Sights and Sounds of Spring - April 26 & 27, 2014

On Saturday morning in West Newbury, we saw the ancient, native Marsh Marigold.
Marsh Marigold is blooming in the wet woodland edges.  It becomes most lush in 
partial shade.  The kidney-shaped leaves are 1 - 6 inches across, with thick,waxy texture. 
The stems are hollow.  The flowers are yellow, 1 -2 inches in diameter, with 4 - 9 [mostly 5] 
petal with multiple, yellow stamens.  A great variety of insects visit these flowers for pollen 
and for the nectar oozing from the small depressions.  I've seen hummingbirds nectaring 
on Marsh Marigolds along the Merrimack River during cold, wet Springs.

We had two good looks at Palm Warblers.  The Blue Jays were vocal.  Green-winged Teal were in the wetlands, and a drake Hooded Merganser loafed under a nest box.   We came across a group of Wilson's Snipe in the wild rice fields along the Merrimack River. The snipe seemed one with the flotsam & jetsam in the cove.

On Sunday, we explored the wet meadow in Newburyport's Industrial Park and had Killdeer
and Northern Flickers.  We saw Great Egrets with green lores in all their finery. Tree & Barn 
Swallows were on the wing, seeking prey items in the cold dampness. On Scotland Road in
Newbury, we found two Wilson's Snipe very close to the road, offering prolonged and excellent views.

A behavior we lingered to watch was that of Common Grackles.  Grackles are very social and intelligent birds. We came across three together, on a mulched area near a building.  One was flat and spread on the dark mulch.  I've seen grackles hunched over on the ground, wings spread, allowing ants to crawl over their bodies and feathers. This anting is a frequent practice among many bird species. Ants secrete formic acid, and this rids the bird of parasites. Our observation proved that this bird wasn't anting.  The bird on the mulch twitching, and the other two were attentively close.  We saw the two birds approach the injured bird as if offering assistance. The one twitching likely was a victim of a window collision.  I covered the injured bird with a cloth and moved it to a weedy area.  The bird then expired in the shroud in which I'd wrapped it.

In West Newbury, we were watching a Great Egret in a pond when a Great Blue Heron approached.  The Great Blue Heron with a longer, more formidable bill and longer legs became aggressive. Sharing that pond wasn't something the heron was going to do.  Double-crested Cormorants were showing off their crests and turquoise eyes. 

We came across three Belted Kingfishers enjoying the small fish in a shallow pool.  I spoke about the syndactyl feet of the Belted Kingfisher which are key in creating their nest cavity in the top of a cut-away bank.  The second and third digits are fused for a portion of their length.  The syndactyl foot structure serves as a trowel for scraping and kicking back the earth.  Their nest cavities are excavated with their bills and feet.  I've seen a few kingfishers with worn bills. 

Good birding,