07/29/11 – Vassar Farm Hike

Indigo Bunting

I might as well call this ‘Vassar Farm Friday’ since I’ve been here four out of the last five Fridays!  After last Friday’s scorching heat, I decided to try and press my luck with a different type of weather, rain.

Due to the cloudy skies, the photos won’t be the clearest, but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying a hike through one of my favorite places. 🙂

Like most hikes, I started at the front pond.  From the road, I could see a great blue heron sitting next to the trail, but the lack of cover from the recently widened path prevented me from getting close.  All was not lost though, as the belted kingfisher had finally returned to the front pond!

A bird that has always been #1 on my nemesis list, the belted kingfisher did what he does best… land in a spot just far enough away where I couldn’t get a good shot.  At one point, he actually came down from his perch to chase away a green heron.  After that quarrel, I found a question mark butterfly sitting on a nearby leaf, which I was able to photograph a few times before it fluttered across the pond.

Spicebush Swallowtail

Knowing that time wasn’t on my side with rain on the way, I made my way to the fields in search of more butterflies.  At the barn in the parking lot, I found two more question marks and a giant swallowtail.  The swallowtail didn’t land anywhere, but I had a feeling I would cross paths with one again.

The field before the gate had a variety of butterflies, including cabbage whites, sulphurs, eastern tiger swallowtails, spicebush swallowtails, one giant swallowtail, some common wood nymphs, pearl crescents, and an eastern-tailed blue.  When I approached the gate to head through the eco fields, not only did I hear some indigo buntings, but there was a scarlet tanager hopping around the branches, probably looking for food.  What happened next surprised me though.

Scarlet Tanager

The scarlet tanager flew into a nearby tree and I could hear other birds crying out.  Could there be juvenile tanagers here? Yes!  When I approached the tree and looked into it, I found what I have to assume were two juvenile scarlet tanagers being fed!  I snapped a quick shot of one of the juveniles as proof.

Thinking my day couldn’t get much better given the circumstances, I was pretty content with what I had seen so far.  Well, it got better.  Not too far into the fields past the gate, I found and photographed my first viceroy butterfly in over two years!  This particular butterfly has the same color scheme as a monarch, but the pattern is slightly different.  I ended the photography with a photo of a giant swallowtail by the back ponds.

That’s when things turned south.  As I approached the back ponds, a large flock of about 200 to 250 european starlings came flying by.  It seemed a little strange to me, and took it as a sign to pack up, pull out the rain jacket and book it back to the car.  It turned out to be a good idea.  Within five minutes, I was running through a storm.  Yup, it was a good day!

Bird Sighting/Sound List:

  1. Mallard
  2. Great Blue Heron
  3. Green Heron
  4. Red-tailed Hawk
  5. Mourning Dove
  6. Belted Kingfisher
  7. Red-bellied Woodpecker
  8. Hairy Woodpecker
  9. Northern Flicker
  10. Pileated Woodpecker
  11. Eastern Kingbird
  12. Red-eyed Vireo (heard only)
  13. American Crow
  14. Barn Swallow
  15. Eastern Bluebird
  16. American Robin
  17. Gray Catbird
  18. Northern Mockingbird
  19. European Starling
  20. Common Yellowthroat
  21. Eastern Towhee (heard only)
  22. Field Sparrow
  23. Song Sparrow
  24. Scarlet Tanager
  25. Indigo Bunting
  26. Red-winged Blackbird
  27. American Goldfinch

Butterfly Sighting List:

  • Silver-spotted Skipper
  • Eastern Tiger Swallowtail
  • Spicebush Swallowtail
  • Giant Swallowtail
  • Cabbage White
  • Sulphur (not sure if clouded or orange)
  • Eastern Tailed-Blue
  • Monarch
  • Viceroy
  • Pearl Crescent
  • Question Mark (New Sighting for me!)
  • Common Wood Nymph
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One Response to 07/29/11 – Vassar Farm Hike

  1. Great shot of the scarlet tanager!

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