Sunday, March 10, 2013

Rogers Refuge--Woodcocks and Wood Ducks

Woodcocks are curious looking birds with long beak and stubby body. This time of year, they are doing their mating displays in open fields around Princeton. Here's a report from Winnie Spar, a birder who helps care for the Rogers Refuge--the marsh between the Institute Woods and the Stony Brook (map):  March 4: "Despite rather cool temperatures, I went over to the Refuge at dusk this evening and found one peenting and twittering woodcock in the lower marsh across from the main platform. This is the same date on which Fred and I first discovered displaying woodcocks in the marsh last year."

Here's a previous post about seeing woodcocks in Princeton, which links to an NPR segment on them.

Wood Ducks: At the showing of the Duckumentary, which begins with baby wood ducks jumping out of their nest, 70 feet up in a tree, and landing softly in the leaves, Charles Leck said wood ducks return in late March and the newborns begin jumping out of holes in trees at Rogers Refuge from about May 10-15. That would be something to see.

If you're unfamiliar with Rogers Refuge, it's a premier birdwatching site in the floodplain of the StonyBrook, accessible via West Drive, which intersects with Alexander just before you reach the canal. I researched and wrote an ecological assessment and stewardship plan for the refuge some years back. The marsh is kept wet in summer with the help of water pumped from the Stony Brook. The land is owned by the water company, town staff maintain the pump, and the Friends of Rogers Refuge keep an eye on the refuge and have installed viewing towers, a bird blind, and bird houses. A nice cooperative venture.

Other notes from Charles Leck's Q and A:

  • Ducks mate for a year. Geese mate for life, and hang around for a day if their mate dies. 
  • He's noticed a ten to fourteen day shift in duck migrations over the years, as the planet warms.
  • Hurricane Sandy devastated coastal lakes like Lake Como in New Jersey. The lakes are important duck habitat. 
  • Parting quote: "Never throw a planet away. You just don't know when you're going to need it."

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