CW partners Molly Hale and Pete Westover have again been carrying out annual breeding bird surveys for the Mass Department of Fish and Game on Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in western Mass. This year’s survey sites are on the Montague Plains WMA, Moran WMA, Stafford Hill WMA , and Hiram Fox WMA . Three 10-minute observation periods for each of nearly 40 plots in these areas provide census information about changes over time and the effects of ongoing land management practices.
At the Hiram Fox WMA in South Chesterfield bobolinks are abundant in a managed hayfield and in the shrubby areas. Molly has heard or seen many early-successional specialist birds including chestnut sided-warblers, blue-winged warblers, common yellowthroats, yellow-billed cuckoos, alder flycatchers, and indigo buntings. She also was able to watch a coyote watching her from across a field, and a curious and trusting deer approach within 30 feet. She also found an interesting plant, one-flowered cancer root (Orobanche uniflora). Related to the more familiar Indian pipes, this plant lacks chlorophyll and leaves and is parasitic on the roots of other plants. The leaves in the photo are of goldenrod, perhaps the plant that this clump if cancer root is parasitizing.
At Stafford Hill WMA in Cheshire, additional highlights so far have included prairie warblers, American redstarts, a rose breasted grosbeak, a field sparrow and a flushed woodcock.
The Montague Plains represent some of the Commonwealth’s most important bird habitat, with many nesting whip-poor-will pairs and large areas of early successional shrubland that support eastern towhees, prairie warblers, indigo buntings, field sparrows, and blue-gray gnatcatchers.