A walk in the woods with Mattapoisett birders

Sep 17, 2022

MATTAPOISETT – The sun had just risen on a dewy Saturday morning, Sept. 17, when over a dozen birders gathered by the Brandt Island Cove trail.

They had all arrived by 8 a.m. to walk through the woods with the Mattapoisett Land Trust and the Nasketucket Bird Club to identify local birds.

The walk was led by Nasketucket Bird Club president Justin Barrett, who identified the sound of a Catbird as people were signing in.

“That meowing in the woods is actually a small gray bird,” he explained, adding that it was probably one of the last ones left in the area, because most of them had likely already headed south for the winter.

As the birders walked through the woods, Barrett began to call out to feathered friends who might be hiding.

“This is going to sound a little weird, but hopefully some birds will holler back at us,” said Barrett, who then cupped his hands around his mouth and began to imitate bird calls. He said that this was called “fishing” and the sounds he was making imitated those of an agitated bird.

Sure enough, as the walk continued, several birds made their appearance, such as a towhee and a woodpecker. Some birders mentioned hearing the calls of a white-breasted nuthatch.

Nowadays, birders don’t just have to rely on their books and their ears. Several people on the walk had their smartphones out, open to an app called Merlin, which records bird sounds and accurately identifies them.

“It works great,” said Steve Pecci. “I can pick up ten different birds in a minute.”

Pecci also had his eyes trained to the ground on this walk, bending down to pick up stray mushrooms to identify later. Like birding, Pecci said that mushroom identification was a new hobby for him.

“The only mushroom identification I do is when I buy them at the grocery store,” one woman joked.

From the forest floor, Pecci was able to pick up tons of different species of mushrooms of all different sizes, though he said it was unlikely that he would eat any of them, since most of his identification was a “maybe” – not sure enough for him to risk potential organ failure.

Barrett said that today was one of the last days of the season that would be good for a birding adventure such as this, due to the cooler weather. He was able to point out an osprey out over the marsh, saying that many fishing birds like those would follow the warm weather.

The view out toward the marshland from the path’s overlook was breathtaking. The early morning sunshine gleamed over the fields as birds chirped in the distance. One woodpecker perched directly ahead on a tree, modeling for those that whipped out their binoculars.

The club usually does a couple outings a month, but he said the next good time would be mid-February, as the first of the migrating birds would begin to return to the area.

He said that his favorite spots to go birding are the Brandt Island Cove Trail, Eel Pond, and the Munn Preserve.

Birding is not an easy hobby, according to Barrett. Spotting birds in leafy trees takes patience, and in the fall when the leaves start falling, “it becomes a game. Is that a bird or a leaf?” he said.

When he first started birding, he would walk around his neighborhood looking for sparrows. Telling the difference between different types of little brown sparrows can take “a lifetime,” he explained.

Joining the walk with her small poodle, Squeak, was Molly Whitney. Whitney attends many of these events with the Mattapoisett Land Trust and volunteers with the trust weekly on Wednesdays through a group called the Garden Groomers. Squeak volunteers too, and was even sporting a tiny Mattapoisett Land Trust volunteer t-shirt.

The Garden Groomers gather on Wednesdays at either the Munn Preserve or the Dunseith Gardens, which are located by Salty the Seahorse on County Road, and they weed, pick up trash, and help take care of the land.

“It’s a really necessary thing, having people help,” explained Colleen Andrews, community engagement and stewardship manager for the Mattapoisett Land Trust. “I’m not a great gardener myself, so it really helps.”

Those interested in getting involved in volunteering with the Mattapoisett Land Trust can contact Andrews at manager@mattlandtrust.org.

To learn more about upcoming events and walking trails in the area, visit https://mattlandtrust.org/.