Friday, March 17, 2017

Jamaica trip (March 9-12)

Jamaican Tody, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Arrowhead Warbler, Ecclesdown Road, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Just back from a whirlwind trip down to Jamaica to briefly escape the cold and try to see as many of the 27 endemic species there in two full days as I could with a big target being the Arrowhead Warbler. I flew down to Kingston on Thursday the 9th arriving there after dark and getting picked up by my guide for the next few days, Ricardo Miller. Although we originally were going to do a little late night birding before going to my lodging I was beat from traveling and knew I had a very early wake up call coming the next morning so instead we went right to my lodging. All was not lost as we found a roosting Northern Potoo atop a power pole right next to the inn. The potoo would be the first lifer for the trip but far from the last.
Jamaican Spindalis, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Jamaican Becard, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Jamaican Tody, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Jamaican Euphonia, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Yellow shouldered Grassquit, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Rufous throated Solitaire, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Jamaican Oriole, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Vervain Hummingbird, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Jamaican Vireo, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Blue Mountain Vireo, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Jamaican Woodpecker, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Chestnut bellied Cuckoo, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Orangequit, Blue Mountains NP, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Blue Mountains, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
We started our first day with a 5 AM departure from the lodge to head into the Blue Mountains. Our first stop was a spot right along the road where we had our first calling Jamaican Owls but we never got a look at one despite having them calling with their odd barking call from quite close in. This predawn stop also added two additional life birds besides the owl with Jamaican Woodpeckers and White chinned Thrushes calling. The next several hours through midday were spent exploring the Blue Mountains were we had great luck catching up with 21 new species with 17 endemics including one of my main targets, the Arrowhead Warbler.  Some of the other species seen there included the diminutive Jamaican Tody to the red billed variant of the Streamertail to the colorful Jamaican Spindalis to a pair of nest building Jamaican Becard plus many others.
Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo, Ecclesdown Rd, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Streamertail (black billed), Ecclesdown Rd, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Olive throated Parakeet, Ecclesdown Rd, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
Looking north toward ocean, Ecclesdown Rd, Jamaica, Mar 10, 2017
After a late lunch we made it up to Ecclesdown Road in the late afternoon where we stayed until sundown. We caught up with many of the species we had seen up in the Blue Mountains as well as four new species including both endemic parrot species (Yellow billed Parrot and Black billed Parrot) plus Caribbean Dove and Rufous tailed Flycatcher (also endemic). We finished our time there with spectacular looks at a Jamaican Owl that flew right in after dusk.  By the end of the first day we had caught up with all but three of the endemic species on the island with the species not yet seen being Sad Flycatcher, Jamaica Mango and Jamaican Crow but we had great confidence we would find them the next day.
Jamaican Mango, Ecclesdown Rd, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
Crested Quail Dove, Ecclesdown Rd, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
Jamaican Crows, Ecclesdown Rd, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
We started out once again before dawn along Ecclesdown Road but were met with a bit of heavy rain which lasted for the first hour we were there but we nevertheless still managed to catch up with one of our three previously unseen endemics with a pair of Sad Flycatchers. We dodged some remaining showers for another hour as we searched various spots for our remaining two endemics. We eventually caught up with a few Jamaican Crows which showed nicely (but distantly) in some bare trees. Our final endemic took a bit more time to get good looks at but we eventually got a Jamaican Mango feeding on some banana flowers. We had now seen all the endemics but we still needed some better looks at the Crested Quail Dove that we had seen flying across the road in the Blue Mountains the previous morning. As we drove down Ecclesdown Road we approached an area that Ricardo mentioned look good for the species but it never produced one before. Within a minute of him saying that he spotted one perched in a tree and we got fantastic looks at it. As we were running ahead of schedule having seen every endemic well by late morning we headed out to make the trip back toward Kingston to look for some other Caribbean species I had not yet seen. On our way there we made a number of stops along the north coast looking for waders and shorebirds and added a few more species to the trip list.

