Monday, September 26, 2011

Turtle Hatch

Over lunch hour, I was walking around the park, as usual. On the upper level near the tennis courts, a man approached me and excitedly showed me a baby snapping turtle he had discovered on or near the sidewalk. It was probably about 3 inches long, half of which was tail and looked just like this:

baby snapping turtle by Elizabeth Weller - BY-NC-ND

The man was afraid that the baby snapper would get trampled (not by turtles), so he scooped him up for a free ride to the lake. Apparently the turtle had been found very close to the spot where I met him, so there may be more baby snappers emerging from a nearby nest over the next little while. If you're walking or biking on the upper level of the park near the tennis courts, keep your eyes open.

Fall is officially here. Both according to the calendar and according to the birds. White-throated Sparrows (my official herald of fall) have begun to pass through the park, as have decent numbers of Yellow-rumped Warblers and Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Large flocks of Chipping Sparrows this morning also signal southern sparrow movement. I'd have been lucky to see one or two of them a week ago. Herons have become scarce in the last a couple of weeks, and a Pied-billed Grebe has been on the lake occasionally.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


After a few more new birds spotted this fall, the park list is up to 125 different species. That's not bad for a park in the middle of the city that's not exactly managed to be a natural area. It shows that there can be a lot of wildlife around even when people don't realize it. On the other hand, on any given trip to the park, you're not likely to see very much variety; it's only over repeated trips that you're likely to see anything other than the most common birds.

The number of individual birds migrating through the park this fall has seemed a bit low, but the variety has not been too bad. Thus far this fall, I've seen 17 different kinds of warbler at the park. Ring-billed Gulls are increasing, and this morning I watched a Mallard steal a meal from a gull. I'm not entirely sure why the Mallard wanted the tiny bullhead; it didn't seem to eat the fish, which is unsurprising. I had expected the gull to put up more of a fight, but it just walked away.

I also watched a Cooper's Hawk make a couple of unsuccessful passes at a squirrel that didn't seem overly bothered by the encounter. In the past week, I've seen up to 5 Cooper's Hawks in the park at a time; small groups of juveniles getting ready to head south for the winter.

In addition, a female Northern Shoveler has been hanging out among the mallards for the last couple of days, and I saw my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the season a few days ago. I'm still waiting for the first migratory sparrows to show up. Here's to hoping that the fall doesn't pass too quickly.