Saturday, January 14, 2017

Long eared Owl plus some unusual waterfowl for January

Ring necked Ducks, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2017
Ring necked Duck, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2017
Bufflehead, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2017
Ring necked Ducks and Bufflehead, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2017
I went out bright and early this morning to take advantage of the calm winds to listen for owls and I was not disappointed.  I found a number of Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls but the best by far was a Long eared Owl in a potentially breeding location in Belchertown (precise location not disclosed).  I heard the bird not long after I started listening as it gave a short harsh hoot call several times.  It was a very unusual sound as I have not heard this type of vocalization from this species before.  I will try to check the area again in the near future to see if I can relocate it.  Besides the owl I had a number of other decent sightings today including my first Ruffed Grouse of the season plus a number of unusual species of waterfowl including a pair of Ring necked Ducks and a Bufflehead within Quabbin Park itself plus a Red necked Grebe seen distantly from Winsor Dam.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

January thaw the last couple days

Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 12, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 11, 2017
After a couple days of some ice and snow and very cold temperatures (near zero) the weather changed dramatically yesterday with some sun and highs into the 50's. Today continued a brief January thaw with record high temps in the mid 50's along with some rain. Nothing extremely out of the ordinary as far as birds go but I did find a Hermit Thrush yesterday along the Jabish Canal and  today I added a Green winged Teal in among 500+ Mallards and 21 Black Ducks along the Connecticut River, a Fish Crow calling in among a group of American Crows leaving their roost near the Holyoke Dam and a Swamp Sparrow and flyby Pine Siskin along the land trust trail in Belchertown.  I hoped to run across more waterfowl at Quabbin but it was very quiet there.  Winter will return starting tomorrow with strong winds out of the northwest and lows tomorrow night near zero.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Review and some sightings for early January

Florida Scrub Jay, Canaveral NS, FL, Jan 18, 2016
Barrow's Goldeneye, Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Jan 29, 2016
Palm Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 13, 2016
White whiskered Puffbird, Carara NP, Costa Rica, Apr 11, 2016
Royal Flycatcher (life bird #1200), Carara NP, Costa Rica, Apr 11, 2016
Cerulean Warbler at nest, Skinner SP, Hadley, MA, Jun 10, 2016
Eastern Screech Owl, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 10, 2016
Sedge Wren, Arcadia, Northampton, Sep 17, 2016
Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, Sep 22, 2016
Pink footed Goose, UMASS campus pond, Amherst, MA, Dec 6, 2016
Yellow-throated Toucan (Chestnut-mandibled), Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 17, 2016
Mountain Bluebird, Turners Falls Airport, Turners Falls, MA, Nov 15, 2016
Time for a quick recap of 2016 before we get too far into 2017.  Overall for the year I had 582 species and submitted 3163 eBird reports (which included my 20,000th eBird report).  I took a variety of trips away from the local area during the course of the year including a short trip down to Florida in January, two trips to Costa Rica (one in April and the another in December), a long weekend trip to northern Vermont and nearby New York and a visit to Puerto Rico in December.  The two trips to Costa Rica produced a total of 310 species and the trip to Puerto Rico produced 97 species.  Overall I have now reached 1250 species with 60 new species this year with seven of those in Costa Rica in April plus 17 more in Costa Rica in December, 35 life birds in Puerto Rico and a single new species here in Massachusetts (a Mountain Bluebird).  Loads of other highlights in the local area including an incredible year for Connecticut Warblers (at least ten including one at home!), a Sedge Wren, Barrow's Goldeneye, a Cerulean Warbler nest, a couple of Yellow breasted Chats (among 32 species of warbler this year), a second county record for Pink footed Goose...more on my Hampshire County year below.
Red headed Woodpecker, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Oct 15, 2016
'Ipswich' Savannah Sparrow, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Jan 9, 2016
'Gambel's' White crowned Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 24, 2016
I topped my best year in Hampshire County by reaching 238 species with two of those being new in the county for me (Forester's Tern and Red headed Woodpecker) bringing me up to 290 species in the county ever.  I also picked up two unusual sparrow subspecies in Hampshire County with a 'Gambel's' White crowned Sparrow and an 'Ipswich' Savannah Sparrow.
Ruddy Duck, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 4, 2017
Ruddy Duck (with Horned Grebes), Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 4, 2017
Red headed Woodpecker, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jan 5, 2017
Ring necked Ducks (with Hooded Mergansers), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 5, 2017
Meanwhile the birding this year is off to a decent start around here with the weather somewhat cooperative with average temps and no major storms.  The Red headed Woodpecker originally found in October continues at Lake Wallace and I found a Ruddy Duck at Quabbin Park (a tough species to find at any time in the county and very unusual for January) yesterday and relocated it today plus I added a pair of Ring necked Ducks for the year at Winsor Dam this morning.  I have no plans for another big county year but it is always fun to see how many species you can find in January around cold Hampshire County...up to 58 species so far.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Costa Rica trip part 2: Rio Magnolia Lodge and Buenos Aires (Dec 17-Dec 26)

