Friday, August 9, 2013

Attack of the Woodcock

At our last Naturalist Gathering we were lucky enough to flush not one but three woodcock from the shrub lands surrounding Aton Forest Headquarters.  Though these bird's entertaining breeding rituals have came and went, they still persist in their preferred scrubby habitat.  These sightings were certainly welcomed by all of the folks who came by that Thursday, though some of us almost got clipped by one particular woodcock that flew right at us.  Everyone walked away without a scrape, but it was close.  Just another exciting wildlife encounter at the forest.

American Woodcock

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Breeding Bird Survey Results

On June 15th and 16th Aton Forest conducted its annual Breeding Bird Survey.  Two AF staff members and four volunteers followed two bird lines with a total of 20 observation points.  These lines follow both North Colebrook Road and South Sandisfield Road, passing a number of habitat types.  Here's a compiled list of species observed over the two days (specific species counts were recorded but are not present here).  Data from the survey was entered into eBird, a database managed by Cornell and the National Audubon Society.
  1. American crow
  2. American goldfinch
  3. American redstart
  4. American robin
  5. Barred owl
  6. Black-and-white warbler
  7. Blackburnian warbler
  8. Black-capped chickadee
  9. Black-throated blue warbler
  10. Black-throated green warbler
  11. Blue jay
  12. Blue-headed vireo
  13. Bobolink
  14. Broad-winged hawk
  15. Brown creeper
  16. Brown-headed cowbird
  17. Cedar waxwing
  18. Chestnut-sided warbler
  19. Chipping sparrow
  20. Common yellowthroat
  21. Downy woodpecker
  22. Eastern bluebird
  23. Eastern kingbird*
  24. Eastern phoebe
  25. Eastern towhee
  26. Eastern wood-pewee
  27. European starling*
  28. Great blue heron
  29. Grey catbird
  30. Hairy woodpecker
  31. Hermit thrush
  32. House wren
  33. Least flycatcher
  34. Mourning dove
  35. Northern flicker
  36. Northern waterthrush
  37. Ovenbird
  38. Pileated woodpecker
  39. Pine warbler
  40. Purple finch
  41. Red-breasted nuthatch*
  42. Red-eyed vireo
  43. Red-shouldered hawk*
  44. Red-winged blackbird
  45. Rose-breasted grosbeak
  46. Ruby-throated humingbird
  47. Scarlet tanager
  48. Slate-colored junco
  49. Song sparrow
  50. Tree swallow
  51. Tufted titmouse
  52. Veery
  53. White-breasted nuthatch
  54. Wild turkey
  55. Winter wren
  56. Wood thrush
  57. Yellow warbler
  58. Yellow-bellied sapsucker
  59. Yellow-rumped warbler
  60. Yellow-throated vireo

* Heard/seen between point counts

We'd like to thank our volunteers Ayreslea Denny, Mike Aurelia, Bob Barbieri, and Fran Zygmont.  If you are interested in helping us out with bird related projects please drop us a line at

Bears Make An Appearance

Black bears have been stirring in the area for a few months now and have just recently waltzed right in front of Headquarters.  About a week ago I was working in the driveway and noticed from the corner of my eye an apple tree moving violently around.  I thought to myself that the wind wasn't blowing that hard, and then I saw a big black object through the shrubs.  At first I thought bear, but then came to think maybe John was out in the field checking on the tree..then I thought bear again as I saw its brown muzzle (also because of the fact that John wasn't in the field after I called out to him).  The beast took its time heading down the hill to Balder Brook and it was at this time that we could see a second bear following closely behind (both adults) - they left behind a pile of scat and some deep tracks through the waterlogged soil.  We suspect they were checking out the tree for apples, though they were quite small at that point.  I'm sure they'll start to smell the blueberries soon enough - it looks like we're going to have a bumper crop.


Black Bear Tracks

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Nantucket Shadbush Opens Up

A couple of days ago (Tuesday, May 7th to be exact) we noticed that out Amelanchier nantucketensis (Nantucket Shadbush) has decided to bloom.  This was observed at our largest patch, there now being five separate sites located throughout Aton Forest, two recently discovered.  Once thought to be restricted to coastal areas centered around Nantucket Island, it has somewhat recently been accepted that it is established outside of these areas and has been identified in upland locations such as the Taconic Plateau and Aton Forest.  On Tuesday the plants at this site were about 10% in bloom, yesterday that jumped to about 50%.  Sadly, these flowers won't last long.  We're glad we got to see them!

A. nantucketensis shares the genus of three other shadbush native to Aton Forest (more in the region) that have all been in bloom: arborea, canadensis, and laevis.  For more information check out the New England Wildflower Society's GoBotany website:

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Warblers & Spring!

Members of the Litchfield Hills Audubon Society were here at Aton Forest on today, April 20th, 2013, and the birding was productive, despite storms last night and rain this morning. The skies cleared and temps were in the upper 40's by 8 am and we observed 41 bird species. Thanks to Fran Zygmont for setting up this event.

  • turkey vulture
  • Canada goose
  • mallard
  • wood duck
  • common merganser
  • hooded merganser
  • ring-necked duck
  • Cooper’s hawk
  • sharp-shinned hawk
  • broad-winged hawk
  • red-tailed hawk
  • belted kingfisher
  • yellow-bellied sapsucker
  • downy woodpecker
  • hairy woodpecker
  • northern flicker
  • pileated woodpecker
  • eastern phoebe
  • tree swallow
  • barn swallow
  • American crow
  • common raven
  • black-capped chickadee
  • tufted titmouse
  • white-breasted nuthatch
  • brown creeper
  • winter wren
  • golden-crowned kinglet
  • eastern bluebird
  • American robin
  • yellow-rumped warbler
  • pine warbler
  • palm warbler
  • white-throated sparrow
  • song sparrow
  • dark-eyed slate-colored junco
  • red-winged blackbird
  • brown-headed cowbird
  • purple finch
  • house finch
  • American goldfinch