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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Kingfisher Chatter

(a blog about Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge)
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30 October 2013

Its been cold at the Refuge.  Yesterday there was ice on the waterways and it closed in near-shore water pushing waterfowl further out and making viewing rather poor.  Many of my web-footed friends have come back from their extended vacation up north.  It is nice to have them back.  There have been lots of Canada Goose returning,  large numbers of Mallards and some American Black Duck mixed in.  I've seen American Coot
note the ivory bill (they used to be called Ivory-billed Coot).
Blue-winged Teal and Green-winged Teal are  here too.  Here's a Green-wing Teal
Still awaiting my Merganser friends and many other species.

The Bald-faced Hornet nest above Taylor Way has been ransacked.  Check out the before and after   pictures.
Before (09/14/2013)
After (10/21/2013)
Even though these "hornets" are very aggressive nest defenders by virtue of their sting, there are many birds and mammals that find them delicious and will tear apart the nest for a feast.  They always leave enough of the population to ensure a feast for next year.  By the way, the Bald-faced Hornet is a not a true hornet.  It is a member of the Yellowjacket/Wasp family.

Great Blue Herons have been fattening up for the winter.  Check out this fishing sequence ending in the successful catch of a Hornpout Catfish near the footbridge on Taylor Way.  To view full size, click on each picture or click on the first one and use Flickr left arrow on the picture to navigate to the next one.

This Heron was a smart cookie and risk averse.  After the one fish was caught, it flew to dry land so the fish could be oriented headfirst flipped into the air and swallowed whole.  It was too hidden by the weeds to photograph this dining experience. 
Two  Snapping Turtles have been seen recently; one on Taylor Way and another within minutes on Otter Alley.  Although formidable on land, they are shy and evasive in the water preferring to swiftly swim away from people and other animals.  Their temperament on land stems from the fact that these guys are so bulky that they can't fully retract into their shell for safety.  So Nature has favored them with a sharp beak and powerful jaw muscles.  Be careful around them on land as their necks are very long and agile.  they can reach back behind them to about 3/4 the length of their shell.   Here are a few pictures of one of the turtles (click on pictures for full size photos):



There are still some Warblers hanging around although the bulk of the autumn Warbler migration seems to be over.  There is also a decided lower population of insects visible now that the frosts have hit.
Squirrels and Chipmunks are abundant and busy knocking acorns from the Oaks for collection and storage.  Although Muskrats and Beavers should be busy now, only one Muskrat has been sited recently and that was in the water near the footbridge on Taylor Way.
Raccoon poop was found on the bench at the end of Kingfisher Trail.  Coyotes must be fattening up too as there seems to be more scat about and also more bird feathers on the trails.
Don't forget to check out more about Assabet River National Wildlife Refuge online: 
Also let me know if you have any questions, comments, sightings by posting comments to this blog or emailing kingfisherchatter@gmail.com
Hope to see you soon.
The Kingfisher