Thursday, June 21, 2007

Shelton Family Farm

Shelton Family Farm is off-limits to the general public, but since the the City of Shelton purchased the development rights in 2004 with the help of a USDA grant, we are required to inspect it each year. I had the pleasure of making that inspection today - what a beautiful piece of land!

The farm is located along the south side of Leavenworth Road (Rt 110) between the Monroe town line and Walnut Tree Hill Road, next to Jones Family Farm.

A couple of trout hang out in the brook

Part of the farm is leased by the Jones Family and planted with Christmas Trees, so you may have been on it if you cut your own trees at the Jones Farm.

There's a little pond called Lake Emerson formed by the damming of Nelson Brook. You can see if from Rt 110. I saw a couple of nice trout in the brook (see photo).

There is also a speedway, but that area isn't covered under the easement.

Besides the scenery of the White Hills and the trout, the highlight of my walk was the wildlife I don't usually see: Pairs of nesting Baltimore Orioles (left photo) and Yellow Warblers (right photo).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Weird Week of Animals

During the past week, I caught a wolf spider inside my washing machine, found a cute little ring-necked snake under a rock by the back door, and had to fish out a big snapping turtle from my goldfish pond. See my photos.

It started on Monday when I absent-mindedly stuck my hand in the washing machine to grab the wet clothes and instead nearly grabbed a huge, hairy spider guarding the clean socks. I'd left the top to the machine open and he must have wandered in. After letting out a horrendous, involuntary shreak, I grabbed a jar and captured him. According to several sites on the web, wolf spiders make good pets (the Ansonia Nature Center has one). They can live for three years, and do not make webs. You just throw bugs in the container for them to eat.

As I was looking under rocks to find some insect meals for the spider, I found a small ring-necked snake all curled up. I don't remember ever seeing one of these snakes, which are shyer than garter snakes and therefore more difficult to see, but eat the same things: small salamanders and the like.

Finally, as I went out to feed my goldfish I was stunned to find a big snapping turtle hanging out in my pond lily. How dare he! Well, those goldfish are probably pretty easy to pick off. This is a 1200 gallon pond with murky water and plenty of potted plants and rocks and it was hard to get him out. I had to take all the plant out and start pumping out the water. After I stood over the pond holding a net for a very long time, the turtle finally floated very slowly near the surface and I quickly nabbed him with a net. He proceded to eat the net and hiss at me. Cute face, though. I took him on a little trip and let him go at Silent Waters, where a few years ago the pond level was raised substantially and the fish are probably flourishing.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Red-Tailed Hawk Nest

I don't think I've ever been scolded at so much as when I stumbled upon an active red-tailed hawk nest on City open space on Huntington Street near Trap Falls Reservoir and Commerce Drive. I was on the property for almost two hours, and eventually I could tell where I was just by the sound of the screaming hawk. I never got a clear view of the birds, just glimpses, but that's pretty normal for wildlife viewing in the summer. I could only identify the hawk by the call. What caught my ear, though, was a whistling that I did not recognize and assume was either the mother hawk or her nestlings (see the video to hear it as well as me being scolded). Coordinates of the nest are N41° 16.7673', W73° 8.3946'. Watch out if you're standing below or you may receive a white gooey gift from the birds! I also witnessed a big fight between a blue jay and a squirrel (the blue jay won); the squirrel was probably trying to steal the jay's eggs (squirrels do eat bird eggs).