Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day weekend birding

Tree Swallow in nest, Poverty Mountain, Shutesbury, MA, May 26, 2012

Baltimore Oriole nest, Poverty Mountain, Shutesbury, MA, May 26, 2012

Song Sparrow, Poverty Mountain, Shutesbury, MA, May 26, 2012
With the end of May rapidly approaching the vast majority of birds present now are local breeders on territory.  With this thought in mind, the season of conducting various bird census projects and breeding bird surveys begins.  On Saturday I joined several others in the annual Poverty Mountain bird census in Shutesbury.  I have taken part in this project for several years now.  The count began at 6am and went until late morning.  The total number of species seen for the count was 60 while I was there (three more were added later).  The number of warbler species totaled eleven.  In comparison to past years the numbers were almost exactly the same with the average being 60.  There were some new birds added such as Blue-winged Warbler and Common Merganser but others were missed.
Sunset at Winsor Dam, May 26, 2012

Sunset at Winsor Dam, May 26, 2012
In the evening on Saturday I met up with Ian Davies and we spent some time around Winsor Dam and Covey WMA until after dark. We managed to find some nice birds including  four Common Nighthawks moving northeast and two Whip-Poor-Wills calling at Winsor Dam.  A stationary count at Winsor Dam is almost always productive.  We tried for rails in a few spots but came up empty.  We did however manage to give a lot of blood to the local population of mosquito's.

Blue-winged Warbler, old Palmer airport, Palmer, MA, May 27, 2012

Blue-winged Warbler, old Palmer airport, Palmer, MA, May 27, 2012

Red Squirrel, Quabbin Park, May 27, 2012

Cooper's Hawk in display flight, old Palmer airport, Palmer, MA, May 27, 2012
On Sunday I visited several areas trying to catch up with some of the local breeders as well as any late season migrants.  I began the morning at Quabbin Park and then headed up to Gate 8 trying for Acadian Flycatcher, which I did not find.  I next stopped by Covey WMA with Wilson to go for a walk and had a calling Northern Bobwhite (a bird Ian and I  tried to get the evening before with no luck).  The bobwhite makes number 184 on my list for Hampshire county so far this year.  After that I headed over to some spots in Palmer Ian told me about the evening before.  He had a Grasshopper Sparrow calling on territory in a field on Babcock Tavern Rd. and it was still present there late morning on Sunday. The area also had Alder and Willow Flycatchers, Bobolinks, Blue-winged and Prairie Warblers as well as Field Sparrows.  There was also a nice selection of raptors around including Broad-wing, Cooper's (one in a deep wing beat display flight) and Red-tailed Hawks.  In the evening at home I added a couple of more calling Common Nighthawks heading northeast.  I managed just over 90 species for the day without too much effort
Wood Duck, Fisk Meadows WMA, Chesterfield, MA, May 28, 2012

Wood Duck, Fisk Meadows WMA, Chesterfield, MA, May 28, 2012

Great Blue Heron, Fisk Meadows WMA, Chesterfield, MA, May 28, 2012

Fisk Meadow WMA, Chesterfield, MA, May 28, 2012
On Memorial Day I headed to the hills of Hampshire County to try my luck in finding an American Bittern and hopefully some other species I have so far missed this year.  I started at the Cummington fairgrounds area and failed to find a bittern but did pick up a couple Green Herons, Spotted Sandpiper and a variety of other birds.  Upon arriving back home I realized I may have been in the wrong spot to get the bittern as I was near Flat Iron Road and not down further.  I looked up Cummington marshes in the western mass bird guide and it showed a marsh were I was.  I now think the marsh further south on the opposite side of the street may have been the correct one.  Guess I will have to try again sometime.  I next stopped at a few other marshes on the way home through Goshen and Chesterfield.  The best one is the large complex of marsh area contained within the Fisk Meadow WMA in Chesterfield.  I added some good stuff here including Evening Grosbeak (#185), Red-shouldered Hawk and other typical marsh area birds.  The area looks great for Moose too.  It is such a vast area you would need a kayak to cover it well.  I made my way back through Amherst and made some brief stops but found nothing too good.  I got home and we went for a walk with Wilson along Jabish Canal and picked up lots of ticks plus I had an odd sounding Scarlet Tanager that had me thinking Summer Tanager but it was not.  The birds around the house continue there nesting activities with House Wrens omnipresent, Tree Swallows in a nest box and various warblers, vireos and flycatchers in the woods and marsh nearby.

