Thursday, July 15, 2010

Gardner Airport 7/15

The Gardner Airport and surrounding area provides diverse habitats for a broad range of avian species. Horned Larks have nested on the median stripe of the airfield for years, the recovering clear cut on the west side of the runways is home to Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow, Prairie Warbler and even a territorial Clay-colored Sparrow for a few weeks back in 2008.
On a late spring/ early summer moonlite night, Whip-poor-will and American Woodcock are likely to be heard, while the surrounding marshy areas, along the Otter River harbor American Bittern, Great Blue Herons and waterfowl.

This wet meadow (above) to the south of the airport is a great spot to listen for American Bittern, it also looks like a great spot for Sedge Wren..maybe some day I or another lucky birder will find one here. Today I had to "settle" for Common Yellowthroats and Swamp Sparrows but the hen Black Duck and 3 ducklings were a nice addition to breeding bird atlas field card.

Many young American Robins (above) were seen, Eastern Kingbird fledglings, being fed by parents, were seen in 3 different locations. The marshland to the east of the airport, Pale Factory Swamp, had as many as a dozen Great Blue Heron nests back in the 1990's, today I only found one active nest and the few others did not appear to be in use as of this year.
Four young Great Blue Herons appear ready to leave the nest very soon.
I had some nice looks at Horned Larks today, this is one of the few places they still nest in North Worcester County. Below I have a few photos of a juvenile and adult that were taking a dust bath, it may look like the adult was sitting on a nest but it was not.

An adult male Horned Lark, Gardner Airport, taking a dust bath, their upper plumage blends nicely with their nesting habitat.

Once the head is lifted they are a bit easier to see.

Here the juvenile stands up after "playing" in the dirt, the adult is just behind and difficult to see.

The juv. looks skyward, while the adult looks to its right.

The youngster in front and adult in back both hunker down in the sand.
Yesterday I was able to find 2 juvenile Horned Larks with an adult at the Fitchburg Airport, there were also a few hundred swallows of various species, including 7 Cliff Swallows. The "Cliffies" likely nest fairly close by, as there was a sizable nesting colony in nearby Lunenburg. The small barn they had nested on was is rough shape and was torn down a few years back, and hopefully they have found an alternative site (s) nearby.


Kleigh said...

What a beautiful discovery...the heron's nest...but so desolate you know if herons ever select leafy, camoflaged sites?


Tom Pirro said...

Thanks Sweetie,

Sometimes Great Blues will nest in White Pines and occasionally live Oaks in Massachusetts, which would offer more cover from the hot sun and potential predators. They being a large bird they probably don;t have too to worry about from birds of prey (though an eagle might argue the point). Other species of heron-like birds nest in lower shubby "stuff" such as the colony on Kettle Island off Magnolia (we looked at on our bike ride a few weeks back), I do not think Great Blues nest out there but Snowy and Great Egrets along with Glossy Ibis, Little Blue Heron and Black-crowned. Great Blue tend to stick to fresh water beaver tyoe ponds and their numbers increased (in Massachusetts) with the increase of the Beaver population.