09/11/10 – Vassar Farm Hike

I haven’t been able to spend some quality wildlife observing time the last few weeks, so I was relieved when I saw my afternoon open up.  I wanted to get out quickly, so Vassar Farm was the first place I could think of.  I’m glad I chose it, as I got some great looks at great birds.

As always, I started at the front ponds in search of herons.  I didn’t see any initially, but a hike down the orange trail changed that with a lone Green Heron sighting in a tree.  I took a few photos and continued back down the trail.

I heard lots of pecking at the trees, so I looked around for woodpeckers, but I found a Red-Tailed Hawk instead!  I was extremely close, which made for a great photo collection, including the photo on the right.  Never saw any woodpeckers though.

As I made my way back past the farm plots, I saw a Northern Flicker foraging on the ground, and once again, I found myself very close.  I snapped some more photos of him, along with a few Northern Mockingbird shots too.  At this point, I was already pretty happy with the photographs, so I proceeded down the grassy trail near the farm plots towards the fields.

To my surprise, an American Kestrel was perched near the gate to the fields, in the dead tree off that grassy trail!  He took off before I could get any shots.  At the gate, I took a left down that dead end because I have had good luck with woodpecker sightings over there.  Sightings included a Downy & Red-Bellied Woodpecker, a few Flickers and an Eastern Phoebe.

The fields were empty, not a single Goldfinch in sight the entire time.  I made my way to the back ponds and found a few Mallards and a single Wood Duck in the water there.  There was a lot of activity in a particular tree near the ponds, so I began to look and see what was there.  From looking back at the photos, I would have to say there was two Magnolia Warblers, a Gray Catbird, and a possibly a Red-Eyed Vireo.  Photos will be up soon, so stay tuned on that.

At the wooden bridge at the back ponds, I stopped to look for hummingbirds but again was in for a surprise.  A hawk appeared from the woods and perched on a branch right in front of me!  Judging from the size, I would have to say it was a juvenile Cooper’s Hawk.  While I’ve seen Cooper’s before, this is the first one I’ve photographed, so I was definitely happy about that.

To end my day, I heard a rustling in a nearby bush near the field station.  I waited for a bit, and a Brown Thrasher popped out within 10 feet of where I was standing.  The Thrasher flew off, but not before I got my final photo of the day.

I have the full sighting list below:

  1. Wood Duck
  2. Mallard
  3. Green Heron
  4. Turkey Vulture
  5. Cooper’s Hawk
  6. Red-Tailed Hawk
  7. American Kestrel
  8. Mourning Dove
  9. Belted Kingfisher
  10. Red-Bellied Woodpecker
  11. Downy Woodpecker
  12. Northern Flicker
  13. Pileated Woodpecker (Heard only)
  14. Eastern Phoebe
  15. Red-Eyed Vireo
  16. Blue Jay
  17. American Crow
  18. Black-Capped Chickadee
  19. Tufted Titmouse
  20. Eastern Bluebird
  21. Gray Catbird
  22. Northern Mockingbird
  23. Brown Thrasher
  24. European Starling
  25. Magnolia Warbler
  26. Northern Cardinal
  27. American Goldfinch
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