Stolid Flycatcher, Hellshire Hills, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
Gray Kingbird, Hellshire Hills, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
Bahama Mockingbird, Hellshire Hills, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
Hellshire Hills looking toward ocean, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
Northern Potoo, Hope Gardens, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
Northern Potoo, Hope Gardens, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
Cape May Warbler, Hope Gardens, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
Bananaquit, Hope Gardens, Jamaica, Mar 11, 2017
We stopped for lunch in Kingston and turned up another new species with Antillean Palm Swifts nesting in the palms right in the parking lot of the restaurant.  Our main destination outside Kingston was the Hellshire Hills west of the city which as the name suggests is a very hot location, especially in the middle of the afternoon. It is a unique habitat looking like Arizona with low scrub, cactus and very dry hot weather but with the ocean providing a backdrop (very unlike Arizona!). Our main targets here included Bahama Mockingbird and Stolid Flycatcher which we managed to find despite the heat and strong winds. We also a few Gray Kingbirds which appeared to have just migrated in for the breeding season. With all the target birds in bag by mid afternoon we decided to make the drive back into Kingston and make a brief stop at Hope Gardens where we had the chance to get some better looks at a few species (mainly Yellow billed Parrots and some roosting Northern Potoo).  Despite lots of people around enjoying the park on the weekend and a loud music festival going on we indeed got good looks at Yellow billed Parrots and Northern Potto as well as other species including a mixed species flock of warblers that contained a few species we had not yet caught up with before on the trip.  If anyone is thinking of taking a trip down there I would highly recommend Ricardo Miller as a guide...very knowledgeable and super friendly.  He can be reached through his website at

After just two full days in Jamaica I headed to the airport early in the morning on Sunday the 12th for my flight back home. Managed to add a few new species along the causeway to the airport bringing my trip total to 93.  I found a total of 36 life birds for the trip including all 27 Jamaican endemics bringing my life list to 1299.  Additional photos from the trip can be found at the following link to my Flickr album from the trip: Below is a list of the life birds seen on the trip in the order they were seen.  Those with (E) are endemic species to Jamaica and those with an (I) are introduced species.

Northern Potoo
Jamaican Owl (E)
Jamaican Woodpecker (E)
White chinned Thrush (E)
Yellow shouldered Grassquit (E)
Orangequit (E)
Jamaican Becard (E)
Jamaican Spindalis (E)
White eyed Thrush (E)
Arrowhead Warbler (E)
Jamaican Vireo (E)
Ring tailed Pigeon (E)
Jamaican Blackbird (E)
Rufous throated Solitaire
Streamertail (E)
Crested Quail Dove (E)
Jamaican Tody (E)
Jamaican Euphonia (E)
Vervain Hummingbird
Jamaican Oriole
Blue Mountain Vireo (E)
Jamaican Pewee (E)
Jamaican Elaenia (E)
Chestnut bellied Cuckoo  (E)
Jamaican Lizard Cuckoo  (E)
Yellow billed Parrot (E)
Caribbean Dove
Black billed Parrot (E)
Rufous tailed Flycatcher (E)
Sad Flycatcher  (E)
Jamaican Crow  (E)
Jamaican Mango  (E)
Antillean Palm Swift
Stolid Flycatcher
Bahama Mockingbird
Green rumped Parrolet (I)

Unfortunately my return back home coincided with a return to winter like conditions with a blizzard dropping a foot and half of snow on Tuesday and then some cold and windy weather which made it feel more like mid winter then nearly spring time.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

February ends and March begins with more warm weather bringing in more early migrants including an unusual Canada Goose

Canada Goose x ? hybrid or leucistic Canada Goose, Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2017
Canada Goose x ? hybrid or leucistic Canada Goose, Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2017
Fox Sparrow, Covey WMA, Belchertown, MA, Feb 28, 2017
Although today did not quite reach the mid 60's as forecast the temperature around 59 was still close to setting a record and well above normal.  Winter will make a short lived comeback starting tomorrow with wind and highs on Friday and Saturday around freezing and lows in the single numbers before the warmer air returns by early next week.  I spent the last couple mornings out trying to catch up with waterfowl and I had some decent luck with 11 species yesterday and 13 species today. Highlights for waterfowl yesterday including an American Wigeon, three Northern Pintails and an odd Canada Goose (either a hybrid or a leucistic individual) along Aqua Vitae Rd and a couple Common Loons at Winsor Dam.  Other non waterfowl highlights yesterday included my first Fox Sparrow at Covey WMA and continued large numbers of Red winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles. 
Canada Goose x ? hybrid or leucistic Canada Goose, Hadley, MA, Mar 1, 2017
Canada Goose x ? hybrid or leucistic Canada Goose, Hadley, MA, Mar 1, 2017
Lesser Scaup, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Mar 1, 2017
Black Vultures, Hadley, MA, Mar 1, 2017
This morning I once again had the odd Canada Goose among 1000+ geese along the river in Hadley plus a Lesser Scaup at Lake Warner.  Other notables during my trip around the area east of the river included two Black Vultures among 17 Turkey Vultures at the roost on Moody Bridge Rd and a very early Virginia Rail calling from the marsh at home (early by a few weeks!)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Record setting heat continues

