Saturday, December 26, 2009

Quabbin CBC

Despite a later than planned start due to some icing we had a wonderful day taking part in the Quabbin CBC. I joined Tom and Bruce in covering the Prescott Peninsula for the count. We never made it in the gates until 10:30 and stayed for six hours. We managed some great stuff, both birds and mammals. First the birding highlights: a group of fourteen Red Crossbills feeding in pines, a Northern Shrike, a Winter Wren and a total of 568 American Robins coming into roost in the evening. There were probably even more as they were already coming in when we came across this roost spot. There was also a Cooper's Hawk in the area looking for a late day snack. It was very interesting to be in among the small pines were the robins were dropping in right next to you and positioning themselves for the night. Some truly impressive numbers of White Throated Sparrows and Dark eyed Junco's in a few large flocks. One flock of White throats alone contained over 90 birds in a small area...amazing to see...the ground seemed to move as they foraged through the woods. As for the mammals we had great views of a Bobcat as it walked along a frozen pond. Just up the road from that spot, Tom noticed some Snowshoe Hare tracks in the road and looking where the tracks went there was a Snowshoe Hare! The hare was no more than 10 feet away from us under low pines and never moved as we admired it from such a close distance. Lots of moose tracks, but no moose today. We ended the day with a total of 23 species of bird which is great for this location at this time of year.

Also had a Fox Sparrow at the house this morning.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Quabbin Gate 8

I decided I needed to get out a bit so I made a long walk in from Gate 8 to the water as well as a mile plus detour up road 8-2. Although the forecast was for much lighter winds today that was not the case as the wind stayed up most of the morning but at least lighter than the last few days. Some good numbers of birds all around with highlights of three Ruffed Grouse (plus lots of tracks), fourteen Red breasted Nuthatch's, a couple each of Brown Creeper and Raven, eleven Golden crowned

Kinglets, a lone Red winged Blackbird fly over deep in the woods (where was he headed?), plus a total of 204 Dark eyed Junco's (with the largest groups numbering 95+ and 47), 76 Black capped Chickadee's and 238 American Robins most of which were moving west near dawn likely leaving a roost somewhere north or northeast of Gate 8 road. At the water I had three pairs of Hooded Mergansers, a Common Loon and a couple Bald Eagles. As I got down to the boat launch area it started to snow a bit which added nicely to the Christmas mood of the day. A long but productive walk.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Florida trip continued...Merritt Island NWR

As mentioned in a previous post I will now continue a review of my recent trip down to central Florida. This post will cover my trip out to Merritt Island NWR and Cape Canaveral NS on December 8. A nice warm, hazy day with temperatures reaching into the low 80's. Always a great stop when down in Florida although it did appear that overall numbers were down a bit from previous visits but this is likely a result of timing as I usually go down to Florida in January. Enjoy some photos of my stop there.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Florida trip December 5-12

I thought with the impending storm it would be a good time to look back at my recent trip to central Florida. Although not strictly a birding trip I did manage to get out at least a bit most days. Totals for the trip were 116 species of which three were life birds and four were new to my Florida list. The weather varied from sunny with near record heat in the mid 80's to cloudy days and temperatures in the 60's. Overall a nice bit of enjoyable weather in comparison to what we have here at home. I will post a few times to review the trip over the next few weeks.

The first full day I spent southeast and south or Orlando and visited the following areas in the morning: Split Oak Mitigation Park, Brinson Park and the Lakeshore park in Kissimmee. I then made a short trip in the afternoon to the Tibet Butler Preserve near Disney. Nothing out of the ordinary for the day but some nice looks at typical Florida birds.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Long eared Owl...on Smith College campus

I got a call today while at work that there was a Long eared Owl in the middle of campus at Smith College. I eventually was able to make it down there and sure enough it was sitting contently in a deciduous tree right along one of the major routes through campus. By going in the library building you could get views through the windows of the bird sitting just a few feet away. I wish I had my camera with me!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Back from Florida...what a change a week makes back home!

