Sunday, November 28, 2010


Sharp-shinned Hawk, UMASS, November 28, 2010
White-throated Sparrow, UMASS Campus Pond, November 28, 2010
Canada Geese, UMASS Campus Pond, November 28, 2010

I made a trip over to UMASS to see if I could track down the Clay-colored Sparrow and/or the Cackling Goose that has been seen there recently. I stuck out on both species but still had a good morning nonetheless. I began at dawn at the Campus Pond where the pond had a thin layer of ice in the areas not containing waterfowl. There were over 250 Mallards, a few Black Ducks and several hundred Canada Geese. A few White-throated Sparrows skulked along the shoreline and I also had a Peregrine Falcon perched on top of the library. After going through the flocks on the pond without too much luck I made it over to the area around the heating plant to try for the Clay-colored. No Clay-colored but several other sparrow species including White-throated, Savannah, Song, and American Tree as well as 130+ Dark-eyed Junco's. I moved around the area a few times but never managed to find the Clay-colored. On my last trip around all the birds scattered as a Sharp-shinned Hawk made a dive at the House and Goldfinches without luck. It did give great views as it went over to perch in a far tree. I ran into a few other birders who also had not had any luck tracking down either of the above mentioned species.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Crossbills and loons

Common Loons, Quabbin Park, November 25, 2010
Common Loon surfacing, Quabbin Park, November 25, 2010

Common Loons, Quabbin Park, November 25, 2010

I made another trip to Quabbin Park early Thansgiving morning to see what I could find first thing. The winds of yesterday had calmed and the water was calm. I stopped first at Winsor Dam and discovered a few Common Loons. My next stop was the nearly completely iced over Route 9 marsh. The small area of open water held a few Hooded Mergansers but nothing else. I then made the track around the Administration Road. The other birds of note here were a few Snow Buntings at the tower parking lot, a couple flyby Pine Siskins, a group of 29 American Black Ducks, a couple Horned Grebes and several more Common Loons. Some of the loons called a few times as they interacted with each other. In addition an adult Bald Eagle sat on the edge of its nest for the 20+ minutes I was at Winsor Dam. Finally I stopped at the area where I have been having luck with Red Crossbills since last month and I had them again today. I heard and then saw three. There may have been more but they didn't stay around long.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

No swans but more Red Crossbills

Red Crossbills, Quabbin Park, November 21, 2010

Red Crossbills-six of thirteen present, Quabbin Park, November 21, 2010

Red Crossbill, Quabbin Park, November 21, 2010

Quabbin Tower at dawn from Gate 5, November 21, 2010

I decided to try for the Tundra Swans first thing in the morning at Gate 5 without any luck. According to a post on Massbird I read after getting home this morning the swans left at dusk yesterday evening and headed south. Although I missed out on the swans today the sunrise was beautiful. I then decided to check various spots around Quabbin Park to see if perhaps the swans moved elsewhere in the local area. The breeze out of the north kicked the water up a bit but I still managed to find a few waterfowl about including a few Common Loons, Horned Grebes, a single Common Goldeneye and a few Hooded Mergansers and Wood Ducks on Rt 9 marsh. I also decided to check the area where I have been having Red Crossbills and sure enough I found them again. This time I had a group of 13 actively feeding and being quite vocal through the several minutes I had them in view. The group consisted of an even mix of males and females which was different from the previous flock last week of fourteen that was mainly males. It would be interesting to know exactly how many Red Crossbills there indeed are in this area.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

