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Saturday, July 7, 2012

Petersham, MA - May/26-28/2012

This weekend, being a day longer then usual, we were able to spend an extra night with our grandparents up in Petersham, Mass. This vacation may have been the most exciting one - nature wise - that I have taken in this peaceful little town. We arrived on Saturday afternoon and in less then two hours I scored both a Black-billed Cuckoo and a year bird Alder Flycatcher. Both of these handsome birds I found in the North Common Meadow across the street from our house. I believe that both are nesting there. I know that the flycatcher nested there last year.

The next day my brother and I were up at 4:30am planning to walk down East Street at least as far as Maple Lane. Having not calculated the distance I was unprepaired for the long walk. It turned out that it was (only) a 5.2 mile stroll.

The first robin's cheery song filled the still dark air at 4:15am. I had awoken at four to start our walk as early as possible but considering the dark I decided it would be better to wait for the sun to rise and the birds to wake. In the fifteen minutes that I spent waiting on the porch I heard at least four Barred Owls calling and a Tree Swallow flying over head.

Starting down the road we took a short cut through the North Common Meadow. Here we picked up a few singing Bobolinks, a peenting woodcock and the Alder Flycatcher from the day before.

The trail joins up with East Street, no bush-wacking required, and we continued down the street. Our next stop was the East Street Cemetery. It is a small cemetery protected on the eastern side by thick pine woodlands and on the northern side by a beaver filled pond.
Here the only animals present other then the nesting Tree Swallows were four large beavers returning home to the lodge after a hard nights chewing.

Continuing down the strip of pavement, listening to the singing Ovenbirds and Veery we were confronted by a large stallion who followed us in a trot as far as his pasture stretched down the road. Occasionally he would stop to stare at us, quite menacingly if you ask me. I was thanking God for the fence between us.


We turned right at Browns Pond, a fairly large, mud, snake and Snapping Turtle infested swimming pond, and started up the hill. Having mounted the steep hill's summit we started down the other side passing a few houses and lots of woodlands. At Maple Lane and it's large farm fields we took a right but feeling kind of uncomfartable about walking down this road which we knew dead-ended in a private residence, we soon decided to turn around. It was with lucky chance that we did for among the numerous Bobolinks that flew over those fields, spilling out their rapturous burbles, up went a small sparrow who whizzed across the road and briefly landed deep in the bushes on the right hand side of the street. It was all but hidden from view and then it winged away again to land in the small trees surrounding a house where it was instantly swallowed by greenery. But in that flash of time we were able to pick out a few details; mainly the bird's long tail, apparent greenish tinge to the back, yellowish sides and rapid wing-beat. Although half of these field marks, the greenish and yellow ones specifically, can be placed on no sparrow, the other two can. Seeing that one of our goal birds for the walk was a Grasshopper Sparrow, and ignoring it's longish tail, we decided that the only option was a Grasshopper (a life bird). No matter how weak our identification I was amazed to find that, in the thirty seconds the bird had spent hidden in the bush, my brother had managed to take an awful but ID-able photo of the ave. Indeed it was a bird - past that nothing could be certified! I decided not to count it on my life list.

We continued on down the road, turning down Quakers Lane for a brief and failed search for Louisiana Waterthrush along a fast flowing stream. We did however bag a modestly plumed Swamp Sparrow.

In the end we hiking all the way down to Glasheen Road where one of our numerous pairs of aunts and uncles reside. Across from this street and justly barely visible was a marsh which swarmed with Red-winged Blackbirds. Closer to hand sang a few redstarts, Yellow and Chestnut-sided Wablers, a Baltimore Oriole, yet more Bobolinks and a couple of Least Flycatchers.

On our way back up East Street our only highlights were a few Wood Ducks.

The next day we took a similar walk at a similar time but this hike turned it into a slightly longer loop by going up Quakers Lane which meets up with Rt. 122. We walked up hill a little way until we came to South Street which we followed back to Petersham center.

The birds were pretty much the same as before, but we had a few nice species including Louisiana and Northern Waterthrush, probable Ruffed Grouse (a whir of wings from the branches of a pine where all we got from this bird), possible (although unlikely) Worm-eating Warbler singing on South Street, and a bird that sounded kind of like an Orchard Oriole on South Main Street.
Other interesting finds included two nesting Snapping Turtles; one on the bridge over the fast flowing stream on Quakers Lane and another by Browns Pond.

It was a extremely enjoyable weekend and one that I hope can soon be repeated.

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