Wings Over Dismal Brook presentation was well-attended

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Photo by Don Shaw

The red-winged blackbird is indeed the harbinger of spring in our area.

The Granby Land Trust, along with Granby Public Library and the Friends of Cossitt Library, sponsored a program by John Weeks, Wings Over Dismal Brook Wildlife Preserve, on Oct. 5 in the North Barn at Holcomb Farm. The well-attended event featured myriad slides (many from photos taken by Land Trust member Don Shaw) accompanied by Weeks’ commentary, highlighting his exceptional knowledge of the avian world.

Weeks has compiled a list of the 140 birds identified so far at Dismal Brook. The list is available online and also at the kiosk at the start of the trail on the property. He welcomes any reports of additional species observed by visitors to the preserve.

Weeks presented the slides in order of the seasons, starting with winter, when the fewest species are seen. They include such resident birds as red-bellied woodpeckers, chickadees, cardinals, titmice and winter wrens, as well as winter visitors such as the common redpolls and golden-crowned kinglets. The barred owls actually nest in the winter, although the owlets do not fledge until the spring.

Spring brings some of our most common birds, starting with the red-winged blackbirds, followed by waterfowl such as wood ducks and hooded mergansers. The colorful wood duck will stay to nest and is often seen with ducklings on Creamer Pond in the preserve. Other spring arrivals include warblers, orioles, flycatchers, catbirds, swamp sparrows and bluebirds, to mention just a few. In addition to the influx of birds, spring brings the amphibians and reptiles (no wings there, however) and some of the butterflies—especially those such as the mourning cloak that have hibernated as adults.

The number of birds increases over the summer as chicks begin to fledge. The types of butterflies and moths increase, and dragonflies and damselflies make their appearance. Four species of hawks make their nests in the Dismal Brook preserve.

Although fall brings a decrease in the numbers of songbirds, many migratory birds pass through, heading for the warmer climates in the south. The yellow-rumped warbler and the solitary sandpiper are just two of many examples.

During the Q and A session at the conclusion of the program, Weeks noted that the best way to attract birds to one’s yard is to have plenty of trees, shrubs and flowering plants. He also cautioned to not use chemicals such as insecticides and pesticides that can harm the birds directly or interfere with their reproduction. He also reminded potential hikers in wildlife preserves to keep their dogs on a leash. The dogs themselves may not harm the ground-nesting birds, but will leave a scent trail that predators may follow.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers make their nests in trees in the summer at the Dismal Brook Wildlife Preserve. Photo by Don Shaw