Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Woodcocks and Warblers and More (or: Why Shrubby Fields are Awesome)

This morning I ventured into a new part of the Naugatuck State Forest. Here, there were wide expanses of fields, bursting with wildflowers and dotted with small shrubs (perfect for birds to perch on and hide in), and surrounded by the deep forest. It was a very different sort of place from the ponds and woods I usually visit, and I have to say, aside from the couple dozen ticks I brushed off of my pant legs over the course of the walk, it was a pretty fantastic experience.

The first thing I noticed when I arrived were all the colors.

Everywhere I looked, there was yellow Black-eyed Susan, white yarrow and fleabane, and scattered brilliant orange Butterfly Weed, a member of the milkweed family (which the butterflies seem to love).

I love Black-eyed Susans. Pretty, pretty.

So yes, I saw tons of flowers, and more on that later. But right now, I have to take a quick turn to talk about birds, because I saw some things here that I've never seen before.

Namely, American Woodcocks. These birds are soooo cool, and even though I knew they lived in this area, and that this field/forest combo was the perfect habitat for them, I never actually expected to see any. Yet as I was walking along the forest edge, I happened to look down and see a dumpy figure nestled in the dead leaves just a few feet from the path:

Can you see the bird in the middle there? That's some pretty amazing camouflage -- like I said, I never expected to see one of these guys. And it wasn't until I was going through my pictures that I realized that there are actually two woodcocks here! Hello out-of-focus bird in the bottom left corner!

I would've loved to maneuver around and get a better picture (silly tree branches), but after only a couple camera clicks, the woodcocks sprang up and flew (noisily!) off into another part of the wood. I did get a picture of a fluffed-up woodcock tail as they were on their way out, though!

Seriously, though, these birds are awesome. Do a Google image search so you can better see the bizarre shape of their beaks and heads. Apparently their long beak is just perfect for hunting underground worms, and it even has a flexible tip that the bird can control. Crazy!

So that was my favorite part of the trip, but I had plenty of other fun bird encounters as well. There were Eastern Towhees everywhere, the males singing from the tops of small trees ("drink your tee-ee-ea"). One dashing fellow even set up shop fairly close to where I was standing:

I spent a little while playing hide-and-seek with a very bold male Common Yellowthroat (a type of warbler) in the understory of some bushes right next to the path. He was so close, but he insisted on hopping behind branches and leaves -- thank goodness for my camera's manual focus option!


A plainer female yellowthroat was hanging around, too -- possibly his mate -- but she wasn't really interested in a close-up photo shoot:

OK, I can go back to the wildflowers now. Since this was such a different habitat from what I'm used to, there were plenty of flowers here that I'd never seen before. There was pretty Spreading Dogbane:

Fringed Loosestrife (I'm quickly deciding that I'm a loosestrife fan; these flowers are just so appealing to me):

Narrow-leaved Mountain-mint:

Showy Tick-trefoil (does it have to have "tick" in its name?):

And Seedbox:

And where there are flowers, there are insects. I love the colors on this inchworm caterpillar (some sort of moth species, possibly of the genus Eupithecia), so perfectly matched to the yarrow flower it's made its home:

And I don't usually like to be any closer to wasps than I have to be, but that's what zoom lenses are for! This impressively big creature is a Great Golden Digger Wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus):

Call me crazy, but I actually think she's kind of cute (and no, I don't know for sure that this is a female):

The next time I feel up to braving the ticks, I will definitely be back here again. It was quite the adventure!


  1. Oh, some super photos Elizabeth (I've checked maps to see where Naugatuck NP is). Lovely blog. The first shot is really summery (now my current screensaver) and the plants are delightful. I actually recognise yarrow. Yay! BTW what camera do you use? Oh...and your feed is still not updating on Reader or my blog. Grumbles at Google.

  2. Thanks, Mel! I'm using a Nikon D3100, usually with a 55-200 mm zoom lens. And I have to give all credit to the camera, since I'm not skilled enough yet to do anything more than use its "automatic" mode. :P

    Oh, Google. I THINK I just fixed the feed problem, so you should start seeing updates again. Hopefully it won't break again!

  3. Ooh, but I do love your bugs and birds! You have an amazing eye to see them so well, and then a great camera to take such nice clear photos. Thanks for sharing with us.

  4. You do much better at bird peek-a-boo than I do! I hear 'em - rarely find 'em - almost never get a shot. So just one more reason to enjoy your blog.
    And...thank you, thank you, thank you! I spent about 5 hours over the past few days trying to identify some plants I found when wandering in Sleeping Giant on Tuesday. Two or three of your shots in the entries you posted today do it! You've probably also saved me several hours when I go to identify the blossoms I found yesterday at Machimoodus State Park, like your post about the meadows. Stuff I'd never seen before. If you have a chance to get to Moodus/East Haddam, GO! Happy hiking. and thanks a million!!!

  5. Thank you for your comments, everyone!

    Jackie: That's high praise coming from you, as I admire your photography so much. Thanks! :D

    hikeagiant2: I'm so glad my pictures were helpful! Now I just hope my identifications were correct. :P I've never been to Machimoodus State Park, but I'll add it to my list of places to visit someday!