24 March 2010

Spring at Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows March21 - Images by Elijah Goodwin

On the evening of the first day of Spring, I headed over to Huntley Meadows for a brief photography trip.  It was a beautiful evening and lots of birds were singing when I arrived.  Upon arriving at the boardwalk I was very surprised to hear a Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus) singing it's "hey-sweetie" (fee-bee) spring song in the woods nearby.  While this sound is very familiar from living in western MA (the chickadees outside of our window used to drive my wife nuts in the early AM), Huntley Meadows is generally squarely in Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) territory.  The song of the Carolina is a much different "fee bee fee bay".  For more info on the two chickadees check out http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Carolina_Chickadee/id

While it was a generally slow evening, the action photographically and behaviorally turned out to be mallards and Canada geese going through early spring breeding behaviors.  I came upon the mallards first feeding very near the boardwalk.  There was a clearly bonded pair feeding together and a second male feeding nearby.  This second male had cleaner plumage, but a much smaller brown/chestnut breast patch.  I watched as the bonded male repeatedly chased this second male away every time he felt that the second male was getting too close to the female.  While I didn't get any successful images of their interactions, I did get some nice portraits of this second male feeding on his own.  Pairs of Canada geese were also exhibiting breeding behaviors all over the marsh.  Chorusing, territorial interactions, and checking out potential nest sites were the most common behaviors.

Although a short trip, it was a wonderful way to usher in the "official" start of spring.

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