Thursday, June 22, 2017

Breeding Bird Survey completed for another year

I completed by annual Breeding Bird Survey route this morning under sunny and somewhat cool conditions early on.  The route runs from Belchertown south to the Connecticut line in Monson.  I normally conduct the survey on a weekend to avoid traffic noise but for a variety of reasons I had to run the survey route this morning.  The start time for the route is a very early 4:42am and I typically finish the 50 three minute stops a little after 9:00am.  I had a total of 73 species (with 1210 individuals) this year including a very surprising flyby Sandhill Crane at my fourth stop in Belchertown.  The top species seen this year consisted of the following with percentages of stops the species were present at:

Chipping Sparrow (70%)
Red eyed Vireo (64%)
Gray Catbird (60%)
Tufted Titmouse (58%)
Northern Cardinal (58%)
Black capped Chickadee (56%)
American Robin (56%)
American Crow (50%)
Ovenbird (50%)
Common Yellowthroat (40%)
American Goldfinch (40%)

Compared to previous years my total of 73 is fairly decent and slightly above last year with the species make up fairly typical. The last several years of species totals are listed below:

2010- 71
2011- 64
2012- 56
2013- 67
2014- 70
2015- 75
2016- 78

The damage being wrought by Gypsy Moth caterpillars this year is even worse than last year with large areas nearly devoid of leaves and looking more like late fall/winter instead of summer.  At least the cuckoos seem to be having another good year with at least one cuckoo present at ten different stops with a total of five Yellow billed Cuckoos and nine Black billed Cuckoos tallied.

While I was on my way back home after the survey I took a detour to the east over to Brookfield to follow up on a report of a Yellow throated Warbler seen and heard at Quaboag WMA.  I don't normally venture out east but I figured I would give it a try for the warbler.  No luck for me late morning but it could still be in the area.  I guess I will just have to wait until another day to add that warbler to my state list.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Two Eastern Whip Poor Will surveys completed


Black Bears, Prescott Peninsula, New Salem, MA, Jun 12, 2017
Black Bears, Prescott Peninsula, New Salem, MA, Jun 12, 2017
I recently completed my second Eastern Whip Poor Will survey on Monday night on the restricted access Prescott Peninsula at Quabbin. Although I was tired from work the day before the conditions were right so I decided to give it a try before the window of opportunity closed for the season. The surveys have particular conditions that must be met before they can be run including fairly clear conditions, no wind, moonlight and within the time period at the end of May through mid June. Getting all these conditions to line up can be quite difficult but Monday night met the criteria. I was joined this year by Devin...always nice to have another person along when exploring the rather remote peninsula. The survey starts about 15 minutes after sunset and covers ten count locations located one mile apart. Each stop involves passive listening for six minutes before moving on to the next stop. During this survey we tallied a total of 15 Eastern Whip Poor Wills with 11 of those at one of the ten designated stops (the others came midway between stops). This is the highest overall total I have ever recorded on this now six year old survey route. Once again the birds were concentrated on the lower end of the peninsula. The following were recorded during previous surveys:

2012- 9 total individuals with 7 at survey stops
2013- 9 total individuals, all at survey stops
2014- 7 total individuals, all at survey stops
2015- 10 total individuals with 7 at survey stops
2016- 10 total individuals with 7 at survey stops

Besides the Eastern Whip Poor Wills we had a number of other notable sightings including calling Barred Owl, Northern Saw Whet Owl and Common Loon at stop #7 just before 10PM. Mammal highlights included a family group of Black Bears with a radio collared mother bear and three cubs, a single Moose and a few White tailed Deer plus a very vocal Red Squirrel scolding at something after it was dark.

