What: What a grand spring day. I'd never been to Woodside Park in Essex and on a whim while driving home from a great day teaching at Founders Elementary I stopped by to check it out. Turns out it's an incredible patch of floodplain forest and some floodplain controlled cattail marshes/ponds with heaps of wildlife. Below are some of the photographic highlights (including a couple blurry ones, mostly because the subject matter was so good).
Ecological notes: This is more of a photo essay, but I was impressed with the number of flying insects out and about. Just as I arrived, Patty, who works at the detention center, tipped me off to a red-shouldered hawk nest. The hawk wasn't on the nest so I walked the loop first. The spring ephemerals were out in abundance - trout lily, marsh marigold, stinking benjamin, large-flowered trillium, bloodroot, wood anemone, and a few others. So were the insects. I noticed that a duskywing (skipper family based on the curved knob at the tip of the antennae, but couldn't ID to species) was "mobbing a morning cloak" which was interesting. Each time the mourning cloak got near the skipper chased it off. Birds do it, why not butterflies (probably because other butterflies aren't predators on caterpillars)?
At the end of my walk, I spent about an hour and a half watching the nest of a red-shouldered hawk (pictured above). The hawk made lots of angry calls as I approached (lasted about 5 minutes before stopping). While on the nest it only moved its head and rarely that. It seemed to look more energetically when the crows flew by, even though the crows didn't pay much attention. Met Tom Jiamachello as I was leaving and he said the pair had nested her the previous three years.
I spotted a little woodchuck denning up next to the tracks. The soils are all deltaic sands, perfect for digging in and there were several other holes in the area. The woodchuck left noisely over the dry leaves, stopping to nibble what looked like celandine, but I couldn't tell for sure. It was gone for about 20 minutes and returned a bit noisier carrying a huge bundle of oak leaves in its mouth. It dropped them off in a hurry then came out and stood watch for another few minutes before disappearing back down its tunnel.
Where: Woodside Park.
Other notes: While looking up information on the butterflies I noticed that the Red Admiral, Eastern Comma, and Mourning Cloak all overwinter as adults, which I thought was interesting, and so not surprisign that they're among the first butterflies to see in large numbers in the spring.