Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hampshire Bird Club trip to Prescott Peninsula

Clay-colored Sparrow, Prescott Peninsula, Sep 30, 2012
Clay-colored Sparrow, Prescott Peninsula, Sep 30, 2012

Red tailed Hawk, Prescott Peninsula, Sep 30, 2012

Osprey, Prescott Peninsula, Sep 30, 2012
Common Loons, Prescott Peninsula, Sep 30, 2012

Common Loon with Bald Eagle flying by, Prescott Peninsula, Sep 30, 2012
Today was the annual Hampshire Bird Club trip onto Prescott Peninsula at the Quabbin Reservoir led by Tom Gagnon and myself.  A total of twelve club members braved the less than ideal forecast and made the trip.  We started at Gate 22 which can be very productive at times and gives a great view of the reservoir once you get to the end of the road.  The weather started out cloudy and somewhat cool with occasional drizzle but the heavy rain held off until the very end of the day and we actually had a short period of bright blue sky which corresponded nicely with our arrival at an overlook of the reservoir.  Although the overcast conditions kept our warbler and other passerine numbers somewhat lower than they would have been on a sunny day, we still managed some great birds.
At Gate 22 we proceeded right to the water and had a variety of waterfowl and raptors about plus some birds moving overhead.  I have included the list from here at the link below.  Highlights included Merlin, 54 Common Mergansers, Northern Harrier, five ‘peep’ sandpipers, Horned Grebe and Common Loons…a total of 33 species at this location.

Morning gloom on Prescott Peninsula, Sep 30, 2012

After our trip down gate 22 road we then headed into Prescott itself where we spent the remainder of the day from our arrival around 9am and our departure around 5pm.   The highlights here included Clay colored Sparrow, 11 Red Crossbills (groups of 6 and 5), four Ruffed Grouse, seven Common Loons, two flyby American Golden Plovers, seven Pine Siskins, various raptors, eleven warbler species, and many others.  A total of 64 species were seen on the peninsula and a total of 70 species of birds for the day.  The eBird list from Prescott can be found here:

Porcupine, Prescott Peninsula, Sep 30, 2012

The mammal highlights for the day included a Black Bear in the road and Porcupine that gave great views.

I ended the day by swinging by the visitors center at Winsor Dam to try to return our key and the reward was this rainbow over the dam.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Quabbin Park, Lake Wallace and Lake Metacomet looking for birds brought down by the storms

Blue winged Teal, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Sep 29, 2012

Pied billed Grebe, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Sep 29, 2012

Large group of Mallards, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 29, 2012

Black Ducks and Mallards, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 29, 2012

The low clouds, cool temps and occasional drizzle continued today so I decided to stay in the local area trying to catch up with any birds that may have been grounded by the rain.  I stopped at Winsor Dam as well as other locations in Quabbin Park as well as Lake Wallace and Lake Metacomet in Belchertown.  Nothing way out of the ordinary but there were certainly some new birds around.  Waterfowl is starting to move in and I had a total of nine species of waterfowl today including three Green winged Teal, 214 Mallards (with 148 of them in a small flock feeding along shore and 66 heading south at dawn at Winsor Dam), eleven Black Ducks, eleven Wood Ducks and 61 Canada Geese plus a couple of Common Loons all at Quabbin and five Blue winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, two Pied billed Grebe's and 21 Wood Ducks at Lake Wallace.    Lake Metacomet had no waterfowl but did have a immature Green Heron working a small mudflat. 
American Kestrel, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Sep 29, 2012

Rusty Blackbirds, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Sep 29, 2012

Warbler variety has dropped off a bit with only five species seen this morning. There certainly has been an influx of Yellow rumped Warblers with dozens seen today. I also had a handful of Pine Warblers with a few still singing, a few Palm Warblers with a mix of 'western' and 'yellow' types plus singles of Magnolia and Black throated Green Warblers. More and more sparrows have arrived with White throated Sparrow being the most common. In addition more junco's, Ruby crowned Kinglets and Golden crowned Kinglets have moved down from the north.  Lake Wallace also had an Osprey sitting in the tallest tree near the reeds, a very wet looking American Kestrel and a handful of Rusty Blackbirds to round out the birds of note.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Trip to the Connecticut coast and heavy migration before the rain