TD Beryl projected path as of midday May 28, 2012

TS Beryl, evening of May 27, 2012

TS Beryl potential tracks
And finally there is another tropical storm in the Atlantic.  This time the storm is named Beryl and developed off the coast of Georgia and is tracking southwest.  The storm has sustained winds near 65 MPH on Sunday evening so is just below hurricane strength.  This makes two storms before the hurricane season officially starts on June 1.  The long range prediction is still for a typical hurricane season but the appearance of two pre season storms certainly makes you wonder about the accuracy of the long term prediction.  This storm is not likely to have any impact here but I always had an interest in weather and its impact on birding.  As the season goes on I will return to this topic from time to time. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weekend Birding and the first tropical storm of the season

Black-billed Cuckoo, Quabbin Gate 8, May 19, 2012
Yesterday I took a quick loop through Quabbin Park before heading up to Gate 8.  I walked the Gate 8 road down to the power line cut and then took the side road that eventually comes out at Gate 6.  My hope was to find a Cape May Warbler in among the large spruce groves but I had no luck with that plan.  I did however get some nice birds including half a dozen drumming Ruffed Grouse, eleven red-breasted Nuthatch's, ten Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Black-billed Cuckoo and 16 species of warblers including a couple Nashville's in proper breeding habitat, two Canada's and many Black throated Green's, Black throated Blue's and Blackburnians plus Ovenbirds.

Later in the morning I took Wilson for a walk along the Jabish Canal and found the vocal pair of Broad-winged Hawks that have been in that area for a few weeks now.
Common Yellowthroat, Wentworth Farm Conservation Area, Amherst, MA, May 20, 2012

Blue-winged Warbler, Wentworth Farm Conservation Area, Amherst, MA, May 20, 2012

Eastern Kingbird building nest, Rail trail, Amherst, MA, May 20, 2012

Bobolink, Wentworth Farm Conservation Area, Amherst, MA, May 20, 2012

Today I began the day at UMASS on Orchard Hill.  The area was fairly quiet so I decided to head over to the rail trail where I spent a few hours before walking over to Wentworth Farm and then back to the rail trail.  There were mainly resident birds on territory throughout all the areas with only a small number of obvious migrants such as Blackpoll Warbler, Northern Parula and a flyover Common Loon.  The Blue-winged Warbler giving a Golden-winged song continued to sing and show itself in the same area I had it previously.  Lots of other breeding species were being quite vocal and staking out territories while others built nests, fed young or exchanged places on nests.  Another cool start to the day but with a warm finish with the temperatures making up to the mid 80's.

Tropical Storm Alberto projected path as of May 20

Projected path models for TS Alberto
In addition there is a very early season tropical storm that formed offshore of the carolina's and is forecast to head out to sea without any major impact on the US coast.  Tropical Storm Alberto is drifting southward at this point but is expected to eventually head northeastward and stay out to sea.  The hurricane seasons official start is not until June so this is certainly an early start to the season.  Will this be a harbinger of things to come?  Stay tuned.  I have included the projected storm path map as well as the various model maps used to create the storm path map.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Southwest Quabbin

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Gate 12, Quabbin, May 18, 2012

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Gate 12, Quabbin, May 18, 2012

Blue-winged Warbler, Quabbin Park, May 18, 2012

Wood Thrush, Gate 12, Quabbin, May 18, 2012

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Gate 12, Quabbin, May 18, 2012

Hooded Warbler, Quabbin, May 18, 2012
I spent the morning and part of the afternoon around the southern part of Quabbin including Quabbin Park and various gates on the west side.  Although the day started off a little slow and cold (upper 30's) it warmed up nicely and the birds showed well.  The warblers continue to show well.  I added Mourning Warbler this afternoon at Quabbin Park as well as many other species around Quabbin Park and the west side of Quabbin including Hooded, Worm-eating, and Tennessee Warbler among the more common species.  I also had a very cooperative Chestnut-sided warbler that posed nicely for several photos.  More photos from today (and the last several days) at:

At dusk I tried my luck back at Winsor Dam in the hopes of catching something odd coming into roost.  The best bird was a Eastern Whip-Poor-Will that started calling at 8:15.  I added another whip at Quabbin as well as two more at Covey WMA.

I ended the day with 94 species with 22 warbler species included.  The Mourning Warbler was the first one for the year for me and also got added to the Hampshire county list for the year.  That list now stands at 183 with the Mourning Warbler and the Eastern Whip-Poor-Wills added in the evening (working toward my goal of 200...or more).

Also added some new birds for the year at the house including Yellow-throated Vireo and Magnolia Warbler.  Also had a calling Common Nighthawk in mid afternoon.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Amherst and Belchertown area

Orchard Oriole, Wentworth Farm Conservation Area, Amherst, MA, May 17, 2012

Brewster's Warbler, UMASS, Amherst, MA, May 17, 2012

Brewster's Warbler, UMASS, Amherst, MA, May 17, 2012

Blue-winged Warbler (this individual was singing a Golden-winged song), Rail Trail, Amherst, MA, May 17, 2012

Common Yellowthroat, UMASS, Amherst, MA, May 17, 2012

Great crested Flycatcher, Rail Trail, Amherst, MA, May 17, 2012

White-breasted Nuthatch with nest material, Rail Trail, Amherst, MA, May 17, 2012

Another day out and about catching up with migrants and resident birds around the area. I headed over to UMASS then to Larch Hill Conservation area, then to the rail trail and Wentworth Farm Conservation Area in Amherst and then back to Belchertown with stops at Covey WMA and the Belchertown Land Trust trail. There seemed to be less overall migrants around but a good number of resident species. There was however a noticeable increase in the number of Blackpoll Warblers with singles noted in most spots I stopped today. The other obvious migrants were a couple of Tennesssee Warblers and a few Northern Parula's. The remaining birds appeared to be residents. The Brewster's Warbler at UMASS continues (and I managed a few more photos) but the Lawrence's Warbler and Golden-winged Warbler seem to have moved on.  I did however run across a Blue-winged Warbler singing a Golden-winged Warbler song.  The bird was located past Hop Brook heading down the trail back toward Station Road.  I managed a few videos of the bird as well as photos.  Many species were carrying nest material or building nests.  I also managed to get a few photos of Orchard Orioles at Wentworth Farm.  No new species added to the list for the year but hopefully I will find some new ones tomorrow.  As of today the total stands at 181 in Hampshire county for the year.  Overall today was very pleasant with sunny skies, low humidity and temperatures eventually making it up to 70.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Lawrence's Warbler

Lawrence's Warbler, Belchertown, MA, May 14, 2012

Lawrence's Warbler, Belchertown, MA, May 14, 2012

Lawrence's Warbler, Belchertown, MA, May 14, 2012

Lawrence's Warbler, Belchertown, MA, May 14, 2012
I had another great find this morning as I ran across a Lawrence's Warbler (hybrid) in Belchertown.  I have now seen a pure Golden-winged and pure Blue-winged and both of the hybrids produced by them-Brewster's and Lawrence's.  It has been a great spring so far for these various warblers.  Within about a week I have seen two separate Brewster's, a Golden-winged and a Lawrence's as well as several Blue-winged Warblers.  Until this spring I had only seen one of each in western Massachusetts of all but Blue-winged.  Yet again it was another example of being in the right spot at the right time.  I had previously gone through Covey WMA and Quabbin Park in the rain and then headed for home as the activity was fairly light and the rain had gotten heavier.  Once the rain stopped I headed out with Wilson for a walk along the Belchertown Land Trust trail off Route 181.  After about 3/4 of a mile of walking I heard a Blue-winged Warbler song .  As I have done in the past I tracked the bird down to confirm it was a Blue-winged.  The light was terrible and the bird stayed high, singing over and over.  I finally got a fairly good look and could see a dark throat.  After several more minutes of trying to get a better angle I got a great view of a Lawrence's Warbler.  As I was out for a walk with the dog the only camera I had was my phone and the bird was too distant and active to get anything with that so I quickly headed out toward the car to head home and grab the camera and hope when I returned the bird was still there.  I made it out and back in a little over a half hour and the bird was thankfully still there.  Although it stayed mainly high in the trees I managed several photos of the bird.  I have included several here but more can be found on my Flickr site:

This record of Lawrence's Warbler occurred within a half a mile of where I had one several years ago but was never able to refind.  Luckily this bird stayed around for me to get back and get some photos and video.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Golden-winged Warbler and more

