Watts Flats Wildlife Management Area

Watts Flats WMA SignOne of the bird walks for Audubon’s spring birding series will be at the Watts Flats Wildlife Mangement Area. I decided to check it out today. I’m frankly kind of suprised I’ve never run upon it before this. It is so close, and so accessible.

We parked at a lot at the corner of Swede Road and Green Flats Road.

Before getting to the parking lot, we saw a mink bound over Swede Road in front of us. Later we would also see a muskrat, and plenty of evidence of beaver activity:

Beaver Activity

We parked close to Swede Road and walked Green Flats Road to the second parking lot. It looked as Green Flats Road is supposed to continue as a grassy trail.

Path to bridge

But the bridge and much of the trail was under water!

Bridge - flooded

We turned left instead and into the woods. The trail was wet – even covered with water in some places. But I could see it would be a very nice trail when the water goes down a bit. We hiked out until we got to a spot where the trail was covered with two feet of water, then turned around and back out to the car.

Along the way, we saw plenty of wildlife.

Yellow-rumped Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler

Garter Snake
Eastern Garter Snake

Canada Goose
Canada Goose

We also saw robins and crows, a red-tailed hawk, a pair of frisky kingfishers, and a very large bird that we could not identify. I swear it was shaped like a cormorant, but it was a light brown color. I heard red-winged blackbirds, but never saw one. Dozens of frogs jumped into the water before we could see what they were. And we even saw dragonflies – one was definitely a Common Green Darner. I suspect the other one was, too, but I couldn’t get a good look.

Plants were also plentiful, though not many in bloom yet.

Pussy Willows
Pussy Willow

Colt's Foot
Colt’s Foot

Ground Pine
Ground Pine

It was a very pleasant afternoon walk. I look forward to going back early in the morning in a few weeks as part of the birding classes. Hopefully the water will be down and we can hike around that pond.

Green Flats Road
Walking back to the car…

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Who’s Blooming Today?

Squeezed in a quick walk yesterday afternoon.

The Woods

I’m sure I missed plenty, but here are a few things I did see:

Spring Beauty
Spring Beauty

Hepatica
Hepatica

Toothwort
Toothwort Buds

Broadleaf Sedge
Broadleaf Sedge

Leatherwood
Leatherwood

Round-leaved Violet
Round-leaved Violet

Then there was this little cutie, with colors so bright he (or she?) must have just shed:

Garter Snake
Garter Snake

Garter Snake
Can you see just the tiniest tips of the tongue?

Ospreys

There are a couple of places at Allegany State Park where you can see ospreys on the nest.  These photos are from the approach to the Quaker Area of the park. There is another nest on the Red House side.

Osprey
An instant before I took this picture, there were 2 birds on the nest. I wasn’t quick enough!

Osprey
I only had my 18-55mm lens, so all these photos are cropped a LOT.

Osprey
I had also never tried tracking a moving “target”. Most of my photos are of things that sit still and my biggest challenge is wind.

Osprey
I didn’t change any camera settings. I just tried to follow the bird in flight and snapped away.

Osprey
I was pretty surprised these turned out as well as they did, given the equipment and the challenges!


  • Osprey – Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Osprey – The Peregrine Fund

Found!

Bob and Lolli and I took a hike at Allegany State Park today. We parked on Coon Run Road, hiked out to where the Finger Lakes Trail crosses the road, and took a left onto the trail. We walked out a ways, then turned back and crossed the road. Within a few steps of the road I finally found my Hepatica!

Hepatica

Hepatica

Hepatica

Hepatica

Hepatica

Hepatica

Hepatica

But I was MOST excited about finding my first ever purple one:

Hepatica


Click for an Article about Hepatica from the US Forest Service

Hepatica Hunt

Beautiful weather today. So, I went to look for spring wildflowers… other than Skunk Cabbage and Colt’s Foot. But, I didn’t find any. Sigh.

Here’s what I did find, though!