Yellow-throated Toucan (Chestnut-mandibled), Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 17, 2016
Brown Jay, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 17, 2016
White crowned Parrots, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 18, 2016
Golden hooded Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 18, 2016
Common Pauraque, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 18, 2016
Golden winged Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 19, 2016
Fiery billed Aracari, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 19, 2016
The next three days were spent exploring around the grounds and trails of the lodge which once again produced a wide variety of species. On the first full day there I added another life bird with the sighting of a Great Black Hawk soaring above the lodge. I averaged into the 90's for species everyday without an extreme amount of effort which speaks well to the diversity at the lodge (plus I certainly miss species every day as I hear some birds I just cannot identify).
Mountains viewed from grasslands, Buenos Aires, Costa Rica, Dec 20, 2016
Mountains viewed from grasslands, Buenos Aires, Costa Rica, Dec 20, 2016
Marsh (which could have contained a Masked Yellowthroat but did not), Buenos Aires, Costa Rica, Dec 20, 2016
Snake looking like a stick, Durika area, Costa Rica, Dec 20, 2016
On December 20th I once again met up with Andres plus another guide that he knew. I met them in San Isidro at 5am (requiring a wake up at 3:30am to make the drive down). We then headed south toward the Buenos Aires to explore a variety of locations over the course of the entire day. Although I had a variety of possible new birds in this corner of Costa Rica I have never visited before my main target was another warbler, a Masked Yellowthroat. This subspecies of Masked Yellowthroat only occurs in a small portion of Costa Rica and nearby Panama and is likely a separate species and known as Chiriqui Yellowthoat. Unfortunately we missed finding the warbler but we were really not quite far enough south to guarantee seeing it as the area we visited was at the northern extreme of its range...I will have to try again next time I come down but will just have to go further toward the Panama border. Nonetheless we still had a decent day despite the winds that picked up mid morning and continued for most of the rest of the day. We spent a large portion of the day in the savannah and grasslands in an indigenous peoples reserve to the northeast of Buenos Aires as well as some foothills headed toward the Durika Biological Reserve. The area reminded me a lot of the Antisana area of Ecuador with large sweeping grasslands running up to steep mountains, albeit on a much reduced scale...truly beautiful country especially when compared to all the nearby agricultural areas near Buenos Aires. We had a handful of targets in the grassland area and managed to have some fantastic luck finding Ocellated Crake, a secretive species that is related to rails and has a very restricted range within Costa Rica occurring only in the grasslands we were in. We managed to find at least a dozen individuals with three seen briefly including a juvenile bird that flushed and flew a short distance. The Crakes are absolutely amazing in their ability to move through the grass without moving even a single blade even when within just feet of you. At times multiple birds would be calling almost at our feet but you could not see them. Our big misses despite a whole lot of effort were Wedge tailed Grass Finch and Ruddy breasted Seedeater. We might have heard the grass finch once but could not confirm it. Both species occur in the area but are few in number and can be quite difficult to find especially with the strong winds we had. Once we got up past the grasslands we birded a bit of the forest near the Durika Biological Reserve where we had great looks at a pair of Bare crowned Antbirds and heard a few Bicolored Antbirds as well as a Rosy Thrush Tanager (another species on my target list). Again despite lots of effort we could not get looks at this uncommon and very skulking species. Andres did find a very interesting snake that was right along the was a mimic that looked exactly like a stick except for the last several inches near the head.  After spending the entire morning and the early afternoon in the areas mentioned above we headed back down to Buenos Aires to check a small marsh which held our only chance of finding a Masked Yellowthroat. However as I mentioned above we missed the species but did hear a yellowthroat giving a scolding call but we could not confirm the species. We had a few other marsh species there including a few egrets and herons as well as a Purple Gallinule. An odd surprise there was a female Painted Bunting which at least added another species to my Costa Rica list. With the wind not letting up the guides made a few phone calls and got a tip on another location to try for looks at the Rosy Thrush Tanager at a private house outside Cocoa. We arrived there in the late afternoon as time was running out for the day and scaled a gate and started looking for the bird. After trying several locations without success we were just about to leave when we heard a bird calling distantly. We eventually got a few fleeting glimpses and then finally some killer looks at a male bird that perched in the open for several seconds before disappearing again. I didn't have time to even try for a photo but I got great looks. We ended the day back in San Isidro a little after five were I got picked up for the hour drive back to the lodge. A long day which featured a few misses but some great sightings too.
Spot crowned Euphonia, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 21, 2016
Bat Falcon, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 21, 2016
Mourning Warbler, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 21, 2016
Yellow-throated Toucan (Chestnut-mandibled), Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 21, 2016
After a long day away from the lodge on the 20th I spent the 21st just taking it easy around the cottage and the lodge and never ventured very far from either location but still managed over eighty species for the day, even with a break in the afternoon to get an hour massage at our cottage. The next day I also spent the day at Rio Magnolia but covered a larger area including and finally ran across my first decent mixed species flock in the jungle and added a number of new species for the trip.
Red legged Honeycreeper, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 22, 2016
On the 23rd we both took a morning tubing trip along the lower Savegre River. Despite it not being a birding trip and having no binoculars along with me I still managed to turn up a few birds (mainly some waders, a few Spotted Sandpipers, a handful of Neotropic Cormorants and three species of kingfisher). We never made it back to the cottage until mid afternoon and spent the rest of the day just lounging around (still managed to get around fifty species just sitting on the porch including my first female Golden winged Warbler of the trip).
Speckled Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 23, 2016
Silver throated Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 25, 2016
The last couple full days (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) we stayed around the grounds of the lodge before having to make the long journey back home to reality. Christmas Eve featured my best single day total at Rio Magnolia for the trip with 118 species. My totals for Christmas were a bit lower as we had some afternoon rain which kept me from covering as many areas but I still managed to find some good stuff including the first Osprey record from the lodge.
White nosed Coati, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 22, 2016
White nosed Coati, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 24, 2016
Moth, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 18, 2016
Moth looking like a leaf, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 17, 2016
Butterfly, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 18, 2016
Beyond the birds I had a number of other encounters including several sightings of White nosed Coati at Rio Magnolia as well as a few White faced Capuchin Monkeys.  There was also a Jaguarundi (a small wild cat) seen around the lodge while we were there but I never managed to find it.  The numbers and variety of butterflies and moths was once again impressive and speaks volumes to the diversity in the tropics.

Overall for the trip I managed to find a total of 233 species of birds with 7 of them being life birds (bringing my total to a nice round 1250). I also added nine species to my Costa Rica list bringing that total to 507. The number of neotropical migrants around was about average with more than the usual amount of Philadelphia Vireos and Tennessee Warblers. The number of Swainson's Thrushes was down a bit compared to my past experiences down here in winter.  Managed to find a total of 13 species of warblers with the vast majority being Chestnut sided and Tennessee Warbler as well as Collared Redstarts (only up in the mountains).

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Costa Rica trip part 1: Paraiso Quetzal Lodge (Dec 15-16)

Fiery throated HummingbirdParaiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 15, 2016
Fiery throated HummingbirdParaiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 15, 2016
Lesser Violetear, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 15, 2016
Long tailed Silky Flycatcher, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 15, 2016
Long tailed Silky Flycatchers, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 15, 2016
Magnificent Hummingbird, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 15, 2016
Magnificent Hummingbird, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 15, 2016
Sunset with Kelvin-Helmholtz Wave Clouds, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 15, 2016
We arrived for our latest (and tenth!) trip to Costa Rica late on December 14th and stayed near San Jose for the night before departing in the morning to visit a wildlife rehab center. The center is doing some great work in education to the public and rehab of a variety of species (mammal and avian). Following that visit we departed midday for the trip up to Paraiso Quetzal Lodge up in the mountains at an elevation just over 2600 meters. Although somewhat cloudy in the valley we arrived at the lodge early in the afternoon to mostly sunny skies and we spent the next few hours admiring the hummingbirds at the feeders as well as visiting the nearby flower gardens. Occasionally the clouds would move in but would quickly disappear returning yet again to sunny skies. The hummingbird activity at the feeders did not disappoint with loads of Magnificent Hummingbirds, Green Violetears and Fiery throated Hummingbirds plus a couple White throated Mountain Gems. The activity at the feeders continued until it was almost too dark to see. A group of Long tailed Silky Flycatchers also made an appearance from time to time.  We ended the day with a spectacular sunset that included some Kelvin-Helmholtz Wave Clouds. Unfortunately as the sun went down the clouds rolled in and the winds picked up which dashed my hopes of finding some nocturnal birds...another time perhaps.
Resplendent Quetzal, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 16, 2016
Wrenthrush, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 16, 2016
Black capped Flycatcher, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 16, 2016
Black Guan, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 16, 2016
Flame throated Warbler, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 16, 2016
On the 16th I met Andres at 6 am to guide me around the area and hopefully find some of my target birds. I still have a number of high elevation species that I have not yet seen but my number one target was a Wrenthrush, which is oddly neither a wren or a thrush but is a wood warbler species endemic to Costa Rica and Panama and one of only two species of breeding warbler in Costa Rica I had not yet seen. Wrenthrush is a small, dark bird with a burnt orange crown that inhabits dense growth within the forest and is much more likely to be heard then seen. One other target for the morning was a Resplendent Quetzal which I have seen a few times but Sherri had not (she would join us a little later in the morning to try to find the quetzal). Although there was a glimpses of sun early on the clouds quickly filled in and the drizzle and light rain picked up and continued for most of the mornings. Andres and I still managed to find some good birds despite the weather including a lifer for me, a Black Guan plus a number of other highland specialities. Just before we headed back to have a quick breakfast and meet up with Sherri we found a beautiful male Resplendent Quetzal and got fantastic looks of it through the scope. Sadly that was the only one we would see all morning although we did hear one a little later. After a brief stop to eat we headed back out into the rainy weather and started walking some of the trails within the forest. Andres had a tip on where we might find a Wrenthrush and after a slippery walk down some muddy trails we arrived at the location and almost immediately had brief looks at a couple of Wrenthrush. They moved just way to fast to get photos but I managed to get some recordings as they called from the deep undergrowth. We never got another look at them in that location but we decided to move further down the trail in hopes of finding them further downslope where the trail curved back toward our current location. Sure enough we caught back up with one of them and had brief but very close looks as it foraged among some roots. I tried again for photos with my big camera but it was just too dark and the bird was too fast. I eventually tried my luck with my cellphone camera and I managed a few identifiable photos. I was very happy to have not only found the bird but to have seen it well, managed some recordings and got some photos. We continued our walk until a little before 10:30 when we had to head back to pack up and check out for 11am. We then spent the next hour checking out the hummingbird feeders again while waiting for our transportation which should have arrived at noon. By 12:30 no one had shown so I had to call the driver and he gave me a line of crap about being late and sending someone else in his place (despite being reserved months in advance and agreeing to a later pick up time at his request). Eventually it got to be after one and I had to make a number of other calls but we cancelled our original transport and made some last minute changes to get us out of the mountains and down to Rio Magnolia Lodge. Although we planned to be there by early afternoon we never arrived until after four. Despite our later than intended arrival the lodge once again produced a life bird for me when I heard a Vermiculated Screech Owl while walking back to our cabin after dinner.