Ipswich River Wildlife

The Ipswich River and its watershed have supported a rich, diverse ecosystem for thousands of years. This small river graces the region, providing outstanding habitat for the myriad creatures which live here. Eastern Bluebird, Ipswich River, Ipswich River Audubon, Topsfield, Tree Swallow, Luna Moth, Smooth Green Snake, ChickadeeIn the early 1600′s, Captain John Smith was so awed by the river’s bounty that he called this the “land of promise.”

Red Tailed Hawk
Red Tailed Hawk

The watershed provides habitat for a number of endangered and threatened species, including the piping plover and least tern on the coastal beaches, as well as least bittern, golden-winged warbler, Cooper’s hawk, pied-billed grebe and northern harrier. More common species also bring great enjoyment and beauty to the landscape –  cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, blue jays, red-tailed hawks, spotted sandpipers, song sparrows, great blue herons, egrets, wild turkeys…


Black-capped Chickadees are members of the Titmouse family.  These birds can be very friendly and are rarely bothered by a humans presence. In fact, many bird watchers like myself have been able to hand feed these little birds, especially during winter. It is such a delight when a Chickadee trusts you enough to land on your hand to take seed. They are so light, like they are not even there.

Green Smooth Snake
Green Smooth Snake

These small, bright green snakes (with whitish bellies) camouflage well into their grassy habitats.  Because they are small and secretive, blend in well with their surroundings, and are comparatively rare throughout their range, green snakes are only occasionally encountered. (I felt very fortunate to have seen this pretty snake)  Except for struggling violently when handled, even after being in captivity for some time, the green snakes are gentle and never bite.

luna moth ipswich river
Luna Moth

The Luna Moth with its incredible size (3-4 inches), sea-foam green to yellow coloring and long sweeping tails is one of the most spectacular moths found in North America.   They are most  active at night although there have been sightings during daylight hours. Luna Moths are most likely seen in forested areas but are often attracted to well-lighted areas in the evening.

Tree Swallow
Tree Swallow

Here in the northeast tree swallows are a common sight around the ponds and open fields. They are especially beautiful when the sun shines on their iridescent feathers. Tree swallows have steel blue feathers on their head and back and pure white underparts. Fantastic aerialists, they feed on the wing and commune in huge flocks after breeding season. They spend the summer up north in the United States and winter down in Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. They nest in old bluebird houses, purple martin houses or dead tree nest cavities that other birds left behind in previous seasons.

Eastern Bluebird
Eastern Bluebird

Marvelous birds to capture in your binoculars, male Eastern Bluebirds are a brilliant royal blue on the back and head, and warm red-brown on the breast. Blue tinges in the wings and tail give the grayer females an elegant look.Eastern Bluebirds live in meadows and openings surrounded by trees that offer suitable nest holes. With the proliferation of nest boxes and bluebird trails, bluebirds are now a common sight along roads, field edges, golf courses, and other open areas.

Tarantula Trek

Halloween is here and most people are thinking about spiders, bats, and black cats. But it turns out that tarantulas have a lot more on their mind this month than trick or treating. Fall is when male tarantulas having finally reached adulthood leave their burrows after 5-12 years of living there. Their mission? To seek out females to mate with. A host of deadly perils awaits the newly emerged male in the outside world, not the least of which is the female herself.


Some tarantulas cover 50 miles in their lusty trek.  The females have it much easier.  They just stay in and about their burrows and wait for their suitors to appear.  As the male tarantula approaches the burrow of a female he drums on the surface with his legs and pedipalps.   He does this to let the female know he is interesting in mating and to avoid being mistaken for a meal by the larger female tarantula. Even if he is successful, he won’t have a long life; adult males usually die before winter arrives.

Wind Caves

Mt Diablo
Mt. Diablo

Fun facts about the tarantula: 

  • Female tarantulas can live 30 years or longer in the wild.
  • The largest tarantulas have a leg span of nearly 10 inches, or about the size of a dinner plate.
  • Tarantulas are quite docile and rarely bite people.
  • Tarantulas defend themselves by throwing needle-like, barbed hairs at their attackers.

Female Burrow

  • A fall can be fatal to a tarantula. Even a fall from a short height can cause a deadly rupture of the tarantula’s exoskeleton.
  • Tarantulas have retractable claws on each leg, like cats.
  • Tarantulas can regenerate lost legs.

