Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Black Tern and Red necked Grebe at Winsor Dam and another tropical update

Red necked Grebe, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Aug 23, 2016
Red necked Grebe, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Aug 23, 2016
Common Loon, Quabbin Park, MA, Aug 23, 2016
Barn Swallows, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 23, 2016
Great Egrets, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 23, 2016
Great Black backed Gull, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 23, 2016
Least Sandpiper, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 23, 2016
Dawn in the East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Aug 23, 2016
Certainly a feel of fall in the air this morning with a low of 50 degrees thanks to some northwest winds the last few days. It warmed up rapidly to around 80 but it certainly felt like fall early on. I started out my morning at Winsor Dam trying to hear some whip poor wills but once again I didn't have any. I had hopes today that the northerly winds would bring in some shorebirds but despite checking several spots I didn't find too many. None of the fields I checked in Hadley and Northampton had any shorebirds at all and most of the shorebirds I did manage to find were over at Lower Mill Pond. Early morning fog made viewing a bit tough so there may have been some shorebirds along the river hidden from my view but who knows. The highlights while checking the fields included a Merlin harassing a kestrel and a flyby Great Egret at the Honey Pot. I once again made it down to the Holyoke Dam and it once again produced some good birds including four Mute Swans (not really good but still a somewhat uncommon species in the county in summer), 31 Common Mergansers, 15 Double crested Cormorants, 11 Great Blue Herons, 9 Great Egrets, an adult Great Black backed Gull (my first this fall and one of three gull species there today), 140+ Chimney Swifts, 55 Tree Swallows and 110 Bank Swallows. No luck relocating the Little Blue Heron but hopefully it is still in the area somewhere. Once I finished up at the Holyoke Dam I headed over to Winsor Dam which quickly produced a couple of really good birds...Black Tern and Red necked Grebe. The Black Tern was an immature bird way out near the fishing area that was last seen working north along the west arm of the reservoir.  I attempted some digiscoped shots but the bird was just too far away to get an identifiable shots.  The tern becomes species #214 for Hampshire County this year. The breeding plumage Red necked Grebe was probably even more unexpected given the date. This is my earliest record in the fall by a few weeks (previous best was Sept 11) and is the earliest county record for fall in eBird in the county. I also made a couple stops in Quabbin Park itself before returning to Winsor Dam to meet up with Aidan and Devin. The tern and grebe did not resurface for them but we did have a Cliff Swallow among the more expected swallows. It was quite obvious from several stops this morning that swallows were on the move today with good numbers and variety around.
Great Egrets, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 22, 2016
Great Blue Heron, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 22, 2016
Killdeer, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 22, 2016
Black capped Chickadee with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 22, 2016
Yesterday was even cooler than today with highs making it into the mid 70's with a strong northwest wind. I birded along the river from Hadley down to South Hadley and then back to Quabbin. Highlights included seven Great Egrets flying past at Arcadia, three species of shorebirds (Killdeer, Least Sandpiper and Solitary Sandpiper) at Lower Mill Pond, eight Great Egrets and 110 Chimney Swifts at the Holyoke Dam and the appearance of a banded Black capped Chickadee at home that I last saw the day it was banded back in June of this year.

Now to the tropics and what activity is going on there. What was Fiona is now just barely a tropical depression and will soon be just a remnant low. What had been Invest 90L has now become Tropical Storm Gaston and is forecast to become a hurricane but should remain well out in the Atlantic and recurve out away from any impact to the Americas. Invest 99L continues to hang on despite dry air being brought into the system. If it continues to survive and makes it further west there is a decent chance of it forming into something. The forecast models are all over the board out past a few days with some killing the storm off, others making it a tropical storm and others a hurricane. The track is also up in the air with a hit on Florida a very distinct possibility but also the chance of an impact elsewhere on the east coast. As mentioned before there are still a lot of questions with this system but it certainly should be watched over the next several days.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Little Blue Heron at Holyoke Dam

