Sunday, April 14, 2013

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary: Visiting the Ospreys

Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary isn't our usual hiking fare: There are no mountains, no waterfalls, and no elevation gain to speak of on the trails there. I can't actually say that I ever got my heart rate "up" while we walked 5.3 miles winding around the wetlands and exploring the woods. We went looking for spring flowers and wound up finding more ospreys than I have ever seen in one place in my entire life. Unbeknownst to Michael and I (but probably known to every birder out there), Jug Bay is one of the major breeding grounds for ospreys. Apparently, the birds return to Jug Bay to their mate each year after traveling as far as Central and South America.

We started our walk on the boardwalk that runs along the wetlands. We were immediately treated to ospreys circling the marsh, calling to each other, and flying over with fish in their talons. It was a good day to be an osprey. Fish? Not so much. Further along, on the Lower Railroad Trail, we encountered to large black snakes sunning themselves in tree branches.  We sat out on the dock at the end of the Railroad Trail for quite a while, watching the birds and enjoying the warm weather.  We could see a female osprey sitting on a nest on one of the nesting platforms.

The rest of the hike was spent meandering through the woods in the Sanctuary.  We were treated to a constant cacophony of birdsong.  There actually weren't many flowers blooming, except for great carpets of Claytonia virginica (Spring Beauty).  We found some very, very large Beech trees and some equally impressive turtles sunning themselves on logs.  We didn't see a lot of flowers - although, I think there will be a lot more in a week or two - but the wildlife more than made up for it.  Other than a few birders, we didn't run into anyone on our hike.

Pictures (click to enlarge):
The Marsh Boardwalk at Jug Bay.
 An osprey that circled over us several times.
 An osprey with a fish in its talons (click to enlarge)
 Aronia arbutifolia (Red Chokeberry)
 Claytonia virginica (Spring Beauty)
This Black Snake was easily five feet long.  There was a larger one next to it, but I didn't have a clear shot of that one. They were quietly sunning themselves in the tree branches right next to the trail.
 A frog in the sun near the Scrub Shrub boardwalk.
 Interesting seed pods on the Scrub Shrub boardwalk.
 Fiddleheads on the Farm Trail
A Northern Red-Bellied Cooter (Pseudemys rubriventris) sunning itself in a beaver pond. This individual was easily 18 inches long.
 Two more Northern Red-Bellied Cooters.
Trees reflected in a pool on the Upper Railroad Trail.

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