19 Tundra Swans at Quabbin

Here is the story of how I found nineteen Tundra Swans at Quabbin this morning. I began the day with a pre dawn trip to Quabbin Park prior to the 7am meeting time of the Hampshire Bird Club trip I was co-leading with Tom Gagnon. I stopped at a few spots in the park and then headed over to Winsor Dam around 6:40 to meet the group. I pulled up in front of the Administration Building and took out my bino's to quick scan the reservoir. I came across a Common Loon and then panned left and saw a group of gulls and below them a group of large white birds that were MUCH larger then the gulls over top of them. I immediately took out my scope and took a look at the birds and I immediately said "swans". I looked over to the parking lot and saw Tom Gagnon's car but I didn't see him. The I thought, 'maybe they already looked and the birds were not what I thought and I missed something'. So I took another look and the birds were certainly swans. I then looked back and saw Tom talking to the first arrival for the club trip and motioned to him. I then walked over and got both his and Ian Davies attention and said "You guys have got to come take a look over here, I think I have something good". I said there are swans, eighteen of them, on the water but I'm not sure what type...maybe Mute or hopefully something much better. We all took looks at them through scopes and the distant made it tough to ID for certain although Ian did say he saw only black on the bills and Tom said the behavior of them pointed away from Mute and toward Tundra. As the rest of the club trip participants showed up they all took looks and we quickly made the decision to deviate from our usual trip route and take a quick side trip to Gate 5 to see them closer up. En route to Gate 5 Tom made a few calls to let some people know we may have some Tundra Swans at Quabbin. Immediately after arriving at the water at Gate 5 we found nineteen Tundra Swans quite close to shore with a few vocalizing. Ian snapped off a few photos (one can be viewed at his flickr site at We spent the next 20 minutes viewing the birds. We finally decided to continue the trip and the birds were still present when we left and the first of many birders were arriving to check out the birds. Throughout the remainder of the trip Ian was able to check Massbird and the birds continued to be seen. After the trip up the east side of Quabbin we returned to the Admin building and the birds were still present. Hopefully the state will not do their usual anti gull patrols with boats tonight and the birds we stay the night.

As a side note Ian Lynch reported he had 29 Tundra Swans on a lake in Brimfield today also so there was a minimum of 48 Tundra Swans present within a relatively small portion of Massachusetts...amazing!

In addition to the swans we had a nice club trip up the east side of Quabbin with some nice waterfowl but not as much as expected due to the strong winds. We did have great looks at a female Surf Scoter as well as Black Ducks, Hooded Mergansers, Red breasted Mergansers, Common Mergansers, a Wood Duck, Horned Grebe, ten Common Loons, Ring necked Ducks, Mallards and Canada Geese. We had a couple Fox Sparrows, a few American Tree Sparrows, a close Ruffed Grouse, eighteen Wild Turkeys and others. The phrase of the day was 'it can only be downhill after nineteen Tundra Swans!"

Sunday, November 14, 2010

More Red Crossbills at Quabbin Park and various other birds

Fox Sparrow, Covey WMA, November 14, 2010

Red Crossbills, Quabbin Park, November 14, 2010

Red Crossbills, Quabbin Park, November 14, 2010

Another nice morning in mid November found me exploring Quabbin Park and the nearby Covey WMA. I started pre dawn at Quabbin Park and ran across a nice selection of waterfowl on the various stops I made. I wanted to check the area I had Red Crossbills at yesterday to see if they were still around and indeed they were. The number had increased to at least fourteen in one flock. I managed some distant pictures with up to a dozen in the photo. In would be interesting to find out what 'type' of Red Crossbill these birds are.
Winter Wren, Covey WMA, November 14, 2010

Dark-eyed Junco, Covey WMA, November 14, 2010

My next stop was at Covey WMA. I turned up some nice little flocks of birds along a stream including a Fox Sparrow, two Winter Wrens and lots of Junco's, White-throated Sparrows and a few Song Sparrows among the other usual suspects.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quabbin Park Red Crossbills

Red Crossbills, Quabbin Park, November 13, 2010
Red Crossbills, Quabbin Park, November 13, 2010
Red Crossbills, Quabbin Park, November 13, 2010
Red Crossbills, Quabbin Park, November 13, 2010