It appears that winter has arrived back home here in Massachusetts. It also appears I did not bring the warm weather back with me from Florida. We took a week long trip down to the Orlando area. Although not a strictly birding vacation I managed to get out a bit most days. I'll post sightings and photos over the next few weeks.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Quabbin Park early AM

I spent a couple hours checking various points within Quabbin Park for waterfowl. I managed some decent sightings including a Red throated Loon, 12 Common Loons with quite a variety of plummages, nine Horned Grebes, two pairs of Common Goldeneyes, a male Black Scoter, five Hooded Mergansers plus a few Black Ducks and Canada Geese. Beyond the waterfowl I had a calling Great Horned Owl,an adult Bald Eagle,a group of eight Common Ravens, a Winter Wren and a few each of Belted Kingfisher and Pileated Woodpecker plus other, more expected species. I also had a pair of River Otter at Pepper Mill Pond.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Texas butterflies Part 1

I realize this is a departure from my usual birding posts but I thought it would be nice to post some the wonderful butterflies I came across during my recent trip to Texas. Neither words nor photos can truly capture the sheer numbers and variety of butterflies down there. There were butterflies everywhere. On the days after a cold front came through the butterflies were flying south from sunrise to sunset. You could not look into the sky and not see butterflies. The numbers are amazing. Butterflies of all shapes, sizes and colors from Queens and American Snouts to Mexican Bluewings to Red Metalmarks. Here are a few of them.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Texas Day 7 November 2

The seventh and final day of my Texas trip. I began the day before dawn driving the road up past NABA park and back around to my cabin. I had three Common Pauraque quite close together and then another right before my cabin when I returned. I then packed up my 'stuff and headed out toward Estero Llano Grande SP. I arrived before the park opened but still managed some nice birds before I could get into the park proper. Once the park opened I headed out toward Alligator Lake after checking out the various species in the ponds. I finally got to see one of the Eastern Screech Owl sitting in its nest box. After a few hours walking the various trails here I decided to continue toward the Harlingen airport. I made it there fairly quickly so I spent the extra time exploring the Hugh Ramsey Park just down the road from the airport. Nothing out of the ordinary here but nice to get one last taste of warmth before heading back home. I arrived at the airport around 1 and began my trip home.

My total species of birds for the trip totalled 179 with 13 of those life birds and 50 new Texas birds. It was a great trip full of good sightings. I highly recommend a trip down there for anyone who has never gone before.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quabbin Park

I spent a few hours this morning checking out various locations at Quabbin Park. The weather
was a bit windier than I expected which made viewing some of the large expanses of water difficult. I still managed to find a few Common Loons and a nice group of six Horned Grebes at Gate 52. I also got some photos of the area at Gate 52 for reasons that I will reveal at a later time. Believe me, the wait will be worth it (or at least I hope it will!). The Bald Eagles at Winsor Dam put on quite a show and gave some great views. I also ran across some groups of sparrows and turned up a few Fox and Songs plus loads of White throated.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Hampshire Bird Club trip Gate 45-35

A very successful day co leading a Hampshire Bird Club trip up the east side of Quabbin. We met at Winsor Dam and then went into Gate 45 and ended at Gate 35. The numbers of junco's, Red breasted Nuthatch's and Fox Sparrows had dropped off since our monday scouting trip but we made up for it with some good numbers of waterfowl including twenty nine Common Loons, a Long tailed Duck, White Winged Scoter, a Scaup (likely Lesser), Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Wood Ducks, 55+ Ring Necked Ducks, all three Mergansers, etc. We also had a Great Cormorant near the baffle dams and a couple of Black bellied Plovers near Gate 35. We also had quite a show of Bald Eagles at various stops. The overall species count on this nice, sunny day in later November topped 50. There were also quite a few dragonflies out and about in sunny areas with most being Meadowhawks with a least one Darner species. Another fabulous trip into Quabbin with a great group from the Hampshire Bird Club.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Texas Day 6 November 1

My last full day in Texas found me arriving at Santa Ana NWR at dawn to check out this diverse area. I started the day out at my cabin near Benston with a hooting Great Horned Owl. I planned to walk first to Pintail Lakes and then over to Cattail Lake via the Bobcat trail when I arrived at Santa Ana. I made it out to the various Pintail Lakes to discover them all dry. I then made my way back out to the main road and

made it down to the Bobcat trail and made the walk over to Cattail Lake. Once at Cattail Lake #2 and #3 I noticed a large group of waterfowl on both lakes with most on Cattail#2. As I scanned through the flocks from the edge I noticed an odd duck which was orange red overall with a blue bill. I took several photos of it along with another interesting duck before they both disappeared into the reeds, not to be seen again. The 'odd' ducks turned out to be a pair of Masked Ducks. A true surprise to find another rarity on the trip. I was very happy to have been in the right place at the right time to find another great species. After some time spent checking the other species around I walked back out along the park road back to headquarters where I ran into Tom and Bruce and we decided to take advantage of the final day of the park road being open to vehicles. We made it around the park and made various stops and small hikes eventually making it down to the Rio Grande and having a nice encounter with a Bobcat.

I then made my way back toward Bentson State Park to check on a Say's Phoebe Tom saw earlier in the day. I eventually found the bird not far from where Tom described it. I then spent a few hours inside Bentson State Park and spent one more evening watching the sun set at Benston. The highlight of the evening turned out to be the appearance of two nighthawks, which appeared to be Lesser Nighthawks. My final full day proved to be yet another stellar day.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Scouting trip to Quabbin gates 45-35

Spent the morning and early afternoon scouting the area between Gates 45-35 for an upcoming Hampshire Bird Club trip. Ended the day with a total of 44 species with some good numbers of several. Highlights included 26 Common Loons with one group of thirteen together, two Red necked Grebes, three Northern Pintails on a small pond, sixty nine Ring Necked Ducks, a Barred owl that flew in and perched within 20 feet of us, twenty eight Golden crowned Kinglets, a Ruby crowned Kinglet, a Towhee, thirteen Fox Sparrow, almost 350 Junco's and a Snow Bunting. Also had a pair of River Otter and three deer swimming across the reservoir. Hopefully we will have similar luck next weekend with the club trip.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Texas Day 5 October 31

The fifth day found us (Tom, Bruce and myself) leaving early for the coast. We arrived in Laguna Atacosa NWR just after dawn and were rewarded with some close views of various raptors perched along the roadsides on the way into the refuge. We took the Bay Loop road and had the place seemingly to ourselves except for a few bicyclists. We had some great views of various waders, shorebirds and terns as well as both species of pelican including a large feeding flock (300+) of Brown Pelicans well off shore in the Laguna Madre. We stopped at Redhead overlook which gave us a great overview of the area. After several minutes of watching the various species move back and forth we spotted first one and then a second Aplomado Falcon working its way across the open expanses. The views were distant but impressive. After watching them for several minutes they disappeared from our view. We then continued our travels and ran into the falcons further down the road and had closer looks then before. Following our few hours out on the Bay Loop road we stopped at the visitors center and then made a trip out to the Laguna Atacosa itself. The area of filled with waterfowl, with numbers well into the tens of thousands with the primary species being Redhead and American Coot with a smattering of Lesser Scaup, Northern Pintail and a few wader species. We left the refuge a little after midday to continue our trip over to South Padre Island.

We arrived on the very built up South Padre Island and headed to the birding center located near the convention center. This turned out to be a very nice oasis in an otherwise very built up, commercialized area. The boardwalks at this location are extensive and give close up views of a variety of species. After a bit of looking in the heat of the day we eventually found a Clapper Rail and then two more. Some fabulous looks at this usually difficult to observe species. The birding center here is known for its rails and it didn't disappoint.

Following South Padre we made a brief stop at Resaca De La Palma SP but due to it closing in less than 20 minutes from our arrival we didn't get to see much there. A stop for another trip in the future.

We ended our day by trying for the Green Parakeets that stage in McAllen before heading into roost. We were not disappointed as we had 90+ staging at the backside of a big box store.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Texas Day 4 October 30

In my continuing update on my trip top Texas we come to the fourth day which found me heading out before dawn for the trip upriver to Falcon Dam. I made it to Salineno at dawn to try for Muscovy Duck and Red billed Pigeon. The first bird of the morning was a Common Pauraque. I then spent the next hour watching the river for any sign of my target birds and eventually got a look at a couple of Red billed Pigeon leaving the island to my north. No luck with Muscovy.

My next stop was Falcon State Park, which I spent the remainder of the morning at. Although the overcast skies made for tough photographic conditions I did have some good stuff nonetheless. Following my time at falcon I stopped briefly at Roma Bluffs but had nothing of note there.

I then decided to try my luck at finding a Clay Colored Robin that had been coming to the feeders at the North American Butterfly Association Park recently. I had the bird within 15 minutes of arriving. After exploring additional areas of this small park I decided to go back to Bentson...and I was glad I did.

I walked into Bentson trying to re find the Blue Bunting I had there previous and try to get a photo of it this time. No luck on the Blue Bunting but did find a few Indigo Bunting's. I was about ready to head back but thought I would try the area around the small water feature known as Eagle Pond. I then had a great bit of luck when I found a Rose throated Becard. I managed to snap a few photos of the bird with its back to me. At the time I was not entirely certain what I had but I knew it was likely a Becard but wanted to document it and study it to make sure. I then rounded out another great day with a night watch of the swallow flight whose numbers had diminished by 50% but were still very impressive.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Texas Day 3 Oct.29

The third day of my Texas trip found me walking into Bentson SP at dawn. It began as a warm morning and progressed to a day with temps in the low 90's with a strong wind. Despite the wind the birds were still around as were innumerable butterflies. I spent a little over two and a half hours exploring various parts of the park. I finally caught up with first Altamira Oriole of the trip. Tough to come by this trip as they have not started putting out feed for them at Bentson.
I then made a short trip down the road to Anzalduas County Park. This is another neat spot and I managed to find the Black Phoebe which has been reported there. Some other good birds around scattered throughout the park.
I then made another trip over to Estero Llano Grande SP. This was yet another great stop at this park and provided a great view of a Green Kingfisher. I also got to see a section of the park normally off limits to the public when I was escorted through it by park volunteer Huck. We tried for one of the two Eastern Screech Owls but struck out. After spending most of the afternoon here I made the trip back to Bentson for dinner and to take part in the night program and witness the swallow flight. The swallow trip didn't disappoint at all and the numbers continued to impress me. Hard to believe that many Barn Swallows exist. The night program was a little slow as far as owls were concerned until we briefly heard a Ferruginous Pgymy Owl out near the Hawk Tower. We did have several Common Pauraque along the roads, with some seen quite well.
It may sound like a broken record but it was another great day down in Texas.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Quabbin waterfowl

I have spent the last two mornings checking out the waterfowl on the south end of Quabbin Reservoir, mainly covering the areas around Quabbin park. The numbers of Common Loons and Horned Grebe continues to go up and I managed a few other species including Red Necked Grebes, Bufflehead, Ring necked Duck, Hooded Mergansers, Long tailed Duck and Black Scoters. In addition I had my first of season Snow Buntings along Winsor Dam. I also found a feeding 1st year Bonaparte's Gull. The number of junco's also continues to increase as the numbers and variety of most other smaller birds decrease...winter is coming! However given the weather on sunday with sun and temps in the mid 60's you would never know it.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Texas Day 2 Oct 28

I started my first full day in Texas with a trip to Estero Llano Grande SP at dawn. The day started out breezy and ended windy with temperatures climbing to 90. The park was fabulous and I ran into a couple of nice guys at the park including their naturalist John and park volunteer Huck. We spent some time looking through the groups of ducks and shorebirds in the small ponds and wetlands visible from the deck of the visitors center. We then all went out together on a few hour bird walk covering a large portion of the park. I managed a couple of life birds that morning including Fulvous Whistling Duck (group of ten) and a pair of Red crowned Parrots. The total numbers of birds and variety of species in a relatively small park was great to see. The highlights are almost too numerous to mention but did include three roosting Common Pauraque, 35+ Scissor tailed Flycatchers, a Wilson's Phalarope, and...well the list goes on and on. As I will mention in later posts the butterfly spectacle of truly something to see. After spending the morning at Estero we made a trip over to the nearby Frontera Audubon area. Yet another great spot with a nice feeding flock of warblers among the other birds present.

Following a hour plus at Frontera I made the trip back to Bentson SP. I spent the next few hours exploring the park and had a great discovery near the Acacia Loop...a female Blue Bunting. I regret I was unable to get a photo of this rarity but I did get great looks at it, even if only for a short time. The rich overall brownish red with the lark dark bill were quite distinctive. A truly unique looking bird.
The dusk flight at Bentson of swallows was truly one of the most remarkable and impressive spectacle I have ever seen. There was a steady steam of swallows, almost all Barns, moving by. Some were at the level of my knees, others flying right past my head, others in great masses a bit higher up. Some coming by so close you could feel them go by. It was like standing in a river of birds as they raced past. Estimating the number of birds was almost impossible and any number would not do this impressive flight justice but I made a rough guess of 150,000+! Talking with others later this is at least what they estimate come into roost during this time of year. Another terrific end to a great day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Texas Day 1 Oct 27

I will begin my review of my Texas trip at the very beginning. I arrived down in the Lower Rio Grande Valley later in the afternoon after a flight from Providence down to Harlingen and began with a walk into Bentson State Park. I managed to start adding to my list right away with typical south Texas birds and quickly added a Hook billed Kite going by on its way to roost for the night. A great bird to get after less than two hours in the valley! The great start to a great trip.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Back from Texas....with great sightings!

I just got back from a week long trip to the Lower Rio Grande valley. Some really good stuff including Masked Ducks, Rose throated Becard, Blue Bunting and Hook billed Kite. I managed to photograph three out of the four. I will be posting the highlights over the next few weeks. For now I will just post a quick photo.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

return back to Winsor Dam between the rain showers

The rained seemed to let up briefly so I took a quick ride over to Winsor Dam and was rewarded with a nice tight group of scoters. All three species were represented including a single Surf Scoter, seventeen White winged Scoters and thirty one Black Scoters. The most interesting among them was what appeared to be a partial melanistic white winged scoter. The rain then immediately picked back up again and sent me backing after getting soaked again.

Another rainy weekend day...

In between the rain showers this morning I managed to get out and explore a few spots including Quabbin Park and gate 5. I had hopes of finding some waterfowl given the weather and had some luck. I managed a total of nine Common Loons at Quabbin Park plus a trio of White winged Scoters and a couple Horned Grebes one of which called several times as it swam not more than 30 feet from me. There was also a large (700+) mixed flock of grackles, blackbirds and cowbirds feeding along the shore of the Rt 9 marsh.

At gate 5 I made it down to the shore just in time to have the rain start back up in earnest. Despite getting soaked I had a good little walk with a trio of Long tailed Ducks (two males) and a pair of loons and three white winged scoter (probably same ones sighted from Winsor Dam)

Due to the weather I was not able to get any photos for the day...maybe tomorrow?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Scissor tailed Flycatcher at Orange Airport

I made a trip up to the Orange Airport this morning to try for the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher that was discovered there yesterday. I arrived a bit after six and joined a handful of others looking for the bird. It was not present until about 7:40 or so. I started calling from a group of trees nearby and then flew out to begin feeding. It was quite vocal throughout the time I was there. Besides this nice bird there were a few other highlights including a handful of American Pipits, a kestrel and a Coopers hawk. I stayed until about 8:20 and the bird was still there and quite active when I left.
I then stopped at Gate 22 and had a couple Winter Wrens, a Common Yellowthroat and dozens of White throated Sparrows among the other birds.
The Scissor tailed was well worth the trip up to see it.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Winsor dam at dawn

I have stopped by Winsor Dam around day break the last few days before work and have been rewarded with a few good birds. Every morning an adult Bald Eagle is perched on a dead snag on the west side. A Red necked Grebe, a Common Loon, a few Common Mergansers and a variety of sparrows round out the sightings from my quick stops.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gates 22, 16 and Winsor Dam

I spent a frosty morning checking gates 22 and 16. I only went a short distance down gate 22 road and totalled 90+ White throated Sparrows. Certainly a big influx of these with the passage of the latest cold front. Gate 16 had some nice variety of birds but only one species of warbler, Yellow rumped. The numbers of Junco's here totalled over 20 plus a nice selection of sparrows. I walked the length of gate 16 road and watched a steady steam of Blue Jays migrating south along with several small flocks of Canada Geese. There was a few raptors moving south also including a male Northern Harrier.

A brief walk at midday along Winsor Dam among the throngs of leaf peepers turned up some nice birds including a single American Pipit, a Bonaparte's Gull and a close Bald Eagle.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Quabbin Park in the fog

I spent a few hours this morning exploring Quabbin park before the area got the big influx of people leaf peeping. The fog really hung in this morning, especially around Quabbin Tower. I still managed a couple Lincoln's Sparrow and a Field Sparrow up there among the more usual Song, White throated and Swamp. The warbler numbers and variety continue to drop as the fall moves on. Only five species of warbler today. The big influx today seemed to be Ruby crowned Kinglets with a total of over 50. Hermit Thrushes also were around in good numbers with a total of 16 seen. Not much for waterfowl as of yet but did have a few Black Ducks and a couple of Loons out on the reservoir. I had a close encounter with a juvenile Sharp shinned Hawk and got to see what would probably be the last thing a prey item ever sees. I was in a brush dump area checking for sparrows and the Sharp shinned made a beeline for me and only broke off its flight about three feet away. I think it was trying for a House Wren right next to me but I couldn't help but feel it was heading right for me. It then landed about 15 feet away and stayed there for several minutes.