Saturday, October 25, 2008

Fall in Massachusetts - Sunday morning

And we thought Saturday morning was cold. Sunday morning we decided to head inland to Wachusett Meadow, another Massachusetts Audubon Sanctuary, which involved no small elevation gain and an eighty minute drive from the hotel. It was absolutely freezing. The locals, who were wrapped in mountain gear with ear muffs, hats, scarves and thick gloves, must have thought we were mental. There was quite a breeze too so we took the advice of the warden and started with the sheltered walks around the Sanctuary. The woodlands themselves looked very quite and peaceful except for the occasional volley of gunfire:

When we bumped into the warden again later he told us the muffled gunfire must have been target practice as whilst forbidden on the Sanctuary itself, killing for pleasure (aka hunting) is wildly popular outside but not allowed on Sundays. Of course.

Anyway soaring above the Sanctuary were a pair of Sharp-shinned Hawks, though they never got decently close:

This is the view of the meadow and beyond over which the birds were soaring:

The woodlands really were quiet of birds though, we heard small groups of Chickadees and Kinglets but not much else. We stopped by the warden's house having completed the southern loop and watched the activity around their feeders, including this Red Squirrel. We were invited by the warden to check the feeders at the back of his house, which flushed the squirrel away from his eating spot. He was furious and kept up a real racket whilst we were trying to watch the other feeding birds:

They included Downy Woodpecker, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Dark-eyed Juncos:

From the warden's house we started a northerly loop up to Otter Pond, though we'd been advised after 9am the chances were we'd see nothing at all. They were right, not even a bird :)

On from there we crested the summit and were treated to magnificent views down into Connecticut (you can see over 60 miles on a clear day) and up to the higher peaks inland. We headed back down to the centre, en route a male Northern Cardinal showed particularly well, taking advantage of the seasonal abundance:

Another Downy Woodpecker female:

At the centre itself we saw Blue Jays, though they proved almost impossible to photograph, very skittish birds, a lone Grackle who was similarly jumpy and here a Chipping Sparrow:

Before finishing off at Wachusett meadow we decided to have a look in the wildlife pond in case there were any ducks around to see and photograph. Good decision.

We were stunned to see this Otter breaking the surface and then diving (it being 11am by now):

In fact there were two Otters, seemingly oblivious of us:

They appeared to be diving for some kind of weed then surfacing to eat it:

They were joined by a third Otter, though this one seemed much more nervous and kept calling and calling until they followed it further away from the shore and from us:

We watched the Otters for around ten minutes. A real 'goose-bump' experience that we truly hadn't expected and a real delight. They were still visible in the Wildlife Pond when we drove out some fifteen minutes later.

Next stop Worcester and the 'Sanctuary in the City'.

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