I got at dawn to enjoy a day off and some nice mid November weather. I spent a few hours in the morning at Quabbin Park. My day started at Winsor Dam where I had a few loons, three Bonaparte's Gulls among the many Ring billed Gulls and a group of nine Common Mergansers with a single Red-breasted Merganser with them. I then made several stops at various spots within Quabbin Park and added some additional waterfowl including more Common Loons (a total of nine for the morning), Horned Grebe's, Black Duck, and Hooded Merganser. I also several flyby Pine Siskins as well as a group of Snow Buntings. The highlight of the morning was more Red Crossbills found in the same area I have had crossbills at various times this fall. I heard them within a few minutes of arriving at this spot and eventually found them at the tops of some pines. I got some nice looks and managed some photos. They stayed in the general area for at least 30 minutes. The most I had in view at once was five but there may have been more. It will be interesting to see how long this area remains productive for crossbills this season.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Quabbin east side scouting trip for Hampshire Bird Club trip

Horned Larks, Quabbin fishing area 3, November 11, 2010
Bald Eagle, Quabbin-Graves Landing, November 11, 2010

Bald Eagle, Quabbin-Graves Landing, November 11, 2010

Snow Buntings, Quabbin Fishing Area 3, November 11, 2010

I spent the day along with Tom Gagnon scouting the route we will take next week when we lead a Hampshire Bird Club trip into the east side of Quabbin. We found a total of 43 species of bird with some nice sightings including White-winged Crossbill, Greater Yellowlegs, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Pine Siskin, Red-breasted Merganser, etc. It was interesting to compare the Red-breasted Mergansers with the Common Mergansers they were with. I will include the list for the day as its easier than recounting the entire day. Suffice it to say it was a nice day to be out exploring Quabbin and we will keep our fingers crossed that we will have as much luck when we lead the trip next week.
Red-breasted Merganser, Quabbin Fishing Area 3, November 11, 2010
Red-breasted Mergansers, Quabbin Fishing Area 3, November 11, 2010
Red-breasted Merganser with Common Mergansers, Quabbin Baffle Dams, November 11, 2010
Red-breasted and Common Mergansers, Quabbin Baffle Dam, November 11, 2010

Canada Goose 38
Wood Duck 1 male
American Black Duck 56 seen throughout day
Mallard 16
Ring-necked Duck 26 all on one small pond
Bufflehead 6 all female
Common Goldeneye 3
Hooded Merganser 121 good day for this species, seen in many areas
Common Merganser 90
Red-breasted Merganser 4 seen with common mergansers
Ruffed Grouse 4 one drumming
Wild Turkey 11 group of 4 and 8
Common Loon 32 seen throughout day, at times several in view at once
Horned Grebe 6 five in north part of reservoir
Bald Eagle 10 up to five in view at once
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Accipiter sp. 1 large Coopers or Goshawk, seen very briefly, leaning toward Goshawk
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Greater Yellowlegs 1 working shoreline in sheltered cove
Ring-billed Gull 17
Barred Owl 2 one seen very well, other calling
Belted Kingfisher 2
Downy Woodpecker 5
Pileated Woodpecker 2
Blue Jay 35
American Crow 12
Common Raven 3
Horned Lark 6 together near fishing area
Black-capped Chickadee 42
Tufted Titmouse 8
Red-breasted Nuthatch 4
White-breasted Nuthatch 8
Brown Creeper 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 17
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 25
American Tree Sparrow 1
Fox Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco 34
Snow Bunting 22 one group at fishing area
White-winged Crossbill 2 flybys near gate 45
Pine Siskin 4 flybys
American Goldfinch 6

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Arizona trip Part 3...more Grand Canyon NP

Western Bluebird, Grand Canyon NP, October 28, 2010

Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's), Grand Canyon NP, October 28, 2010

Grand Canyon National Park, October 28, 2010

Mountain Chickadee, Grand Canyon NP, October 28, 2010

My continued report from my recent trip to Arizona. I will add in a few more photos from my second day at the Grand Canyon. The weather was once again cool and a bit breezy but the scenery remained spectacular. There were many flocks of Western Bluebirds around as well as a few flocks of Red Crossbills. Then only warbler of the day was a 'Audubon' type Yellow-rumped Warbler that defied my efforts to get a great shot of it. I was finally able to find a very cooperative Mountain Chickadee that stayed still just long enough to get a few good shots. I yet again tried to find a California Condor but had no luck. It was however another great day in a truly unique location.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Waterfowl at Quabbin

