In recent years, wild turkeys have become a very common sight in Massachusetts. While they look rather plain and brown from a distance, a closer inspection reveals feathers of a wide variety of subtle patterns and hues. The males’ iridescent feathers shine with green, red, bronze, copper and gold. Both males and females have a distinctive “wattle”, a fleshy red piece of skin that hangs beneath the neck.
In the late Fall, meadows in New England are bursting with milkweed pods, which furnish monarch caterpillars with the only food they will eat. A huge effort is underway to plant more milkweed to stop the recent decline in the monarch population.
Gray squirrels look particularly luxurious in the late Fall as they busily hide acorns and then forget where they put them. In this way, they are responsible for planting over one million oak trees each year!
This northern cardinal, high above me on his windy perch, spotted me photographing him. With feathers rustling in the wind, his watchful eye followed me attentively. With a sudden flash of brilliant red, he swooped down to command the bird feeders, constantly checking out the action around him. It wasn’t until he was at ground level that he seemed curiously unconcerned with the small mammals hunting for seeds with him.
Winter birds such as the white-crowned sparrows and dark-eyed juncos have been appearing at the Wachusett Meadow Audubon in Princeton, MA. Surprisingly, I spotted an eastern bluebird still hanging around with them. Perhaps he belongs to a group that has wintered here in recent years.
These finches paused long enough for me to spot “purple finch identifiers” : the males sported slight peaks on their heads with raspberry coloring on both the heads and backs. The female, although more subtly colored, had clearly visible distinct white marking above the eyes .
I never tire of watching the transformation of the monarch butterfly. In Massachusetts, this population seems to be on the rise after several years of dwindling numbers. What a pleasure to marvel at monarchs in my own yard once again!
This juvenile red-tailed hawk frequented the Wachusett Meadow Audubon for several days last week during hawk migration time. It perched quietly in trees near the main buildings, watching the comings and goings of nature enthusiasts. I can’t help but wonder if it was gathering strength for the long journey ahead.
I was startled and delighted to spot this red fox kit in my backyard. It didn’t run away until called sharply by its mother, so I had ample time to enjoy its large black twitching ears and black legs, as well as its white-tipped tail, which is a key differentiation between a gray and a red fox.
In mythology, foxes are often described as sly and cunning. This kit, like most young animals, didn’t bring those characterizations to mind. It was completely charming in all its innocence, curiosity and playfulness.