IMG_2503
Watercress

IMG_2495
Shelf Function

IMG_2492
Moss

IMG_2486
Leeks

IMG_2478
A Different Moss

IMG_2487
Hepatica!!! (but no flowers… yet.)

Vernal Pool Pilgrimage

Morning Staff Meeting.  Live Animal Report.  “Everybody’s fine.”

“But hey, speaking of live animals, do you think tonight might be the night?”

“Could be.  Rain.  Temps near sixty.”

“It’s supposed to get cold again, though.  And snow.”

Later in the day, we check the hour by hour forecast.  Temperatures aren’t supposed to drop until 11pm or midnight.  I send an email to the Spontaneous Naturalist list, post a notice on Facebook, and call Wanda.  “Tonight’s the night.  Dig out your rain gear and your strongest flashlight.  I’ll pick you up at 7:30.”

Wanda

Wanda - dressed for the weather, flashlight ready!

We arrive just as the light is fading.  Peepers are singing.  Rain is steady, but not unpleasant.  We walk out the maintenance road, along the big field, into the woods and find two friends on a bench, clad in rain gear, also waiting for the migration.

We chat a bit, then head for the pond.

We pick our way around the edge, shining flashlights into the water.

All our old friends are here, all anticipating spring, as are we.

Wood Frog
Wood Frog

Leopard Frog
Leopard Frog

Spotted Salamanders
Spotted Salamanders

Snapping Turtle
Snapping Turtle

There is also evidence that the reason for coming the pond has already started, if you know what I mean…

Eggs
Wood Frog and Jefferson/Blue Spotted Salamander Eggs

Salamander Eggs
Jefferson/Blue-spotted Eggs

Spotted Salamander w/ Spermatophore
Spotted Salamander w/ Spermatophores

The amphibians were not as plentiful as I have sometimes seen them, bit it was relatively early when we headed home. We did not hear Wood Frogs singing on the way to the pond, but on the way back to the car, we did. So perhaps it got “busier” at the pool after we left.

I love to visit the vernal pools in spring. It has become a tradition.

Woodcock Ale?

Woodcock

This photo is from a day in July 2008 when we got a woodcock in the mist nets at CLDC banding station. (Click the picture for THAT story.)

March 26.  Went to Southern Tier Brewing Company for a sandwich and a brew.  When we came out, I heard it:  “Peent.  Peent.  Peent,” followed by that strange whistling when the bird takes flight.  We were dressed for running from car to building, not for standing in a soggy meadow in the cold.  But I vowed to come back in a week, dressed appropriately.

April 2.  Arrived in the parking lot at 8pm.  The sun was gone, but the sky was still light enough that we could almost see field marks on the bird that fluttered just above our heads.  “There’s one now!”  I love it when that happens!  I’m introducing a friend to something new and the bird flies overhead, as if on cue.

We listened for the “Peent” and heard it on the hill above the parking lot.  We picked our way over the stones to get closer to the source of the nasal call.  The “Peent” stopped and the bird flew up in his wide spiral, wind whistling through the feathers.  “Quick!  While he’s in the air let’s get closer to his dancing ground.”  When we sensed he was returning, we froze so we wouldn’t scare him off.  “Peent.  Peent…”  for about a minute… then off into the air again.

Each time he took flight, we inched closer until we were within 10 feet of his ground dancing, though by then, it was so dark we couldn’t see him on the ground, and the sky had lost enough light that we couldn’t even see him in flight any more, either.

We decided it would be wise to climb back down off the hill before it was too dark to find our way safely and go inside for a beer.

So, Phin… maybe for next year you could brew a special Woodcock Ale, just for Audubon, just for spring…?

Tom LeBlanc has a couple of posts over at his blog about woodcocks.  This one (click here) is about catching one on the night of the salamander migration in 2009.  And this one (click here) contains a video in which you can hear the woodcock’s “song” – though it is dark enough that you can’t see the bird, but there is a great photo there, too.