Sunday, September 22, 2013

Back to the Woods

Finally! It's been a super long time (many weeks!) since I was last on a nice long woods walk, and even longer since I was in the area of Naugatuck State Forest where I used to walk all the time and where I returned on Thursday morning.

The trails in this area of the forest were closed this past winter and spring so that the state could remove some trees and keep the woods healthy, and this is the first time I've visited since all this management work was finished. I still recognized these familiar woods, but they're airier now, with more space between towering pines and plenty of morning light coming in:

Most of the trees that I saw marked with paint last fall have been cut down, but this tree was somehow spared, and the poison ivy now seems to be trying to hide that mark with its leaves:

I was very happy to get to see some of my favorite woodland creatures again, like this lovely juvenile Red-spotted Newt (also known as a Red Eft):

It's a good thing I happened to be looking down at this point, because this eft was right in the middle of the path, and surprisingly difficult to see!

I almost forgot how adorable Red Squirrels are. This park is actually the only place where I've seen these creatures in my area of Connecticut, and I suspect it's the abundant conifers that makes this such a good habitat for them. Several Red Squirrels made an appearance during my visit, including this alert individual:

A Bullfrog sat on a log in a small shady pool next to the path:

Here's another pose (possibly the same frog) from later in the morning. I love that speckled throat, on both the real frog and its mirror-version self:

In an open area next to one of the lakes, banks of blazing goldenrod lit up the path:

And in the underbrush, sawfly larvae made a cool pattern around their leafy meal:

The woods were also filled with birds, including a large group of warblers in the midst of their fall migration. These very active birds stayed mostly high in the trees and away from my camera, but the sight and sound of so much fluttering, chasing, and feeding was cool even from a distance. This very plain-looking Pine Warbler (assuming my ID is correct) was one of the few birds from this group to come down to my level:

This little bird showed off some very impressive aerial skills when it spun down and snatched a decent-sized winged insect right out of the air. It then proceeded to enjoy its meal from a branch above my head:

Nearby, a House Wren called loudly from atop a log:

And a young Yellow-bellied Sapsucker sunned itself, showing off its very pretty wings:

I'm very glad I got to wander around outside and enjoy the wonderful early-fall weather. I saw some awesome creatures, munched on wild grapes (yum!), and just had a great time. Hooray for the woods!

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A Week of Warblers

Fall migration brings an ever-changing cast of characters through the trees outside our apartment's windows, and I love it! In the past week, we've had several cool and unusual visitors stop by, many of them warblers that I only rarely get to see. Here are some highlights!

A few American Redstarts (a species of warbler) have appeared to flutter and forage in our trees, including one fancy black-and-orange male (who was too quick for a picture). Mostly, these birds have been females and young males in their more subdued (but still quite pretty) outfits:

A camera-shy Northern Parula (another warbler) has stopped by a couple of times, sporting patches of yellow/green both on its chest and on its back:

And a dainty Black-throated Green Warbler brought some bright color to one of our recent gray days:

(Male Black-throated Green Warblers have black throats in the spring, although I'm not sure where the "green" part of the name comes from.)

My favorite warbler so far, though, has been this lovely Cape May Warbler (a totally new bird for me):

How pretty is this bird? (So pretty.) The subtle brown/gray/yellow patterning on its face makes me think of fall (the leaves are starting to change now!), and its yellow-and-black chest is just too cool:

That's one bright yellow chin!

Along with the warblers, a Red-eyed Vireo has come through as well:

And even though they're not new or fancy, I still can't help admiring our local Black-capped Chickadees. This one had an intense grooming session near our window recently, cleaning its fluffy underarms:

And preening each of its long primary feathers, one at a time:

(You seem to be standing on your wing feathers there, bird. Does that help with the grooming process?)

There's been so much variety already, and there's still a lot of migration to come! I wonder what the next week will bring. :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Open the Migration Floodgates!

Fall is coming, and the birds are on the move! Now that migration is happening, looking out the window becomes extra interesting, because you never know who's going to show up next. On Sunday, this gorgeous Yellow-throated Vireo came through our yard:

Wow, what an outfit! At first glance, I thought this bird might have been a Pine Warbler, which I've seen in these trees during migration before, and which has remarkably similar coloring. But no, that stout bill and those cool yellow spectacles make this a Yellow-throated Vireo (a bird which, coincidentally, I'd never seen before, in my yard or anywhere else). Very cool!

I also really like how this bird looks from above, with its olive-green/yellow front fading into its monochrome gray back:

What a fun little creature. You can bet I'll be watching for more fancy visitors over the next few weeks! Keep 'em coming!