Long-tailed Ducks, Quabbin Park, November 6, 2010

Long-tailed Ducks, Quabbin Park, November 6, 2010

I started the last morning of daylight savings time by visiting Quabbin Park to see if there was any waterfowl around. As dawn was breaking I began the day at the Route 9 marsh and had a pair of Great Horned Owl hooting back and forth. The reservoir itself had a fair number and variety with two separate groups of Black Scoters totalling 31 birds,a single male Surf Scoter, an even dozen Long-tailed Ducks with eleven in one group, eleven Black Ducks, ten Wood Ducks, a group of 77 Mallards, four Horned Grebes, seven Common Loons and a few Canada Geese. There were a few other notable birds including a Ruby crowned Kinglet, several Golden crowned Kinglets, an Eastern Phoebe and many robins moving at dawn.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Arizona trip Part 2 Sedona area

Anna's Hummingbird, Red Rock State Park, Sedona, AZ, October 29, 2010
Anna's Hummingbird, Red Rock State Park, Sedona, AZ, October 29, 2010

Coffeepot formation, Sedona, AZ, October 29, 2010

White crowned Sparrow, Red Rock State Park, Sedona, AZ, October 29, 2010

I spent much of my recent trip to Arizona in the red rock area around Sedona. The scenery was again spectacular and I managed to find a few nice birds among this scenery. Among the more unusual birds found in the area was a Common Black Hawk at Page Springs. Apparently a Black Hawk has wintered here for a few years and I was lucky to find and hear this life bird there. A great spot to soak in the scenery and see some great birds was Red Rocks State Park which had a great selection of different habitats as well as a feeding station that attracted several species including several Anna's Hummingbird as well as a late Black-chinned Hummingbird.

Among the other areas visited we made it to Tuzigot National Monument which contained some desert birds, Cornville grasslands where got a life Bendire's Thrasher and a variety of hiking trails around Sedona. Sadly the best area around for waterfowl and marsh birds is no longer accessible due to development so I was unable to get some other birds I was after.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Dickcissel and a possible Cackling Goose

Dickcissel, UMASS, November 1, 2010
Dickcissel, UMASS, November 1, 2010

I spent the morning at UMASS along with Ian Davies checking out various areas around campus including Orchard Hill, the campus pond and the area near the heating plant. The morning started out at a frosty 28 degrees. Once the sun rose the temperature came up a bit but the air certainly had a fall feel to it. There were a number of robins coming out of roost in the morning with a total well over 200. Other notable birds of the morning included a few Fox Sparrows, two Field Sparrows, several Chipping Sparrows as well as 170+ Junco's, plus a Hermit Thrush and several Yellow-rumped Warblers. The highlight of the day was a Dickcissel that popped into view for several seconds and then dropped down not to be seen again. Another potential highlight was a small goose that flew by with a group of Canada Geese that appeared to be a Cackling Goose. The small size, small bill, small head and narrow wings point toward this ID. Any thoughts from anyone?

possible Cackling Goose with Canada Geese, over UMASS, November 1, 2010

possible Cackling Goose with Canada Geese, over UMASS, November 1, 2010

Arizona trip Part 1-Grand Canyon National Park...Part 1

Western Scrub Jay, Grand Canyon National Park
Red Tailed Hawk, Grand Canyon National Park

Common Raven, Grand Canyon National Park

Red Crossbill, Grand Canyon National Park

I will begin a review of my recent trip out to Arizona with one of the highlights. I had always wanted to make it out to the Grand Canyon but this was my first opportunity. Although I didn't have a large number of birds or anything too unusual the scenery alone was worth the two hour drive up from Sedona. It was so good, we went up there twice. The trick to avoiding the crowds was going early to hit the more popular spots and then moving away from the crowds to less popular parts of the park. There were times it felt as if we had the park to ourselves. I had high hopes of seeing a California Condor but it was not to be on this trip. Perhaps next time. Here are a few photos from my first day up there on October 26.