Monday, June 27, 2011

Final Breeding Bird Census for 2011

Sunrise, crossing a meadow en route to the census tract

This morning I completed the last of eight censuses of the birds breeding in the largest woodland in my preserve.  This marks the end of the 17th season I've walked through the woods, stopping for ten minutes at each of 19 stations, watching and (mostly) listening for birds.  As the breeding season progresses, the birds generally become increasingly subdued, and that was certainly the case today--except for the ever-raucous Gray Catbirds.
Overnight haze yet to burn off the pond at Crossroads Marsh, en route to census tract

Dawn's haze lingers over the creek as well

Black cohosh, or bugbane (Cimicifuga racemosa) blooming in a woodland gap

A tuliptree embraces a boulder of gneiss...

 ...and sends its branches into the canopy

The breeding bird census trail, opened by yours truly with hand clippers,
and kept open by the passage of countless deer hooves

The breeding bird census woods, mostly mature tuliptrees and white ashes

Three stately tuliptrees; despite appearances, the furthest in the distance is actually the largest

 A red maple barely hanging on; the right side is still alive,
while the left provides haven for woodpeckers

Breeding bird census gridpoint B-13

Trail blocked by a fallen tuliptree
Each spring when I return to complete another year's census,
I'm surprised to find that new trees have fallen across the trail over the winter

Bark of a mature tuliptree

Widowmaker at gridpoint B-9

Bright yellow fungus on a rotting log

Mossy tuliptree buttress at gridpoint B-7

A cadre of volunteers or sprouts hoping to take the place of a fallen comrade

A spring run naturally blocked by woody debris
Based on footprints in mud, the pool provides water for birds, deer, racoons and,
today, for a frog, who squeaked as it sought cover

 The trail and woods uphill from the spring run pool
Spicebushes are loaded with berries this year
Migratory (and resident) birds will eat well come autumn

A robin's nest in a multiflora rosebush immediately above the census trail
The nest was occupied when I began the census in May, but the mother abandoned it
(with one egg) after I repeatedly walked through her territory.
By today, even the egg was gone.


Carolyn H said...

Scott: Great spot for your census. I love all the big trees!

Scott said...

Carolyn, my woods is full of very tall tuliptrees that are about 90 years old now. They grow tall and fast. The area had been farmed until the 1920s, when it was added to an estate and allowed to revert to woodland. There are some magnificent and very ancient trees--oaks, hickories, and American beeches (plus a fern species threatened in PA)--just outside my bird census grid, but they haven't spread their seeds into the bird census woodlands. Unfortunately, if a canopy gap develops from the loss of a tuliptree, the oak, hickory, and beech recruits get smothered by multiflora roses and porcelain-berry vines, which are just waiting in the wings for a chance to grow berserk.