Brinton Brook Hike, Report 7-2016

Last June marks my two year anniversary as a regular at Brinton Brook. Every second Saturday of each month, a casual hike is held at this Saw Mill River Audubon sanctuary. I suppose now is a good time to initiate my monthly reports, which will include highlights. Of late, Mike, the hike leader, designated me as the (un)official bird guide.

This month’s group consisted of eight people in total. We were mostly birdwatchers once again. The morning was an overcast and unusually cool day for July. The past few days were humid and hot, especially yesterday. Mike said he when he had been out on the trails then, he had seen a lot of bird activity in the woodsy part of the sanctuary. Based on personal experience, I conjectured that that wouldn’t be the case today. Songbirds hide themselves quiet down when clouds fully cover the sky. Additionally, now is the time of the summer doldrums, when many birds who nested have no need to sing for territory and mates. The time for warblers – in the past.

Soon after we began the hike, I heard a Scarlet Tanager and caught a quick sight of an orange bird near the canopy. I tried to chase both but saw neither. A family of Tufted Titmice buzzed.

There are several bluebird nesting boxes in the meadow on the yellow trail. Last month, we found a young dead Tree Swallow inside one. Bluebird boxes are meant to be deeper than swallow boxes. The swallow, evidently, could not make the jump. (Ideally, just in swallows nest in a bluebird box, there should be a bar just below the entrance inside.)

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Dead juvenile Tree Swallow. Note that it doesn’t have the full iridescence of an adult. © S.G. Hansen

This time we found a more positive discovery: bluebird eggs!

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Eastern Bluebird eggs are smaller than American Robin eggs, and they are not as powerfully colored. © S.G. Hansen

At the pond, we saw four of the six young Wood Ducks from last month. They looked nearly adult size.

Bird activity continued to be mostly quiet until we reached the power line meadow. Con Ed inadvertently created a wonderfully rich, border habitat for birds and insects when they installed power lines. I could provide a list of excellent native plants as well as the nonnative and/or invasive, but I would need to write them down as Mike – one of the knowledgeable plant excerpts of the hike – points them out.

To not have much bird activity for most part of the year would be disappointing. The more notable species included:

  • 1 unseen singing Indigo Bunting.
  • 1 Great Egret flyover the woods on the other side of the meadow.
  • 1 lone Cedar Waxwing. (There were dozens last time, flying around everywhere, making a wheezing racket, eating seeds and berries from trees and shrubs.)
  • 1 Northern Rough-winged Swallow.
  • 1 Brown Thrasher.
  • 2 Eastern Towhee singing away.
  • 3 Wood Thrushes. We were caught in the center of a triangle of overlapping song.
  • A couple Yellow Warblers and Common Yellowthroats.
  • A small group of unidentified mid-sized yellow passerines. (Mystery bird still not ID’d.)

I also saw some butterfly weed at Brinton for the first time. (Common name courtesy of Mike.) There was some back at the smaller meadow, but not as much here:

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Butterfly weed. No butterflies, none at all this month. © S.G. Hansen

We also came across the remains of a small mammal on the path. A small downy feather in the middle of it hints that the predator could have been a raptor (likely a Red-tail).

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A mole, a vole, something, something. © S.G. Hansen

Thereafter, we went into the woods again. Mid-day approached. Quieter than ever, though this part of the yellow trail – especially during late morning – is usually very quiet. I heard another Scarlet Tanager, a Red-bellied Woodpecker, and a Downy Woodpecker, and that was it until we arrived back at the parking lot.

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