Keep Museum, May 13

Although the Keep Museum in Monson is renowned for its collection of buttons, it also has a nice trail system and some natural history displays inside. I will be doing a nature walk there this fall.

Today’s bird life started with a rose-breasted grosbeak near the parking lot and red-winged blackbirds in the nearby tree line. Approaching the trails there was a light-purple composite which I believe to be robin plantain. I would usually photograph something like this with my compact camera, but that is dead. I may have to resort to using my phone!

Out on the trails there was a yellowthroat and a prarie warbler as well as a blue-winged warbler. I was able to find a and photograph (as well as video) a chipmunk giving the alarm as I paused to watch some chickadees. There was dwarf cinquefoil in the trail as well as a lot of bluet. Highbush blueberry was also blooming along the trails.

I like photos of animals partially hidden in their habitat. This is how they lead most of their lives. The intervening foliage and branches give a sense of discovery, finding the animal in a complex environment. Of course, we do need to have a view of the head and eyes for best effect.

Chipmunk on guard

This chipmunk was sounding the alarm as I passed by.


The walk ended with a cardinal well-placed in contrasting foliage and a veery song.

Cardninal in spring foliage

This cardinal was singing in a stand of saplings with brilliant freshly-emerged foliage

Miller Forest, Peaked Mountain May 12

Back at the Miller forest tract of Peaked Mountain last Thursday. Right at the parking lot and field there was a cardinal, chipping sparrows, a towhee, and a bluebird in the field. The bluebirds have a nest with young in one of the boxes.

On the way to the causeway there were definitely 3 and maybe 4 ovenbirds singing. They were responding to each other, probably announcing their territories.

The catch of the day was at the causeway. The water level is low, a few mud flats are exposed, and a solitary sandpiper was foraging extensively. I got a lot of pictures. When it took off I was satisfied with what I got, but then it just flew over and landed on a closer mud flat – so I got a lot more pictures, and more satisfied. A bluejay and a red squirrel checked me out while I was doing this, and I heard a woodpecker drumming quite loudly, probably a pileated.

Around the far side of the pond and heading toward the pipeline trail there was a nuthatch, red-winged blackbird, and a yellowthroat. At the pipeline trail there were veerys down foraging and also a titmouse foraging on the ground.

I looped around Temple Brook and heard a black-throated green warbler, red-bellied woodpecker, and a couple of vireos that are probably either blue-headed or yellow-throated. I will need to listen more closely to the recordings I made.

Singing Towhee

This towhee was singing right above the trail leading from the parking lot

Bluebird studying the field

He has a few mouths to feed back at the nest and is probably looking for insects.

Veery foraging

I usually see veerys in the spring a couple of weeks before I hear them.

Foraging titmouse

At one point I saw this bird grab something.

Solitary sandpiper at the causeway

This bird spent a lot of time foraging on the mud flats.

Conant Brook Dam May 10

Back at Conant Brook Dam last Tuesday on a much nicer morning. A wood thrush has joined the morning songsters and a pair of red-breasted grosbeaks was foraging, with the male also singing strongly. There were herons on 2 nests with another one near a third nest. Out on the pond 2 pairs of Canada geese were having a very vocal dispute. Over on the west side of the pond an oriole sang sporadically. I got some photos of a yellow warbler and a yellow-rumped warbler. As I headed back to the car 2 families of geese were foraging in the grass. I am pretty sure that these were not the same geese that were yelling at each other. Back at the parking lot a chipping sparrow was singing and I got some pictures of him.


Yellow warbler

This yellow warbler was foraging and gave a few songs as he went.

Yellow-rumped warbler

This yellow-rumped warbler came through very close to me as I was getting photos of the yellow warbler. I was able to turn and get a few frames before he moved on.

Chipping sparrow

This chipping sparrow was singing right above the parking area as I was leaving.

Laughing Brook May 6

I went out to Laughing Brook last Friday for a quick trip. It was cloudy but no threat of rain on radar. Dwarf ginseng and large-flowered bellwort were out. There was a chipping sparrow and a bluebird in the parking lot field but no activity near the nest boxes. Over by the pond there was a red-bellied woodpecker and a Louisiana  waterthrush singing. Later I heard an ovenbird as I headed up to the upper swamp. There was one marsh marigold up there. Sadly, my picture of the marsh marigold looks to be the last picture I will take with my Nikon Coolpix point and shoot. After that shot, the lens extends and retracts a few times and the camera refuses to turn on.


Marsh marigold at Laughing Brook

The first and hopefully not only marsh marigold at Laughing Brook this year



Chipping Sparrow at Laughing Brook

Chipping Sparrow at Laughing Brook

Conant Brook and Dean Pond May 5

I’ve got a bit of catch-up to do on some field trips. I went to look at the herons at Conant Brook on May 5. It was a raw day and if there were any birds on the nests they were well-hunkered down. I did see a few female mergansers – I suspect hooded because I see the males there, but I did not get them in binocs. Also heard black-and-white warbler, pine warbler, and yellow-rumped warbler.

