Friday, May 24, 2002
Forty-two species seen on Towle Field bird walk; mosquitoes a no-show
With one of the coldest starts anyone could remember, 20 birders turned out for the 31st annual Carlisle Conservation Commission Spring Bird Walk on the Towle Conservation Land on Sunday, May 19, at 6 a.m. With snow on Saturday and mostly cold and wet weather the week before, it was not surprising that few new migrants would have arrived. What was surprising was the complete absence of mosquitoes and black flies. This, plus a fair assortment of birds under a warming sun in a cloudless sky, made for an exceptionally pleasant walk.
Before many participants had arrived at the parking lot, two very late Ruby-crowned Kinglets came through, along with a lone Cedar Waxwing. The group then proceeded past the pond into the main field, where the most visible feature was a large flock of grazing sheep, fenced in at the south edge, where they would presumably have minimal impact on nesting birds. However, it did not appear to this observer that there was an abundance of edible foliage.
Although Tree Swallows occupied most of the nesting boxes, Eastern Bluebirds were conspicuous all around the field. Less so were Bobolinks, which continue to decline. Only two males (plus two females) were seen, down from four last year and six the year before. The field appears to be evolving from a wet meadow with high grass and scattered bushes, attractive to Bobolinks, to a dryer field with shorter grass and few clumps of bushes. Unless an effort is made to manage the field for Bobolinks, they will probably be gone in a year or two.
Eight warbler species were found, including Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, and Canada Warbler, and two vireos Red-eyed and Warbling. The resident Blue-winged Warbler from previous years was neither seen nor heard. The songs of Wood Thrush and Veery echoed through the woods, but Hermit Thrushes, if present, were silent. Scarlet Tanagers were found in several spots, and a pair of Great Crested Flycatchers put on a nice display near the sheep.
Several hawks were notable. A Sharp-shinned Hawk was glimpsed flying into the woods from the main field. Two Red-tailed Hawks, presumably a nesting pair, flew back and forth over the pines on the east side of Hamilton's field. Finally, as the walk was about to end, an immature Red-shouldered Hawk was spotted soaring over the main field.
Altogether 42 species were seen or heard, the same as last year. As in many previous years, fringed polygala, an uncommon wildflower, was found growing in the woods along the inner loop trail.
On Friday evening, May 31, there will be a return visit to the Towle Land as part of Biodiversity Days. The walk, led by conservation commissioner Jo Rita Jordan, will start at the parking lot at 6 p.m. Everyone with an interest in flora or fauna is invited to participate.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito