Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Snowy Owl and other unusual species including Red eyed Vireo, Red throated Loon and Pine Siskin


Snowy Owl, Hadley, MA, Nov 18, 2017
Snowy Owl, Hadley, MA, Nov 18, 2017
Snowy Owl, Hadley, MA, Nov 18, 2017
Snowy Owl, Hadley, MA, Nov 18, 2017
Snowy Owl, Hadley, MA, Nov 18, 2017
On my way to work on Saturday I headed over to Hadley checking a few spots briefly before heading over to Honey Pot to check to see if the MacGillivray's Warbler was still around despite the cold (temps in the teens).  As I was driving toward the dike I noticed a odd white lump at the top of a telephone pole right next to to the dike and immediately knew it was a Snowy Owl.  I quickly pulled over and got out the scope and got some fantastic close up views (and photos).  It was as close as I have ever been to this magnificent beast of the arctic and those piercing yellow eyes really felt like they were boring right through you.  I would normally post this sighting right away to various sites but given some recent poor behavior from a number of people regarding another Snowy Owl I decided to keep the sighting somewhat secret notifying just a few people.  It was tough to not let more people know about it right away as even those slightly interested in birds love owls but I could not be the one who instigated undue pressure on the bird.  I knew such an obvious species in such a well traveled location on a weekend would not stay secret for too long but I had to do my part to try to limit disturbance.  I have only had three Snowy Owls ever in the county with all three coming from Hadley with the one this year within just a few hundred feet of the one I had back in 2014 (Snowy Owl 2014).  With little time left in the morning before work I had just a brief few minutes to try to relocate the MacGillivray's Warbler and I was unsuccessful in my quest.  More information on what could be a very good year for Snowy Owls around here (as well as many other locations)...Project SNOWstorm.
Snowy Owl, Hadley, MA, Nov 19, 2017
On my way home on Sunday morning in the on and off rain and strong winds I checked to see if the Snowy Owl was still present and it was right back on the same pole I saw it on the day before.  I stopped briefly and got a few photos and then quickly left the area.  A brief stop at Quabbin Park produced a flyover Pine Siskin (perhaps a harbinger of things to come as far as irruptive species are concerned?)
Red eyed Vireo, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 20, 2017
Red throated Loon, Oxbow at Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 20, 2017
Snowy Owl, Hadley, MA, Nov 20, 2017
My original plan on Monday was to stay local as the winds were forecast to be strong and I figured finding small passerines would be hard to do and the winds might bring in some waterfowl to Quabbin.  I stopped at Winsor Dam at first light and the winds were light and the water devoid of waterfowl so I scrapped my original plan and instead headed over toward the river.  My first stop there was the Honey Pot where I once again had the Snowy Owl.  I checked for the MacGillivray's Warbler again without any luck (it may have moved on but the winds were kicking up a bit so perhaps it was just hunkered down).  I then headed across the river to Arcadia in search of a very late Red eyed Vireo photographed there the day before.  I ran into Keenan there and after a bit I picked out the vireo feeding in the fruiting trees along with many waxwings.  A really late date for the species and just another in a long string of rarities in the same small area.  Nothing else too unusual around the old orchard area but I did once again see the continuing Red throated Loon in the Oxbow.  I left Arcadia and made a brief drive through the East Meadows were I had at least one Lapland Longspur mixed into a large flock of Horned Larks.  My final stop of the morning was a return back to Winsor Dam where I found a Long tailed Duck, a Red breasted Merganser and a Horned Grebe.
Red throated Loon, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 21, 2017
Canada Goose with extensive white on neck, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 21, 2017
Cedar Waxwings, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 21, 2017
Tufted Titmouse, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 21, 2017
White throated Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 21, 2017
Song Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 21, 2017
Today I once again headed over to the fields and meadows along the Connecticut River starting off at the Honey Pot where the Snowy Owl was not in the areas I checked.  No luck relocating the MacGillivray's Warbler once again so I think the bird has either moved out of the area completely or it has taken up residence somewhere else in the local area...lots of good habitat around.  Best species during my times there was a singing White crowned Sparrow.  Most of my time out this morning was spent at Arcadia where I once again had the continued Red throated Loon, a Yellow rumped Warbler,  285+ Cedar Waxwings and an odd Canada Goose among the few hundred geese present.  No luck in  relocating the Red eyed Vireo from the day before.  Still lots of activity in the old orchard area which still looks prime to attract additional rarities.



Wednesday, November 15, 2017

More rarities the last couple days including Clay colored Sparrow, Baltimore Oriole, Red throated Loon and the continued MacGillivray's Warbler

Clay colored Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 15, 2017
Baltimore Oriole, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 15, 2017
Rusty Blackbird, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 15, 2017
Black Ducks, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 15, 2017
Canada Goose with extensive white on face, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 15, 2017
MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 15, 2017
Red throated Loon, Beaver Lake, Ware, MA, Nov 14, 2017
I once again found a number of rarities in the last couple days, as well as seeing some continued ones.  Despite some rain and snow showers yesterday I made it out to a few spots in the local area with the best rarity being a Red throated Loon on Beaver Lake in Ware (eBird list Beaver Lake).  Today I headed back over to areas along the river starting off at the Honey Pot where I had the continued MacGillivray's Warbler as well as a singing White crowned Sparrow.  The warbler was quite vocal at times but then would stay quiet for extended periods.  All the views this morning were fleeting and I only managed a few marginal photos...a real skulking bird (full list: Honey Pot).  Once I finished up at the Honey Pot I headed over to Arcadia where one of the first birds I saw was a Baltimore Oriole working its way down a hedgerow in the meadows.  It was a dull first year bird that had me hoping for a Bullock's Oriole but no luck...still a great bird for mid November!  No luck finding the White eyed Vireo in the area of the old orchard but I did have a Clay colored Sparrow and a Gray Catbird.  Elsewhere at Arcadia I had a flock of 28 Rusty Blackbirds moving past together, nearly three hundred Mallard and 33 Black Ducks.  Full list here: Arcadia.

Monday, November 13, 2017

MACGILLIVRAYS'S WARBLER in Hadley! (plus other rarities in the area)


MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
White crowned Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
American Tree Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
A MacGillivray's Warbler has shown up in Hampshire County for probably just the second time ever and the first time when there has been multiple observers and it has been well documented.  The bird was found yesterday by Ted Gilliland and seen by several others late in the day.  I got a few phone calls and messages about the bird but I couldn't check them due to other obligations until it was too late in the day to try for the bird.  I had high hopes to relocate it this morning but my hopes were tempered by the fact that unusual warblers can be difficult (or impossible) to relocate after the initial sighting.  I arrived before dawn and started my morning by scanning the fields of the Honey Pot for any owls that might be coursing over the fields in search of prey.  No luck on the owl front so I headed down the road to 'That's a Plenty a Farm' and started listening and looking for the bird.  After just a few minutes I heard it call just a couple times but I could not relocate it at that point.  A few other birders (Mary, Scott and Mike) arrived and we all started looking for it.  It called a few more times but still would not show itself.  After quite a bit of time Mike got a brief look at the bird and then the bird started to show itself a bit more and started calling more regularly before it flew across the road into a small green patch were it stayed largely out of view and silent for quite some time, offering just fleeting glimpses.  After a patient and quiet wait in the cold, the bird finally showed well (if briefly) before disappearing again.  I managed to get a few photos and some recordings of the call but it required quite a bit of patience.  Although I have seen MacGillivray's Warblers out west on many occasions this is the first time I have seen one on the east coast.  Obviously this was a new species for me in Hampshire County, becoming species #293 for me in the county (it also became the 35th species of warbler for me in the county...more on that (plus additional info on MacGillivray's Warblers in the east) at the following link: MacGillivray's Warbler additional details).  Besides the star attraction at the Honey Pot other notables included a White crowned Sparrow and a Chipping Sparrow (both getting late) in among my first American Tree Sparrows of the season.  Full eBird list at the following link: Honey Pot
White eyed Vireo, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 13, 2017
White eyed Vireo, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 13, 2017
White eyed Vireo, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 13, 2017
Red throated Loon, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 13, 2017
After getting a text from Keenan I decided to try my luck across the river with a few other rarities that showed up in the last few days including a Red throated Loon at the Oxbow and a White eyed Vireo at the nearby Arcadia Sanctuary.  I got the loon as soon as I pulled up next to the metal bridge although trying to get decent shots of the bird was somewhat difficult due to the distance and the bird constantly diving for food.  After getting a few others on the loon I stopped over to Arcadia where I joined a few others in looking for the vireo.  It was seen prior to my arrival but had been offering just fleeting glimpses.  After quite a bit of time the bird popped up and fed well above the tangles it had been in and allowed decent views (and a few photos).  You know it is a good day when a White eyed Vireo in the county in November is the second best bird of the day!  Full list with additional photos at the following link: Arcadia

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Waterfowl continues to arrive



Long tailed Duck, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 5, 2017
Long tailed Duck, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 5, 2017
Long tailed Duck, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 5, 2017
Common Loon, , Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 5, 2017
Double crested Cormorants, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 5, 2017
Red breasted Merganser, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 4, 2017
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 4, 2017
Black Scoter and Long tailed Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 4, 2017
Common Mergansers, Beaver Lake, Ware, MA, Nov 7, 2017
Dawn, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 7, 2017
Our changeable weather with warm and then cold has continued but it now appears we are headed for a real cool down by the end of the week with highs barely breaking above freezing.  The last several mornings I have been out looking for waterfowl with some decent results.  Beyond the waterfowl migration there were raptors, crows and robins all moving by.  A few selected lists from those days attached below:

Nov 4-
Winsor Dam

Nov 5-
Winsor Dam
Quabbin Park
Winsor Dam

Nov 6 -
Quabbin Park

Nov 7-
Winsor Dam
Quabbin Park
Beaver Lake

Friday, November 3, 2017

October ends and November begins

Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2017
Long tailed Duck and Black Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2017
Long tailed Duck and Black Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2017
Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown, MA, Nov 1, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 1, 2017
The storm last weekend into Monday brought heavy rain and strong wind and knocked out power to a large area of the northeast.  Thankfully we managed to be without power for just about half a day but others to the east were not as lucky.  The power outage kept me from getting out as early and often as I hoped at the end of the storm but I still managed to find some waterfowl and other interesting stuff at Quabbin Park including a Surf Scoter, six Black Scoters and a Long tailed Duck on Sunday and a Surf Scoter, 14 Black Scoters, a Eastern Phoebe and a Snow Bunting on Monday.  The first of November 1st at south Quabbin brought in 17 Bufflehead, a Red throated Loon and a Bonaparte's Gull.  Elsewhere in the area there was a nice influx of waterfowl including impressive numbers of Brant plus a number of shorebird species.


As a follow up to my earlier post (Storm end of October) regarding a big influx of southern species into southern Nova Scotia (and elsewhere in the northeast) there is an interesting article from Birdcast explaining the occurrence in greater detail at the following link:  neotropical transport into northeastern north america.  There is another interesting article at the following link from researchers from Bon Portage Island on the southwest coast of Nova Scotia regarding the fallout of birds- Bon Portage Island.   Below are a few eBird lists that illustrate the influx quite well-
https://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S40188024
https://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S40196982
https://ebird.org/ebird/view/checklist/S40168130

The next several days will feature a roller coaster of temperatures and conditions that should push in more migrants on the days when the winds come in out of the north.  Today it warmed to around 70 with southerly winds but by tonight the winds will become gusty out of the northwest and the high tomorrow will be in the low 50's.  It will warm a bit again later into the weekend and into Monday before cooling down again on Tuesday with highs again back in the low 50's.  Waterfowl migration should be the heaviest tomorrow and again on Tuesday morning.  Hopefully something unusual shows up.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Waterfowl influx and an upcoming storm

Brant, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 27, 2017
Brant, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 27, 2017
Wood Duck, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 27, 2017
Black Scoters (with a few Surf Scoters and White winged Scoters), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 27, 2017
Black Scoters (with a few Surf Scoters and White winged Scoters), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 27, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 26, 2017
After a rainy day yesterday plus some north and northwest winds into this morning it seemed like a good day to try to find some waterfowl and the day did indeed provide the first good push of waterfowl for the season so far with the 14 species including a group of ten Brant, a large influx of Black Scoters with lesser numbers of the two other scoter species, Long tailed Duck, Lesser Scaup and others.  I started off at dawn at Winsor Dam which was surpisingly quiet so I headed over to Hank's Meadow where I had just Horned Grebes and a few Mallards.  I was thinking I may have misjudged the migration conditions and waterfowl was not moving but a brief stop at Goodnough Dike provided the first hint that some good stuff would indeed show.  This location featured the above mentioned Brant as well as a group of 69 Black Scoters.  I decided to make my way back to Winsor Dam but not before making a brief stop at the Route 9 marsh which held a Ring necked Duck, a Black Duck, several Wood Ducks and three male Hooded Mergansers.  After getting a few distant photos of some species I made it to Winsor Dam where I found the scaup, Long tailed Duck and 24 Black Scoters.  I figured stuff would move out during the day but I decided to make a return trip to Winsor Dam nonetheless when I was out running errands in the early afternoon and found even more stuff there than before with at least 155 Black Scoters, a dozen Surf Scoters, half a dozen White winged plus the scaup and Long tailed Duck.  All the birds were in a large strung out group.  A very nice waterfowl day indeed!

Full eBird lists for the day-
Quabbin Park
Winsor Dam- morning
Winsor Dam-afternoon


The southerly winds during last weekend and into the early part of this week brought some unusual species into the area including five Cattle Egrets to a farm in Franklin County and a juvenile White Ibis to the area of the Oxbow in Northampton.  The Cattle Egrets are still around in smaller numbers but the ibis seems to be gone after the water levels got higher and moved it from the shallows it was seen in for a few days.  Unfortunately word about the ibis did not get out until days after the last sighting so few people got to see this rare for the area species.  It could still be in the general area but so far no one has turned it back up since last being seen earlier this week.  James has a post with some great photos of the Cattle Egrets at the following link: Cattle Egrets

Looking further afield a large number and variety of southern species (or species that should be well to the south by now) made it up to southwest Nova Scotia the last several days from the same system that brought us our unusual birds.  The species found included Tropical Kingbird, Western Kingbird, Summer Tanager, Scarlet Tanager, Indigo Bunting, Rose breasted Grosbeak, Yellow billed Cuckoo, Veery, Wood Thrush, Swainson's Thrush, Blue Grosbeak, Eastern Wood Pewee, White eyed Vireo, Yellow throated Vireo and Red eyed Vireo (and certainly others I have not heard about yet). and a variety of warblers (Hooded, Yellow throated, Blue winged, Cape May, Tennessee, Blackpoll, Magnolia,  Black and White and Northern Parula).  Several of these species were even seen in multiple numbers.

Precipitation forecast for next three days (courtesy of NOAA)
An upcoming storm starting late Saturday and continuing into Monday will feature a long fetch of southerly winds before and during the storm which could displace additional birds that would not normally be seen around here in late October so it will be worth getting out there to see what shows up.  The storm will feature strong winds (near hurricane strength is certainly possible, especially in southeast New England) and heavy rain (perhaps several inches).  There is a strong cold front coming in from the west and this will capture some tropical moisture associated with a tropical depression moving northeast.  Right now the tropical system is off the coast of central america and could develop as a tropical storm before heading north and being caught up in a front sweeping in from the west.  The various forecast models disagree a bit on exactly how strong the system will be but all show a vigorous system.

As far as what species this storm could bring us there are several possibilities.  We could get more species from the south (as mentioned above), waterfowl (or other late season migrants) grounded by the weather or even the chance of more pelagic species making it inland.  Although the conditions will be tough to bird in as the storm hits it may be worth the effort.  It will certainly be worth getting out after the storm passes as some of the effected species could hang around for a few days.