Little Blue Heron, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2016
Little Blue Heron, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2016
Little Blue Heron, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2016
Little Blue Heron, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2016
Little Blue Heron and Great Egret, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2016
Great Egret, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2016
Great Blue Heron, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2016
Merlin, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2016
Peregrine Falcon, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2016
Double crested Cormorants, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2016
Green Heron, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 21, 2016
All of my looking for unusual herons or egrets paid off this morning when I found an immature Little Blue Heron below the Holyoke Dam in South Hadley. I didn't have any particular plans on where to go this morning but I decided once I was in the car to head over to Hadley to check the river and then see where the I felt like going after that. I started at Alexandra Dawson Conservation Area where I had two distant Great Egrets. A stop further up the river didn't turn up much so I then decided to head south through the Honey Pot which also was quiet. I thought about just heading back over to the Quabbin area but thought I might have some better luck at the Holyoke Dam so that is where I headed. I got to the area of the library and found the gates to the area down closer to the dam still closed. I scoped through the fence and found a young Peregrine Falcon taking a bath in a small puddle at the base of the dam (video link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54277284@N05/28511621214/in/dateposted-public/ ). I hoped  the gates would be open a little later so in the meantime I went down south of the Route 116 Bridge to look back upriver toward the dam. This spot had most of the Great Egrets yesterday and I thought it might be productive again. As soon as I scanned the shore I noticed a Great Egret as well as a smaller white wader nearby. I quickly set up the scope and found it to be a Little Blue Heron which is quite rare around here and not a bird that is found in the area every year. In fact this is only my third county record with the others being an adult in April 2012 at Arcadia (http://quabbinbirdingandbeyond.blogspot.com/2012/04/little-blue-heron-at-arcadia.html) and the other an immature found along the river in Hadley in August 2014 (http://quabbinbirdingandbeyond.blogspot.com/2014/08/little-blue-heron-in-hadley.html). The Little Blue Heron becomes species #213 for Hampshire County this year. Besides the Little Blue Heron I had three other wader species including eleven Great Blue Herons, a half dozen Great Egrets and a single Green Heron. Other notable sightings at the dam included 22 Double crested Cormorants, 85+ Chimney Swifts and a Merlin. The Little Blue Heron was still there when I left and it was viewed by several others over the course of the morning. On my way home I stopped at Lake Wallace where I had 41 Wood Ducks and seven Green Herons.

The forecast for tonight into tomorrow is for some potentially heavy rain in front of a strong cold front which should bring in some cool air on northwest winds and less humid conditions and possibly ground some migrants such as shorebirds and push down some migrants from the north possibly including a Black Tern (among other possibilities)....time will tell.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

More egrets, herons and shorebirds the last couple mornings plus an update on the tropics

Great Egrets, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 20, 2016
Great Egrets, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 20, 2016
Great Blue Heron and the head of a Canada Goose, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 20, 2016
Least Sandpiper, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 20, 2016
Solitary Sandpiper, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 20, 2016
Green Herons, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 20, 2016
Solitary Sandpipers, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 20, 2016
I spent another morning after work stopping at a few spots on my way home including Arcadia, Lower Mill Pond, the Holyoke Dam and Lake Wallace.  Arcadia was fairly quiet with the best sighting being four Green Herons chasing each other around and being quite vocal as they did so.  Lower Mill Pond held a few shorebirds including eight Killdeer, half a dozen Least Sandpipers and two Solitary Sandpipers.  Holyoke Dam was active once again with 14 Double crested Cormorants, 13 Great Blue Herons, a dozen Great Egrets, two Green Herons, 78 Ring billed Gulls and 55+ Chimney Swifts.  A brief stop at Lake Wallace mid morning found 48 Wood Ducks and a couple each of Green Herons and Solitary Sandpipers.
Killdeer, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 19, 2016
Yesterday I stopped briefly along the CT river in Hadley and had three Great Egrets and then headed across the river to Easthampton where I had a few shorebirds in Lower Mill Pond but nothing unusual.




As of today the tropical Atlantic continues to increase in activity with Tropical Storm Fiona still spinning way out in the Atlantic but being beaten up badly and the forecast for her being no threat to any landmass.  A couple of more tropical waves show potential for development in the next 5-10 days.  Invest 99L is midway between Africa and the Lesser Antilles and will be slow to develop but if it holds together and develops it could pose a threat to the US but there are more questions than answers at this point.  The hurricane center gives this invest a 60% chance of development in the next five days.  Another wave just coming off the coast of Africa is being given a 70% of development within the next five days.  I will update as needed on these systems as time goes on but it certainly bears watching.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The last couple mornings

Great Egrets, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 18, 2016
Great Blue Herons, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 18, 2016
Common Merganser, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 18, 2016
Double crested Cormorants, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 18, 2016
Killdeer, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 18, 2016
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Aug 18, 2016
After getting out of work this morning I made my rounds trying to catch up with some unusual herons or egrets along the Connecticut River. I didn't find anything too unusual but the number of Great Egrets around is fairly high. I started off at Arcadia where it was very quiet so I moved on to Lower Mill Pond where I had a small selection of shorebirds and just a single Great Blue Heron. I then headed further south to check out the Holyoke Dam area not just for any unusual waders that might be around but also in the hopes of finding a Laughing Gull (more on that below). I didn't find any unusual gulls at the dam but did have a decent number of waders including 20 Great Blue Herons and 10 Great Egrets. Other notables there included 17 Common Mergansers, 18 Double crested Cormorants and around fifty Chimney Swifts. I also made a brief stop along the river in the area of the Honey Pot where I had a couple more Great Egrets. I also made a brief stop at Winsor Dam in the hopes of a tracking down any unusual gulls but found nothing beyond a few Ring billed Gulls. Once again there was no sign of the Lesser Scaup and I'm thinking it may be gone for good this time. A walk with Wilson at Lake Wallace turned up the expected species for a midday visit including a half a dozen Green Herons.
Green Heron, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 17, 2016
Least Sandpipers, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 17, 2016
Yesterday morning on my way to work I stopped along the river in Hadley at the Dawson Conservation Area and had three Great Egrets in the river plus a couple Great Blue Herons. A brief run though Arcadia didn't produce too much with just a half dozen Killdeer in the small field they have been in for a few weeks now. Lower Mill Pond produced one each of Great Blue Heron and Green Heron plus four species of shorebirds (Killdeer and Least, Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers).

Now for more about the Laughing Gulls mentioned above. There have also been a couple of Laughing Gulls that have shown up inland in Massachusetts during the last few days with one found by James Smith up at Turners Falls on August 15th (link to his blog post here: http://pioneerbirding.blogspot.com/2016/08/ma-laughing-gull-in-gill.html)and seen the next day too.  Another was seen on August 17 and 18 at Wachusett Reservoir in Worcester County.  Both birds are juveniles and perhaps got pushed here by the southerly winds over the last few days. Laughing Gull is very unusual inland in Massachusetts and almost always is associated with storms (mainly tropical systems) so the arrival of these birds here is even more unusual as we have had no storms. Speaking of the tropics Tropical Storm Fiona recently formed well out in the Atlantic and the guidance suggests it should curve out to sea and not be a threat to the US but it will certainly be worth watching. There are a few more tropical waves coming off Africa which could also spin up into tropical systems going forward. The most active point of the hurricane season is rapidly approaching so likelihood of systems forming increases over the next several weeks.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

More waders and my 20,000th eBird checklist

Great Blue Heron, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 16, 2016
Green Heron, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 16, 2016
Solitary Sandpiper, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 16, 2016
American Kestrels, Hatfield, MA, Aug 16, 2016
Great Egret, Hatfield, MA, Aug 16, 2016
Great Egrets, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 16, 2016
Great Egret and Great Blue Heron, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 16, 2016
Double crested Cormorants, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 16, 2016
Today I headed out bright and early to cover several areas along the river in search of herons, egrets and shorebirds.  I arrived predawn along the river in Hadley and my first few stops didn't produce much at all as far as my target species were concerned but it picked up a bit as the morning went on.  My route took from Hadley to Northampton then up to Hatfield and back through Hadley to South Hadley before heading to Lake Wallace to end the morning.  As far as waders I found three species with overall totals noted as follows:  Great Blue Heron (23), Great Egret (16) and Green Heron (8).  The waders were scattered all over the river and nearby areas with no big concentrations or roosts found.  Shorebirds were represented by four species (once again) with the following species and totals:  Killdeer (25), Least Sandpiper (4), Spotted Sandpiper (5) and Solitary Sandpiper (4).  Other notable species seen over the course of the morning included the following:  52 Wood Ducks and a Green winged Teal at Lake Wallace; 13 Double crested Cormorants at the Holyoke Dam including one individual that kept picking up items (algae, grass, debris)  and then moving toward other cormorants until they would jump off the dam into the water...interesting to watch and I have a video of some of the activity here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54277284@N05/28411292553/in/album-72157672541933515/
Green Herons, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2016
Green Heron, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2016
Green Herons and Great Blue Heron, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2016
Killdeer, Hadley, MA, Aug 15, 2016
Ring billed Gull with fish, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Aug 15, 2016
Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Aug 15, 2016
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Aug 15, 2016
Yesterday I tried to find some whip poor wills before dawn at Winsor Dam but had no luck. Hopefully there are some still around and they were just not vocalizing. This area has been my go to spot for them into September so I hope they have no left. I then headed over to Lake Wallace where I had 107 Wood Ducks, 11 Green Herons, a couple Virginia Rails as well as the continued Louisiana Waterthrush. I initially planned on just staying around town but instead decided to head over to Hadley to see if the west/northwest winds brought in anything new. I stopped at the Honey Pot and a few spots along the river before heading to Lake Warner and then to the campus pond at UMASS before finally ending up back at Winsor Dam where I submitted my 20,000th eBird list (more on that below). Highlights from the morning included a peep species that I saw flying away at the Honey Pot...wish I had gotten a better view but no luck, three Great Egrets along the river, 11 Killdeer in a field near Huntington Rd in Hadley and a smattering of Spotted Sandpipers at a few locations.  Now more about my 20,000th eBird checklist that I submitted this morning. The list that reached that milestone was (not surprisingly) completed on a visit to Winsor Dam and I have included a link to the list below.  I still have around five hundred more to go to reach this same plateau for full checklists (the overall total includes 'incidental' lists too).  Link to list  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S31102034
Olive sided Flycatcher, home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2016
Olive sided Flycatcher, home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2016
Olive sided Flycatcher, home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2016
Gray Fox, Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2016
In the afternoon while doing work around the yard I noticed a flycatcher at the top of a dead tree that looked like it might be an Olive sided Flycatcher and a quick through binoculars confirmed it.  My sixth Olive sided Flycatcher sighting for the yard and my second fall record.  The Gray Fox also came back in the evening once again.