I then made a quick stop at nearby Dean’s Pond. There were chipping sparrows in the parking lot, as usual, and a cardinal. Also heard a yellow-rumped warbler here.


Mid-spring sightings at the Miller Forest

The rain held off enough this morning for a walk at the Miller Forest tract of the Trustees of Reservations Peaked Mountain reservation. The birds are mostly “hearings” instead of sightings. There were a lot of bluejays today and a couple of pine warblers. I heard ovenbirds in 3 different places, and a black-throated green warbler once, as well as a blue-headed vireo at about the same place. Several ferns were in fiddlehead or starting to unfurl, including hay-scented, new shoots of Christmas fern, sensitive fern and a few interrupted ferns. Starflowers, dwarf ginseng, and one of the bellworts were out. I did not stop to look closely enough at the bellwort to see which kind. Blueberries were also flowering. The vernal pond had 4 salamander egg masses and 1 old wood frog mass.

The green colors were vibrant in the overcast light. A very pleasant walk. Everything is now getting plenty of water after a dry spell in April and many days of fire warnings from the weather service. Once we get the heat back next week things should really take off.

Christmas fern fiddleheads

Christmas fern fiddleheads


Moss detail

The recent wet weather was ideal conditions for mosses and other low-growing plants. The cloudy skies create soft even lighting



Naturalists Club field trip April 24

The field trip will be April 24 at 9 am. The meeting place is a bit different from last time. We will be going to the north end of the reservation.

Get to Monson, and head south out of town on route 32.  Look for a green road sign pointing left (there is no right turn) toward Wales. Make that left. In a short distance bear LEFT at a fork. This is Munn Road. Follow this road through a crossroads and continue on. There will be a large pond with dead trees on the right, just past this is Sutcliff Road on the left. Immediately past Sutcliff on the right is a small parking area. This is where we will meet. The large pond is the northern edge of the Conant Brook reservation. If the parking area is full go back to Sutcliff Road and park along there.

Please lt me know if you are coming. The weather looks good, but in case of tornado I need to be able to contact you 🙂  Use the form below or the contact information in the newsletter.

Update: we saw great blue herons adding sticks to a nest, a pine warbler, a hooded merganser, and some tent caterpillars, and bluebirds, as well as enjoying a nice spring day in nature.

Naturalist Club Field Trip

Happy New Year to All!

The Naturalist Club Field trip to Conant Brook Dam will take place on Sunday, January 10 at 1 pm. This is a small dam with a reservation maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers. We will explore a network of trails near the parking area as we enjoy nature in winter. Be sure to contact me with the information in the newsletter or by a message here so I know that you are coming. Leave a phone number so I can contact you in case of bad weather. The forecast looks tricky for Sunday.

Update Saturday Jan 9 12:15   This looks like a washout for Sunday, so I am going to cancel this trip.

Get to Monson, and head south out of town on route 32.  Look for a green road sign pointing left (there is no right turn) toward Wales. Make that left. In a short distance bear right at a fork. Look for the signs for the dam on the left.  The signs are not huge, but they are visible.  Turn left and drive to the parking area.  There is only parking for about 8 cars, so car-pooling is advised. We are meeting at the actual dam site and not in the cul-de-sac parking areas.

DO NOT access via Old Wales Road or Moores Cross Road.  They end at the reservation boundary.  Ignore any GPS instructions to use these roads.

View Larger Map

Yellow House field Class September 26

The field photography class for the Yellow House will meet at 9 am on September 26th at the Miller Forest tract of peaked mountain in Monson.

Take rt 32 south from Palmer toward Monson. Just before the main part of town there will be First Church above on the right and High Street coming in from the right.

Take a right immediately after the church onto High street and then an immediate left onto Ely Road.

Follow Ely Road until it ends on Lower Hampden Road and go right.

After a sharp curve, look for Butler Road on the left.

Go down Butler road and the parking lot will be on the right in a few hundred yards.

A Merganser Morning

When I visit Berkshire Sanctuary in the fall, I often see juvenile common mergansers. I believe they are raised on the pond system there. Usually there are 3 or 4. In the fall of 2014 there were more like 12. It was really a merganser weekend, because I could hardly get shots of the large pond without them in the picture. But this particular morning was special. It was cool with lots of mist on the ponds, and the early morning sky had a pink glow to the southwest, interestingly enough. My mind drifted and I missed a heron flying over the pond. After being upset with myself I got re-focused in the present, and as I approached a smaller pond I was greeted with this sight:

Mergansers in Autumn Morning Mist

Mergansers in Autumn Morning Mist


My approach was from a slightly lower elevation and there was vegetation on the edge that hid me well enough, and I spotted them before they saw me. I shot through breaks in the vegetation. You can see more of these in the new Berkshire Sanctuary gallery.

Moments like this remind me of a quote from photographer Minor White.  “When I photograph I don’t look for what I will take, instead, I look for what I will be given.”