In the town of Andover, Massachusetts are numerous nature trails created and maintained by the Andover Village Improvement Society. A friend told me about them when I first moved here last year but life was such that it wasn’t until March 20th, which was the first day of spring, that Gus and I were able to investigate even one of these reservations.
The Skug River Reservation parking lot is located on Salem Street in Andover between Route 125 and Jenkins Road. The Skug River Reservation is adjacent to Harold Parker State Forest. The name “Skug” is thought to be either a mis-spelling of the word “skunk” or the native American word for “snake.” You can read more about it on the A.V.I.S. web site: Skug River Reservation.
On this bright first day of spring when Gus and I went, there were still patches of snow on the ground. Downy woodpeckers and black-capped chickadees moved through the trees, easily seen sitting on the bare branches of winter.
Titmice watched us with curiosity. All the birds seemed to want to sit in the sun and soak up the warmth while they could. I remember thinking that I would have to come back here and count birds by myself. Well…
…it wasn’t until September 2nd that I finally made it! Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene has passed and I am wondering if I might find any warblers passing though the forest. Now the boardwalk is flanked by greenery. However, I am not hearing or seeing many birds as I start down the trail.
However, I am hearing this persistent song, “pe-WEE, PE-yur…” over and over again. What is IT??? I search the tree tops for some sign of color or movement but see nothing. I think the sound belongs to some type of flycatcher, so I pull out my Smartphone and pull up a birding app I have and play the songs of various flycatchers. When I come to the Eastern Wood Pewee, not only do I recognize the song, but the bird flies over and lands on a branch right over the bridge! Now it is in plain sight and I am able to get a few shots of it. However, when I try to creep closer for a better view, it flies away.
When I see some motion down in the trees beyond the chipper, I look to see this little sparrow. Is it a juvenile song sparrow or the rarely seen Lincoln’s sparrow? I’m still deciding. The beak looks too thin and pale for a song sparrow and the streaking on the breast too fine. Also, from this angle, it does look like it has the buffy malar stripe of a Lincoln’s but it is hard to tell if it has the buff wash down the breast. More research is needed.
I am, however, getting eaten alive by mosquitoes in spite of the fact that I slathered myself with insect repellent before leaving my vehicle. They are so numerous and annoying that I decide to turn back. In some parts of the state there have been people who have contracted Eastern Equine Encephalitis after being bitten by mosquitoes. I do not want to be the first Andover case!
As I head back down the trail to the bridge I am greeted by the rattle of a Belted Kingfisher. I watch as it flies swiftly away from me before I can get a picture. I did not see any warblers here this day. I only saw 10 species of birds, but I have a feeling there will be more and I do plan to come back, though next time I will be armed with industrial strength insect repellent! Sing on sweet wood pewee! Soon you will be gone but hopefully I will see you next summer when you and I both return!