Thursday, June 17, 2010

H. Smith Richardson Wildlife Preserve and Christmas Tree Farm - BBS

A week ago today I visited Connecticut Audubon Society's H. Smith Richardson Wildlife Preserve and Christmas Tree Farm on Sasco Creek Road in Westport. It is composed of a 24-acre Christmas tree plantation, a 14-acre field habitat and a 36-acre evergreen plantation. As Twan mentioned in an earlier entry, he and I have been conducting breeding bird surveys at as many of our centers and sanctuaries as possible. This gives us not only a picture of the species occurring there at the moment, many likely breeding, but also baseline data that, when analyzed with other years, will allow us to apply our best management practices tailored to each unique location.

The morning I chose was a breezy, cool, and wet one. Heavy rain the night before into the morning left a good deal of standing water and clouds behind. Bird activity was likely less than usual. Nevertheless, I had a few interesting sightings, and logged several breeding species.

Christmas tree farm

The Christmas tree farm was filled with Song Sparrows, likely all breeding. I found a couple nests and a bunch of fledglings. They really took to the Christmas trees. Even on this somewhat unpleasant spring morning, an Indigo Bunting was using a Christmas tree as a singing perch. The Red-tailed Hawk pictured below did not keep quiet for more than a minute at a time. It likely has a nest in the immediate area, as it was clearly upset with my presence. The resident passerines seemed quite used to the displays and screams of the hawk.

The field habitat was quite intriguing, with House Wrens and Tree Swallows using nest boxes. I saw everything from Baltimore Oriole, more Indigo Bunting, Yellow Warbler, Cedar Waxwing, House Finch, Wild Turkey, to Brown-headed Cowbird. Surveys such as this also allow us to take note of flora. I observed some invasive species that we will need to remove before any habitat management could fully commence.

Open field habitat

Singing House Wren

The site is definitely a fantastic spot to visit in the fall and winter. It is a magnet for sparrow migration and a variety of rare species in the winter months. I definitely recommend a visit then. At worst, you will see a few birds and buy a beautiful Christmas tree that very likely served as a home for Song Sparrows (or others!) during the spring and summer before.

Photos © Scott Kruitbosch

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