|American Redstart feeding young, Prescott Peninsula, Quabbin, MA, June 14, 2010|
First a little background of the breeding bird atlas here in Massachusetts. The first one was conducted during the years of 1974-1979. The second one began in 2007 and ended this year. It is a five year state wide project to get a snap shot of the various species of birds that breed throughout the state. It is a massive undertaking that requires a lot of effort of many volunteer birders to complete. In this area the many volunteers were coordinated by Mary Alice Wilson who did a fine job of getting the right people into the blocks and making sure we got the info entered into the state database. The entire state is split into blocks that are approximately 10 square miles. There are a total of about 1055 blocks statewide. Each block has a primary atlaster that is responsible for at least 20 hours of primary observation time (many block get much more time than that). Each block received a name and number that reflected the area it covered such as Winsor Dam 2 or Belchertown 5. Additional info can be found at http://www.massaudubon.org/birdatlas/bbaportal/index.php
I had a total of four blocks assigned to me as the primary and another five as secondary with three of these on the restricted access Prescott Peninsula at Quabbin. Tom Gagnon was the primary on these blocks and I joined him on all his trips in there as well as taking many, many trips on my own. The total number of hours spent over the five years amounted to probably well over 1000 hours. The most productive blocks as far as overall species either breeding or suspected of breeding were Winsor Dam 3 and Shutesbury 8 which both had 91 species. I found a total of 136 species in the blocks I covered and was able to confirm breeding of 108 species. I had several records of state listed species breeding in the blocks I covered.
|Red Crossbill feeding young, Prescott Peninsula, Quabbin, MA, June 3, 2009|
|Red Crossbills, Prescott Peninsula, Quabbin, MA, April 23, 2010|
|Red Crossbill, Prescott Peninsula, Quabbin, MA, April 30, 2010|
The highlights were many and I will recount a few of the more memorable. As far as oddities one of the best was finding breeding Red Crossbills on Prescott Peninsula on a few years of the count. I first found them on the lower third of the peninsula in the only area I also had breeding Cerulean Warblers in a few seasons of the atlas. I had an adult feeding young there and managed a few photos for ID purposes. Over the next couple years I found evidence of breeding of Red Crossbills in other blocks on Prescott including males and females mating as well as additional recently fledged juveniles being fed. As far as what type of Red Crossbills I do not know but I had them feeding on red pines. Although there are other records of breeding Red Crossbills in the state over the years (Montague Plains WMA and pine barrens in the southeast part of the state) I believe the blocks on Prescott Peninsula were the only ones with breeding confirmed during the five years of the atlas. Many times I would have just a handful of birds but the best day I had was June 19, 2010 when I had 26 individuals with most in one large group.
|distant shot of Canada Goose on nest in tree (old heron nest), Prescott Peninsula, Quabbin, MA, May 6, 2008|
|Barred Owl on nest (head and tail visible), Covey WMA, Belchertown, MA|
|Northern Saw-whet Owl -juvenile in nest, Prescott Peninsula, Quabbin, MA, May 26, 2008|
|Ruffed Grouse young, Prescott Peninsula, Quabbin, June 27, 2009|
|Bobcat, Prescott Peninsula, June 7, 2010|
In addition to the Bobcat I ran across a multitude of other wildlife such as Black Bear, Moose, Porcupine, various bat species, Mink, a Southern Bog Lemming (a life mammal for both Tom and myself on Prescott), lots of butterflies, other insects and a multitude of plant life.
|Eastern Box Turtle (endangered species), Quabbin Park, May 3,2010|
|Leather Beetle, Prescott Peninsula, May 13, 2009|
|Gray Hairstreak, Prescott Peninsula, May 30, 2008|
Here are some additional photos of various species either collecting nest material or on nests. The warblers and vireos were always some of my favorite subjects to find building nests and raising young. These as well as other neotropic migrants are fascinating in the long, perilous journeys they take from their breeding grounds here to their wintering areas in the Caribbean, central America or down to South America and back again each year.
|Gray Catbird with nest material, Quabbin Park, May 23, 2010|
|Blue-gray Gnatcatcher gathering nest material from fern head, Quabbin Park, May 7, 2008|
|Chestnut sided Warbler on nest, Quabbin Park, June 13, 2008|
|Red eyed Vireo on nest, Prescott Peninsula, June 21, 2008|
|Cedar Waxwing on nest, Prescott Peninsula, July 3, 2009|