Sunday, June 30, 2013

The 2013 Generation - Part I

Nothing is cuter than a new born baby. They look so adorable as they sleep, make their first noises, learn to eat solid food, and take their first steps. Even the adolescent period where you are not quite an adult, but no longer a baby can be enjoyable to watch (but not always fun to experience).

It is similar with watching birds progress from bonding, to mating, to giving birth, raising a family, to watching them enter adulthood. That's one thing that makes this time of year so enjoyable at the refuge. Each day another chapter in the drama of life unfolds.

Some of the earliest nesters are the Canada Geese. It seems like the numbers of newborns was down this year. Of course this is based on nothing more scientific than the impression of how difficult it was to cross the Dike early in the morning. One day, I caught this bit of sibling interaction. They were definitely sorting out the pecking order (literally).

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Before the flooding we used to think it was hard to get views of juvenile Virginia Rails. At the time I was thrilled to get these photos of a young one running along the path. Now I am just happy that it was in that young, just bigger than the puff ball stage.

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Some of us do not get good looking until later in life. This bird falls into that category. I might be mistaken, but I think it is a juvenile Red-winged Blackbird.

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Down near the river the Grackles had a successful nest. It was difficult to see & photograph back in the woods, but here is one of the parents feedign a chick.

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I was so proud of this nest. I saw the parent squabbling with Tree Sparrows early on over the beginning of this hole. Later, I was excited when I noticed that they had finished the hole and I thought I could see a head inside. Indeed these Downy Woodpeckers raised two chicks that fledged, one male and a female.

They selected a great place to let us watch the drama unfold. The nest was right alongside the Cross-Dike trail just before it exited the woods. Did you see it?

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As they got closer to fledging the parents would no longer put their heads in the nest, but remain outside. They would get the chick to extend further and further to get the food. I didn't witness it, but sometime after the last photo I took and the next morning the chicks decided to step out and explore that outside world.

Check back again for Part II.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Potpourri

The refuge has been at various levels of flooding. Summer arrives with a vengence; it was too hot to use your computer, or then in the midst of the thunderstorms, it was prudent to have your computer shutdown. Life has been hectic and then trying - first unexpected camera failure, then car problems, finally unexpected health issues.

All that is to say, I know that I haven't been to Great Meadows as often as I would like. When I have, I haven't been able to process my photos and get them posted. Here are a few random shots from some of the visits I did make. Hopefully, it will tide you over until my next post.

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Geese wading thru ankle deep water

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An unusual sight this year - A Marsh Wren singing from the cattails

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Some of the younger Great Blue Herons are more interested in eating than worrying about people

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But we all have our limits

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During the flooding, the biggest beaver I've ever seen walking between impoundments

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Kingbird just before my camera broke

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Profile view - I moved to get that stick out of the way & nothing...

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Green Heron fly-by

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This time dramatically side light

Computer time is going to be very limited in the next week, but check back. I've got a bunch of nesting bird photos that I've been collecting & will post soon. Some I couldn't post because I was so busy taking the photos, others because I didn't want to bring attention to already risky nests.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Sequestered

I know the Sequester has disappeared from the news, but the various agencies affected are dealing with the impacts. We are starting to feel and see the impacts of the Fish & Wildlife budget cuts.

At the end of May everyone's favorite maintenance man Stephen Zadroga. You are probably saying "Who?". That's because everyone knows him as Ziggy. Unfortunately, due to the sequester F&WS will not be replacing him.

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Not that you could ever replace Ziggy. He seemed to do the work of two men. If he didn't stop and tell you stories he would probably be doing the work of three! What we all loved about Ziggy was he was driven to get things done, and done well, using the resources he had.

I had never noticed until Alan mentioned it that when they rebuilt the bridge on the Lower Impoundment outflow they repurposed the cement curbing from the old parking lot. The next time you are enjoying the view from the observation deck, take a moment and remember the guy that built it.

You may have noticed the signs that were posted in the restrooms. Another impact of the sequester is to save money they had to terminate the cleaning contract. F&WS staff will be cleaning the restrooms, but probably not with the same frequency.

Of course this is a double whammy because that's time they won't be doing what they normally do. You can help out, by helping to pick up the loose trash that others leave behind or neatening up after yourself. If you feel inclined I am sure that they have plenty of things that they would appreciate some volunteer time.

Elsewhere in the refuge you can see the slowing down of minor problems & issues being handled. The one nice benefit of the flooding was that the hornet's nest under the bridge was probably flooded down river.

The full text of the restroom notice follows. Feel free to follow up with Susan with any questions (or to volunteer).

Due to the impacts of sequestration, we are operating with a reduced staff and have received less funding, therefore we are unable to renew our annual cleaning contract for the Concord restroom. Staff will be making an earnest effort to keep the facilities cleaned and stocked with toilet paper and Purell hand sanitizer; the ability to maintain the current standards is not feasible and this is only a temporary fix for the summer season.

We are uncertain if we will be able to keep the restrooms open long-term. One way we anticipate to generate funds is to implement the Recreational Fee program at the Concord Unit. We received approval to establish an entry fee for the site in 2005 and have determined we are in need of these entry fees more than ever at this time.

More information will be made available this summer about the Recreational Fee program. We ask for your patience as we transition into adding this role into an already very busy schedule. Thank you.

Please feel free to contact us if you see any issues or have matters to bring to our attention.
Susan J. Russo
978.443.4661 x34

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Summer Rains Flood Impoundments

If you haven't heard the paths around impoundments are flooded due to all the recent rain. Those that persevere have to wade through the water like this guy. (That's the Cross Dike trail in the background.)

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All the rain has pushed the Soras and Virginia Rails to the areas of exposed ground and shallow water. You are able to get good looks at birds you often only hear. I don't have time to complete a proper post, but I suspect that those of you who aren't comfortable wading thru the water are curious about what is happening out there.

Very near the kiosk on the Cross-Dike Trail, between the edge of the first puddle and where you exit the woods, you were often able to see Sora. Normally these are reclusive birds, more often heard than seen. However due to all the flooding they were scavenging along side the trail. They were enjoying the plentiful supply of worms. Somehow people didn't phase them. They walked so close that all the photographers "big lenses" were useless. Point & shoot cameras were the better instrument. I even took a photo with my cell phone & posted it to Facebook.

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Maybe the reason the are so hard to see is that they really are hiding in the trees. This is quite unusual, but high ground was rare.

If you wandered through the truly deep water by the foot bridge and the walked all the way to the river in water ranging from calf to ankle deep (except for a couple points of dry high ground) you earned views of another elusive bird at Great Meadows. Virginia Rails are a bit more plentiful, but but often glances are more furtive as the rails wander between the reeds. More often you'll hear their distinctive Three Stooges call - nyuck, nyuck, nyuck

Not only could you see adult Virginia Rails, but you also could see juveniles. The youngest were very much black, while for older juveniles you could just start to see some of the adult coloration starting to peek through.

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This adult bathed in front of us and then spent a good 10 minutes preening. I know it's only preening but looking at a couple of the poses you would swear it was practicing yoga.

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A good view all all the coloring
Check back in a few days, I've got a whole bunch of nest photographs that I have been saving up and am hoping to post soon.