ADMIRAL MASON PARK, A SMALL PARK WITH BIG SURPRISES

By most standards, Admiral Mason is a small park. Its major feature is a manmade rainwater retention pond with a paved walk ideal for checking out wildlife.

This April I have been photographing a Pied-billed Grebe and its five chicks. There also was a family of Pied-billed Grebes at the park last November.

They seem to be feeding on the plentiful supply of tadpoles and small fry fish.

 I recently witnessed a rare visit by a Tricolored Heron in breeding season plumage.

Because the park is so small, it’s mostly a “singles only” habitat for a variety of heron and egret species who only stay for a short time.

It’s common to have only one of these wading birds present at the park at a time.

This past March I found this Great Egret who visited the park over a three-week period.  A Green heron or a Great Blue Heron can sometimes be seen here along the water’s edge during the year.

As the weather warms up through the summer, I like the challenge of photographing the numerous dragonflies, like this colorful Roseate Skimmer, that thrive in and around this fresh water pond.  If you look closely along the water’s edge you can also find damselflies.

Some birds show up at the park predictably each year. Eastern Bluebirds are particularly evident during mating season because of the nest boxes. Red-winged Blackbirds are also visible and vocal especially in the spring. I have noticed Yellow-rumped Warblers in the late winter. Mallards and American Coots are often around the park. In a good winter I will see one or two Bald Eagles over the nearby bay as well as an occasional American Kestrel and a few Red-tailed Hawks perched up on the light poles on Bayside Drive.

On the other hand, a variety of ducks (Lesser Scaup, Ring-necked, Blue-winged Teal, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, Redheads) might show up for the season (just a few for each species) and on other years virtually none of these seasonal migrants show up at the park. I photographed a mother Mallard and her 14 chicks over two or three visits to the park back in December, 2014.

Since then I haven’t seen any Mallard chicks.  Some birds are just passing through during migration. I got lucky one year and photographed a small group of Cedar Waxwings. A solitary Little Blue Heron hung around the pond last year in May.

Later in 2016 a Snowy Egret called the park its summer home, congregating with the local Mallards.  (I wondered if it were an identity crisis?)  A solitary young Great Blue Heron will pass through the park, its length of stay probably dependent on the ease of finding a food source. Some butterflies venture into the park, but not many. They are more evident in the fall when the migrants are fueling up on the pickerel weed flowers.

All in all, Admiral Mason Park is a great downtown place for a quick wildlife viewing almost any time of the year. I find it especially useful when I only have limited time.  Even on a rare bad wildlife day I still get a good walk on the paved path around the pond

By Dean Mc Callum