Osprey, Rocky Neck SP, CT, Sep 27, 2012

Snowy Egret,  Rocky Neck SP, CT, Sep 27, 2012

 Snowy Egret, Rocky Neck SP, CT, Sep 27, 2012

With the forecast of all day rain on Friday and showers and drizzle on Saturday we ditched our plans to go to Cape Cod for a few days and instead headed down to the Connecticut coast for the day on Thursday.  We went to Rocky Neck State Park and spent several hours there.  The small beach there held little in the way of bird life but the marsh and river nearby had some good birds.  The best birds of the day were actually right from the parking lot and included a Dickcissel that called several times and then dropped into a hedgerow not to be seen again and at least one flyover Pine Siskin with a group of goldfinches.  The raptors in the area also put on a bit of a show with the handful of Ospreys present showing well.  The several American Kestrels that were moving through were all quite high and moving down the coast.
Yellow billed Cuckoo, Rocky Neck SP, CT, Sep 27, 2012

Walking the series of trails near the marsh and river produced a few small flocks of birds including one that had a Yellow billed Cuckoo with it. The bird stayed at the very tops of some oaks so great photos were impossible.  
Snowy Egret, Rocky Neck SP, CT, Sep 27, 2012

Snowy Egret, Rocky Neck SP, CT, Sep 27, 2012

Snowy Egret, Rocky Neck SP, CT, Sep 27, 2012

The Snowy Egrets were the most numerous and active waders there with lots of interaction between them. 

Video 1 of birds passing in front of moon, Belchertown, MA, 10pm, Sep 27, 2012

Video 2 of birds passing in front of moon, Belchertown, MA, 10pm, Sep 27, 2012

Radar image showing heavy migration, 10pm, Sep 27, 2012

Last evening the radar showed some decent migration so I went out to listen around 10 pm and had several birds giving flight calls and a large number of birds moving past the nearly full moon. I averaged around ten birds a minute passing the moon. I took a handful of short videos with my iPhone and captured some of the birds moving by. Video 1 has a bird at bottom at 8 seconds and another close but blurry one at 10 seconds. In video 2 there is a quick flyby at 21 seconds and the best capture of a bird at 26 seconds in. Always fun to get a good night of migration in the spring or fall with a full moon and see all the birds streaming by. Another example of how good the migration was last night can be found at the following link:

This site records nocturnal flight calls and last night was the biggest night yet this fall with over 2800 calls noted.

The rain materialized as predicted this morning and I made a brief stop at the east meadows on my way to work but the rain was too heavy and I did not find anything of note. There certainly was the chance of birds getting knocked down by the weather given the migration occurring last night and the rain moving in predawn. The rest of the day continued to be rainy and raw with temperatures in the 50’s. On my way home from work I tried to make a brief stop at Winsor Dam but the rain was falling too hard and the visibility too reduced to see anything on the water.  Hopefully someone will find some good birds out there tomorrow morning.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Quick stops in the morning to look for early arriving waterfowl

Common Loons (three in mid scope view), Winsor Dam, Sept 25, 2012

I attempted to find some early arriving waterfowl on Tuesday morning before work and I made brief stops at Winsor Dam and the route 9 marsh.  The fog on this chilly (35 degrees) morning made viewing difficult at times but I was still able to view most areas fairly well.  At Winsor Dam the only waterfowl around were four flyby Mallards and three Common Loons together.  There was also a rather late Ruby throated Hummingbird that flew past the dam.  At the route 9 marsh there were eleven Wood Ducks and nearly forty Canada Geese.  I also tried to see if there was any activity on Lake Metacomet but the fog was just too thick.  The best bird of the morning there was actually a hummingbird that flew past just before dawn.  Perhaps one of the last ones I will see this season around here.