I completed my other whip poor will survey at Quabbin Park and points south last Thursday night. This survey also produced a record setting total for the route with 19 total whips heard with 15 of those at established survey stops. Totals for the now five year old route are listed below:

2013- 6 total individuals with 5 at survey stops
2014- 14 total individuals, all at survey stops
2015- 13 total individuals with 11 at survey stops
2016- 6 total individuals, all at survey stops
2017- 19 total individuals with 15 at survey stops
American Robin with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Jun 10, 2017
Eastern Phoebe with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Jun 12, 2017
American Robin fledgling, Home, Belchertown, MA, Jun 11, 2017
Opossum, Home, Belchertown, MA, Jun 12, 2017
The motion camera at home continue to capture lots of activity at the water feature, both night and day.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Fruitful search for Hooded Warbler and yet another Mourning Warbler


Hooded Warbler, Mount Tom State Reservation, Easthampton, MA, June 12, 2017
Hooded Warbler, Mount Tom State Reservation, Easthampton, MA, June 12, 2017
Hooded Warbler, Mount Tom State Reservation, Easthampton, MA, June 12, 2017
Hooded Warbler, Mount Tom State Reservation, Easthampton, MA, June 12, 2017
I got out of work this morning in the midst of our second heat wave of the season and headed right for home to take the Wilson for an early walk before the temps climbed into the 90's.  Not long after getting home I saw a report of a Hooded Warbler showing itself again at Mount Tom State Reservation where I had looked for one without luck  a few times last week.  I took Wilson for a walk and debated about trying for the bird today and finally decided to give it a try late morning despite the heat.  I made it over there around 10:30 and almost immediately had the bird calling in perfect habitat for it to breed.  It showed fairly well and allowed for some distant photos.  Hopefully he eventually finds a mate and breeds here.  It was great to finally catch up with this striking southern warbler after quite a bit of effort.  Full list with additional photos and audio at the following link:  http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S37549104
Mourning Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, June 8, 2017
Mourning Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, June 8, 2017
Brown Thrashers (adult feeding fledgling), Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, June 9, 2017
Elsewhere over the last several days I managed to find yet another Mourning Warbler at Quabbin Park as well as lots more evidence of breeding success for a multitude of species including the fledgling Brown Thrasher pictured above.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Fruitless search for Hooded Warblers


Worm eating Warbler, Mount Tom State Reservation, Easthampton, MA, June 7, 2017
Worm eating Warbler, Mount Tom State Reservation, Easthampton, MA, June 7, 2017
View of damage from microburst, Mount Tom State Reservation, Easthampton, MA, June 7, 2017
View of damage from microburst, Mount Tom State Reservation, Easthampton, MA, June 7, 2017
View of damage from microburst, Mount Tom State Reservation, Easthampton, MA, June 7, 2017
On Monday evening I noticed a post on the Facebook page about a Hooded Warbler seen and heard along the road at Mount Tom State Reservation.  It was in an area that was hit by a microburst a few years ago with most large trees toppled over but with lots of thick undergrowth.  It was too late in the day to try on Monday and although the forecast was for rain and cool temps on Tuesday I nonetheless headed over that way early in the morning and walked the road in the rain without having any luck finding it.   Despite the rain I did manage to find two Worm eating Warblers plus a few Prairie Warbler but not much else of note.  On my way to Mount Tom I stopped briefly at the Holyoke Dam and had at least 13 Double crested Cormorants.

With better weather forecast for today I headed back to Mount Tom to try again for the Hooded Warbler.  I arrived to find the skies still cloudy with a breeze out of the north making it a bit on the cool side (but still better than yesterday!).  I walked over a mile up the entrance road but had no luck locating the bird but by this point the trail was getting a bit cold so I was not too surprised.  The area looks like a great spot for a Hooded Warbler to hang out in so it may indeed still be around.  I found even more Worm eating Warblers today with a least five around including one carrying food upslope to an unseen nest or fledgling.  Seeing I was already fairly far west I decided to take the opportunity to try for the Hooded Warbler(s) at Mount Tekoa on the Montgomery/Westfield line.  Despite covering the area there was one reported in I had no luck finding one today.  Perhaps the bird(s) have moved elsewhere this year.  I then headed back east and north back into Hampshire County where I made a brief visit to the top of the mountain at Skinner SP where I had a single Cerulean Warbler singing quite far downslope from the parking lot plus at least two Worm eating Warblers.



Monday, June 5, 2017

Neighborhood Nestwatch banding


American Robin with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, June 5, 2017
Black capped Chickadee with egg, Home, Belchertown, MA, June 5, 2017
Black capped Chickadee in net, Home, Belchertown, MA, June 5, 2017
Gray Catbird with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, June 5, 2017
Black capped Chickadee and American Robin, Home, Belchertown, MA, June 5, 2017
Gray Catbird with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, June 5, 2017
Eastern Phoebe nestlings, Home, Belchertown, MA, June 5, 2017
Tree Swallow nestlings, Home, Belchertown, MA, June 5, 2017
American Robin nestlings, Home, Belchertown, MA, June 5, 2017
Snapping Turtle laying eggs, Home, Belchertown, June 5, 2017
Despite the less than ideal conditions we had a productive day banding in the yard during our third season of the Neighborhood Nestwatch program. A total of eight birds of four species were banded (three Gray Catbirds, three Black capped Chickadees, an American Robin and an Eastern Phoebe) plus a Tufted Titmouse that didn't get banded. Highlights included an American Robin caught early on with an obvious egg which was caught again later in the morning after she returned to the nest and laid the egg plus a Black capped Chickadee also carrying an egg. We also had a Snapping Turtle wandering around the yard which eventually found a place to lay its eggs. Many thanks to Arthur, Jess and the UMASS intern (I'm blanking on her name) that came by to do the banding.  A few of the nests in the yard were also checked and nestlings were in each nest (American Robin, Eastern Phoebe and Tree Swallow).
Full album on my Flickr page (link below).
https://www.flickr.com/…/54277284@…/albums/72157681661367934
Blue winged x Golden winged Warbler hybrid, Quabbin Park, MA, June 4, 2017
Mourning Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, June 2, 2017
I also want to update on the Golden winged Warbler I found at Quabbin Park last Wednesday.  The bird was seen for the entire day on Thursday in the same area so I stopped by there after work on Friday morning and the bird was still present along with a number of birders.  It was continuing to call nearly continuously but showing itself very sparingly.  Around 8:30 or so it flew up to the top of trees and then launched itself off to the south and did not return for the remaining hour and half while I was there.  I thought it might have moved to the power line cut off to the south but I didn't have a lot of time to go looking.  Apparently I was right as the bird was reported along the power lines on Saturday but has not been relocated there since.  It could still be in the same general area but the going there can be tough and the ticks are horrible in addition to the weather being cool, rainy and breezy.  A consolation prize on Friday was a Mourning Warbler in the same area which called quite a bit and showed briefly.  It appears this individual is from the Nova Scotia group according to the researcher up in New Hampshire who is studying the different vocal groups of Mourning Warblers.  The hybrid Blue winged x Golden winged Warbler also continues to be seen in the same area it has been for weeks.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

GOLDEN WINGED WARBLER at Quabbin Park and another Brewster's Warbler to end the month of May


Golden winged Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 31, 2017
Golden winged Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 31, 2017
Golden winged Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 31, 2017
Golden winged Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 31, 2017
Golden winged Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 31, 2017
Golden winged Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 31, 2017
Golden winged Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 31, 2017
May certainly ended on a high note despite the damp, rainy and cool weather with a male Golden winged Warbler this morning at Quabbin Park and another Brewster's Warbler late in the morning elsewhere in Belchertown.  My plan this morning was to just bird around Quabbin Park but I got a later start then I hoped for when the gates to the park didn't open until almost seven.  I checked a few spots outside the gates but didn't turn up anything unusual.  Once the gates opened up I headed in from the east entrance and almost immediately the steady drizzle started up and then became a near constant light rain.  Nonetheless I turned up the ongoing Blue winged x Golden winged Warbler hybrid once again.  As the conditions continued to deteriorate I thought about trying to head elsewhere but figured the weather would be the same so I might as well just stick it out at Quabbin Park.  I was certainly happy with that decision a short time later when I stopped in the area of Goodnough Dike and heard an unusual call.  I fully expected to track down an oddly singing Blue winged Warbler but much to my surprise I found a gorgeous male Golden winged Warbler instead!  Only my fifth record of this species in the county and easily the most cooperative one I have ever had.  The bird was singing an odd single pitch long buzzy song and continued singing it nearly the entire time I was there watching it.  It moved back in forth within a large brushy area but never strayed too far although it was out of sight much more than it was in.  The bird stayed through the day and allowed a number of people to see it (a lifer for several of them).  It is not too often I add a new species to my Quabbin list but this warbler became species #245 for me at Quabbin.  Other notables around the park included a few late migrants such as Blackpoll Warbler, Wilson's Warbler and another Mourning Warbler.

Full list from the morning here (with audio links): http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S37286251

Additional photos and video link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/54277284@N05/albums/72157681432202874


I finally left Quabbin Park after a few hours and ended up with around 80 species (between the park itself and Winsor Dam).  Once I got home I picked up Wilson and we headed out for a walk.  Much to my surprise upon arriving for our walk along the land trust trail I found a silent Brewster's Warbler working its way along the edge of the small parking lot near the middle school.  I tried to get a photo through the binoculars but had no luck and the bird didn't stay in view very long.  I was never able to turn it back up despite quite a bit of effort.

Overall for the month of May I managed to find 30 species of warblers plus both a few hybrids including a Lawrence's warbler, two Brewster's Warblers and the other unnamed hybrid.  Highlights besides the Golden winged Warbler included at least seven Mourning Warblers, three each of Bay breasted Warblers and Cape May Warblers and an Orange crowned Warbler.  I only missed two other warbler species that were reported (Kentucky Warbler and Yellow breasted Chat) but both of these were seen briefly by the original observers and not relocated.  Beyond warblers it was a great month for other species and overall for the month I found 161 species with highlights including a Brant at Winsor Dam, a Cattle Egret and Snowy Egret in Hadley, a White eyed Vireo at Quabbin Park and a Painted Bunting in Huntington.
Olive sided Flycatcher, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 28, 2017
Olive sided Flycatcher, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 28, 2017
Olive sided Flycatcher, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 28, 2017
On Sunday I made it over to the annual bird count at Kevin and Cynthia's land (even if I was a little later than I intended).  Still waiting to hear the final results for species but overall it seemed to be about average or perhaps a little less than average for diversity and abundance.  At home a check along Jabish Brook in the afternoon turned up an Olive sided Flycatcher (my sixth yard record and my fourth in spring).  This species can be tough to come by and my yard has certainly become my go to spot to find it.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

More Mourning Warblers and unusual Blue winged Warblers plus lots of other stuff the last several days


Mourning Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 23, 2017
Mourning Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 23, 2017
Mourning Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 23, 2017
Mourning Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 21, 2017
Mourning Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 21, 2017
I had a great run of Mourning Warblers during the end of May into early June. My best day was May 23rd when I ran across three individuals at Quabbin Park (the most I have ever had in a single day around here). In staying with the topic of Mourning Warblers I got in contact with a researcher (Dr Jay Pitocchelli) in New Hampshire who is continuing to study the regional variations in the songs of these warblers. My recordings revealed that the Mourning Warblers coming through here represent two of the four distinct vocal groups, the eastern and Nova Scotia groups (the other groups being western and Newfoundland). A link to the study can be found here (at least the link should work for about a month):  http://www.anselm.edu/homepage/jpitocch/MOWAsongvar.pdf
Blue winged Warbler, Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary, Amherst, MA, May 25, 2017
Blue winged x Golden winged Warbler hybrid, Quabbin Park, MA, May 23, 2017
On Thursday after getting out of work and just as the rain started falling again I stopped at the Amherst College Wildlife Sanctuary to follow up on an odd Blue winged Warbler call that someone heard the day before. After a bit of searching I came across the individual singing a three part 'bee buzz buzz' song but the bird looked like a typical Blue winged Warbler. I have attached the list from that morning here which contains audio, video and photos: http://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S37132541
Although I was hoping to find something unusual like a hybrid or even a Golden winged Warbler I had no such luck but it was still interesting to hear the unusual call. This sighting just adds to my run of unusual and hybrid Blue winged/Golden winged Warblers. The hybrid also continues in the same area at Quabbin Park.
Scarlet Tanager, Quabbin Park, MA, May 23, 2017
Indigo Bunting, Quabbin Park, MA, May 23, 2017
Blackpoll Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 23, 2017
Yellow throated Vireo, Quabbin Park, MA, May 21, 2017
Yellow billed Cuckoo, Quabbin Gate 12, Pelham, MA, May 21, 2017
Veery, Quabbin Gate 12, Pelham, MA, May 21, 2017
Lots of other birds around with less and less in the way of obvious migrants and more and more birds on territory to breed.  It also continues to be a good year for cuckoos..taking advantage of a bumper crop of caterpillars for sure.

The rain that started Thursday continued through Friday along with cooler than normal temperatures. I tried my luck in turning up stuff downed by the weather but came up empty.