Friday, December 4, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group will meet Tues., Dec. 8th and Thurs., Dec. 10th at Topstone Park in Redding, CT.

Take Topstone Rd. off of Rt. 7.
Follow road over RR tracks until it becomes a dirt road.
Shortly after, a parking area will be on the right side of the road.

Meet at 8:30am.

Any questions, please contact Mendy at or 203-241-1770.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

October Birding Blog - Garden of Ideas

How is it that sometimes the best birding occurs right in the parking lot!  A very small bird called a kinglet was seen high in a tree, nervously gleaning insects as we gathered in the parking lot to begin at the Garden of Ideas.  A walk around the marsh area resulted in some Warbler sightings, and although we didn’t get close enough to more specifically identify them, their yellow coloration and shape put us in the right family.  A couple of flocks of red-winged blackbirds flew low over the marsh, and high in the sky was a turkey Vulture with its characteristic V-shaped silhouette and long fingered wingtips.  A white throated sparrow sat in a low bush within easy viewing range, and its very distinctive black and white striped head and bright white throat patch made it easy to identify.  We saw and heard the usual assortvment of blue jays, American crows, goldfinches and downy woodpeckers as we walked around the grounds.  The eastern phoebe was also spotted, a brown and white flycatcher that sits upright on a branch and wags its tail in a distinctive manner.  Best of all was a red- shouldered hawk (pictured) that sat regally at the top of a dead tree surveying the marshlands.  These medium sized hawks have reddish under parts and a banded tail, and are often found near swamps, as they will hunt for frogs and snakes as well as mice.  Next month we will see fewer migrants heading south, and more of the birds that stay for the winter. Photo:

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Tues., Nov. 10th and Thurs., Nov. 12th 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.
Parking is at the end of the road.
Meet at 8:30am.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike Thursday, Nov. 5th at Aldrich Park in Ridgefield.
From Rt. 35 take Farmingville Rd.
Follow until you reach New Rd.  Turn left onto New Rd.
Parking area will be on the left.
Meet at 8:30am.
Contact info or questions:  Mendy Polchinski at or 203-241-1770 cell.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group will hike this week, Tuesday, Oct. 27th and Thursday, Oct. 29th at Tarrywile Park in Danbury.

From I-84 take the airport exit.
At end of ramp turn right.
Follow through traffic lights and at stop sign turn onto Southern Blvd. ( It will be a sharp right turn).
Follow small brown signs for Tarrywile Park.
The park will be on the right, across from Immaculate H.S.
Meet in lower parking lot at 8:30am.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group will meet Tues., Oct. 20th and Thurs., Oct. 22nd at Lake Windwing.

Take Rt. 35 to the traffic light at Limestone Rd.
Turn left on to Limestone Rd.
Follow Limestone, it will turn into Bennetts Farm Rd.
Follow Bennetts Farm Rd. and turn right on to South Shore Dr.
Ridgebury Elementary School will be on the left right before the turn to South Shore Dr.
Turn left into baseball field and parking area.
Meet at 8:30am.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group will try a new location called Farrington Woods in Danbury, CT on Tuesday, October 13th and Thursday, October 15th.

Take Ridgebury Rd. turns into Saw Mill Rd. 
Past light to go on 84.
At next light take left onto Mill Plain Rd
Take 1st right almost immediately after.
There is a small sign.
Follow road to parking area.
Meet at 8:30am.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Birding with Lars - Sept 12, 2015

There is nothing better on a cool early September morning than to grab a pair of binoculars, a cup of hot coffee and head outside to go looking for birds!  An American Robin greeted us in the parking lot at Bennett’s Pond while we assembled and got a quick lesson from Lars on how to most effectively use binoculars.  We followed the trail up the hill to the meadow area, which used to be the site of Louis D. Conley’s mansion and farm called Outpost Farm.  Although the house and outbuildings are long gone, many beautiful trees from Conley’s tree nursery, a booming business in the 1920s, still remain scattered throughout the park.  Once again we found that the warm sunny spots attract the birds, and the best viewing is with the sun behind your back.  We watched an American Goldfinch fly into the weedy field, perhaps looking for thistle seeds to feed on.  The goldfinches are molting and putting on their drab winter plumage, losing their bright yellow and black coloration and becoming more brown and olive (pictured above).  Large noisy birds, such as the Blue Jay, American Crow, and Gray Catbird announced themselves with their loud raucous calls well before we could see them.  Other easy to recognize bird calls are from the Tufted Titmouse with its peter-peter-peter and the Black-Capped Chickadee with its fee-dee call.  Another bird spotted along the forest edge was a female Eastern Towhee, with its dark brown head, chest and back, rufous sides and white belly.  It was perched on a low tree, but is often found scratching and rummaging in the undergrowth for insects, fruits and seeds.  We learned the different approaches that tree clinging birds take to trees.  The White-Breasted Nuthatch often starts at the top of the tree and works its way down looking for insects and seeds, while the Downy Woodpecker starts low and works its way up the trunk, poking around for insects crawling along or under the bark.  Titmice and chickadees are often found with nuthatches and downy woodpeckers in winter foraging flocks, as food is easier to find as a group and there are more eyes to alert the flock to predators, and more bodies to confuse them in flight.  A good morning walk among the birds was had by all!  Photo credit:

Friday, September 4, 2015

The DC Women's Hiking Group is starting a new year of hiking.
Come and join us.
We hike every Tuesday and Thursday during the school year.

We will meet at Topstone Park in Redding on Tues., Sept. 8th and Thurs., Sept. 10th.

Take Topstone Rd. off of Rt. 7.
Follow road over RR tracks until it becomes a dirt road.
Shortly after, a parking area will be on the right side of the road.

 Meet at 8:30am.

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: