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Several miles of trails wind through the woods and fields, and we hope to develop more to connect skid trails and provide easier access to some areas.  Andrew Nelson, a botanist on our Board, has compiled a Flora of St. Francis Farm and has mapped some of our trails. (See map at bottom of page) Our library includes nature guides to help identify birds, amphibians, snakes, insects, wildflowers, trees and grasses.  Visitors can explore and use our hand lenses, magnifying bug boxes, dip nets and binoculars. (See list of resources on Day Visits page)Arrangements can be made for a resident of the farm to lead a nature walk and answer questions. (See Hunting & Fishing at bottom of page) 

By summer the woodland wildflowers have gone to seed and died back, the birds are harder to see with the trees fully leafed out, and the work of the growing season leaves us less time to look and listen. The field wildflowers are blooming now and the songbirds are feeding nestlings while fledglings are learning to fend for themselves. The kingfishers and great blue herons come to the pond to fish. Frogs and northern water snakes and snapping turtles are seen around its edges. We meet wild things when we’re out picking berries around the edges of the fields. Mowing hay we may flush out a fawn or a pheasant or a turkey sitting on its nest. Various birds come to feed on the insects disturbed by the mowing. Sunrise and sunset are the best times to see most of the wild things, but the butterflies are in the flower gardens and fields and dragonflies patrol the pond edge and the field path through the heat of the day. When the bee balm is in bloom, we’re pretty sure to see the hummingbirds any time we stop and look. Walking the field loop we may encounter turkey poults just able to fly or ruffed grouse just out of the egg and fiercely defended by the attendant mother. In the cool at the end of the day, we go up to the hilltop to enjoy sunset and stars. 

raven fledgling

pickerel frog

painted lady

young raccoons

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Finding a Balance

Nature both irritates and delights us as we go about our work.  Snapping turtles lay their eggs in the soft soil of our gardens, uprooting seedlings in the process.  Black flies swarm around us as we plant seeds or tend goats.  

The deer ate off our fall cover crops until we put up an 8 foot fence around the garden. A few years later we added chicken wire along the bottom 3 feet to try to keep out the woodchucks and screened in the grape vines to keep birds and raccoons from taking all the fruit. Now songbirds perch on the fence and seem to spend more time in the garden eating the bugs that eat the crops.  By late spring the bats and birds, frogs and dragonflies seem to be keeping up pretty well with the flies and mosquitos so that we can sit by the pond in peace. 

We were pleased to discover a raccoon den in an old maple tree and enjoyed watching the young hunt along the pond edge. The raccoon that came in through the third floor skylight in the middle of the night wasn’t so welcome.

The muskrats we like to watch in the pond were tunneling their burrows into the edges and compromising the strip of land between pond and brook. We didn’t like the advice we got to trap them out, but while we were thinking it over,  we started seeing mink more often and muskrats seldom.

I delight in finding nests, but Zachary doesn’t care to have phoebe nestlings in the rafters above his drying lumber.  Still we are glad to share this farm with wild neighbors.  We puzzle over tracks in the snow and welcome the frog choruses that proclaim spring.  We always yield to skunks in the berry patch.  We encourage those plants that attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  We mow one field every 3 to 5 years to create the brushy habitat preferred by woodcock. We try to remember ourselves and remind our guests that this farm is a home we share with many creatures and that much of our pleasure in it comes from that diversity.

skunk family

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stuck snapping turtle

Bird List        *nests found on farm
  • Great blue heron

    Green heron 

    Black-crowned night heron

    Killdeer

    Turkey*

    Ruffed Grouse*

    Northern Harrier

    Red-tailed Hawk

    Turkey Vulture

    Kestrel

    Merlin

    Great Horned OwlBarred Owl*

    Mourning Dove*

    Black-billed Cuckoo*

    Ruby-throated Hummingbird

    Pileated Woodpecker

    Flicker*

    Red-bellied Woodpecker*

    Yellow-bellied Sapsucker

    Downy Woodpecker

    Hairy Woodpecker*

  • Wood Duck

    Mallard*

    Canada Goose*

    Hooded Merganser

    Great Crested Flycatcher*

    Phoebe*

    Barn Swallow*

    Tree Swallow*

    CrowRaven

    Blue Jay

    Chickadee*

    Tufted Titmouse

    White-breasted Nuthatch*

    House Wren*

    Catbird*

    Bluebird*

    Robin*

    Hermit Thrush

    Wood Thrush

    Veery*

    Cedar Waxwing

    Vireo*

  • Black-and-white Warbler

    Yellow-rumped Warbler

    Yellow Warbler*

    Yellowthroat

    Redstart

    Red-winged Blackbird*

    Cowbird

    Grackle

    Starling*

    Bobolink

    Oriole*

    Scarlet Tanager

    Junco

    Cardinal

    House Finch

    Purple Finch

    Goldfinch

    Indigo Bunting

    Rose-breasted Grosbeak*

    Rufous-sided Towhee

    White-throated Sparrow

    White-crowned Sparrow

    Chipping Sparrow*

    Song Sparrow*

catbird nest

turkey nest

cedar waxwing fledgling

woodcock