I once again tried for some waterfowl at Winsor Dam this morning but again there was just a little around.  A couple of Common Loons and a Mallard at Winsor Dam and a total of 23 Wood Ducks and 59 Canada Geese at the route 9 marsh.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Honeypot at sunrise

Sunrise at the honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sep 24, 2012
radar image from 10:00pm on Sep 23, 2012
As the radar and some night listening indicated a fairly good migration last night I decided to try my luck for a few minutes before work by stopping at the Honeypot in Hadley.  I arrived just before dawn and walked one of the fields.  Although the temperature was a cool 42 degrees there was still some activity.  Highlights included a Vesper Sparrow singing before dawn, eight Lincoln’s Sparrow (with three in one binocular view), a few Indigo Buntings and American Pipits.  A total of seven species of sparrows although I’m certain there were more.  Overall lots of stuff around and I’m sure a longer period of time once it warmed up would have produced some great stuff. 

eBird report is located at the following link:


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Fall officially begins

Bald Eagle swimming, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Sep 22, 2012

Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Sep 22, 2012

Bald Eagle swimming after catching fish too large to lift off with, Winsor Dam, Sep 22, 2012

Saturday marked the 'official' arrival of fall although the weather on Saturday certainly did not feel like fall. The high reached to near 80 with sunny skies. Even the morning started off relatively comfortable with temperatures near 50. I decided to spend Saturday morning close to home with a visit to Quabbin Park. 

I started at Winsor Dam and then moved through the park hitting the area from the Goodnough Dike entrance to Hank's Meadow along with the Route 9 marsh.  After my time in Quabbin Park I headed back over to Winsor Dam where I ran into Jacob Drucker and another Hampshire College student.  We stayed at Winsor Dam for about 45 minutes before they left to bird Quabbin Park.  I stayed another half hour at Winsor Dam.  During my dawn stop at Winsor Dam I had a total of 112 Mallards moving south plus a Wood Thrush making its 'pop' type call but little else. I then headed over to the Route 9 marsh which held a few dozen Canada Geese as well as 11 Wood Ducks. The highlight at the marsh was a couple of flyby Red Crossbills. I then went over to the western entrance to Quabbin Park and went as far as Hank's Meadow. There were a handful of notable birds including half a dozen Black Ducks and 45+ Mallards plus a Common Loon. There were a few mixed species flocks along the road which contained seven species of warbler and a few vireos plus a handful of Ruby crowned Kinglets. The number of Red breasted Nuthatch's continues to be high with individuals noted in most areas that I stopped at.

My longest vigil at Winsor Dam produced another Common Loon, raptors such as Osprey, Cooper's and Sharp shinned Hawk, Merlin and a Bald Eagle that caught a fish too large to fly off with so it instead had to swim to shore. I have seen this behavior several times with eagles with a few others of those sightings also at Winsor Dam. There were a variety of warblers flying over some of which could be identified and others not. A couple of Bobolinks also flew over as did a fair number of Blue Jays heading south and east.

Blue winged Teal (w/ Wood Duck in background), Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Sep 23, 2012

Blue winged Teal, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Sep 23, 2012
Cooper's Hawk, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Sep 23, 2012
Today I started  my morning at Lake Wallace on a non hunting day to see what waterfowl remained.  The numbers of Wood Ducks and Mallards were much reduced from the totals I got at the beginning of the month.  The highlight here were at least five Blue winged Teal (there may have been as many as nine but five is the most I had in view at once).  Rounding out the waterfowl was a single Hooded Merganser.  After Lake Wallace I headed over to Covey WMA but the winds continued to pick up and the amount of activity was fairly low.  A pair of Cooper's Hawks strafed the handful of Wood Ducks present on several occasions but never came too close to getting any.  A couple of brief stops at Winsor Dam and Route 9 marsh didn't produce much of note.  With the fairly strong northerly winds accipters seemed to be taking full advantage and various representatives were present at my stops this morning.

Tonight looks great for migration and hopefully for some flight calls tonight as the birds head south.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Orchard Hill and Honeypot...another Cape May Warbler and many other highlights.

Cape May Warbler, Orchard Hill UMASS Amherst, Sept 21, 2012

Cape May Warbler, Orchard Hill UMASS Amherst, Sept 21, 2012

Cape May Warbler, Orchard Hill UMASS Amherst, Sept 21, 2012
I birded this morning at Orchard Hill with Ian Davies and part of the time with Keenan Yakola and his girlfriend.  With the early cloud cover the birds did not show as well as past mornings.  Despite the slow start we finished our time there with a flurry of activity including another Cape May Warbler.  It has been a great fall for this species as well as others that typically can be tough to find (ie Tennessee and Connecticut Warbler).  Many highlights from our early morning here before Ian and I headed to the Honeypot to spend the next three hours.  The lists from the day say it all and here is the one from Orchard Hill.

