ASCM April Nature Walks

Thanks to our Nature Walk Leaders for these reports on our April Nature Walks!

Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary - April 21, 2012

A northeaster storm was expected today and we wondered if our bi-monthly bird walk at the Fred J. Archibald Audubon Sanctuary would take place. We needn't have worried however. The morning broke sunny and warm, 60-degree F with a very slight breeze. As the day progressed, temperatures rose to 73-degrees F. It was a perfect day for birding because the birds were active, singing and it was the start of their annual spring migration. Ten intrepid birders participated in our 3-1/2 hour walk. Two participants came from as far away as Manchester and Pasadena, MD. It seems our sanctuary is getting a well-deserved reputation for good birding.

The most obvious evidence of migration was given by the waves of Blue Jays that moved through the tops of the wood lines. Their loud and harsh calls were our constant companions on the trail. Also in good voice were Tufted Titmice, Chipping Sparrows, and Field Sparrows. The most abundant bird seen today was the American Goldfinch. The male birds were in their full summer yellow, with black wings, tail and forehead patch. A not-so happy sighting, were the numerous Brown-headed Cowbirds. They seem to show up while other bird species begin building their nests. As you know, these cowbirds don't build their own nests, but lay their eggs in other birds nests and because the cowbirds eggs hatch first, the host bird ends up feeding the cowbird young instead of their own. The cowbird is an example of a parasitic species.

A happier sight was the Purple Martins and Tree Swallows who were circling the meadows. The martin colony returned to the several dozen gourds that have been set up at the eastern end of the meadow. The wooden nest boxes along the hiking trail were mostly occupied as well. We took quick peeks into three of them. The first box had a Tree Swallow nest in it which was easy to spot because the lower part of the nest had an accumulation of dry grass lined with feathers placed with their tips folding over the hollowed-out center. The other two nest boxes that we examined were occupied by Eastern Bluebirds. One box had four chicks, the other four small, powder-blue eggs in it. It was wonderful to see the next generation of birds under way. Other nesting structures along the trail were a Wood Duck box, two bat houses and a wooden chimney that is intended to be a roost for Chimney Swifts. These were mounted too high to check for inhabitants.

Other birds of note spotted this morning were a pair of Brown Thrashers, a Tennessee Warbler, several Common Yellowthroats, four species of woodpeckers, and two hawk species (Red-shouldered, Red-tailed). The highlight of the morning though for most of us were the two Barred Owls who (no pun intended) stayed around long enough for us to watch them in the top of some tall trees near Cherry Run, the sanctuary's only stream. In all, we spotted 42 bird species, several White-tailed Deer and a Box Turtle. Our leisurely walk this morning in perfect weather in the great habitat was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Now let the rains begin, we need a good soak.

Ron Polniaszek, Trip Leader
2012 - R. Polniaszek & The Audubon Society of Central Maryland

 Updated: 09.29.12