Another place that I visited this weekend was the Abe Tomkin Nature Preserve. The entrance to the trail is located within a residential neighborhood on Cedar Terrace in Portland. The sign for the entrance is partially obstructed by a small evergreen. I followed the trail down a steep ravine, crossed a stream by way of a small bridge, and then climbed back up the steep hill on the opposite side. I held onto some tree roots in a few spots because the leaves were slippery as I approached the top of the hill. There were several trees labeled with signs which denoted such species as Black Birch, Tulip, Sycamore, Pignut hickory, Yellow Birch, Northern Red Oak, Eastern Cottonwood, and American Hornbeam. The trees were labeled by Eagle Scout Drew Rusnak and Glastonbury resident Ed Richardson in 2003. At the top of the hill was a large open field used for hunting. I could See a hunting blind and deer stand at the edge of the field. I was at the edge of the field looking down into the woods when I saw this Pileated Woodpecker hammering away at a tree. You can tell from the photo that this a male. The crest is red all the way to the base of the bill and you can also see a bit of his red moustache. Females have a red crest which is black at the forehead and they have a black moustache.
I also witnessed some interesting bird behavior by two woodpeckers that were at the opposite end of the size spectrum from the pileated. Two male downies were clinging to base of a tree that was about 4" in diameter. They repeatedly peaked around the tree and stared at each other as they flicked their wings in an outward motion. They started scaling the tree and continued with this behavior as they ascended towards the top. They were moving their bodies from side to side at times. It is hard to describe every detail of this encounter but I watched them for quite a while before continuing on along the trail.
The stream turned into a swampy area at the end of the trail. I could hear many birds singing in the area but one song in particular had my attention. It that of a Winter Wren whose song is described by Peterson as follows: a rapid succession of high tinkling warbles and trills, prolonged, often ending on a very high, light trill. I've only had the chance to hear these birds sing a couple of times in Connecticut so this was an unexpected treat. On my way out, I was startled 5 deer suddenly springing up from a nearby patch and running off in leaps and bounds.
I visited Highland Pond Preserve on Sunday. it is located near Saw Mill Road in Middletown. I was a little disappointed when I first saw this place because I was expecting an area that would be a little more secluded. There were roads and houses all around it but I decided to follow the trail around the pond to have a closer look. The land surrounding the pond includes marsh, some wooded areas and a brook.
I was glad that I gave this place a chance or I might not have noticed it was a desirable place for Wood Ducks (above photo) and many other species of birds including: Red-bellied Woodpecker, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-winged Blackbirds, Belted kingfisher, Eastern Phoebe (everywhere this weekend), White-throated Sparrows, and Yellow-rumped Warblers.
I've come to really appreciate areas of land that have been set aside for preservation. I've found that it's best not to have high expectations when visiting such areas. I like to discover what it is about each area that makes it special and then appreciate it for what it is. These areas which are often overlooked may offer a quiet place to observe birds and other wildlife.
We had fantastic weather in Connecticut this weekend. The sun was shining and the temperature reached highs near 70 both Saturday and Sunday. It was a great start to the Spring season and we've only just begun!
click to play Pileated Woodpecker video- (warning: shaky video).
Abe Tomkin and Highland Pond Preserve are both properties owned by: Middlesex Land Trust