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. . . For the Birds

I first hiked to the top of Peter's Rock with my dad in the spring of 1980, and later with my entire family for picnics – when my brother Drew and Yellow Lab “Spike” were big enough to make the climb.

During the winter of 1982-3, at the age of eight, I identified my first bird species on Peter's Rock. It was the beautiful Evening Grosbeak, resident of Canada's Northern Boreal Forests. All yellow, the males get progressively greener towards their caps, with a black tail and primary wing feathers, bright white secondary patches to their bandit yellow eye stripe. Their most outstanding feature is the huge pale yellow seed cracking bill which brought them south in the first place. Females are a subdued camouflage. The Canadian seed crop failed that year due to summer drought bringing the Grosbeaks, Pine Siskins and Purple Finches to our doorstep (actually to the sunflower filled feeders my father had earlier put out). Three winters ago we had a Common Redpoll which is an arctic-tundra species.

While that winter was my first introduction to Ornithology, each time I've hiked since has brought a new birding experience. Just by hanging a bird feeder or two in early winter, it is possible to identify at least thirty-six different bird species in minutes. Most will visit during peak feeding hours, from early to mid-morning and late afternoon till dusk. Don't forget to buy suet or beef/pork fat for the woodpeckers!

Springtime on “The Rock” is another story. Literally millions of birds shoot up from South America, Mexico and the Caribbean Islands, and the Southwestern U.S. converging along the Atlantic Flyway, basically a migratory bird super-highway in the sky. Upon arrival they disperse to their instinctual breeding grounds. In spite of being hungry, tired, and sometimes severely stressed, all are seeking nesting sites.

Saving Peter's Rock is vitally important, especially to these little Songbirds, Raptors (Bird's of Prey) and Upland Game Birds, such as the gangly turkey. Traveling thousands of miles per year, the Songbirds will nest in the same town, in the same forest, even in the same shrubbery time after time. Unfortunately, with the loss of habitat and development running rampant, a few once popular species I used to see are now very rare or extinct from the Montowese area. One example, the Barn Owl – No farms. No barns. No Barn Owls!!!

Autumn on “The Rock” is the most beautiful time. Under the painted canopy of the forest, deer sign is everywhere, turkey scratches along the trails are quite evident and, late at night, the eerie cry of the coyote packs awaken you from the deepest of sleep. Not to mention the hoots, cackles, croaks and screams of our Owl species. The Great Horned, Barred and Northern Screech all make their nests on Peter's Rock. They've added a lot of character to my past Hallows Eves.

Also during the fall, at the summit of Peter's Rock, “Lover's Leap” or the “New Haven Vista,” the reverse occurs. The songbirds all of a sudden disappear to their wintering grounds, only to be replaced by the year round indigenous species or the few birds that do come North or South to Connecticut in search of food. From “The Leap” gazing at the “Sleeping Giant,” as well as East and West Rock Vistas, thousands of Hawks, Falcons and Bald Eagles may be seen following the Quinnipiac River to Long Island Sound out to the Flyway. You may even see some Raptors catching thermals off the “Leap” such as an Osprey I recently saw.

In closing, I'd like to thank the wonderful people who made it out to Peter's Rock Park's first organized birding hike back in June. It was one of the best bird watching hikes I've ever participated in. We saw a Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, a Prairie Warbler, Cooper's and Red-tailed Hawk, Ovenbird and Wood Thrush. A complete list of all species seen, including four female Box Turtles can be requested.

I will be leading more birding expeditions in the near future, all of which will be advertised through the media. Please feel free to join us. If you would like a list of the one hundred and eighty seven bird species I have sighted over the past twenty-one years, all in the Peter's Rock, Harton's Pond, Cloudland and Montowese areas, you may contact me at (203) 239-6088, or through my e-mail listed below. The birds and I thank you very much for saving their unique and beautiful home “Peter's Rock Park.”

Happy Hiking and
Birds Galore!!!

Bob Mazurek Jr.

The Hermitage View
Issue 2, Fall 2005

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