Golden-winged Warbler, Rail trail-Amherst, MA, May 13, 2012

Golden-winged Warbler, Rail trail-Amherst, MA, May 13, 2012

Golden-winged Warbler, Rail trail-Amherst, MA, May 13, 2012

Yet another day in May and another set of good birds.  Leading the list of great birds was a male Golden-winged Warbler.  Although the species did nest in western Massachusetts in the past they have been driven out by their closely related cousins, the Blue-winged Warbler.  They have become quite rare anywhere in Massachusetts so seeing an adult male was very nice.  I ran across the bird by a bit of luck.  I happened to end my morning on the rail trail and almost left after a short time as it seemed quiet and there was a lot of activity (nice day on a weekend, not unexpected).  I checked the western mass birders facebook page and noticed someone had posted that they chased a reported Golden-winged off station road but only found a Blue-winged singing a Golden-winged song.  I decided to try to get some photos and video of another odd Blue-winged Warbler.  After a bit of searching I heard a Golden-winged like song near Hop Brook.  The call was repeated only a few times.  I searched the area and came up empty for quite awhile.  I decided to head further up the trail toward Amherst and heard the bird again.  I squeaked a couple times and a bird flew in.  Instead of an odd Blue-winged I had a male Golden-winged!  I fired off several photos and got a short video of the bird giving an odd Golden-winged song.  I posted the sighting back to the facebook page and gave Tom Gagnon a call to get the word out for anyone that would be interested.  I watched the bird for several minutes and then lost track of it.  Not sure if others re found the bird or not.  Also in the area was a silent Wilson's Warbler as well as my second Willow Flycatcher of the year.   To add to the fact that I was lucky this day I actually read the post wrong and was actually looking for the bird in the wrong location.  The Blue-winged singing a Golden-winged song was actually at least a half mile away from where I was.  If I had got the directions right I would never have come across the Golden-winged...very lucky day for me.

Tennessee Warbler, UMASS Amherst, MA, May 13, 2012

Yellow Warbler, UMASS Amherst, MA, May 13, 2012

Wood Duck, UMASS Amherst, MA, May 13, 2012

Ruby-throated Hummingbird Rail trail-Amherst, MA, May 13, 2012
Before the stop at the rail trail I started my day at UMASS and caught up with a few more first of year birds including a Eastern Wood-Pewee and Willow Flycatcher.  There was more migration in evidence but many of the birds appeared to be on territory.  Another notable sighting was finding three Tennessee Warbler's feeding in the same area there at UMASS.  My other stop of the morning was at Lake Warner Conservation Area where I caught up with my first Blackpoll Warbler of the season.

During the afternoon as I did work around the yard I added more nice birds for the day including a Black-billed Cuckoo, Green Heron and seven Common Nighthawks.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Hampshire Bird Club trip to Quabbin

Black-billed Cuckoo, Quabbin, MA, May 12, 2012

Black-billed Cuckoo, Quabbin, MA, May 12, 2012

Black-billed Cuckoo, Quabbin, MA, May 12, 2012
Today was the Hampshire Bird Club trip tot he east side of Quabbin that I co-led with Tom Gagnon.  We spent the day birding the area starting at Quabbin Park and then heading in behind the gates and finishing on the north end around 3:30.  Prior to meeting the group I visited Covey WMA and had a calling Virginia Rail plus the other usual suspects.  Below is the list from the day with the bird club.

Quabbin -East side

Canada Goose 6
Wood Duck 4
Mallard 2
Hooded Merganser 8 four ducklings
Ruffed Grouse 2
Wild Turkey 14
Common Loon 3
Double-crested Cormorant 3
Turkey Vulture 7
Osprey 1
Bald Eagle 3
Broad-winged Hawk 2
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Solitary Sandpiper 2
Ring-billed Gull 4
Herring Gull 1
Mourning Dove 4
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 2
Belted Kingfisher 1
Black-billed Cuckoo 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 7
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 2
Least Flycatcher 13
Eastern Phoebe 4
Eastern Kingbird 1
Yellow-throated Vireo 6
Blue-headed Vireo 5
Warbling Vireo 1
Red-eyed Vireo 71
Blue Jay 28
American Crow 6
Common Raven 2
Tree Swallow 39
Barn Swallow 3
Black-capped Chickadee 12
Tufted Titmouse 6
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Carolina Wren 1
Winter Wren 1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 1
Veery 6
Wood Thrush 18
American Robin 21
Gray Catbird 19
Ovenbird 43
Black-and-white Warbler 15
Nashville Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 30
American Redstart 41
Northern Parula 3
Magnolia Warbler 5
Blackburnian Warbler 13
Yellow Warbler 8
Chestnut-sided Warbler 33
Black-throated Blue Warbler 21
Pine Warbler 16
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 5
Prairie Warbler 3
Black-throated Green Warbler 24
Canada Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 17
Chipping Sparrow 21
Song Sparrow 2
Scarlet Tanager 17
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 6
Bobolink 2
Red-winged Blackbird 13
Common Grackle 6
Brown-headed Cowbird 6
Baltimore Oriole 19
House Finch 2
American Goldfinch 8