After a hiatus in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Granby Land Trust (GLT) once again hosted two bird walks over the Mother’s Day weekend at the GLT’s Dismal Brook Wildlife Preserve.
The excursions have become something of a tradition since local birders Chris Chinni and John Weeks first led them in 2005 at the GLT’s Godard Preserve. In 2007, the walks took place for the first time on Jamie Gamble’s property at the north end of Loomis St.—the 210-acre property that is now, thanks to his generous donation to the Land Trust last year, open to the public as the Dismal Brook Wildlife Preserve.
Saturday’s walk took place under less-than-ideal conditions, with cloudy skies and chilly, almost March-like temperatures. Despite this, the 20 participants enjoyed fine views of many species of birds. The “teacher, teacher, TEACHER!” cry of a half-dozen ovenbirds resounded through the woods. Male red-winged blackbirds, in their black livery with red-and-yellow epaulettes, jousted noisily over the two marshes.
A Virginia rail yucked it up out in the south marsh as in past years but was uncharacteristically shy. At Creamer Pond, a male wood duck displayed his polychrome finery, while a pair of Canada geese cruised the pond with their six offspring in tow. Towards the end of the walk, a pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks exchanged close looks with the human visitors. Trip leaders Chinni and Weeks tallied 49 species in all.
Sunday saw an improvement in the weather—mostly sunny skies, with somewhat warmer temperatures. The birds were correspondingly more active and more vocal.
The walk kicked off right in the parking lot with a brown creeper, a winsome little bird that hunts insects by hitching its way up a tree trunk like a miniature brown woodpecker. Prior to the walk, Weeks had heard an uncommon bird, a blue-winged warbler, singing near the old entrance gate. The group proceeded to the spot and the bird popped out in response to a recording of its song. The elegant bird flitted back and forth just over the group’s heads. The blue-winged warbler is a species in decline, because its preferred habitat—open spaces dotted with large bushes, such as abandoned farm fields—has become increasingly scarce.
Blue-wings have been present at Dismal Brook for years. To encourage them to stay, GLT Board member Dave Emery worked last year to enlarge the suitable habitat by clearing small areas that had become overgrown.
Baltimore orioles are always a favorite sight during these walks, and several of them put on a show this time as well.
An American bittern boomed out its “onk-a-donk” song—if you can call that a song, from somewhere out in the South Marsh but declined to show itself. Avid birders prize any sighting of this scarce bird, and Granby is fortunate to be able to offer it a place to stop and rest during its travels.
At Creamer Pond, two green herons stalked the muddy margins in search of fish, frogs and crayfish. One of them posed calmly in plain sight atop the beaver lodge. As the group made its way back towards the parking lot, a male rose-breasted grosbeak perched up near the bridge as if to bid everyone good-bye. Fifty-two species were noted during the day’s visit.
The variety of birds to be found at Dismal Brook Wildlife Preserve —140 species and counting— is nothing short of remarkable. Yet all the participants in this weekend’s field trips would no doubt agree that the preserve itself is the real star of the show. It is thanks to Jamie Gamble’s generosity and the Granby Land Trust’s stewardship that this ever-changing spectacle is now open to all.