Saturday, August 4, 2012

Strawberry Plains Audubon Center-- 8/4/12

The school year has started. That simple phrase can fill some with dread, others with happiness, and still others with a mix of the two. I enjoyed my summer vacation, but I'm excited about the new school year all the same. There are several good things about it. It means I'm in 8th grade (scary thought), it makes the weekend all the more sweet, marks the start of fall migration!

My dad, my little brother and I celebrated by taking a trip to Strawberry Plains Audubon Center in Holly Springs, MS on Saturday. We set out at about 8:15 AM and arrived at about 9. It was supposed to be a group walk, but the leader never showed up. So another very nice person, a mammalogist, drove us to a nearby pond to see some shorebirds. Upon getting out of the golfcart, we spotted a number of small indistinct shorebirds. Determinedly, we raised our binoculars and squinted at them. Our mammalogist guide was at about the same place I am with shorebird identification, so we discussed their field marks until we had to resort to a field guide. We ended up identifying them as Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, as well as a lone Least Sandpiper.

This photo shows all three species.
The pond was full of many more natural wonders, including turtles, fish, insects, and footprints. We found raccoon, coyote, deer and even bobcat tracks.

Bobcat track.
There were also scores of bird tracks.

A heron track among sandpiper prints.
We looked up from the footprints just in time to see a yellowlegs being chased by.....was that a hummingbird? Those little guys are fierce!

We also noticed about ten turtles sunning themselves on some dead branches sticking out of the water.

As far as we could tell, they were all Red-eared Sliders.

We then decided to move on to the wildflower meadow. The wildflower meadow is an old farm pasture that is controlled with fire and planted with wildflowers. It is a great place to see all kinds of grassland species. It was getting kind of late in the morning, so we didn't expect to see too many birds, but we got a pretty good amount all the same. We heard Field Sparrow, saw White-eyed Vireo and Indigo Bunting, as well as a female Common Yellowthroat; all nice additions to our list. We ended up with 14 species in an hour and a half.

Some of you may have heard of Strawberry Plains Audubon Center's Hummingbird Migration Celebration in September. It is the biggest Audubon event in the country, and it is awesome. It happens this year on the weekend of September 7--9, and I am definitely looking forward to it. The hummingbirds were there in force on Saturday, as we found out when we saw the large collection of hummer feeders at the Center. They were cooperative, friendly, and altogether fun to photograph!

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