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