A brilliant spring sky illuminated the still deep snow as members of the Athol Bird and Nature Club embarked on a recent trip in search of signs of spring. Club president Dave Small met the group at the Millers River Environmental Center in Athol where Common Grackle, Red-winged Blackbird, Mourning Dove, Rock Dove, Tufted Titmouse, House Sparrow, and European Starling were noted as the trip began.
In Millers Falls the group added Canada Goose, Mallard, Hooded Merganser, Goldfinch and Black-capped Chickadee. The Turners Falls Rod and Gun Club was teaming with birds as hundreds of Black and Mallard Ducks were joined by Canada Geese, Mute Swans, Ring-necked Duck, Northern Pintail, Common Merganser, Herring, Ring-billed and Great Black-backed Gulls, and Red-tailed Hawks. The real show commenced as an immature Bald Eagle, found perched on an exposed stump in the Connecticut River, took flight causing hundreds of waterfowl to jump into the air. The eagle was joined by another immature eagle. We watched as both birds cruised back and forth across the river giving us excellent views. A third eagle, this one a glorious adult, was observed sailing up the river.
The top of an eagle’s white head could be seen above the nest at Barton’s Cove. The guy cables supporting the dead pine tree the eagles had chosen for their nest were easily visible across the ice. Many gulls and ducks dotted the open water of the river. Mockingbird, Song Sparrow, Turkey Vulture, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Robin, were added to the growing day list.
The Magic Wings Butterfly Conservatory and Gardens in South Deerfield was our next stop. The parking lot of this facility, which opened in the fall of 2000, was
overflowing. The bustling crowd didn’t detract from the experience of entering the large greenhouse where we were hit by 80-degree humid air and hundreds of flying butterflies. The butterflies were actively flying, feeding, mating and basking in the strong sunshine. After several minutes the fog cleared from our cameras and close-focusing binoculars allowing great looks at these winged jewels. The group identified twenty-three species of butterfly most of which were of tropical origin including Owl Butterflies, Queen, Southern White, Giant Swallowtails, and Heliconia. Many were excited to observe several familiar garden species such as Monarch, American Lady, Black Swallowtail, and Common Buckeye amid the blooming plants.
Enjoying the warm afternoon sun the group stopped at a local chocolate factory, and then continued birding along the canals in Turners Falls with a final look at Barton’s Cove. Several real harbingers of spring including a Tree Swallow, Red-shouldered Hawk, and Killdeer rewarded the group. A great ending to a fun spring adventure.