Thursday, December 8, 2016

Puerto Rico trip- December 1-5

Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
I just returned from a brief trip down to Puerto Rico on Monday after five days there. The island contains 17 endemic species and I found all of them (I have marked the endemic species with an 'E'). I arrived midday into San Juan on December 1st and then drove over to the Fajardo area with a brief stop along the way to El Yunque National Forest. Although it was late in the day and I only covered a couple areas briefly I still managed to add six life birds including Greater Antillean Grackle, Red legged Thrush, Puerto Rican Emerald (E), Puerto Rican Woodpecker (E), Puerto Rican Bullfinch (E) and Black whiskered Vireo.
Puerto Rican Tody, PR 983 at PR 988, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Scaly naped Pigeon, Ceiba-Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
White cheeked Pintail, Ceiba-Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Puerto Rican Tanager, Bosque Nacional El Yunque, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo, Bosque Nacional El Yunque, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Gray Kingbird, PR 983 at PR 988, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Puerto Rican Oriole, PR 983 at PR 988, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Adelaide's Warbler, Ceiba-Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Adelaide's Warbler, Ceiba-Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
On my first full day on the island I hired a guide to explore the El Yunque National Forest and the old Roosevelt Road Naval Station. Before the guide showed up I added two more life birds around the Fajardo Inn where I had a few Pearly eye Thrashers and a group of flyby White winged Parakeets. Once the guide showed up we hit several spots on the way to El Yunque and I added a pair of Puerto Rican Flycatcher (E) at a cemetery plus Puerto Rican Oriole (E), Loggerhead Kingbird, Puerto Rican Tody (E) and Scaly naped Pigeon along the back road into El Yunque. We finished out the morning in El Yunque and I added five more life birds including Puerto Rican Tanager (E), Puerto Rican Spindalis (E), Puerto Rican Lizard Cuckoo (E), Antillean Euphonia and Green Mango. We ran into a few bouts of rain during the morning but nothing that kept us from seeing most everything quite well. Despite much effort to track down an Elfin Woods Warbler we struck out (we might have heard one but it was during some rain and we never were able to track down the bird). After a quick stop for a late lunch we headed south the Ceiba and the old Roosevelt Road navy base covering a variety of habitats and we racked up quite new birds for the trip including White cheeked Pintail, Black faced Grassquit, Bronze Manakin (introduced) and my first new warbler for the trip...Adelaide's Warbler. We heard quite a few of them but my first look at the bird was an individual that came right to the car when we stopped as it fought with reflection in the mirror. The bird was just too close to use the good camera most of the time and decent shots could be easily obtained with the iPhone camera. We finished the day trying to track down a few more target birds but we had no luck. Overall we had a total of 68 species for the day which I was quite happy with. The area near the old base looks so good for a number of species but sadly I noted a high number of feral cats in the area and sadly I'm sure many birds meet their end here.
Elfin woods Warbler, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 3, 2016
Pearly eye Thrasher, Guanica Forest (Bosque de Guánica), Puerto Rico, Dec 3, 2016
Looking south from Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 3, 2016
On Saturday I left bright and early from Fajardo to make the long drive out to the west coast of the island with a few stops along the way. My first stop of the morning was down to Guanica where I hiked around for a bit and had some more good looks at some island specialties but I did't add any new species there. Once I was done there I had to decide if I wanted to try my luck heading to the southwest coast to look for shorebirds and waterfowl or head for the mountains instead. I thought the coast might be too crowded and the road into some of the areas too muddy to attempt so I headed up the long and winding road to Maricao. It appeared that I made the right decision when I stopped at a picnic area known to have some Elfin woods Warblers (E) at times. I immediately ran into a group of birds that produced a few warblers (Black and White and Black throated Blue Warblers and then I heard an Elfin woods Warbler calling and then saw it along with at least two others. I got a few marginal photos but I was super happy to catch up with another new warbler species for the trip and one that is quite rare (an endemic species too). I added another life bird at the picnic spot with a calling Lesser Antillean Pewee (a Puerto Rican subspecies that may be a separate species). After another long and winding road down the mountain I made it up to my cottage outside Mayagüez late in the afternoon and I added two more species during a short walk around the property...a pair of Puerto Rican Vireos (E) and Antillean Mango (E). Once the sun went down I had a Puerto Rican Screech Owl calling (E) plus a bunch of frogs.
Puerto Rican Tody, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Puerto Rican Emerald, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Puerto Rican Woodpecker, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Prairie Warbler, Cabo Rojo NWR, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Black necked Stilt, Cabo Rojo NWR, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Black necked Stilt, Cabo Rojo NWR, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Venezuelan Troupial, La Parguera, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
Yellow shouldered Blackbird, La Parguera, Puerto Rico, Dec 4, 2016
My final full day and my second with a guide started with a visit to the area in and around Maricao. Our primary target for that area was the endangered (and endemic) Puerto Rican Parrot and it took us a lot of looking before we finally ran across a group of four and a bit later another single bird. I was not able to get any photos but we did see them flying away from us plus lots of vocalizations. We also ran across a few more Elfin woods Warblers as well as other endemics I had seen the day before. We dodged a number of rain showers during our time in the mountains and somehow managed to not get caught outside in any downpours.

