Sunday, March 30, 2014

Who Cares if it Rains?

If you are dressed appropriately, you can enjoy nature in any season.  Such words have never been as important as during this long, cold winter, this winter which is reaching its long tentacles into what should be spring.  Today was only in the low 40s, and it rained hard, or at the very least misted heavily, all day long.

I bundled up, wore waterproof clothing, carried my camera "baggie" and got out the waterproof cover for my backpack.  All in all, I enjoyed several hikes, learned some more about amphibian creatures, and had some good birding experiences.

I started the afternoon at an event hosted by the Southboro Open Land Foundation at Beals Preserve.  They were training volunteers to participate in study of amphibians taking place on the preserve.  In short, SOLF wants to survey salamanders, frogs, turtles and snakes to learn more about what wildlife is living on this property.  Volunteers are needed to check the transects, take photographs, record data including temperature, humidity, and time of day, and length, weight and sex of critter.  Many volunteers are needed.  Additional training is scheduled in the future, so it's not too late to get involved!   Click here for more info.

Spotted Salamander

It was nice to see some of the trail system of this 56 acre property.  I know I will go back to check it out in better weather!

From Southboro, I decided to drive over to Concord to see if I could find the Greater White-Fronted Goose that has been seen there the last few days.  On the way, I stopped at Hager Pond in Marlboro.  I was going to drive on past, but I saw two Mute Swans forming a perfect heart shape between them, and I just had to stop.  Mute Swans display what could be perceived as romantic behavior during mating season.  They touch bill to bill, breast to breast and intertwine their necks.  I suppose I should have given them some privacy, but I chose to take photos instead so that you could all share in the experience!

Yes, they are both in this photo.

I stopped next at the pond near the Grist Mill in Sudbury.  The property was still closed for the winter (until April 1, no trespassing sign), so I just took a quick look through my binoculars from the roadside.  I saw 16 Ring-Necked Ducks and 4 Hooded Mergansers here.  On to Concord!

As I drove past Moore's Swamp on Route 62, I noticed Great Blue Herons were occupying quite a few of the 30+ nests that tower over the swamp.  On countless visits to Great Meadows NWR, I am constantly pulled to photograph these nests but there just isn't a good place to pull over or a good place to even stand at the side of the road.  This time, I pulled into a cemetery beyond the swamp that abuts one side of it.  I was able to capture at least 3 of the nests in a photo. They really are awesome to see.  It's not as impressive as the view from the street.  Also flushed a pair of Wood Ducks at this location.

Last year, I photographed a colony of Great Blue Heron nesting at Rocky Hill Wildlife Sanctuary, but at that time, the Great Blue Herons were incubating eggs and were low in the nests.  The birds I saw today were males, who arrive first and select nest sites.  From the nest, they court passing females.  Seems a little like a typical bar scene.  Colonies can consist of 500+ nests with multiple nests on a single tree.  That would be a sight!  Moore's Swamp is such an important habitat.  I hope it is preserved.  Read here if you want to learn more about Concord's plans for the swamp.

Great Blue Herons

Now, it was time to get over to Great Meadows NWR before it rained any harder or got any darker and try to find that goose.  But wait!  As I drove the loop road through the cemetery, I spotted Canada geese behind the cemetery office.  I pulled into a parking spot, grabbed the binoculars and lo and behold, there was the Greater White-Fronted Goose!  Granted, it was foggy and misty and it was distant, but I saw it!  Record shot follows.  If I had only looked at Great Meadows, I would have been skunked.

Greater White-Fronted Goose (a life bird)

Imagine my surprise when I looked this bird up on All About Birds and discovered that in North America, the Greater White-Fronted Goose range is west of the Mississippi River.  However, the subspecies of this goose that breeds in Greenland occasionally turns up on the East Coast.   Aha!   It must be lonely!  And how will it get back to its normal range?

I did eventually get to Great Meadows and walked across the dike to the river and back.  It was misting hard by then, and the wind had picked up.  It wasn't very pleasant and after having put up with it most of the day, I was getting tired.  I did see the following species:  Red Winged Blackbird, Song Sparrow, Common Goldeneye, Ring-Necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Bufflehead, Wood Duck, Great Blue Heron.

Not bad.  Not bad at all for a cold, rainy day in New England.

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