Monday, June 21, 2010

Banks South Farm BBS

On Friday, June 11, I took a trip to Connecticut Audubon's Banks South Farm. One of the newest land gifts to Connecticut Audubon Society, this 60-acre property includes open pastures and upland forest separated by wetlands and a small stream. Trails are in place on the woodland portion of the land. However, these trails are somewhat difficult to traverse in some areas, and can be steep, so any visitors should keep this in mind.

If you take the trip to Merwins Lane in Fairfield, you should also be very careful about turning off the road to the small parking area - it can be quite muddy at times, as I learned the hard way (and you will see below). This sanctuary is a work in progress. Hopefully we will be able to secure the funds to improve the habitat and maintain it for public use. For now, we will have to simply acquire this baseline data to form our management plan.

I did not start the breeding bird survey until late in the morning, but I still managed to find 33 bird species. I was able to confirm four of these as breeding - Gray Catbird, Eastern Towhee, Veery, and Pileated Woodpecker. The latter was a very nice surprise, and the male stopped in the nest cavity for a moment to let me snap a picture.

The most prevalent birds overall were Eastern Towhee and Veery, which could be found throughout the trail system in the wooded areas of the property. They are breeding at a very high density at Banks South Farm. Despite the fact invasive plants have taken a hold of much of the ground cover, these two species utilize them for nesting. Most of the confirmations were for carrying food back to the nest to feed young. However, I did see fledgling Eastern Towhee as well.

Veery waiting for me to leaving to bring food to young

I continually upset these parents by simply walking the trails and recording sightings and GPS coordinates of confirmed breeders. They brought other species in who showed their dismay. One of the nice surprises was a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. It made a unique Blue Jay-like sound to express its agitation. It is amazing how often you learn a bird can make a different noise other than the songs or chips you expect.

Dead Cedar tree, blocked from the sun by various other species

The wetland habitat and small stream could be a tremendous attraction in the harsh winter months for species such as Winter Wren, American Woodcock, both Ruby and Golden-crowned Kinglets, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Hermit Thrush. If there is flowing ice-free water many birds will come to the area. While Twan and I have focused on breeding bird surveys when we have the time, we will also conduct winter bird surveys to get some baseline data for that season as well. It will further aid our best management practices.

Remember when I mentioned the mud?

I turned off the road and did not see the mud until I hit it. While I drove into it and pushed the car through it fine, I could not get out. Once I attempted to back through it quickly, I was stuck. Fortunately, just a little pulling from Twan's car was all it took to get it out. Please be careful if you come to Banks Farm South, or any of our sanctuaries, and let my "adventure" remind you to always be careful wherever you go birding.

Photos 1-6 © Scott Kruitbosch; photos 7-8 © Twan Leenders

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