Saturday, February 18, 2012

A day of rarities in the valley

Long-eared Owl, Hampshire College, MA, Feb 18, 2012

Hooded Mergansers, Quabbin, Feb 18, 2012

I began the day by going over to Quabbin Park.  I began at Winsor Dam around 6:30 and had a few hundred American Robins heading south and a steam of American Crows heading northwest.  I had over 125 within the few minutes I was there watching.  The Bald Eagles appeared to be sitting on the nest.  I then headed into Quabbin Park with a brief stop at the nearly ice free route 9 marsh.  The Hooded Mergansers numbers had grown to a total of fourteen birds.  In addition a few Red-winged Blackbirds had arrived on site and were beginning to get vocal.  I next stopped at the gate 52 road and finally caught up with Horned Grebes there (three in total).  I then noticed that the stream of American Crows I had noticed while at Winsor Dam continued moving along the west ridge of Quabbin heading northwest.  I decided to head up to Enfield lookout and get a count of these guys.  Within a few minutes of arriving I had a group of 103 American Goldfinches going past (I tried to find something unusual with them but had no luck).  I then concentrated on the crows and managed to add another 985+ to my earlier total.  I had to head out after about 20 minutes of watching but the birds were still moving.  I assume it was a bit of migration as I have never seen anywhere near that number heading past Quabbin coming from a winter roost.

Clay-colored Sparrow, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Feb 18, 2012

Red-tailed Hawk -dark morph, Hampshire College, Feb 18, 2012

Northern Harrier, Mill Valley Rd, Hadley, MA, Feb 18, 2012

Dickcissel, Hampshire College, Feb 18, 2012

Red-tailed Hawk -dark morph, Hampshire College, Feb 18, 2012

Rough-legged Hawk, Hadley, MA, Feb 18, 2012
After Quabbin I headed home before making the trip over to Amherst to meet Ian Davies and then head down to Hampshire College to look for Long-eared Owls.  We briefly stopped at the campus pond but there was nothing out of the ordinary there.  We met up with several people down at Hampshire College including Jacob Drucker, Tom Gagnon, Scott Surner and Andrew Magee.  We searched for quite some time and finally found a Long-eared Owl as well as a number of pellets.  After some great, if a bit obstructed, views of the birds we headed back to campus.  Just before some people leaving I spotted the dark morph Red-tailed Hawk discovered yesterday by Jacob and managed a few photos.  It is likely this is a bird from some western subspecies and a very unusual occurrence here.  Ian, Jacob and I then headed over to the Yiddish Book Center to get the Dickcissel, which we succeeded at fairly quickly.  We then decided to leave campus and try our luck at a variety of areas in Hadley and Amherst.  Our first stop at Hadley Cove found the area deserted and void of bird life.  Our next stop in the Honeypot proved more successful with several Savannah Sparrows as well as the continuing Clay-colored Sparrow.  The river nearby contained a Common Goldeneye as well as several Common Mergansers.  We continued north along the river stopping at Lake Warner where we added a few more Common Mergansers, Mute Swans, mallards and a pair of Wood Ducks.  We then shifted back east and stopped at the UMASS horse farm where the raptor show was in full effect with a few Turkey Vultures, three Bald Eagles and at least eleven Red-tailed Hawks.  Our travels then took us back south where we ran back into Scott Surner along Mill Valley Road where we had a large group of starlings with a few Red winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Brown-headed Cowbirds mixed in.  The Rough-legged Hawk continued in its usual area as did several Red-tailed Hawks including a mating pair.  As we stopped to turn around on Mill Valley Road we had a Northern Harrier come up from the field and had us rush out of the car to grab a few photos.  Our day ended back at Hampshire College where we tried (and failed) to find that odd Red-tailed.  We did add another raptor when a Sharp-shinned Hawk came over.  A truly fabulous day of birding. 

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