Monday, March 31, 2014

Looking Back: 1Q2014

This past quarter seemed extra long and extra cold and not too memorable, except for the snow and the polar vortices.  I try to appreciate each season, but I must admit that I'm really happy that spring is officially here!  While the quarter got off to a slow start, things perked up and once again, I ended up with many wonderful nature experiences.


I attended my first birding rally (1st Annual Worcester County), a timed, team effort to find as many bird species in an assigned area as possible over the course of a single day.  Our team of four people came in 3rd place with 41 species found.  We had a great closeup sighting of a Ruffed Grouse (below) that was the highlight of our day!


I broke down in early March, after much slipping and sliding and fear for my ankles, and purchased my first pair of Kahtoola MICROspikes.  They really gave me back the freedom to walk where I wanted in spite of slippery trail conditions.


I also learned about one aspect of the great outdoors that I had mainly ignored:  amphibians.  I have photographed them when I've seen them (from a distance!), and learned a few species of frogs along the way.  I hope to learn how to better spot and identify salamanders, frogs and snakes....and reduce my squeamishness and fear!


I saw a beautiful Red Fox at BHCL on four different occasions.  The best sighting was in the middle of a heavy snowstorm.  It was just me and the fox moving around the meadows, and at one point it jumped up and then went nose-first into the snow, hunting.  I felt like I was watching a National Geographic episode live!

Eastern Bluebirds visited my deck to feed on breadcrumbs during a snowstorm on January 20 and came back daily until February 18, and then one more time during a snowstorm on March 13.  I've never had them at home that long, and I loved it and took tons of photos!  What lovely guests to enjoy during the winter doldrums!


It was a great winter for Snowy Owls.  I saw lots of them, sometimes in the middle of a circus-like crowd of spectators, other times when I was alone and had the owl sighting all to myself.   The quiet times were the best.  Sometimes, they were distant specks.  A couple of times, they were relatively close.  Once, one flew across the road in front of my car, and I just gaped at it in awe.  And another time, I saw one just prior to it being released at Parker River NWR (after Mass Audubon had captured it at Logan Airport).  That was the best look I had at those eyes!!!

I also finally saw the Eastern Screech Owl so many people had reported seeing in its "usual" spot at Great Meadows NWR.  I have searched every tree hole for this owl every time I visited, thinking that it was somewhere on the Edge Trail.  A woman offered to show me the owl in exchange for a ride to the train station.  She had wet feet and didn't want to miss the train.  I agreed!  How could I miss the chance to finally see it?

The final surprise of this quarter was my recent daytime sighting of an American Woodcock.  I had previously only seen these birds at dusk, when the males are doing flying displays to attract females.  The male peents on the ground, then flies up into the sky in a spiral for at least 200-350 feet.  Then, he descends in a zigzag, chirping as he comes down to land in almost the same location from where they took off (preferably in full view of a female).  He then repeats the display.   It's really amazing to see, but doesn't make for good photos (and can make you dizzy!).  

I have heard of people who have flushed woodcocks in the daytime, almost stepping on them because they are so well camouflaged, but I have never had that experience.  This was such an unexpected treat, and it showed up well against the cropped grass.  

Gray Squirrel
North American Red Squirrel
Red Fox
White-Tailed Deer

Life Birds
Barnacle Goose
Eastern Screech Owl
Greater White-Fronted Goose
Lapland Longspur
Red-Headed Woodpecker
Short Eared Owl

New Places
Bartlett Pond Conservation Area
Belle Isle Marsh Reservation
Dexter Drumlin
Doyle Community Park & Center
Maple Farm Sanctuary
Peters Reservation
Pierpont Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary
Ravenswood Park


My 2014 bird list has grown to 85 species, and my yard list is up to 23 species.

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