Common Goldeneyes, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 24, 2017
Looking east from Hank's Meadow, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 24, 2017
Ring necked Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 24, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 24, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 23, 2017
After nearly setting a record yesterday with a temperature in the upper 60's, today's high of 73 not only broke the previous record high for the date but also set an all time February high temperature (with records going back to the late 1800's).  Tomorrow is forecast to also reach the mid 60's but without the sun we have enjoyed the last few days.  The party is over by Sunday with highs in the 40's with a strong wind.  The strong southerly winds have continued to bring in more early migrants with loads of Red winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Brown headed Cowbirds and Turkey Vultures as well as a number of waterfowl species.  I did not have anything way out of the ordinary for waterfowl but managed nine species yesterday with my first Wood Ducks of the season as well as larger than expected numbers of Ring necked Ducks.  I'm sure something unusual is out there waiting to be found given the extreme temps and strong is really tough to believe it is still late February.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The warm up continues

Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 22, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 19, 2017
Killdeer, fish hatchery, Belchertown, MA, Feb 22, 2017
After arriving home just over a week ago and spending the better part of two days digging out from a couple feet of snow following a few major snow storms while we were gone the weather here has changed completely with temperatures continuing well above normal and snow slowly disappearing.  We have already hit the mid 50's a couple times and the forecast for the next three days call for temperatures up to around 60...very unusual for the end of February but very welcome.  The warm temperatures have spurred a few early migrants to start moving in even with a decent amount of snow on the ground.  I have run across Red winged Blackbirds at a number of locations as well as an American Woodcock at Winsor Dam this morning as well as an early Killdeer at the nearby fish hatchery in Belchertown.  Both Turkey and Black Vultures have started arriving and I finally managed to see a Turkey Vulture cruise past the house this afternoon.  The woodcock record beat my previous earliest county record ever (set last year on Feb 28).  Although I'm sure winter still has a few more storms to throw at us, spring feels like it is rapidly approaching.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Trip to Florida and Grand Bahama-Part 4: Florida again with a bonus day in the sun due to a snowstorm up north

Northern Parula, Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP, Key Biscayne, FL, Feb 12, 2017
Cape May Warbler, Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP, Key Biscayne, FL, Feb 12, 2017
Prairie Warbler, Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP, Key Biscayne, FL, Feb 12, 2017
Scrub and mangrove habitat, Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP, Key Biscayne, FL, Feb 12, 2017 (there is a Kirtland's Warbler somewhere in there)
After spending some time rebooking our flight home, finding a hotel for Sunday and extending our rental car for another day we had another unexpected day to spend in sunny, warm Florida. I noticed a sighting from Saturday of a very out of place Kirtland's Warbler in a park on Key Biscayne south of Miami and after seeing video of the bird there was no doubt on the identification. This very range restricted and endangered warbler breeds in Michigan and winter in the Bahamas with no known records of the species in the US during winter. The timing points more toward an overwintering bird instead of an early migrant. Thankfully we were looking for a place to spend the day and it didn't take much convincing to make the 45 minute drive down to Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP and try to find the bird. We didn't arrive until late morning and the reports from multiple birders already there all negative but I was still hopeful. We checked the area where the bird had been seen but we also had no luck so we decided to start searching the many nearby areas that also featured some decent habitat. Although we ran across a number of mixed species flocks none of the them featured the sought after bird. After a brief stop for lunch I continued the search once again and covered some of the same areas as well as new ones but still came up empty. As we were making our last run down another trail we ran into some other birders from earlier and found out they also had no better luck than we did finding the bird but they did point us toward a location that featured a female Western Spindalis and Cape May Warbler. We had much better luck with these species as well as a decent numbers of Northern Parula. It would have been nice to see the Kirtland's Warbler again as I have only seen them once before up in Michigan and never got photos but no luck this time. I'm certain the bird is still in the area and will hopefully be relocated, perhaps once there are less crowds around....UPDATE...the bird was relocated on Thursday the 16th and showed very well for many people.  It was right in an area I was looking for it in but I somehow missed it!

Overall the trip produced a total of 126 species with 81 species in the Bahamas and 90 species in Florida with 13 life bird (three in Florida and ten in the Bahamas).  As far as warblers go overall for the trip I managed to find a total of 20 species of warbler with Florida producing 15 species and the Bahamas producing 17 (obviously some overall with specific species).  Additional information concerning warblers on the trip can be found here:

Loads of additional photos from the trip can be found at the following links:

Grand Bahama: