Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Remnants of Hurricane Florence hit the area and produces ten species of shorebirds today plus night herons in the county

Killdeer, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Lesser Yellowlegs, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
With the arrival of the remnants of Hurricane Florence arriving overnight into this morning with heavy rain I had high hopes for something unusual being brought down by the weather.  I was up before dawn and could hear the rain pounding down as soon as I got up.  I headed over to North Hadley to be there at first light and was rewarded with nearly a hundred Killdeer as well as a few Least Sandpipers and a Pectoral Sandpiper.  The heavy rain would occasionally let up a little giving me an opportunity to scan the fields before it started pouring again.  I decided to try to cover a variety of areas in search of unusual birds and my next stop was down to the Honey Pot where I had to move a downed tree across the road before continuing down to the end of the town road.  Despite many great looking fields I only managed to turn up a couple Killdeer...always amazing how some fields look great to attract shorebirds but nothing shows up in them.  I then made my way across the river and thought of checking field in Hatfield but figured the mud would be too extreme to make it into many areas so I instead headed south checking out the Oxbow and the river down to the Holyoke Dam.  Unfortunately no unusual gulls or terns at any of the areas I checked (a Common Tern did show up in the Berkshires).  As the fields in North Hadley looked to be the most productive I headed back up there and found even more shorebirds then were present at first light with an impressive 134 Killdeer as well as five other species of shorebirds.  After about an hour of poking around different fields I headed back toward home but not before stopping briefly checking Winsor Dam (which was very quiet).
Pectoral Sandpipers, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Pectoral Sandpiper, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Wilson's Snipe, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Wilson's Snipe, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Semipalmated Plover, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Least Sandpiper, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
The end of rain, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
The heavy rain continued for the rest of the morning into the early afternoon and after getting some projects done at home I headed back over to North Hadley.  When I arrived it was still pouring but you could already see blue sky to the north (a very sharp drop off in areas with heavy rain and areas with no rain at all and clearing skies).  Although the numbers of Killdeer had dropped off a little the overall diversity was up and I had the best bird of the day when a Whimbrel flew over calling as it headed south.  I have only had this species four times previously in the county and almost always when the weather is rainy.  Besides the Whimbrel I had eight other species of shorebirds there bringing my total for the day to ten shorebird species.  It came really pay dividends to get out and bird when the weather is less than ideal.  The Whimbrel (and the night heron mentioned below) were both new species for my Hampshire County list this year (species #229 and 230) and puts me on a course to have a decent chance of breaking my highest total ever for the county which I set back in 2016 with 238 species.

Elsewhere more and more reports continue to trickle in of unusual species from southern locations more directly impacted by Hurricane Florence with loads of inland terns (including Sooty Terns), unusual inland gulls, a Sooty Shearwater, multiple jaegers and a Black capped Petrel...plus lots of other stuff I have previously mentioned the last several days.  More details on locations and dates of various rarities can be found at the Birdcast link to Hurricane Florence birds.
Green Heron, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Sep 17, 2018
Wood Duck, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Sep 17, 2018
I headed out bright and early yesterday in search of a reported Black crowned Night Heron at Lake Warner.  The person who found the bird was in a boat and the lake has many coves and inaccessible areas that make finding a bird there without a boat somewhat difficult.  I arrived for dawn in the hopes of seeing the bird flying to or from a roosting area.  I had four Great Egrets fly out and as they disappeared from view I had a Green Heron flyby heading in the opposite direction.  A couple minutes later around 6:20am a night heron flew past and although the views were brief I managed to note enough field marks to make me confident in calling the individual a Black crowned Night Heron (overall dark, stocky heron with only a slight foot projection beyond the tail).  I added a few Great Blue Herons and another Green Heron as I searched in vain for where the night heron landed.  After exhausting my options in relocating the bird and running short of time I headed home.  Later I saw a photo of the night heron the women saw and several people pointed out the photos looked a lot like a juvenile Yellow crowned Night Heron instead of the more expected Black crowned Night Heron.  Further review and the addition of another photo confirmed suspicions that the bird did indeed appear to be an extremely rare for the area Yellow crowned Night Heron.  A link to the eBird report I created for the report (with photos) can be found at the following link:  YCNH eBird report

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The last few days around here plus an update on Hurricane Florence birds

Black throated Green Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 13, 2018
Chestnut sided Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 13, 2018
Northern Harrier, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 14, 2018
Brown Thrasher, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 14, 2018
Yellow Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 14, 2018
Gray Catbird, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 14, 2018
The last couple of days have produced some decent birds despite the cloudy and damp conditions.  I made a few stops on Thursday including a mosquito filled trip to Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River which held some nice groups of warbler moving through.  I then headed over to Quabbin Park which was not quite as productive (but just as mosquito filled!).  Friday I started out predawn in North Hadley checking out some shorebirds (50+ Killdeer and a single Semipalmated Plover) before heading south to the Honey Pot were I had several good birds including a Clay colored Sparrow and flyover Dickcissel (plus lots of other migrants).  Today I spent a very foggy morning at Arcadia which was somewhat quiet given the date and decent migrant conditions last night.  Nonetheless there were still birds to be found and luckily the biggest mixed species flock moved through while a large birding group from Arcadia was there to see it.  I think everyone came away quite satisfied to see a variety of migrants (even if most birds stayed fairly high up).
Tropical Storm Florence projected path as of 5PM, Sep 15, 2018 (courtesy of NHC)
A quick update on Hurricane Florence.  It made landfall in southern North Carolina as a relatively weak hurricane (compared to what it could have been if it had not lost strength).  Nonetheless the wind field for the storm was rather large and the storm surge was quite high.  As expected the biggest problem has been heavy rain as the storm slowed down near the coast and continues to meander through the area dropping lots of rain.  The storm will slowly move northwest and then make a curve to the northeast and the remnants should come through here late Monday into Tuesday with heavy rain.  As far as storm related birds the best I have seen so far is a Trindade Petrel (along with a number of terns and gulls) at Buckhorn Reservoir in central North Carolina (full eBird list).  There have been a number of other notables including a few inland Sabine's Gulls and an inland Parasitic Jaeger.  I'm sure more stuff will be reported over the next several days.  Birdcast now has a page dedicated to unusual sightings associated with the storm that can be found at the following link.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The latest on Hurricane Florence and rainy, cool weather here

Hurricane Florence projected path as of 2PM, Sep 11, 2018 (courtesy of  NHC)
It now seems almost certain that Hurricane Florence will make landfall somewhere in the southeast with the most likely spot somewhere in the North or South Carolina.  It has continued to regain strength and is now a Category 4 storm and is forecast to make landfall early Friday morning as a Category 3 or 4 storm which would bring catastrophic damage to the area that it strikes.  After landfall it should rapidly weaken to a tropical storm but due to no real atmospheric mechanism in place to move it alone with will slow down and dump copious amounts of rain inland resulting in severe flooding.  The storm looks to be too far away to have any real impact in the northeast at this point.  The storm is certain to displace and down a number of species and it will be interesting to see what turns up over the next several days.  I imagine some incredible species will make appearances that one can only find inland following the arrival of tropical systems.  There are a few examples of similar storms hitting this area of the country including Hurricane Hugo back in 1989 and Hurricane Fran in 1996.  Hurricane Hugo was a devastating storm that brought severe damage well inland but nonetheless some people were able to get out to see some storm birds with the following examples from that storm: Jordan Lake in North CarolinaLake Norman in North Carolina.  Hurricane Fran produced some incredible inland records of multiple species at large bodies of water and this storm is almost certain to produce similar reports.  A few examples include John Kerr Reservoir in VirginiaJordan Lake in North CarolinaAuman Lake in North Carolina
American Golden Plover, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Sep 10, 2018
American Golden Plover and Spotted Sandpiper, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Sep 10, 2018
Double crested Cormorant, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Sep 10, 2018
Northern Harrier, Hatfield, MA, Sep 10, 2018
Dawn, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 10, 2018
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 11, 2018
Before the remnants of Gordon arrived yesterday Devin and I went out to see what we could find on another rather cool and breezy day.  The forecast had called for rain arriving before dawn but it did not materialize until late in the morning so no luck for us finding any birds put down by the weather.  Nonetheless we still turned up some good stuff for the morning including four Great Egrets at the Honey Pot, a Northern Harrier and a couple Osprey in Hatfield and at least 145 Chimney Swifts, an American Golden Plover and a couple Yellow Warblers at the Holyoke Dam.  We managed to add two new species to Devin's county list for the year (the plover and Mute Swans) as he heads toward his goal of 200 species for the year.  The rain finally arrived late in the morning and continued throughout the remainder of the day and into today.  I stayed local this morning staying around Quabbin Park which was quite quiet with not many birds in evidence which was not really a surprise given the conditions of drizzle and cool temps.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Heat wave breaks and an update on the tropics

Bank Swallows, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 6, 2018
 House Wren, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 8, 2018
 Chestnut sided Warbler (iPhone photo through binoculars), Jabish Canal, Belchertown, MA, Sep 8, 2018
Philadelphia Vireo (iPhone photo through binoculars), Jabish Canal, Belchertown, MA, Sep 8, 2018
The latest heat wave finally broke on Friday after we had four more days above 90 with high humidity adding to a long string of hot days for the summer (26 days above 90 so far).  The cooler temperatures brought in via more northerly winds also brought in more migrants but not quite as many as I expected given the conditions.  Nonetheless I managed to add two new species to my county list this morning with a flyover American Golden Plover at the Honey Pot and a Philadelphia Vireo along the Jabish Canal in Belchertown.  No luck finding a Connecticut Warbler this morning but I'm certain I will turn up one (or more) soon.  Other notables the last few days have included a large gathering of hundreds of swallows at the Honey Pot with most being Bank and Barn Swallows.
Tropical Storm Florence projected path as of 11AM, Sep 8, 2018 (courtesy of National Hurricane Center)

