Spring Birding in the Fells

By Laurie Adamson   FOF Member and Volunteer

Photography by Dennis Crouse

My husband and I joined Pete Costello and six other birders on a cool Saturday morning in May to bird watch. Pete has been leading birding trips in the Greenwood Park area on Saturday mornings during spring migration.

We had a delightful morning watching and listening to birds. Since retiring I have become a warbler junkie. These birds are my favorite spring migrants. I call them ‘little jewels’. They are painted beautiful colors and have exquisite markings. You look up in the trees and see brilliant yellow: yellow rumps, orange and black throats, gold colored caps, streaks on the breast and chestnut sides. They are a feast for the eyes. But is doesn’t stop there; these little guys also have beautiful songs. Beauty and song aren’t the only things that attract me to watching these birds.   They also put on a wonderful display hopping from branch to branch, flying out catching insects in flight. It is a wonderful dance to watch.


Pete was willing to take us to his “secret spot”. No, he didn’t ask us to put on blindfolds and we didn’t take an oath not to tell anyone. He enjoyed sharing his spot with others who share his love for birdwatching. On this morning we were treated to several warblers: yellow warbler, black and white warbler, northern parula, yellow rump warbler, black throated green and a common yellow throat. Another treat was a pair of rose breasted grosbeaks. We watched the female building a nest. We were serenaded by Baltimore orioles. Their brilliant orange is an eye catcher.


Get out your binoculars and enjoy the parade of gems in the Fells. If you don’t have binoculars, don’t fret. You will still be able to enjoy the birds. The orioles this time of year are plentiful and put on lively displays. You can’t miss their brilliant orange. You can also watch the warblers doing their acrobatics in the trees. There are many great places to bird in the Fells: Long Pond, Wrights Pond, High Service Reservoirs, the shore of Spot Pond, and Virginia Woods.

Pete has a wonderful approach to birdwatching. He moves quietly through the woods, frequently stops to watch and listen, and will stay in one spot to watch and wait to see who visits. People new to birding to seasoned birders are welcomed on his trips.


Photo: Kristin Shoemaker via Flickr

It used to be that the robin was the first sign of spring here in the Fells, but these days some hang around all winter. The true sign of spring are now the waves of grackles, red-wing blackbirds and turkey vultures. This past week I have seen all three in different parts of the Fells.

Other bird sightings include:

  • a pair of ravens last week at Bellevue pond area,
  • many brown creepers on the long pond trail,
  • a sharp-shinned hawk in the zoo parking lot.

Several species have been seen starting to nest.  Morning doves have been flying around with twigs. Chickadees have been calling non stop and I recently observed a pair of chickadees pulling bits of plastic off of a bag and bringing it into a hole in a tree.

Mammal sighting have been better lately, only because I’ve been out on the trails more. Three deer were seen on the Crystal Spring Trail this past week, two does were also seen on the Skyline Trail in the Sheepfold area. The chipmunk and skunks are back out. I’ve seen 2 coyotes in the past week, one walking across the ice on Spot Pond, the other just behind Quarter Mile Pond. Several mink have been sighted recently, 2 have been seen on the Crystal Spring Trail.

As we start to warm a bit more, the salamanders will begin their annual migration to the various vernal pool throughout the Fells. I’ll be checking out some pools off the Rock Circuit Trail this season. They prefer nights in the 40’s with rain.

Some of the local rivers have good numbers of ducks, these will move into the Fells waterways as soon as the ice begins to clear out. Watch for the return of the ruddy ducks, common mergansers, great blue herons and bald eagles on Spot Pond in the next few weeks.

Even though a lot of animal activity slows down during the heat of summer, there is still lots to see in the Fells during July and August.  Watching the great blue heron feeding their chicks on Great island in Spot Pond can be a nice way to spend some time, but to see the great blues in action, head over to Long Pond.  There you can see them fly in and hunt the food.  My last outing we saw 7 herons hunting at Long Pond.  One bird ate 5 frogs before flying back to the rookery on Great Island.

A few species of birds can still be nesting this time of year.  Robin and cardinals can have up to 3 broods a year.   Over near Greenwood Park, I have been watching  pair of blue and grey gnatcatchers this entire season.  They started building a nest back in May.  I spent my mornings watching them collect mosses and hair from ferns to build their nest.  I saw them feeding 3 chicks in June and days later they were back on the nest.  They had 2 chicks in the second brood.

Over in the area around Doleful Pond, I’ve been seeing 3 white tailed deer does, no fawns from this group. I’ve also seen an occasional green wing teal on the pond.  The turtles have laid their eggs on the banks, I watched some chipmunks dig up and eat a few eggs. On the trail behind the DCR yard I’ve been seeing a coyote.  We keep our distance, but I’ll see it crossing the trails early in the morning.

young buck off the skyline trail

Young Buck Off the Skyline Trail