Our next stop brought us down to the south coast with an mid afternoon stop around La Paguera where we had a few coastal species as well as a few Yellow shouldered Blackbirds after lots of looking around the town. We also found our first Venezuelan Troupials and Indian Silverbills (both introduced species).

Some heavy rain showers came in as we continued along the coast heading towards Cabo Rojo but thankfully missed us at the crucial time right before sunset and we were treated to a spectacular double rainbow and a fantastic sunset as loads of shorebirds and waders enjoyed the mudflats as hundreds of swallows wheeled overhead and dozens of Prairie Warblers moved past. Despite much effort to find a Puerto Rican Nightjar we didn't have any luck. We ended our day after the sunset and we started the drive back to Mayaguez. We arrived at the mall where I dropped off my car in the morning and were rewarded with another new bird as we had an Antillean Nighthawk calling overhead (very few hang around the island during winter). I was starving at this point so I grabbed some food and as I started eating I got a text from owner of the cottage I was staying at saying the power was out due to a tree falling across the road and they were not sure if power would be restored any time soon....not a great way to end the day as no power (and no a/c) for the night didn't sound good at all. I decided to make the drive back to see what the status was before booking another nearby hotel. I arrived and the road was blocked as they worked on restoring power. As it looked like I was not getting back in any time soon I decided to head south to try once again for Puerto Rican Nightjar and I had better luck this time scoring a second nightjar species for the day and finding the last endemic species for the island! I finally made it back to the cottage around nine and the power was restored and the A/C was working again!

I woke up fairly early on Monday to make the long ride to the airport and before leaving the cottage I had a screech owl calling once again. As I started my journey north on Rt 2 I followed up in a tip from my bird guide about a family West Indian Whistling Ducks which I had brief views of through the vegetation....adding a final lifer for the trip.

As mentioned above I found all seventeen endemic species on the island and got photos of many of them. In addition I had a number of Caribbean specialties that occur in just a handful of other locations. Overall for the trip I found a total of 97 species with 35 of them being life birds bringing my life total to 1243.  A very successful trip as far as I'm concerned and a nice reprieve from the cold of early winter back at home. It was a nice warm up to come additional tropical trips to come this winter.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

PINK FOOTED GOOSE plus a Greater White fronted Goose set a new Hampshire County record for me

Pink footed Goose, Hadley, MA, Dec 6, 2016
Pink footed Goose, Hadley, MA, Dec 6, 2016
Pink footed Goose, Hadley, MA, Dec 6, 2016
Pink footed Goose, Hadley, MA, Dec 6, 2016
Greater White fronted Goose, Hadley, MA, Dec 6, 2016
Pink footed Goose, UMASS campus pond, Amherst, MA, Dec 6, 2016
Just back late yesterday from a brief trip down to Puerto Rico (much more on that in a later post) and today I was out birding in the cold weather and found a second Hampshire County record of a Pink footed Goose when I ran across one in a goose flock in Hadley.  I must have some ability to attract this rare goose from Greenland as I found the first county record of the species back in the spring of 2014.  I certainly hoped to find some unusual waterfowl today and I hit the jackpot.  I found the large flock of geese in a farm field in Hadley and I initially scanned through the flock and saw nothing unusual but on my second scan through to start counting them I found the Pink footed in relatively close and I started taking digiscoped shots and getting the word out to a number of other birders.  The Pink footed Goose became species #237 for Hampshire County this year, which tied me for my previous best years back in 2014 and 2015.  I was very happy to tie my record and was not expecting to break the record today but I did after getting a call from Devin who told me he also found a Greater White fronted Goose in with the same flock that held the Pink footed.  I made another run over to Hadley and did indeed find the Greater White fronted Goose and broke my record bringing my total for the year so far for the county to 238.  I was not sure I would ever break over the 237 mark without a tropical system but I did.  Very happy these two new species decided to wait until I was back from Puerto Rico to show up!  During my second stop in the afternoon most of the geese were sleeping but as a C-5 flew past they all flushed up and headed toward UMASS where I caught up with most of them on the campus pond (minus the GWFG)...another new species for the UMASS campus. Another banner day of birding in the valley.
Northern Shrike, Covey WMA, Belchertown, MA, Dec 6, 2016
Earlier in the morning I followed up on a report of a Northern Shrike at Covey WMA and I found the adult bird relatively quickly.  Hopefully it stick around for a bit...although I'm sure the local bird population would rather see it move along.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Cackling Geese continue

Cackling Goose, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 28, 2016
Cackling Goose, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 28, 2016
Cackling Goose, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 28, 2016
I made a few stops on a cold, sunny morning (low 20's) on my way to Northampton including Winsor Dam and Arcadia.  Winsor Dam featured a single female Black Scoter and hundreds of gulls leaving their roost heading off to the southwest.  Arcadia once again featured two Cackling Geese among the 500+ Canada Geese.  Other waterfowl there included a couple Wood Ducks, 16 Black Ducks, 68 Mallards, a Northern Pintail, a Green winged Teal and half a dozen Common Merganser.  The next few days look to feature some heavy rain and possibly some freezing rain tomorrow morning.  I won't have much of a chance to get out the next several days so hopefully nothing too good shows up around here.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Thanksgiving and today produce Cackling Geese (plus other sightings over the last few cloudy, foggy, rainy days)

Cackling Geese, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 26, 2016
Cackling Goose, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 26, 2016
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 26, 2016
Today dawned very foggy so I decided to head over to Arcadia instead of waiting for the fog to lift at Quabbin. Despite the fog that never lifted through mid morning at Arcadia I still managed to find some good stuff including a couple Cackling Geese in among 500+ Canada Geese as well as a late Eastern Phoebe.  I didn't have any luck finding the Red headed Woodpecker that has been seen in the area sporadically. I then headed across the river checking various fields without finding too much.  I was also unable to find the Brant at the campus pond this morning but it may have been with a group of geese feeding elsewhere.  A late morning stop at Winsor Dam just as it started to rain again found a pair of White winged Scoters but not much else.
Long tailed Ducks, Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown, MA, Nov 25, 2016
Long tailed Ducks, Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown, MA, Nov 25, 2016
Red necked Grebe with Canada Geese, Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown, MA, Nov 25, 2016
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 25, 2016
After a good nights sleep I got up at dawn on Friday and headed over to Quabbin where the weather was less than ideal with low clouds, fog and drizzle.  I spent a bit of time trying to find stuff on the water despite the limited visibility at times.  I managed to find just the expected species with nothing unusual around.  The weather didn't get any better so I headed for home.  Around midday I noticed the weather had improved slightly with increased visibility so I headed back to Winsor Dam and scanned the nearly dead calm water and noticed a diving duck way out that I could just not ID so I decided to try my luck by heading over to gate 5 and then viewing from there.  I made it over there and as I walked down toward the water I had some great looks at an Eastern Coyote.  A scan of the reservoir once I made it down to the water turned up a group of three Long tailed Ducks and a few Common Loons.  I could see the duck I had from Winsor Dam off to the south but still too far away to identify.  I then walked down the shoreline almost to gate 4 before I was able to get a good enough look to identify it as another Long tailed Duck.  On my way back out I noticed a small group of geese had come in and among them was a single Red necked Grebe.  By the time I made it back to the car the clouds and fog had dropped back in again and the drizzle started again.
Cackling Goose with Canada Geese, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 25, 2016
Black Scoters with Ring necked Duck (R) and Hooded Mergansers (L), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 25, 2016
I had just a little time on Thanksgiving to check anywhere as I was tired from work and didn't have the energy to spend too much time outside.  I stopped briefly at Winsor Dam and my time there was rewarded with a flyby Cackling Goose in among a small flock of Canada Geese as well as half a dozen Black Scoters, a Ring necked Duck and nine Hooded Mergansers on the water.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The last several days produce a Golden Eagle, waterfowl and the continued presence of some rarities

Dark eyed Junco, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 19, 2016
American Tree Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 19, 2016
Hooded Merganser, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 19, 2016
Brant, Hadley, MA, Nov 19, 2016
On the last warmish day for the foreseeable future I headed over to the areas along the river with stops at Arcadia, various fields in Amherst and Hadley and then over to Quabbin Park.  It was a nice day to be outside with temps that eventually made it to the mid to upper 50's.  Nothing too unusual but I did have some good stuff including a few hundred geese at Arcadia, a Brant with nearly six hundred Canada Geese in Hadley and nine species of waterfowl at Quabbin Park.
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 20, 2016
The windy weather brought in some decent birds on Sunday at Winsor Dam including a Golden Eagle moving rapidly southeast being pursued by a Bald Eagle.  The Golden Eagle became species #236 for Hampshire County this year.  I also had a couple flyby Greater Scaup at the dam that also moved rapidly past.  We were lucky to have just gotten some rain with occasional snow mixed in when nearby areas in the hills got upwards of a foot of snow.

I felt under the weather yesterday so couldn't get out much but given the cold and windy conditions it was probably not a good idea to be outside anyway.

Brown headed Cowbird and European Starlings, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Nov 22, 2016
Red headed Woodpecker, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Nov 22, 2016
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 22, 2016
Brant, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Nov 22, 2016
Brant, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Nov 22, 2016
I was feeling better this morning and checked a few areas while I ran some errands with the highlights being the continued Brant at UMASS and the Red headed Woodpecker and 220+ Brown headed Cowbirds at Lake Wallace.

Meanwhile the tropics have not gone completely to sleep for the season just yet with the formation of Tropical Storm Otto off the coast of Nicaragua yesterday.  The storm is forecast to strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall in Costa Rica just over the border with Nicaragua.  If it indeed does landfall in Costa Rica it will be the first time this has happened since records began there (way back in 1851).  The main threat will be heavy rain resulting in flooding and landslides.  Hopefully it won't cause too many problems down that way.