Along the Air Line... 2011-2012 - Winter, Part 5
The Air Line Trail in Eastern Connecticut - Stan Malcolm Photos

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Stan Malcolm Photo

 

 

March 10th. The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodius) was back on the marsh this morning.

 

 

 

 

 

March 11th. Daylight Savings Time meant arriving at the marsh just at sunrise.  All still, and only 22 degrees.

 

 

March 12th.  An afternoon walk at over 70 degrees!  Looking for turtles and found plenty.

 

 

They all seemed to be Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta).

 

 

Believe it or not, there are 31 turtles in this photo.

 

 

The trailside ditch as you approach Old Colchester Road was teeming with life.  Can you see the tiny snail?  (Actually, there are two snails in the photo.)

 

 

It also played host to this Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica).

 

 

After walking the marsh, I detoured down the Colchester Spur as far as United Distillers.  I saw, but failed to photograph, a Muskrat approach and enter its lodge. I also heard the young Muskrats mewling inside.

 

 

Overhead, two Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) circled, rising on thermals.  This one is casually chewing its foot while soaring.

 

 

A Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia).  (Thanks Russ, for the ID confirmation.)

 

 

Cheep!

 

 

The impoundment near the Distillery ruins was murky green with algae and supported many Bluegill Sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus).

 

 

Finally, a quick peek at the marsh west of Route 207.  I was rewarded by a view of 12 Ring-necked Ducks (Aythya collaris).  They get their name for the indistinct maroon band on the neck.  You would think they would be called  ring-beaked ducks since the white band there is more prominent.

 

 

It's a diving duck.  The duck in the background has just submerged.

 

 

It popped up, shedding water droplets.

 

 

So far, all these have been males.

 

 

All grooming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, a female.

 

 

Mallards (female splashing) in the background are much larger than Ring-necked Ducks.

 

 

March 13th.  Spring Peepers - Hyla (Pseudacris) crucifer - were calling at the little marsh before Raymond Brook Marsh.

 

 

Listen!  (Sorry about the wind noise.)

 

 

I visited the Muskrat lodge on the Colchester Spur, hoping for pictures and the sound of the young ones.  No luck at all, despite a long vigil.

 

 

A Painted Turtle swam by, with a Bluegill at its heels.

 

 

Lyme Ticks (Ixodes dammini) are out in force; this one is a female.  Check yourself!

 

 

March 14th.  Foggy over the marsh.

 

 

 

 

 

Wood Duck through the fog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 15th.  Mid 50s.  Morrow's Honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) is beginning to leaf out.

 

 

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) is in bloom!  (At least in sunny trail margins.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is also blooming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hmm, less pleasant but certainly green, Algae has bloomed in sunny ditches.

 

 

Finally, I got a good look at a Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus) near the repurposed beaver lodge on the Colchester Spur that serves as its home.

 

 

Just after this picture was taken, it dove in order to enter the lodge underwater.  Background on Muskrats.

 

 

Back on the main trail, I listened to a mixed chorus of Spring Peepers (high pitched) and Wood Frogs (much lower).

 

 

While signs of spring are everywhere, from a distance the marsh still looks bleak.  This was shot at 24mm, wide angle.

 

 

Zooming in to 840mm equivalent, the muddy patch in the middle of the last shot is seen to be teeming with Painted Turtles.

 

 

At 1680mm equivalent, quite a bit of detail.

 

 

The same (or another) Wood Frog as the one I photographed on March 12th.

 

 

Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) have some remarkable metallic hues in their feathers.  This one is calling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ID help?  (Mustard family - Brassicaceae.  Tiny, weedy.)

 

 

March 17th.  One Red Maple (Acer rubrum) is in full bloom already.  First Tree Swallows were over the marsh this  morning, though too fast and not landing so no photos.

 

 

March 19th.

 

 

Other Red Maples in various stages of bud.

 

 

High overhead along the Colchester Spur, I heard, then saw this Hawk.  Best guess is an immature Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus).

 

 

 

 

 

More Coltsfoot blooming, and still more just emerging from the soil.

 

 

March 19th.  Last day of winter and a foggy morning on the marsh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Touches of green everywhere...

 

 

...including the Hummock Sedge (Carex stricta).