Thursday, July 2, 2015

June Birding with Noah - Ridgefield Rec Center

We tried an earlier morning (7 a.m.) start time and the birds were definitely much more active, for as soon as we entered the woodlands off of the parking lot at the Rec Center, the bird calls began.  Of much interest was a warbling vireo which had a nest high up in an aspen tree.  Although they are a rather drab bird with grey up on top and white belly washed with a faint yellow, their warbling song is beautiful to hear.  They forage high in the tree tops, eating caterpillars and other insects.  Brown-headed cowbirds will often lay their eggs in the vireo’s rounded hanging nests.  Because they are “brood parasites”, cowbirds make no nests of their own and rely on other bird species to raise their young.  Also, spotted were gray catbirds.  Related to mockingbirds, they also have the ability to mimic the calls of other birds, as well as producing their own distinctive “mewing” sound which gives them their name.  We had a nice view of some cedar waxwings, with their black masks and slicked back crests.  The red tips on their wing feathers and the yellow tip on the tail were not easy to see.  Robins, common grackles, mourning doves, yellow warblers and phoebes also were present along the wooded trails.  But the big excitement was over at the Norwalk River that runs behind the Rec Center.  There we spotted a family of wood ducks. A female with nine babies trailing behind her was swimming apart from the Canada geese.  Wood ducks will often lay their eggs in other wood duck nests, to be raised by other females, another example of brood parasitism.  Nearby, a great blue heron (picture) posed for a very long time for us and we got many good pictures of this statuesque bird with blue-grey plumage that was standing quite still hunting for fish.  Some of the swallow boxes placed along the river trail were occupied and we watched a mother tree swallow hard at work feeding insects to her hungry, noisy babies. Picture:  Michael Kralik taken on the hike - June 13, 2015

Sunday, June 14, 2015

June 14th: Flag Day - A little History

On June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the First Flag Act:  "Resolved:  That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation."  The exact design is frequently attributed to Congressman Francis Hopkinson of Philadelphia.  However, when he petitioned Congress for payment of his idea, he was turned down on the bases that others had contributed to the design.  Today the first official US flag is referred to as the Betsy Ross Flag (pictured).  However, the claim that she sewed the first flag has never been substantiated.  Since the Betsy Ross Flag, the official American flag has changed 26 times.  With the admission of Vermont and Kentucky, the second flag was approved in 1795. It not only added a star but a strip for each of the new states.  It is referred to as the Star Spangle Banner because it was the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key during the bombardment of Fort McHenry in 1814.  In 1818, with admission of 5 new states, the next change was made but it was decided that only stars would be added and the strips would stay at 13 for the original 13 colonies.  Between 1819 and 1877 the flag changed 17 times with the longest continuous time for one flag being 10 years.  During both the administration of Presidents Monroe and Polk it changed 5 times.  In 1890 it jumped from 38 stars to 44 and then changed 4 more times by 1912.  This flag stayed at 48 stars for the next 47 years.  Alaska added the 49th star in 1959 and Hawaii completed the present flag at 50 in 1960.  Today National Flag Day is celebrated on June 14th in commemoration of the First Flag Act.  We can thank BJ Cigrand, a schoolteacher from Fredonia, WI for being behind the holiday.  In 1885, Cigrand started promoting June 14 as “Flag Birthday or Flag Day”.  However, even though localities and some states picked up on honoring the day, it wasn’t until 1949 that President Truman signed an Act of Congress making it a National holiday. 

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Thurs., June 4th at Seth Low Pierrepont State Park.
Entrance and parking is off Barlow Mountain Rd. across from Scotland and Barlow Mountain Elementary Schools.
Meet at 8:30am in parking area.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., May 26th and Thurs., May 28th at
Saugatuck Falls Natural Area in Redding, CT.
The entrance is located between
mail box # 65 and 73 on Diamond Hill Road in Redding. Follow
straight in until you see the large sign (entrance marker) on your left.
Meet at 8:30am.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., May, 19th and Thurs., May 21st at Scott Lot Preserve in Redding, CT.
Coming from the north on Route 7 turn left onto Old Redding Rd. Right after going under RR bear right onto Mountain Rd. Follow Mountain Rd. to end and turn left onto Peaceable St. Parking for the open space will be on the left. If you come to an electrical substation, you went too far.
Meet at 8:30am.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May Birding With Noah – Weir Farm

It was a foggy, damp and still morning at Weir Farm and we were hoping for the mist to burn off and the sun to peek out, which it eventually did.  A small blue egg was found by one of the park employees, much to the delight of our group.  Our trip through the woods to the pond yielded some of the more common birds, such as the titmouse, chickadee, chipping sparrow, nuthatch, mallard, goldfinch and catbird.  The downy woodpecker was active in the dead trees, and we learned that with practice, you can tell it apart from the hairy woodpecker, which is quite a bit larger and has a noticeably longer bill than the downy.  The red-bellied woodpeckers teased us by being heard, but not seen, in the woods around us. 

When we reached the pond, a dog scared off two timid wood ducks, but the Canada goose pair was not perturbed in the slightest.  The female was sitting on a nest in some vegetation a little ways offshore, while her mate was out looking for food.  These geese are monogamous, staying mostly together for life, although if one mate dies, the other may find a new mate.

The highlight of the day was out in the open fields near the park office: the northern parula (pictured), a member of the warbler family, whose song (a buzzy trill) was first heard by Noah, and then spotted in a tree.  With a blue-grey hood and wings, a yellow chest, white eye crescents, and white wing bars, it is a beautiful warbler to behold.  This small migrant winters in Central America and the Caribbean, and has a large summer breeding range along the eastern U.S.  In the southern states, they nest primarily in Spanish moss, but in the north they use old man’s beard lichen, which is very sensitive to air pollution, and thus some populations have been impacted by its decline.  The northern parula eats spiders, caterpillars and other insects off of the leaves and branches in the canopy. Picture:

Monday, May 11, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., May 12th and Thurs., May 14th at Bennetts Pond State Park.
Take Rt. 7 North, after you pass the BMW dealership on the right, Bennetts Farm Rd. will be on the left.
Turn onto Bennetts Farm Rd. and follow to parking lot on the right.
Meet at 8:30am.