Monday, April 6, 2015

The Big Birds Are Back! (Butterflies, too!)

Except for a cold raw day on Easter, we've had a string of spring-like days, warm enough to have melted most of the snow in the woods.  With the temperature nearing 60 today, I hardly needed a jacket as I made my way along the trail of the Ballston Creek Preserve in Malta.

This wooded trail, maintained by volunteers with the land conservation organization Saratoga PLAN, leads to an open swamp containing hundreds of dead tree snags, a dozen or so of which hold the large disheveled nests of Great Blue Herons.  There's even a nice bench for folks to sit and observe all kinds of avian activity, in the trees, in the air, and also on the water.

I could see right away that the Great Blue Herons were back on their nests, although none was as yet settled down to brooding eggs.  It did look as if each had laid claim to its nest and was standing guard over it.

There was one nest, however, that appeared to have a bird nestled down within it, and a view through my binoculars revealed that this was no heron, but rather a Great Horned Owl.  I was happy to see that the owls had returned, most likely the same pair, to claim the same old heron's nest where they had successfully raised their owlets last year.  I wish my little camera had a greater zoom capability, but I think you can make out the two pointed "horns" on the owl in the right-hand nest.

In the opposite end of the swamp, a nest that is much bigger than all the rest can be easily seen.

This is the nest of a pair of Ospreys, the same nest they return to each year.  And sure enough, I could see one of the pair perched on a nearby tree.

It wasn't long before the mate came flying in, carrying new sticks to refurbish the nest.

While I watched, the same bird soared away again, and soon returned with new material.

I sat on the bench to observe all this avian activity, enjoying the soft warm air and the various sounds of the swamp, including the honking of Canada Geese and the low motorboat growl of the Pickerel Frogs' mating calls far out in the swamp.  I half expected to hear the shrill din of Spring Peepers throughout the swamp, or the guttural croaks of Wood Frogs from several of the vernal pools that are now almost ice-free here in this woods.  But as yet, these frogs were still silent.  I bet in a week, if the weather stays mild, this little pool will be alive with froggy orgies.

The wildflowers, as yet, are still snug underground.  But the pretty red leaves of Hepatica, just now emerged from their winter snowcover, will indicate where to look for some of the earliest flowers to bloom.

Even though the day was so wonderfully spring-like, I hardly expected to see this bright-colored butterfly flitting by, like a little orange flame wafting through the air and landing ever-so-briefly on the path before me.  I recognized it as an Eastern Comma Butterfly, one of our very few butterflies to winter over as an adult and emerge on the first warm days of spring.

 I wish it had stayed put long enough for me to take its photo, but alas, it was gone before I could disengage my camera from my pocket.  I copied this photo, taken by a woman named Dawn Dentzer, from a Sudbury (MA) Valley Trustees website I found online.  I just had to share with my readers the thrill of seeing such unexpected brilliance, when all else around was the color of mud and dead leaves.  Spring is here, indeed!


The Furry Gnome said...

So nice to finally get out exploring again! I look forward to your spring observations. Here a few birds are back, and the snow is going fast on the fields, but it's still mostly white in the woods.

threecollie said...

Nice! How cool to find the owl among the herons, which are cool themselves.

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peaceful and quiet, I wish I could go here too soon

Raining Iguanas said...

You make us locals feel like we live in the middle of Yellowstone. Another great post.

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Great shots of birds, love to sit on the bench there, peaceful and quiet