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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

April 5, 2011 4:00-4:30pm overcast, Bold Point, East Providence RI: In which the author has a fight with a Muskrat (and then feels bad about it), finds a pellet of unknown origin and freaks out Blackbirds, Snipe and Killdeer

We celebrated Theo our new dog's last day before being fixed with a walk at Bold Point. We found most of the common birds before even getting to the marshy meadow (or is it the meadowy marsh - it doesn't matter) seeing and hearing Blue Jay, Great Black-backed Gull, American Crow and Killdeer. When we finally came to the meadow we dashed instantly in and started rummaging through the phragmites in search of Wilson's Snipe which would be a year bird.

Soon my brother called out "Snipe" and sure enough he had flushed a snipe (flushed is the word birders use for describing in nicer terms how they completely unnerve birds to get them to fly, this can be achieved in many different ways though I usually prefer the lightest way in which I walk off the path and hope to scare something up. (Read my post on snipe from May 3, 2010 for more information). Soon after I flushed up two more snipe.who both shot from the reeds like rockets, wings whirring.

A Wilson's Snipe has a white belly which is partly covered with dark streaks, it has an ungraceful long bill,four pale vertical streaks running up the back and a rufous tipped tail. They are about the size of a Blue Jay. Other than the field marks I just listed they look like any other shorebird. The closest relative of the Wilson's Snipe in New England is the American Woodcock. In a matter of minutes we flushed two more snipe. I am guessing we saw 5 in total though I can't be positive. Along with the snipe I scared off Killdeer and Red-winged Blackbirds both of which I could see easily with out flushing them.

Then I noticed a hunched black form scampering over a sandy section, I chased after it intrigued. It finally reached the safety of the phragmites but I was just a step behind. It darted under some reeds and then froze (at this point I had identified it as Muskrat). I reached out and touched it, it remained motionless, I touched it again, it still didn't move. I cleared away the phragmites and took a photo. Then I reached and tried in vain to pick it up (which was cruel of me I know) and it darted away I followed. Then it really got upset it turned hissing and leaped at me!! I hissed back! It leaped at me again and then swam of deeper into the reeds (I was in a few inches of water luckily I was wearing rain boots). I followed it once again and we repeated this procedure a few more times (one time I think it even jumped on my boot) before I finally left it in peace. luckily I had taken a bunch of good photos and a video before leaving. It was unkind of me to scare the poor creature but it sure was an amazing experience.

Muskrat

Muskrat hiding

You can see a video of it here.

As we walked back through the marsh I came across a pellet containing the bones and hair of some unlucky mouse. Presumably the pellet was from a Red-tailed Hawk.

Pellet

1 comment:

  1. Very cool...I have also had a run in with a muskrat. Fun critters....

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