Monday, August 12, 2013

Birds of the Marshfield Marsh



Last weekend, when the weather sung of a dry, high-pressure sunny turn of the season -- happy August, most serene of months -- we visited the birds at the Audubon Society's  Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary in Marshfield. Among the birds we saw -- i.e. the ones we think we can find names for -- was the red-tailed hawk who greeted us by sitting on top of the entryway shed monitoring the parking lot.
            Not a lot going on in the lot. But maybe that's the way Mr. Hawk likes it. We're only the second car. We walk inside one by one beneath the long-bodied hawk and he waits for the the third of us to approach the door before flying away.
            We're glad he wasn't hungry.
            Inside of the sanctuary's first blind we find ourselves looking up at a couple of nests filled to capacity with the gaping red mouths of baby birds. Parent birds whizzed around the blind, beneath the roof, out the window and back in, hoping to confuse us. Already sufficiently confused when it comes to brids, we later judge these winged creatures are barn swallows, based on the yellow markings on the adult birds that match the barn swallow photo in our bird guide. Plus barn swallows like to nest in the rafters of barn-like buildings such as this simple wood structure.
            Leaving the blind and walking the main path through the preserve, we luxuriated in the beautifully dry air. It was bottle-me air, and save me up for the next humid spell. The day was even better in the coastal marsh and flat field of the sanctuary because we walk under open sky in all directions: even more of that quality air. We're heading toward the seashore as well, though a distant line of trees blocks the view of the water. Not too many bugs for a summer day in a low area either, but lots of birds -- diving over the marsh grasses, skiming, ascending, diving again. Keeping the bug population down. We do see some dragonflies and later find a large, beautifully colored member of this family lying still and eternal on a footpath.
            We see what what I think are yellow warblers darting across over the marsh grass in search perhaps of lunch. Colonies of plastic white ball-shaped structures with small circles for portals hang high from posts. Signs tells us later these multi-unit developments are for martens. The birds we see around these appear all black; perhaps the showy purple martens are for players for another season.
            In the second blind, where we expect the view to be richer with water birds, we spy a very long bird perched on a post on the far side of the pond. When I finally focus our handy light binoculars on this curious form, yes! a great blue heron, His head is all corkscrewed down low, as if picking lice out of his underarm, but eventually the long, elastic neck stretches out.
            Meanwhile turtles, unimpressed by all this winging around, sun themselves on the rocks near us in what the society calls "a shallow wetland."
            Another bird curls on top of a rock about two-thirds the way across our shallow, but quite watery "wetland." From the neck and flat shape of beak I guess a smaller heron. When it suddenly departures and flies straight at the blind, while I'm glassing him, its feet appear a bright yellow. From this sign and the photo I find in our bird guide, I'm calling this a green head heron.
            But this is all is mere fun and guesswork. I'd like to invite all these birds to come back to our garden and hang around the neighborhood long enough for us to get to know them.