Written and submitted by Trip Leader: Joan Heffernan
Hilltop Farm is a bustling place these days. The big white cathedral barn is in its final stages of preparation for its first function as a venue for a wedding. In addition to the excitement of our grand opening, people have been flocking to visit the Hilltop Farm Creamery which debuted this summer. So the place is ‘abuzzin with people, bees, butterflies, and of course birds and birders!
The walk was postponed for one day as rain was predicted on the morning of the 7th. Although the rain didn’t fall, the extra day gave the paths some time to dry out from the wonderful and welcomed rainfall on the 6th that perked up the premises. I know some people couldn’t come because of the postponement but hopefully they can join us next time. We set out today on a clear, sunny, day with temperatures in the high sixties as we set off.
A small group of six birders, all HAS members began our walk at the red barn atop the hill. Just as we began our trek a Red-tailed hawk perched on a fence post as if he were the official greeter. I grabbed my long camera lens to take a few photos and we watched him fly onto a barn roof for another photo opp and then the group headed southeast down the gravelly road towards the CT River. We passed the fields where Red-winged blackbirds and Bobolinks nested this summer but none were seen today. One birder suggested that it would be nice to schedule a bird walk when they are active. We did sight several Northern Flickers, Northern Mockingbirds., Eastern Phoebes and Mourning Doves as we walked down the hill. We visited the Eagles’ Nest viewing station along the boardwalk and observed the area where native plants, purchased with HAS grant money are now nestled in with the beautiful yellow goldenrod. The smell of freshly hung tobacco in the barn along the path wafted through the air as we walked along the newly harvested fields. And perched on that barn roof were three Eastern Bluebirds. Robins , Catbirds and a Carolina Wren were seen and heard. On the wooded trail we observed a Downy Woodpecker and heard a Red-Bellied Woodpecker. Those who navigated down towards the riverbank, saw an osprey sitting on a tower across the river. We searched for the resident Great Blue Heron in the inland pond but he was absent today. Warbling Vireos, American Goldfinches, and Eastern Wood-Pewee were heard. Before approaching the Community Garden area, we were delighted to spot a Kestrel perched in a tree. However he was being harassed by 3 Northern Mockingbirds while he was trying to eat his lunch. The Community Garden area afforded us the sight of several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and the call of a Raven. In the Bird Garden, hummingbirds and butterflies were flying among the native plants, also purchased with HAS grant funds.
Twenty species were sighted today. This was the first trip to Hilltop Farm for three of the birders and one even went home with fresh tomatoes from my community garden plot!