The Wildlife of the Bill Mason Center

The following weekend I headed out to the west end. My goal was the Morris Island Conservation Area, but I decided to stop in at the Bill Mason Center first while I waited for it to warm up. Although the morning was sunny, it was cool enough to need a jacket. Few birds were singing as I entered the marsh. I heard no Swamp Sparrows, Common Yellowthroats, or Yellow Warblers, although I saw two Yellow Warblers on my walk. I also saw a Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a couple of robins in the marsh, but no rails or grackles or Red-winged Blackbirds. The blackbirds have left their nesting territories and can be found in large flocks in cornfields and other agricultural areas, returning to roost in nearby wetlands at night.


I heard something chipping in the shrubs next to the boardwalk, and when I started pishing this Common Yellowthroat popped into view.

Common Yellowthroat

I proceeded directly to the sandy pond, encountering Red-eyed Vireos and Eastern Wood-Pewees along the way. Even in mid-August the songs of these two birds filled the quiet forest. At the pond, however, there were few odonates flying. I saw a couple of mosaic darners flying in the sunlight and that was it. A Great Blue Heron standing at the edge of the water and a Northern Flicker chipping at a tree at the edge of the woods were the only birds I saw, so I decided to head to the meadow at the back to see what was around.

Fortunately there was more activity here. A few darners were flying, and I scared up a couple as I walked through the long grass. I only managed to catch one with my net, a Lance-tipped Darner.

Lance-tipped Darner

A Field Sparrow was singing somewhere close by, and I came across a pair of Brown Thrashers which didn’t want to have their picture taken. A flock of Cedar Waxwings were calling from a dead tree, most of which appeared to be brown-streaked juveniles. I also saw a robin and a Northern Flicker sitting in the same tree. I headed over to the shelter (aptly named the Dragonfly Shelter) and proceeded beyond it to see if I could find a trail to Constance Creek.

Dragonfly Shelter

I didn’t find the creek, but I did come across something interesting….a pile of bear scat right in the middle of the clearing. It was large, so I placed a quarter on the ground for comparison. Although it wasn’t fresh, it didn’t appear to be too old, either. I decided not to explore any further, and figured it was as good a time as any to check the sandy pond again.

Bear Scat

On my way out, I found a pair of Meadow Fritillaries and stopped to photograph one.

Meadow Fritillary

There was more odonate activity at the pond when I returned. I found a couple of Common Pondhawks, a Common Whitetail, and several meadowhawks. I was interested in the bluets, however, and spent my time scouring the vegetation close to the woods. I found a lot of Azure Bluets, easily distinguished by the mostly black abdomen and the two-and-a-half blue segments at the end.

Azure Bluet

Once I had my fill of photographing the Azure Bluets I began to look for other species. I found several that weren’t Azures, but only managed to catch two of them. I photographed both in the hand, then checked the shape of the claspers in my book. Both of them turned out to be Northern Bluets.

Northern Bluet

By then it was mid-morning, and I still wanted to go to the Morris Island Conservation Area so I packed up my gear. I was making my way down the boardwalk when a bird in a tree caught my attention. I stopped to identify it – it was a Gray Catbird – and that’s when I noticed the large toad sitting on the boardwalk behind me. It had not been there when I had walked my a moment ago, so I am not sure exactly where it came from! I slowly crept up to it to take a few pictures.

American Toad

He was a large one, even larger than my fist! With all the huge bullfrogs at the Bill Mason Center, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find an equally huge toad.

American Toad

It was a great ending to my visit to the Bill Mason Center, and I couldn’t wait to visit Morris Island to see what was waiting for me there.

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One thought on “The Wildlife of the Bill Mason Center

  1. Pingback: Porcupine Crossing | The Pathless Wood

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