Trip report submitted by Trip Leader Joan Heffernan below
September 8, 2021 Time: 8:30-11:30 2 hours
Fourteen participants met at Hilltop Farm in Suffield, CT at 8:30 AM. This late summer, partly sunny day began at 67 degrees and soon rose to a sunny 77 degrees. The original plan had to be adapted a bit because of heavy summer storm damage. The farm property has sustained significant tree loss in recent weeks. Our beloved oak which proudly stood by the white barn for over 200 years was our most significant loss. Although our leader is a novice birder, she is an active volunteer at the farm and very familiar with the property and pointed out where species can be found at different times of the year. Today we identified 23 species. We began our walk near the entrance marquee. From there we walked south and then east on a gravely road on town owned property. We passed haying fields that are home to Red-winged Blackbirds and Bob-o-Links although not present today. Near the base of the hill we hooked a left onto a narrow path that led us to a boardwalk. On the right side of the path, in a wetland area, we saw newly planted native species (nestled in with beautiful goldenrod) purchased with HAS grants from 2020 & 2021 which were well watered this year! We stopped to observe the resident eagle’s nest, either through our binoculars or binoculars mounted here for patron viewing. All was quiet today but a fledging left in early July. Birders were encouraged to come back and visit in December and beyond when the eagles are actively rehabbing their dwelling. Our walk continued from the boardwalk back onto the gravely road past a tobacco barn and we then headed north, parallel to the CT River. We next followed a wooded trail where we witnessed the storm destruction from this summer. We did manage to circumvent downed trees and were able to view the inland pond home to Wood Ducks and Great Blue Herons. The GBH did a flyover, the ducks were hiding! After looping around and exiting the woods, we head west up the hill with meadows on our left and wetlands on the right where the Red-headed Woodpeckers lived in fall 2019 and spring 2020. We crossed back south through the farmer’s field to bypass some yellow jackets buzzing near one of the fallen trees. We had fashioned “steps” over the trees but took the alternate route to avoid the bees. We stopped at the Community Garden where many Hummingbirds, Goldfinches and a female Red-winged Blackbird were actively eating among the rainbow of blooming flowers. Common Nighthawks were seen here on 8/24-a lifer for the leader! Continuing up the hill, we then visited the Corn Crib area which is being nurtured to create an area where less active individuals can sit and enjoy birds, bees and butterflies in the Butterfly & Pollinator Gardens where HAS grant money was also used to purchase plants. I forgot to mention and point out the Phoebe nests under the corn crib. (seven )
We also viewed a Hummingbird Garden on the side of former manure shed and another raised bed (Pollinator Garden) on the base of what used to be a silo. I wish that the Creamery being built was open (stay tuned) to end our trek with a cold gelato treat but perhaps on your next visit! Birders that stayed until the end were invited into the cathedral barn, which is also under renovation at this Non Profit Organization which is on the National Register of Historic Places since 2005. You can learn more about this property here: https://www.hilltopfarmsuffield.org/
Birds Sighted: Black-capped Chickadee, European Starlings, Northern Flicker, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, American Crow, Song Sparrow, Gray Catbird, Hummingbirds, Chimney Swift, Carolina Wren, American Goldfinch, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Wood Peewee, Warbling Vireo, Great Blue Heron, Belted Kingfisher, Tufted Titmouse, Eastern Phoebe, Red-winged Blackbird, American Robin, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Northern Mockingbird. We even saw a bat!