04/02/11 – Vassar Farm Hike

Great Blue Heron

I almost didn’t make it out on Saturday because I woke up feeling pretty lousy.  I dragged myself to Vassar Farm to see if the nice weather could shake a looming cold.  Even though I felt just as worn out as before when I was done, I did manage to spot some interesting wildlife in the short time I was there.

I started at the front pond again, hoping I might see another brown creeper in the wooded area across the pond.  Surprisingly, another great sighting was there, a yellow-bellied sapsucker!  She was completely uncooperative for photographs, so everything I took was from a distance.  I never realized sapsuckers were so fast and acrobatic!  Every time I spotted her, regardless of how far away I was, she would take off through the woods and fly wildly through the trees in an effort to lose me.  While hiking some more through the orange trail, I spotted her a few more times.

Other sightings included downy woodpeckers, american goldfinches, red-bellied sapsuckers, and quite a few white-breasted nuthatches.  I also saw my first eastern phoebe of the season, which I was happy to photograph!  On my way back across the front pond, I saw a pair of hooded mergansers fly by.  It happened too quick to snap a photo, but it’s excellent they are still in the area.

Through the fields, the familiar sounds of tree swallows filled the area.  Those were also the first of season sightings for me too.  Since they didn’t land, I wasn’t able to photograph them, but you can always refer to my wildlife guide for any birds I didn’t snap any shots of.

The real activity was at the eco ponds past the fields.  Right from the beginning, I heard an unfamiliar bird call.  I had an idea of what it was, but I wasn’t 100% sure.  I finally spotted the bird, but with the sun directly behind it, I could only see a silhouette.  The shape of the bird narrowed it down to either a phoebe or flycatcher.  I literally called my fiancee to play a few calls over the phone, but I couldn’t hear it clearly enough.  Thankfully, he finally flew out in the sun and it turned out to be another eastern phoebe.

By the wooden bridge, I spotted a male wood duck swimming away into the woods.  This is already the second one I’ve photographed this spring, which is literally, my own personal record.  This ‘nemesis’ bird of mine may finally move down my list of ‘toughest to photograph’ (currently the wood duck and belted kingfisher are tied for #1).


As I made my way back, I spotted the muskrat again and this time, I got a photograph.  On top of that, I also found where his home might me.  Then the highlight of the day happened.  On the other side of the pond, a great blue heron flew down by the pond’s edge.  I realized I could take the trail back along the pond and remain virtually hidden, so that’s what I did.  I got extremely close behind a tree and found a spot through the brush to photograph him.  I ended up getting a very intimate look at the heron creeping along the pond catching food.  After he caught one, maybe two snacks, he took flight into the woods.

I then walked through the trail behind the field station back to the parking lot.  Unfortunately, other than a few more white-breasted nuthatches and white-throated sparrows, I didn’t see much else.  My full sighting list is below.

  1. Canada Goose
  2. Wood Duck
  3. Mallard
  4. Hooded Mergansers (spotted at front pond, flew off immediately)
  5. Great Blue Heron
  6. Red-tailed Hawk
  7. Mourning Dove
  8. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  9. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  10. Downy Woodpecker
  11. Pileated Woodpecker (heard only)
  12. Eastern Phoebe (first sighting of season)
  13. American Crow
  14. Tree Swallow (first sighting of season)
  15. Black-capped Chickadee
  16. Tufted Titmouse (heard only)
  17. White-breasted Nuthatch
  18. Eastern Bluebird
  19. American Robin
  20. Northern Mockingbird
  21. European Starling
  22. Song Sparrow
  23. White-throated Sparrow
  24. Dark-eyed Junco
  25. Northern Cardinal
  26. Red-winged Blackbird
  27. Common Grackle
  28. American Goldfinch
  29. House Sparrow
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