Monday, November 12, 2012

Dana, Massachusetts 11/10

Saturday I trekked along the east side of the Quabbin watershed, beginning at Gate 37 then traveled through the former township of Dana, Massachusetts. The goal was to visit the Indian Kitchen on the east side of Pottapoug Hill, the jet crash site, and try to find the grave of Wendell Farnsworth (reputed to be the only known grave that was not relocated during the building of Quabbin). Also on the list, was to walk the east shoreline between the inlet of West Fever Brook and Grave's Landing to look for any lingering shorebirds and anything else I should happen upon.

Oyster Mushrooms on a fallen tree trunk
 With a good deal of mixed conifer/deciduous forest in this area, I hoped to see or hear some winter finches such as crossbills and siskins. Groups of Black-capped Chickadees were evident, including  typical followers like White-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers, Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers and "strong" numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatches.
Signs of the invasive Woolly Adelgid, which is reeking havoc and destroying stands eastern hemlock.
 The water level has been quite low this year, so my plan was to walk the shoreline until I passed Grave's Landing with some zigging and zagging into and out of the forest from time to time.
West Branch of Fever Brook inlet into Quabbin Reservior, near Soapstone hill

A view of Soapstone Hill from the shoreline
 I'd only see one Bald Eagle for the day, an immature standing on an island bar. A family of river otters was swimming together and catching fish, often when one surfaced it could be seen "crunching" on small fish like potatoe chips. Being late in the year for shorebirds, it was not surpising I only saw 4, one was a Greater Yellowlegs flushed from a small cove and the others were on a "island bar" too far to conclusively ID, but may have been Pectoral Sandpipers.
Three of four River Otters swimming together.
Exporing the water's edge was a real treat in such mild weather and I would have this section to myself!
Looking toward "the pass" between Mt. L and Mt. Zion

Another shoreline view

There are plenty of drift wood stumps along the shore.
There was limited waterfowl, but decent variety such as Common Merganser 4, Red-breasted Mergaser 1 female, a few Buffleheads, White-winged Scoter 1 female, Mallards and American Black Ducks. Of course Common Loons were present and their ethereal calls were occassionaly heard.
Two female Buffleheads, I also spooked a few Mallards and a Common Merganser from this cove.

East Branch of Fever Brook

White-winged Scoter

Low water, this section looked like a pseudo inverted profile of Cape Cod

According to my "tracking the Art of Seeing" by Paul Rezendes
this hickory nut was likely nibbled on by flying squirriel (pg. 54),
though chipmunk's nibbling are somewhat similar.
Soon after reaching Grave's Landing a flock of 9 White-winged Crossbills flew over head, close enough to pick out a few colorful males.
I found two piles of Norway Spruce cones, a Red Squirrel cache?
After walking a 1/3 mile or so beyond Grave's Landing I cut back inland to a main road then cut across a secondary road (with lots of toppled trees) toward the Pottapoug Hill area, on the ledgy east side of the hill is a rock over hang known as the Indian Kitchen.
Some pottery along a "secondary" side road.

The Indian Kitchen.

I will have to ask Dave Small the significance of these markings.

The grave site of a young boy (Wendell Farnswoth who died in 1851 at age 6y 8m).
While walking the roads, its enoyable to look at the stone walls and imagine when the area consisted of agricultural fields, pastures and farm houses.
More stonework
Not far from Skinner Hill Road a flock of approximately 20 Red Croosbills flew over head, their noticable jup..jup calls were heard, unfortunately they kept on moving. Though no Pileated Woodpeckers were detected during the morning eventually one sounded off from deep in the woods, 4 more would be seen and/or heard by the day's end.

This hickory would provide some nice cover for a Brown Creeper's nest and I would
see a creeper nearby.

Yes, more stone walls

...and more

Whitney Hill Road

Behind the stone wall, just left and above center in the photo is the entrance of a crypt.

Its amazing how quick the day went, "losing light fast overlooking East Fever Brook."

Dugway Road just north of East Fever Brook
While taking the above photo, I heard or rather sensed something nearby, upon looking to my right I saw a handsome porcupine only 10 feet away. In typical porcupine fashion it "sat tight" while I inspected and photographed it, being well amored they have little need for quick foot speed (unfortunately their not well adapted for crossing busy roads and highways).
On the home stretch to Gate 37 a Barred owl flew across the road, and fortuitously landed and allowed a photo, a poor one at that, before slipping into the deep forest.
A blurry Barred Owl shot
A complete list of birds

American Black Duck 15
Mallard 6
White-winged Scoter 1
Bufflehead 2
Common Merganser 4
Red-breasted Merganser 1
Common Loon 6
Horned Grebe 2
Bald Eagle 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1
shorebird sp. 3
Ring-billed Gull 7
Barred Owl 1
Downy Woodpecker 18
Hairy Woodpecker 9
Pileated Woodpecker 5
Blue Jay 10
American Crow 20
Black-capped Chickadee 161
Tufted Titmouse 37
Red-breasted Nuthatch 106 *** a high count, back in the winter of 1993/1994 similar numbers were present in the area, the Athol Christmas Bird Count tallied ~750, while the Quabbin CBC tallied ~1800. Numbers before or since have not come remotly close to those totals but this year's CBCs could challenge those records.
White-breasted Nuthatch 41
Brown Creeper 16
Golden-crowned Kinglet 15
Snow Bunting 1
American Tree Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 7
Red Crossbill 20
White-winged Crossbill 9
Common Redpoll 1 a single heard calling as it flew over
American Goldfinch 2

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