Monday, April 30, 2012

Background History Can Add Interest To A Hike

I recently camped out at Macedonia State Park in Kent CT.  Despite the ominous weather forecasts it remained rain-free most of the weekend.

 Birds seem to be very interested in the flowers on fruit trees this time of the year. I'm not sure exactly what they are eating. Is it the nectar in the flower, seeds within the flower, or insects? This Chickadee had its face buried in flowers nearly the entire time I was watching it.
The water in Macedonia Brook was low but that didn't stop the fisherman from enjoying opening day of trout fishing season. Many seemed puzzled by the fact that I was wandering around with binoculars instead of a fishing pole. As I walked along the stream I was reminded of a line from the song Stairway To Heaven: "In a tree by a brook there's a songbird who sings-". Every 50 yards or so there was a Louisiana Waterthrush singing from a tree branch!
  I look forward to finding Purple Trillium in the spring. It's a pretty flowering plant and I appreciate the fact that they're easy to identify. Don't let the pretty flowers fool you though because they smell like rotting meat and are pollinated by flies.
    Clouds started to move in later in the day. This is part of a trail that leads to the top of Cobble Mountain.  The sound of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers could be heard tapping from every direction and Wild Turkeys were gobbling in the valley below. It's a peaceful and scenic area of the state.
  Along the trail I noticed  leaves emerging from this branch. I was impressed by their detail. Do you know what kind of tree it belongs to?
 There are certain things that appeal to me during a hike like the sound of birds singing, a cool running stream or the view from the top of a mountain. You can see the Taconics and Catskills from the top of  Cobble Mountain.

  Before visiting a park like Macedonia, I like to read a little about its history. I find that having some historical background of the area makes my hike more interesting. In the case of Macedonia, I learned that the Scatacook Tribe once peacefully coexisted with the settlers in the area. It's inspiring to know that I was standing on the very same ridge that the Scatacooks stood on hundreds of years ago. I wonder who will be standing in the same spot 300 years from now? Those are the sort of thoughts that come to mind as I look out in the distance watching hawks and Turkey Vultures pass by.

Here are a couple of links with information about the Scatacooks and the history of Indians in Connecticut:
 Kent Warren from the Connecticut Historical collection-by-John-Warner-Barber-Published-1836
History of-the Indians in Connecticut from the earliest known period until 1850.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Plant A Billion Trees Campaign

This looks like a good idea so I thought I'd pass it along.

Dear Larry,

Wow - I've seen snakes in the grass but not in a tree. Great photo! Millions of birds, (and snakes), find food and shelter in the trees of our planet’s forests, and this Friday, April 27th is Arbor Day — a day to celebrate our forests around the world. Forests renew the air we breathe, help to maintain a healthy climate and sustain all life on Earth.

To help celebrate Arbor Day, we're hoping you'll share information about The Nature Conservancy’s Plant a Billion Trees campaign with your readers on your blogs and social networks.

The Plant a Billion Trees project is a worldwide effort to protect and restore The Atlantic Forests, one of the world's largest and most endangered tropical forests of which only 12% remains.

Please encourage your readers to spread the word about : and donate to plant trees. Each tree is just $1 and helps us get closer to our goal of protecting 1 million acres of land by helping plant 1 billion native trees.

Thank you,

Midori Matsuyama

Online Outreach

The Nature Conservancy &


Monday, April 16, 2012

Behold The Tree Of Snakes!

I went to Penwood State park on Saturday to scan the skies for hawks from the top of a ridge. As I was walking along one of the trails in the park I turned and found myself staring into the face of  of what I believe is a Black Rat Snake .
They are known to be able to climb trees but it was  impressive tp see this big snake stretched out on a branch. I didn't have a tape measure with me (or I would have crawled out on the branch to measure it) but I'd estimate it was about 6 feet long. They are constrictors that eat mainly rodents, small birds, amphibians, and insects.
Then I looked at the other side of the tree and found 3 more rat snakes sunning themselves!
It was an interesting morning. Besides the spectacle of seeing the tree of snakes, I found myself trapped in the middle of a 50k trail race. There was what seemed to be about 100 people running through the woods along the trails. I had to keep hopping off the trail to avoid interfering with the race.
The Hermit Thrushes must have been making a major move because I counted at least 6 of them along one section of trail.
I also saw 4 Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and heard a Winter Wren singing in the woods.

Despite all the distractions, I finally made it to the top of the ridge. I had a nice view of some Broad-winged Hawks passing through.There were a few Red-tailed, Red-shouldered, and Sharp-shinned Hawks mixed in. I also saw 3 Black Vultures and a Peregrine Falcon. Nothing could top seeing 4 snakes in a tree though. That's something I don't see every day!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Snowy Egret & Great Blue Heron Side By Side

  I was on my way to go birding at Meshomasic Forest when I caught a glimpse of a Great Blue Heron wading in the pond at the fairgrounds. It's not uncommon to see Great Blue Herons at the fairground because it is in close proximity to a large heron rookery . 
I was going to continue on my way but then a flash of white caught my eye from the corner of the puddle-pond. I was pleased to see that it was a Snowy Egret. I've seen Great Egrets at the fairgrounds but don't remember seeing a Snowy Egret in Portland before.
 I watched as the egret and the heron came face to face. I  imagine the heron saying "Hello little cousin. Let me show you around my home town." As I watched the two of them traveling around the pond, I wished that I was an artist that could capture the scenes on canvas.
 They walked side by side searching for food. Seeing them next to each other gave me a real sense of the substantial size difference between these two elegant birds. I watched them as they gently waded through the pond and then jolted into action when they found their prey. As the breeze picked up it would show off some of the decorative feathers that had been neatly tucked away.

I never made it to the forest to find that rare bird I was hoping for, but sometimes a special birding experience is as rewarding as a rare bird. (It wouldn't hurt to have both though).