eastern towhee

5.7.20 ~ Avery Farm Nature Preserve
Ledyard & Groton, Connecticut

Back in April we had a great walk in the Candlewood Ridge open space property which led to a sand plain with a glacial erratic on top of a ridge in the distance. On May 7th we decided to explore the property north of it, Avery Farm Nature Preserve, and followed a trail to get to the elevation from the opposite direction.

5.7.20 ~ welcome!

This historic 305-acre farm spans the border of Ledyard and Groton in a scenic rural setting. It is contiguous to the 91 acre Candlewood Ridge property, Groton and Ledyard town-owned open spaces, and to the Town of Groton conservation easement on a 7-acre former cranberry bog. Combined, over 430 acres of habitat area are available for wildlife and watershed protection.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

Avery Farm is part of a critical large block of diverse wildlife habitats highlighted on the State of CT Natural Diversity Database maps: grasslands, hedgerows, early successional forest, oak-hemlock-hickory upland forest, Atlantic white cedar swamp, a habitat managed power utility corridor, forested peatlands, kettle type bogs, poor fens, multiple seeps, several Tier I vernal pools, Ed Lamb Brook, Haley Brook, and the southern portion of a 38 acre marsh.
~ Groton Open Space Association website

The walk through the woods was lovely as we ascended gradually. I took more pictures on the way to the overlook than I did on the return part of the loop trail, which went through a low wetland.

5.7.20 ~ Tim with a glacial erratic

What on earth is that noise? Who goes there?

5.7.20 ~ eastern towhee

A strikingly marked, oversized sparrow of the East, feathered in bold black and warm reddish-browns – if you can get a clear look at it. Eastern Towhees are birds of the undergrowth, where their rummaging makes far more noise than you would expect for their size. Their chewink calls let you know how common they are, but many of your sightings end up mere glimpses through tangles of little stems.
~ All About Birds website

As we were walking along we heard a lot of rustling a few feet off the path and I tried to get a picture of the bird making the commotion. The “best” one is above. At home I used my new bird identification app and learned it was an eastern towhee. Had to laugh when I read the description above. Our sighting was definitely a string of brief glimpses and the rummaging was quite loud!

5.7.20 ~ We finally reach the large glacial erratic overlooking the sand plain!
We approached from behind it.
5.7.20 ~ we did not sit in the chairs, keeping COVID-19 in mind
5.7.20 ~ view from the overlook across the sand plain,
down to where we were standing the month before
5.7.20 ~ taken with telephoto lens

Then we climbed down the steep trail to the sand plain and returned by the lower wetland trail. On that portion of our walk we encountered four people coming from the other direction. We always got six feet off the trail and let them pass, wondering if they would have done the same for us if we hadn’t done it first. One man was operating a drone which we couldn’t see but could hear buzzing nearby. Another man was jogging. And two women were looking for a waterfall. (I think they may have mistaken this property for Sheep Farm.)

5.7.20 ~ moss and lichen
5.7.20 ~ spotted wintergreen

The walk lasted about an hour and a quarter, our longest one yet. ♡

10 thoughts on “eastern towhee”

    1. Wood ticks don’t seem to be a concern in these parts, Kathy. But deer ticks, now that’s another story because some of them carry Lyme Disease. We have three relatives who have been stricken in the past. So we stay on the trails (except when other humans come along), shower when we get home, keep an eye out for the tiny critters and hope for the best. What danger do wood ticks present? They must be easier to spot.

  1. The towhee description sounds perfect- down to the tangle of twigs. If I ever visit CT again, I would love to explore some of these places with you!

    1. I would enjoy exploring any or all of these places with you immensely, Susan! Something to look forward to after the pandemic. 🙂 It amazes me that we always seem to encounter something unexpected and interesting.

  2. It looks like a beautiful place to explore. The Eastern Towhee was one of the first birds I managed to get a shot of this spring, but it was much like yours. They’re not easy to catch with the camera. 🙂

    1. Robin, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one finding it difficult to catch this bird on camera! The online birdwatching course I’m taking says:

      “A common and very distinctive foraging method used by some species of sparrow is what’s sometimes called double-scratching. A sparrow jumps with both feet forward into leaves or litter, then jumps back behind itself dragging both feet, clearing a patch in which the sparrow looks for food. The head somehow stays relatively in the same place for the first part of the maneuver. This eye-catching behavior can be heard when done in dry leaves, too.”

      I think this might be what was happening in the undergrowth there. 🙂

  3. Ah, here is your eastern towhee. Its striking coloring is plain to see. Good job! 🙂

    I really enjoy glacial erratics and mosses, too. All your photos are so interesting. Are you a photographer by training, Barbara?

    1. Thank you, Timi! 🙂

      My grandmother was an artist and a nature photographer and I like to think some of her DNA passed down to me. But I’ve had no formal training, just a passion for nature and pictures!

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