Thursday, July 29, 2010

Big Birds at Ballston Creek

Since I'm scheduled to lead a nature walk at the Ballston Creek Preserve a week from Saturday, I thought I'd best check it out today for points of interest. This tract, which consists of old farm fields regrown into substantial forest abutting a marsh, has been preserved by Saratoga P.L.A.N. (Preserving Land And Nature), the land-conservation organization that asked me to lead this walk. I last visited here before the canopy closed in, when the forest floor was carpeted with Wild Geranium and Spring Beauties. Today, the woods was virtually flower-free, except for some Jumpseed along the trail and a short stretch of Arrow-leaved Tearthumb I had to shove my way through. And I was wearing shorts: Ouch! A better name for that plant would be Tearshin. Next time I'm wearing long pants.

This overgrowth may look innocent, but the shin-tearing barbed stems of Tearthumb were lurking within.

Anyway, there won't be that much to see in the woods -- except to marvel at how a forest recovers itself in only 50 years. Right now, the best part about this trail is that it leads to an open marsh and a fully-occupied nesting site for Great Blue Herons and one Osprey family. The Osprey nest is the first one I see as the path leads out onto the marsh.

When I was here last, I watched a pair of adult Ospreys come and go from the nest. Would the young ones have fledged by now and left the nest? My first clue came as a screaming adult set off the alarm that I had been spotted and then hurled itself through the air in my direction, wheeling in circles directly over my head before perching on a high snag to keep its eye on me.

If young were not still in the nest, there would be no need for such a demonstration. Sure enough, two heads popped up, and one bird hopped to the edge of the nest. Could these two both be nestlings? They look as big as adults.

These two Great Blue Herons look as big as adults, as well. I counted five heron nests from my vantage point (there may be more just out of eyesight), and each one had at least one long skinny neck stretching up, if not the entire bird. Or birds.

I hope we will still see all these big birds on the walk next Saturday (Aug. 7, 10am). For those who would like to attend, check the Saratoga P.L.A.N. website for directions on how to get to the trailhead. And be sure to bring binoculars. And if you have one, bring a camera with a better zoom lens than that of my little point-and-shoot Canon PowerShot.


greentangle said...

I like the herons photo. When I was doing the falcon program, one of our regular replies to visitors was, "Those big birds are the babies."

suep said...

Whie in Concord visiting a heronry there, I learned that the young herons stay on the nest for something like two MONTHS, before they finally fledge and leave. That's a long time to be standing out in the sun -- waiting for a parent to bring every meal!
This year's herons do not have the white streak on their heads, which is one way to tell them from adults when they get to be almost the same size.
Sounds like a wonderful walk coming up - hope to see you there.

Jacqueline Donnelly said...

Thanks for your informative and interesting comments, greentangle and suep. I love it when readers share what they know about something on my blog.