Along the Air Line... 2013 - Spring, Part 1
The Air Line Trail in Eastern Connecticut - Stan Malcolm Photos

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March 20th.  Red-winged Blackbird celebrating the first day of spring...



...but at 24 degrees and with several inches of yesterday's heavy crunchy snow underfoot, it doesn't seem very spring-like.












Sushi for breakfast?  Sandy the Dog has found a frozen sunfish of some sort.



Winter-killed fish have appeared with ice-out, attracting gulls, crows, and dogs.  A tough winter and marsh eutrophication make problems for fish survival.



One of twenty or so Sow Bugs (Order Isopoda) I saw, caught out on the snow after yesterday's 40 degree temps.



A spider out too.



And finally, an insect - a Chrironomid Midge with its plumose antennae.



March 21st.  Cloudy with snow flurries; 29 degrees.  Sun trying to peek through.






March 23rd.  Common Grackles (Quiscalus quiscula) have been back almost as long as the Red-winged Blackbirds - that is, mid to late February, but these are the first decent pictures I've gotten.  As the marsh fills up with birds, more are perching nearer to the trail.









March 24th.  Another shiny Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula).






An Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) far across the marsh.









A distant pair of Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura).



A brief check of the Lebanon Great Blue Heron roost.  (Nobody home.)  This Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) was a fine consolation prize.



Talons, not to be messed with.



April 1st.  An afternoon visit east of Cook Hill Road in Lebanon to check on the heron roost. Always enjoyable to pass the dairy cows.



A mix of sun and clouds when I arrived.  Wind picking up though.



Still seven nests, but now...



...two are occupied: One at the upper left; the other at the lower right.



This is the bird at the lower right.



(Same photo, cropped.)



Listen to that wind, nearly drowning out the mixed chorus of Spring Peepers and Wood Frogs in the marsh below the nests.



This is the bird at the upper left; just his head visible at this point.









Same bird, now standing.



By this time, the wind was really strong.  Great Blue Herons make good weathervanes - they always perch facing the wind.  This one is really struggling to hang on.



Back to the first bird.









Skunk Cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus) is blooming.



Inside the mottled spathe you can make out the heave globular spadix with its surface covered with small flowers.



At the dairy farm, dried stalks of poisonous Jimson Weed (Datura stramonium).



Dark clouds and thunder.  Time to go.  Rain and lightning as I drove away.



April 2nd.  Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia).









One of the first two Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) that I've seen at the marsh this year.  A very welcome sight!



Also welcome were the first green shoots from the sedge hummocks.



American Robins (Turdus migratorius) are always welcome.



April 3rd.  I noticed a flock of Tree Swallows (Tachicineta bicolor) congregated in a bush far across the marsh.  Roughly 28 birds in this photo.



No activity until the sun began to warm them, then...



...they took off together to fly erratic patterns low over the marsh, returning together to the same bush or others nearby.



Their behavior seemed to mimic the fall "practice flights" just before migration south.  Sure enough, after another takeoff, they all headed off to the north.  Soon, others should follow and stick around.



April 4th.  Early afternoon with temp above fifty.



Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) sunning.



Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica) egg masses in a trailside ditch.



Snails foraging in the same trailside ditch.



April 5th.  A 50 degree plus mid day.  Turtles out in force.  Fourteen on this log.



Thirteen on this log not far from the other one.



The old United Distiller's building (or should I say the new Colchester Construction building?) has turned pink!  Insulation over the old brick, to be covered with siding.



Landscaping underway, creating new roads through the property.



Many-legged Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica).  Genetic mutation or...



...doin' what comes natcherly.



Posed with a previous mating's egg mass.  This female is still swollen with eggs.



I also saw an Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma), but wasn't able to get a photo of it.