Active tropical systems in the Atlantic as if midday Sep 8, 2018 (courtesy of National Hurricane Center)
Now for a bit of a discussion on the tropics and how it may impact the local area.  The remnants of Hurricane Gorden should pass through the area on Monday bringing some potentially heavy rain but likely little else.  There is always the chance that the rain could force some migrants down so it will be worth checking a few spots on Monday.  The big potential player from the tropics is Florence (a former major hurricane that is now a tropical storm).  I have been watching the storm the past several days as it has made its way across the Atlantic.  The storm has surprised on several occasions already as it has fought through less than ideal conditions and became a major hurricane and has followed a somewhat unusual path.  The storm is unusual in having formed so far north and east and then track in a manner that it becomes a possible threat to the U.S. east coast.  The current forecast calls for the storm to regain strength and become a major hurricane (category 3+) over the next few days. It appears more and more likely that a major hurricane will strike somewhere on the east coast of the United States somewhere between northern Florida and possibly as far north as New England (although the chances of a direct strike here are relative low).  The exact track is certainly still up in the air but the track should become more clear over the next few days.  As far as what possible impact the storm will have here in relation to birds remains to be seen but I will post more about it over the next few days.  Beyond Florence there are two more potential storms to come as the tropics really start heating up as the peak of hurricane season rapidly approaches.  In the meantime I have a post from a few years ago regarding tropical systems that might be of interest.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Baird's Sandpipers and Yellow breasted Chat (and many others) to start off September

Common Yellowthroat, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 1, 2018
Baird's Sandpiper, Hatfield, MA, Sep 1, 2018
Peregrine Falcons, Hatfield, MA, Sep 1, 2018
Baird's Sandpiper, Hatfield, MA, Sep 1, 2018
The first two mornings of the month have produced some spectacular birds including a number of rarities.  I spent the morning yesterday covering a variety of locations on either side of the river and turned up a number of notables including the following: two Eastern Whip Poor Wills at Winsor Dam predawn, a half dozen Common Nighthawks, two Virginia Rails, a Sora and a number of Green Herons at Lake Wallace, a pair of Baird's Sandpipers in Hatfield and a Yellow bellied Flycatcher and at least 112 Chimney Swifts at the Holyoke Dam.  The Baird's Sandpipers were the rarest for the day...I have only had the species on two other occasions in the county before (one in the East Meadows back in 2004 and a flyby during Hurricane Irene in 2011...all sightings have occurred in the narrow window between very late August and very early September).  Overall a very productive morning and a great way to start off the month of September.
Yellow breasted Chat (really!), Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 2, 2018
Yellow Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 2, 2018
Pine Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 2, 2018
Black throated Green Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 2, 2018
Chestnut sided Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 2, 2018
Today I decided to stay closer to home spending a few hours at Quabbin Park which proved to be a great decision as I ran across a rare Yellow breasted Chat among decent numbers of other migrants in mixed flocks.  I was not really expecting to turn up a chat but you never know what you will find when you go out.  I had a number of mixed species flocks throughout the morning but came upon the chat in among some dense vegetation mostly by itself.  I was scanning the bushes and noticed a flash of bright yellow that popped out into the open briefly revealing the chat.  They can be notoriously tough to get good looks at as they stay down in the dense undergrowth and I only managed a few out of focus photos before the bird disappeared.  The chat sighting today was only my fifth in the county (2005 and 2014 at Arcadia, two in 2016 with one at Arcadia and one at UMASS plus the one today).  It was also the first time I have seen this species at Quabbin becoming species #239 for Quabbin Park and #246 for Quabbin overall...I bird Quabbin quite a bit so finding a new species is certainly noteworthy for me.  The year list for me in Hampshire County is on a record setting pace so far with 223 species year to date...we shall see what the rest of the year brings.

Friday, August 31, 2018

End of August

Dawn, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Aug 30, 2018
Green Heron, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 26, 2018
Upland Sandpiper, Hatfield, MA, Aug 2, 2018
Bonaparte's Gull, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Aug 24, 2018
Snowy Egret, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 2, 2018
August has quickly come to an end as summer comes to an end.  The fall migration has been on going for weeks but will really start heating up now.  The month was warmer than average with humid and hot conditions on quite a few days.  I managed to find a total of 143 species in the county for the month which is well above average and beats my previous best August by several species.  Highlights during the month included 13 species of shorebirds including Black bellied Plover , Upland Sandpiper and Buff breasted Sandpiper, a Bonaparte's Gull at Winsor Dam, a Snowy Egret at the Holyoke Dam, a large concentration of Green Herons at Lake Wallace that topped off at 37 mid month, 20 species of warblers including a couple early Cape May Warblers and a flyover Dickcissel.
Red Foxes, Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 23, 2018
Monarch Caterpillars, Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 21, 2018
European Starling, Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 20, 2018
Veery (juv), Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 17, 2018
The water feature continues to host a number of species with one new species (European Starling) showing up this month.  The other motion cameras also continue to catch various species moving through the yard.  The yard also played host to a large number of Monarch caterpillars that showed up on some milkweed.