogs and Fairy Shrimp.

Since I have seen a snake eating a wood frog in my own yard, there must be a vernal pool nearby.  I hope I can identify it this spring and use what I learned tonight to see what else is in there (hoping no snakes)!

After the talk, there were various amphibians native to Massachusetts that we could look at.  Touching salamanders is not permitted because of their permeable skin and because of the danger of potential toxins on human hands (lotions, bug spray, etc).  Most of the snakes on display were inside closed containers, but there was another "friendly" snake, a milk snake, that the kids were touching!

 Spotted Salamander

 Marbled Salamander

 Milk Snake

 Ribbon Snake

 Garter Snake

 Eastern Hognose Snake (found on Cape Cod in sandy areas)

 Western Hognose Snake

Milk Snake

I took a short walk in the park before the program began, so I opted out of the nighttime walk with all the families after the program.  Ravenswood has a trail with Sweetbay Magnolias, so I hope to go back when those are in bloom.

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