The meadows at Naugatuck State Forest were looking surprisingly different when I took a trip there this morning:
Whenever I've been to this area of the forest before (the last time I was here was a few months ago), these wide meadows have been filled with tall grasses and dotted with sturdy shrubs, but this morning, everything -- bushes and all -- was mown down to a uniform stubble. I'm sure this must be part of the forest's management process -- if the shrubs get too big and turn into trees, then this won't be a field anymore -- but it was still quite a shock. I was starting to wonder, actually, if this meant there would be less bird life here this year, since the birds last year seemed to enjoy the cover of all those low shrubs so much. But if today's abundant winged activity was any indication, I don't think there's anything to worry about. There were birds everywhere this morning, and the low bushes around the edges of the fields still provided plenty of close view of these creatures.
One of the birds I can pretty much count on seeing when I'm in these meadows (and which I don't often see at my other haunts) is the Field Sparrow. I think these little birds are just darling, with their bright white eye-rings and dippy pink beaks:
This Field Sparrow was singing his (or her, but probably his) little heart out from his perch near the path -- gosh, I just can't get over the cuteness of that beak!
These fields are well-populated with nest boxes, and two pairs of Tree Swallows were checking them out while I was there. Most of the time, these striking birds kept their distance from me, chatting in bubbling tones to each other:
But as I was leaving, one of the pairs swooped up to a box right near me, and I got what I'm pretty sure was my first really good look at these birds, ever. In my opinion, that's just about the most beautiful color of blue/teal there is, and what a wonderful contrast it makes with those luminous white undersides! And I'm really liking those black masks, too:
There was a pair of Eastern Bluebirds exploring the boxes as well -- I wonder what the nesting population will look like this year.
A big flock of American Robins was foraging on the ground, and one of the robins looked a little different from the others:
Those white feathers in its wings mark this robin (I'm pretty sure) as partially leucistic. Basically, for whatever reason (probably genetic), this particular bird is missing pigmentation in those feathers. It's not albinism (which Wikipedia tells me specifically has to do with melanin, whereas leucism deals with skin pigments in general), and it's not the whole bird, just a small part. I actually think it's a pretty cool-looking effect on this bird.
Speaking of birds with white spots (although normal this time), this White-throated Sparrow stared me down for a bit:
These birds will be heading north to breed in the next month or so, along with the juncos. So I'll enjoy their painted faces while I still can!
I tried to look for wildflowers while I was walking in the meadows and the surrounding woods, but I didn't find much. The only blossoms I saw, in fact, were on this tiny (and cute) sedge (species unknown):
I'm sure I'll be back in these meadows again soon -- I'm especially looking forward to visiting in a month or so, when the warblers really start to stream in. In the mean time, I'll continue to explore my other woodsy places whenever I have time. I also have something of a beach adventure coming up later this week.... More details to come!