I decided what better way to celebrate the Halloween season then going on a “Tarantula Trek” and coming face to face with a real life Tarantula. During the months of September and October, knowledgeable docents of Mount Diablo State Park lead hikes to provide a chance for visitors like myself to experience the tarantulas up close and personal. If you would like to learn more about these amazing creatures and even get close up and personal with a tarantula you can visit Mt. Diablo’s events page www.mdia.org.

Happy Halloween!

Stock Photo
Stock Photo

A Tale of a Tail: the Douglas Fir

douglas fir _Fotor

I was told this interesting Native American tale about the strange appearance of Douglas fir cones by a very informative park ranger at Henry Cowell State Park.  Indigenous legend in the Pacific Northwest tells that a long time ago there was a forest fire burning in the wood. A long time ago, when the animals and plants could speak to each other, there was a great forest fire burning through the forest. Little Mouse ran as fast as he could away from the hot fire but he knew he could not outrace the fast moving flames. He began to run from tree to tree asking them if they could save him.

First he ran to the big leaf maple tree. “Help, help!” he cried. “Can you help me escape this fire?” Big leaf maple tree replied, “No, I’m sorry little mouse, I am afraid that I will not be able to survive this forest fire”. The mouse then ran to the red cedar tree. “Help, help! Can you help me escape the fire?” “No, I’m sorry little mouse, but I do not think that I can survive this great forest fire, either” said Red Cedar. Mouse ran from tree to tree asking the same question, and getting the same answer.

big basin _Fotor

Finally he came to a great old Douglas fir tree, with its thick furrowed bark. “Help, help, Douglas fir! Can you help me escape this fire?” And Douglas fir replied, “Yes, I think that my thick bark will protect me from the heat of these flames. I may be able to survive this great fire. Climb to the top of my branches, and climb under the scales of my cone for extra protection.” So, little mouse did as he was told, and climbed way up into Douglas fir tree and hid under the scales of the Douglas fir cones. Many other little mice followed him and did the same. And the Douglas fir tree was right, its thick bark protected them from the flames of the fire, and the fire passed them by.

To this day, if you look under the scales of the Douglas fir cone you can still see little mice hiding under the scales of the cones. Have you seen them too?

Fall in Boston

My favorite time of the year is Fall.  And there is no place better to be than New England. New England states are dotted with some of the prettiest parks in the country with amazing landscapes. Boston is known as a big bustling city, but right outside the city are some of the most beautiful expanses of land. 


"Ashland State Park, Ashland, MA"



Fall foliage in the Middlesex Fells Reservation, Melrose, MA, USA


Exotic Birds

Metallic starting
Metallic starling

The Metallic Starling is also known as the Shining Starling. It is native to New Guinea and the Australasian islands and northeastern Australia.

Male adult Metallic Starlings have a glossy green-black plumage that is iridescent. They have a long tail and red eyes. Females and immatures Metallic Starling have a dark streaked whitish body with dark wings and head.

Mouse Bird
Mouse Bird

 Mousebirds, or colies, are African birds that got their name because their hopping movements combined with their grey coloring is mouse-like.  There are six species of mousebirds in a family (Coliidae) and order (Coliiformes) all by themselves.   These unique birds are about the size of a cockatiel with long, stiff, pointed tails and small head crests that can be raised at will.  Their plumage is very soft, and their feet quite large.

Male Peacock
Male Peacock

Peacocks are large, colorful pheasants (typically blue and green) known for their iridescent tails. These tail feathers, or coverts, spread out in a distinctive train that is more than 60 percent of the bird’s total body length and boast colorful “eye” markings of blue, gold, red, and other hues.

The term “peacock” is commonly used to refer to birds of both sexes. Technically, only males are peacocks. Females are peahens, and together, they are called peafowl.

Andean Cock of the Rock
Andean Cock of the Rock

The spectacularly bizarre Andean Cock-of-the-rock is perhaps the most popularly recognized bird of the cloud forests of the Andes Mountains. The national bird of Peru, this species is readily identified by its fan-shaped crest and brilliant orange plumage, both of which are evident to a lesser degree even in the duller female. Males spend much of their time displaying at leks, where they jump up and down on particular branches and utter low, guttural croaks. The name is derived from their preference for rocks and ledges as substrates for their mud cup nests.

Andean Cock on Rock