The warm, summer-like weather continued on Thanksgiving Monday. This time I headed west to Constance Bay to look for the Nelson’s Sparrows that had been reported in the grass at the mouth of Constance Creek. First, though, I stopped in at Sarsaparilla Trail to look for Fox Sparrows, a species I usually find here in the fall with flocks of Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrows. I only saw one junco and heard one White-throated Sparrow attempting to sing, and at the boardwalk I found two Swamp Sparrows and two Song Sparrows. The Fox Sparrows hadn’t arrived yet.
On the pond a male Northern Shoveler and a male Ring-necked Duck were welcome additions to the usual mallards and Canada Geese that congregate here. I had never seen a shoveler here before, and was happy to add it to my Sarsaparilla Trail list. A flock of Pine Siskins flew by overhead, and two hawks – probably accipiters – flew from tree to tree at the north end of the marsh, too far away to identify. Continue reading →
Before heading to the Bill Mason Center, we made a quick stop along Constance Bay Road near the intersection of Dunrobin Road. The grassy fields here are a good spot to find Eastern Meadowlarks, Upland Sandpipers, Savannah Sparrows, and Bobolinks. The Bobolinks weren’t back yet, but we could hear a couple of meadowlarks singing in the distant fields. We also saw a Northern Harrier gliding over the fields before it dropped to the ground to seize whatever prey it had been hunting. I was especially eager to see an Upland Sandpiper, a species I’ve only seen once before years ago in the east end. We found a shorebird sitting on a post at the very back of the field, and although the heat shimmer made identification tricky, it didn’t have the long neck of an Upland Sandpiper.
After another stop at Jeff’s house to use the facilities and retrieve our cars, we traveled to Bishop Davis Drive in a long procession that must have bewildered the locals. Bishop Davis becomes a dirt road once it leaves the village behind, and eventually comes to a large track entering Torbolton Forest. This is a prime spot to look for the regionally uncommon Olympia Marble, a beautiful butterfly related to the more familiar Mustard and Cabbage Whites.
The Olympia Marble prefers open sandy or barren areas where rock cress, its larval host plant, occurs. With the beautiful green veining on the underside of its wings, it is unmistakable and definitely worth searching for. Continue reading →
Jeff Skevington led a full-day nature outing in the Constance Bay area on Saturday, April 30. We began the day at his house at 8:00 a.m. where we spent an enjoyable 15 minutes in his backyard watching the birds. He still has a good number of Common Redpolls visiting his feeders, and other yard birds included a pair of Eastern Phoebes, Dark-eyed Juncos, American Goldfinches and Chipping Sparrows. Merlins nest in a tree close to his house (oh to have a yard like his!), but were absent while I was there.
Across the road we could hear Pine Warblers singing high up in the trees. Jeff played a recording of their fast, musical trill, and immediately one Pine Warbler flew out of the trees toward us to investigate. Jeff explained that the first warblers back are the older males staking out breeding sites, and they will readily respond if they hear another male singing within their territory. The Pine Warbler landed in the tree closest to us, hopped down a couple of branches until he was directly overhead, then flew off once Jeff stopped playing the recording.