The phrase "Wild Bird Food” might bring to mind plastic sacks filled with millet and safflower and sunflower seeds, but the real stuff is actually quite seasonal and scattered throughout the landscape. Here are just a few abundant native sources of nutrition currently available for birds and other wildlife:
Upon further investigation, the oak trees at the Plainville Public Library appear to be Pin Oaks (Quercus palustris). The acorns of this species are rather small and have thin, saucer-like caps. If you're unsure about oaks (or other trees) near you, fall is a good time to collect some clues (leaves, twigs with fully formed buds, and fruit) and flip through your field guides.
I found the following feather in Plainville, MA. What type of bird did the feather belong to? Is it a wing or tail feather? (If you need some help, try using The Feather Atlas's Identification Tool.)
Leave a guess in the comments below. And be sure to check out the answer to last week's plant quiz on the Quiz Answers page.
I photographed this Downy Woodpecker yesterday at the Plainville Cemetery. Her steady call notes alerted me to her location. Unlike males, females lack red on the back of their heads.
This is the smallest woodpecker in New England and very similar in plumage to the larger Hairy Woodpecker. Telling the two apart by size alone can be tricky if only one species is present. One difference is that Downy Woodpeckers have black spots on their outer tail feathers (noticeable in the top photo, but not always easy to see in the field) whereas Hairy Woodpeckers have all white outer tail feathers. Bill length is another good field mark, with Hairy Woodpeckers having substantially longer bills relative to their head size.
Lake Mirimichi is located southeast of the I-495 and Rt. 1 interchange in Plainville. Most of the shoreline is privately owned, but part of the lake can be easily viewed from Mirimichi St. Parking is located along the road near the put-in for small boats and canoes. Use caution if you choose to walk the narrow street.
Birds and other Creatures
As one of the largest bodies of water in the area, Lake Mirimichi attracts a variety of wildlife. Even casual observers can't help but notice the numerous Mute Swans, Canada Geese, Mallards, and Ring-billed Gulls that frequent the lake. Belted Kingfishers can be seen diving for small fish, while Great Blue Herons stalk patiently in the shallows for their next meal. In the colder months, Ring-necked Ducks and Hooded Mergansers congregate if there is open water.
In summer, the roadside vegetation on the lake's edge provides perches and cover for Eastern Kingbirds, Warbling Vireos, Baltimore Orioles, and Song Sparrows. And during spring and fall migration, there is no telling which species could make a brief appearance.
The lake hosts Snapping Turtles, Painted Turtles, and a variety of fish species. Locals commonly fish near the Mirimichi St. bridge or from a boat, canoe, or kayak.
Trees, Shrubs, and Plants
A variety of trees line the water along both sides of Mirimichi St. including Eastern White Pine, Pitch Pine, Red Maple, Gray Birch, Scrub Oak, and Northern Red Oak. Shoreside shrubs include Maleberry (Lyonia ligustrina), Clammy Azalea (Rhododendron viscosum), Sweetgale (Myrica gale), and Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). During the green season, Common Ground-nut (Apios americana) can be seen climbing up several shrubs along the causeway.
In the summer, the lake's shallow edges fill with the vegetative growth of a variety of plants. Water-shield (Brasenia schreberi), Carolina Fanwort (Cabomba caroliniana), and White Water-lily (Nymphaea odorata) grow here in abundance.
Worth visiting in winter to watch gulls and waterfowl, or in summer to view floating flowers and young swans, Lake Mirimichi deserves more than just a drive-by. If you must drive along the paved causeway, leave space for nature observers taking in the scene from the road's shoulder.