A small group of birders gathered at Riverbend, the Ipswich River Watershed Association’s property on County Road in Ipswich.  Our 6:00am start on Saturday, May 2, was cool and damp.  Ava Streenstrup, the property caretaker, was a gracious hostess and guide. 

We heard Wild Turkeys awakening in their roost.  With a trained scope on a Cooper’s Hawk’s nest, we looked at the nest in a thin White Pine.  We discovered the male Coop’s sitting in a tree nearby.  American Crows were being secretive around their own nest.  We came across a newly foraged area with Wild Turkey tracks seemingly where food had been discovered. 

Wood Ducks were vocal and splashed in the river, then waddled to shore.  No doubt they have a nest nearby.  We studied a tree cavity in hopes of a gray Eastern Screech Owl or a female Wood Duck previously reported there but found no activity.  We heard and saw Tufted Titmouse, Great Blue Heron and Canada Goose.  Three Downy Woodpeckers were playing chase ~ tis the season for mate chasing.  We could hear the sneeze of an Eastern Phoebe.  We saw newly emerging Poison Ivy, Canada Mayflower, Lily-of-the-Valley, Iris, Meadow Rue, Trout Lily and Wood Hyacinth. Participants each shared their knowledge of the river, the flora and the fauna. 

Our group viewed “the dust bowl” where the Wild Turkeys regularly dust bath to control ectoparasites.  A beaver informed us of its presence by slapping its tail on the water’s surface. Beavers are known for their danger signal  ~  when startled or frightened, a swimming beaver will rapidly dive while forcefully slapping the water with its broad tail.  This creates a “slap” that’s audible over great distances both above and below water.  This noise warns other beavers in the area. Once a beaver has made that “slap”, nearby beavers dive and may not reemerge for awhile. 

We took time looking at an Eastern Phoebe’s nest and viewed the nest’s contents with a telescoping mirror.  It held five, white eggs and one Brown-headed Cowbird egg which our nest expert, Jim Berry, removed.  We made certain that the egg was indeed a cowbird’s egg by looking it up in our reference guide of nests, eggs and nestlings.  We saw both phoebes perched nearby, and the female returned to her nest and settled in comfortably.

While we gathered for refreshments and some “bird chat”, we viewed an assortment of birds’ nests.  Each participant took home an appreciation for nest-building and of the materials nests are constructed.  A sample of shade-grown coffee was a gift to each early riser this morning so that the connection between birds, migration and their winter habitat was reinforced.  This early May outing may become another ECOC tradition… 

Best wishes, 

Sue McGrath 
ECOC, President