Today I decided to take a break from the Naugatuck State Forest (I've been running into a disappointing number of annoying/loud/irresponsible people there recently) and explore someplace new. So I headed over to the Southford Falls State Park -- a small park about a 15 minute drive away -- to see what I could find there.
As it turns out, it's a really nice place! There's a small pond, a rushing stream with waterfalls, a cute covered bridge, and about a mile and a half of trails along the stream and through the woods. It was a lot of fun to be in a new location, and I saw some really cool things.
Almost as soon as I got out of my car, I was greeted by a male Baltimore Oriole, foraging in the low branches of a nearby tree. These are such stunning birds, and I was so close to this guy, so I ended up taking quite a few pictures.
Toward the end of my walk, I found out that this male wasn't alone. His mate was hanging out in the same area, and there was even more to his family, as I discovered in a rather sad way. I heard a bird calling loudly from the ground behind some bushes, and when I looked closer, I found this beautiful baby oriole, gaping and calling, with his parents agitatedly flying back and forth in the branches overhead:
I really didn't know what to do -- this baby didn't look old enough to have gotten out of the nest on its own, and those are definitely not flying feathers. I looked around for the nest, but I couldn't see it, and in any case the oriole nests I've seen in the past have been really high up in trees and this one probably would've been out of my reach. I ended up just leaving the baby alone.... Its parents definitely knew it was there, so hopefully they will continue to feed it, but it's so vulnerable.... I don't know, did I do the right thing?
The baby's distress aside, the orioles were a treat to watch, and they were pretty much the highlight of the day. But I did also see some new birds that I'd never seen before, including this Eastern Kingbird, a type of flycatcher, munching on dragonflies and showing off its cool white-tipped tail:
Here's another completely new one for me, a Yellow-Billed Cuckoo:
I knew we had cuckoos around here, but only because I'd seen them in my field guide -- I swear I've never seen a cuckoo or anything like it before in real life, though. Before I saw it way up in the treetops, I heard the weirdest calls (here's a recording to give you an idea), which I wasn't even sure belonged to a bird. Then when I did see it, the first thing I saw was its tail, and I thought, "Blue Jay" -- but nope, it was something new! I like discovering new things.
The Red-Winged Blackbirds were out in force, and I noticed for the first time (after seeing these birds all my life) that the females are actually quite pretty in their own way:
Some nice people have set up nest boxes, and this Tree Swallow was making good use of them, bringing dragonflies to his or her family inside (I think these birds are really cool):
I saw some nice flowers on this trip as well. The woods were just packed with Mountain Laurel bushes in full flower, lining many of the paths. These are some very pretty flowers that I don't think I've ever noticed before, and I love the spiky developing buds, too:
Here's Whorled Loosestrife, another new flower for me, and I think it's gorgeous:
The Indian Pipes were just starting to lift their heads up from beneath the layer of dead leaves on the forest floor (these plants are so awesome -- look ma, no chlorophyll!):
This is Celandine, an relative of the poppy, and introduced from Europe:
And the pond was dotted with Yellow Pond Lilies, raising pretty yellow globes above the water's surface:
There were tons of other flowers and birds as well (not to mention the Red-backed Salamanders and Red Efts that I found in the woods), and these are just some of the highlights. I'm glad I got to explore a new place, and I'm sure I'll be back again!