July 5/6, 2017
Lime Kiln Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Sheffield
I return to Lime Kiln Farm the next morning – I want to experience the reserve during the early hours when wildlife activity is at its peak.
I get better views of the Alder Flycatcher today and make some sketches and color studies. All of the empidonax flycatchers are subtle in plumage – the morphological differences between the species very slight.
The only reason I can be sure I’m looking at an Alder Flycatcher is the distinctive call. Sibley describes it as “rreeBEEa”, but to me it sounds more like “zwee-BEEP”. Either way, the accent is on the second syllable.
A yellow-bellied sapsucker flies in and lands on a nearby snag and I train my scope on it. It’s a handsome adult male with a red throat and cap.
Sapsuckers are common birds in the Berkshires, but become scarcer as you move east. We see them often enough where I live in central Massachusetts, but they are largely absent east of Worcester County.
Suddenly, things are happening fast: a Cooper’s Hawk streaks in and alights, but is immediately driven off by a red-winged blackbird and a kingbird. Then, I nearly step on a large northern watersnake sunning itself in the path!
Slowing my pace, (and watching my feet more carefully, now), I notice a cottontail in the meadow path ahead. The rabbit allows me to approach quite closely , so I set up my scope to draw. The bunny is a good model – moving occasionally, but sitting quietly for long stretches while I draw.
A lot of the drama here will be in that bright bunny EYE, so I pay it close attention!
Clover and vetch enliven the scene with bits of color, and in the surrounding grasses, I avoid dark accents, hoping to achieve the soft, flickering quality of a summer meadow.