Tuesday, May 18, 2010

History, Mystery, & Birds At Meshomasic Forest

I spent the morning rambling around Meshomasic State Forest looking for birds on Sunday. I usually check the area surrounding the reservoir, Del Reeves Pond, or hike to the top of Great Hill. Beyond that, it's any one's guess since the forest isn't organized in any formal manner. There a few dirt roads that lead you through the woods and there's also lots of trails, many of which are unmarked. It is popular among off road bikers and hikers but there are no camping or picnic areas. You definitely need a map to find your way around if you're not familiar with the area.
I found an abandoned road with several collapsed structures , an old metal tank and a stairway leading to nowhere. I learned that it had been the old battery area for a Nike missile site which closed down in 1965. In the early 80's it became Camp Meshomasic where the Youth Conservation Corp performed much of the same type of work that the Civilian Conservation Corp did in the 1930's and 40's.
I found that this abandoned road provided a good viewing angle to see birds as it rose in elevation. I had a nice view of a Worm-eating Warbler on my way up but this particular photo of one was taken last summer in the Maromas section of Middletown.
Meshomasic was the first State Forest in New England and the second in the country. It is mostly second growth forest but does have a stand of large White pines that are over 100 years old. The word meshomasic is an Native American word meaning place of many snakes. It has a native population of Timber Rattlesnakes but I've only seen one on a couple of occasions.
I drove slowly along the dirt roads carefully searching the edge of the woods and along the stream beds. It can be difficult trying to see birds in the thicker parts of the forest but the woods are filled with singing birds this time of the year. I heard several species of warbler including Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Black and White, Northern Parula, and Pine. I also had good views of Magnolia, Ovenbird, Prairie, American Redstart, and Yellow Warblers. Baltimore Orioles, Scarlet Tanagers, Veerys, and Wood Thrushes were plentiful.
There were a few flycatchers around including Eastern Wood-Peewe, Great-crested, Eastern Phoebe, and Eastern Kingbird. I like the clean cut appearance of the kingbird with its black back sharply contrasting with the white belly and white tipped tail.
The female Brown-headed Cowbird is a drab looking bird and it doesn't even have a brown head, only the male does. This female cowbird walked right up to me as I was sitting on a stump on the side of the road. I figured if I was ever going to take a photo of a female cowbird, it might as well be now.
Meshomasic Forest doesn't seem to get much attention from Connecticut birders. I'm looking forward to exploring it more thoroughly this summer since it's only a few miles from my house. Not only does it have good birding potential but it's also full of mystery and history.


Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Isn't it fun to find a place like this? It doesn't have to be a popular spot to be a good one.

Kathie Brown said...

Larry, that stairway in the first photo looks magical and mysterious! BTW, I love worm eating warblers! What a great place to explore! What a lot of great birds you saw!

Curlygirl715 said...

Such variety! Sounds like a great spot.

Dan Huber said...

Nice list of birds you saw. Looks like a neat spot to explore


Chris said...

Hi Larry,
A very nice message you did, full of mystery and history and of nice pictures. I'm happy to discover this forest in your company and hope it will prove fantastic for birding in the future!

Levinson Axelrod said...

Very nice captures. The birds are wonderful.

Larry said...

Lynne-I prefer a lesser known place if all things are equal.

Kathiebirds-The stairway reminded me of from an old movie that took place in the jungles of India.

Curlygirl-It is pretty good considering it's so close to home.

forestal-Yes-I know you like exploring your local places as well Dan.

Chris-Thanks-I try to keep my post titles to a single line and some times that can be difficult.

Levinson Axelrod-Thanks-Are you a birder/lawyer?

dguzman said...

Wow, I don't know that I've ever seen (or ID'd) a female cowbird! She's kinda weird-looking.

Larry said...

dguzman-I was stumped the first time I saw one on its own but I usually see them near the males.

Crafty Green Poet said...

it sounds like a wonderful place! Hope you enjoy many rambles there this summer.

Dawn Fine said...

I was looking at your eastern Phoebe photo..I saw a pair today in NC from a distance and took a photo..but i noticed the white under the tail near the tip like in your photo..
I looked in the book and didnt see the white near the tip..
any ideas?

Larry said...

dawn-My photo is of a an Eastern Kingbird.-The phoebes don't have that.

Dawn Fine said...

Cool..thanks ..thats what I saw then! Thanks for solving my mystery!

Larry said...

Sure-no problem. That's why the majority of birders use field guides with sketches instead of photos. My photo was taken at an angle that's just showing the white underside and dark cap.

Hilke Breder said...

You must be good at identifying birds solely by their songs! I wished I could. It's frustrating this time of the year when you can't see the birds because of the foliage.

FAB said...

I'm with you Larry..enjoy the less travelled areas but they are getting harder to find locally. Sounds as if this could become a regular location for you. Have fun. Cheers FAB.

Harold Stiver said...

Great post. I love the shot of the Worm-eating Warbler. It is a very rare bird here in Ontario.