The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, May 21, 2004


Hardy birders brave mosquitoes

The scourge of the birdwalk. "The mosquitos won't bother you if you don't stop to look at the birds," said leader Ken Harte who is here attacked when he didn't follow his own advice.(Photo by Ellen Huber)
Eleven birders, most slathered with insect repellent and jacketed against early morning showers, came out at 6 o'clock on Sunday morning May 16 for the 33rd

Soldiering on nevertheless, we checked the field for Bobolinks and found two singing, displaying males, the same count as last year. Later, returning through the field, what appeared to be a third male flew in, along with one female. Thus the population is at least holding its own with the field under ovine management for the last three years. What the sheep are failing to manage is poison ivy, which is growing in unprecedented profusion along the paths and across the field.

One pair of Eastern Bluebirds with young was found in one of the many "Tree Swallow" boxes that dot the field, and a second male Bluebird was also seen. As in 2002 (but not last year) the erstwhile resident Blue-winged Warblers in the westernmost section of the field could not be found. This may be an unintended consequence of the sheep graze-back of brushy growth on the perimeter of the field, this warbler's favored habitat.

Tom Brownrigg works at maintaining the bluebird boxes on the Towle Field. (Photo by Ellen Huber)

As on last year's walk, warbler migration was non-existent, save for one heard-but-not-seen Magnolia Warbler. It's likely that most migrants passed through the week before, a result of global climate change. Resident warblers that breed in Carlisle were in and on territory: Ovenbirds were calling in the woods, as were a Northern Waterthrush, a Common Yellow-throat, and a Pine Warbler, all invisible.

Other highlights of the walk were a pair of Cooper's Hawks, seen from the field, engaging in aerial display over the woods, and two Black-billed Cuckoos calling but never seen, one near Westford Street and the other deep in the woods. Also found were a fly-by Wood Duck, two Eastern Wood-Pewees, two Great Crested Flycatchers calling, two Warbling Vireos, two Red-eyed Vireos (one seen near the pond), three singing Wood Thrushes, 7 Baltimore Orioles, 18 American Goldfinches, and a House Finch. Altogether 43 species were seen or heard, one fewer than last year.

Delighting the botanists on the walk were two clumps of that rare wildflower, fringed polygala, at its usual spot along the inner loop trail, and pink lady-slippers blooming in many places. Delighting everyone was the hour-early end of the walk and sighs of relief to finally be able to escape the ever-present mosquito cloud.

2004 The Carlisle Mosquito