UMass Amherst--Orchard Hill

Rock Pigeon 1
Mourning Dove 2
Eastern Screech-Owl 1 responded to imitation
Ruby-throated Hummingbird 1 may have been a second bird, mimimum of one
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Eastern Phoebe 6
Blue-headed Vireo 4
Red-eyed Vireo 7
Blue Jay 8
American Crow 3
Common Raven 1
Black-capped Chickadee 7
Tufted Titmouse 5
Red-breasted Nuthatch 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Carolina Wren 3
Eastern Bluebird 9
Swainson's Thrush 2
Hermit Thrush 1 seen pre dawn
Wood Thrush 3 'bup' call pre dawn
American Robin 28
Gray Catbird 23
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 11
Common Yellowthroat 5
American Redstart 6
Cape May Warbler 1 Seen in large mixed species flock, Photographed
Northern Parula 10 slight reduction from previous day but still many around
Magnolia Warbler 1
Yellow Warbler 2 late, two seen in widely different areas
Chestnut-sided Warbler 5
Blackpoll Warbler 19 minimum, likely more
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 1
Black-throated Green Warbler 2
warbler sp. 32 Many blackpoll like calls
Song Sparrow 5
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 5
Scarlet Tanager 1
Northern Cardinal 4
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3
Red-winged Blackbird 5
Baltimore Oriole 2
Purple Finch 1 flyover
House Finch 9
American Goldfinch 4

Swamp Sparrow, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sept 21, 2012

Northern Harrier, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sept 21, 2012

Northern Harrier, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sept 21, 2012

Northern Harriers, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sept 21, 2012

Field Sparrow, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sept 21, 2012

American Pipit, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sept 21, 2012

American Pipit, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sept 21, 2012

Cliff Swallow flying away, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sept 21, 2012

Yellow Warbler (one of four), Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sept 21, 2012

American Goldfinch,  Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Sept 21, 2012
At the honeypot the good birds continued.  I can go on and on but I will let the eBird list tell the story.

Honey Pot

Canada Goose 8
Mallard 7
Great Blue Heron 1
Turkey Vulture 2
Osprey 1 flying south following the river
Northern Harrier 3
Cooper's Hawk 2
Bald Eagle 1 SY bird
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Spotted Sandpiper 1
Ring-billed Gull 2
Rock Pigeon 15
Mourning Dove 3
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 6
Pileated Woodpecker 1 singing
American Kestrel 1
Eastern Phoebe 1 singing
Red-eyed Vireo 3
Blue Jay 114 **high count. Streaming over heading west all morning, likely many many more than this - I wouldn't be surprised if four-digit counts were possible with a skyward vigil.
American Crow 260 **high count. Large flocks in multiple fields feeding on discarded crops and other foodstuffs.
Cliff Swallow 3 *rare, late, high count. Three birds passed over That's A Plenty Farm heading east soon after we got there, and then were seen heading west overhead an hour later or so. Compact swallows with rusty uppertail coverts, dusky throats, and short relatively rounded wings and squared tails.
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 2
Carolina Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 6
Swainson's Thrush 1 seen along river's edge about 70 feet up a tree
American Robin 12
Gray Catbird 3
European Starling 15
American Pipit 82 **high count. Two large flocks of these in fields along the main dirt road, one of at least 45, one of 30+, and then a few singles and small groups elsewhere. Many of these were perching on telephone wires - a behavior I have never before seen in this species!
Cedar Waxwing 25
Black-and-white Warbler 1
Common Yellowthroat 12
American Redstart 1
Northern Parula 1
Yellow Warbler 4 *late. One at That's A Plenty Farm, and the rest in weedy fields just north of the turn in the dirt road.
Palm Warbler 8
Palm Warbler (Western) 8
Palm Warbler (Yellow) 9 *high count. Very surprising to me to see this many Yellow Palms, outnumbering Westerns for the individuals that were seen! Two locations had groups of three of these associating closely with each other, others throughout. A couple birds photographed.
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 3
warbler sp. 3 two zeep calls and one upsweep, the latter either Tennessee or Nashville.
Chipping Sparrow 9 near entrance to That's A Plenty Farm
Field Sparrow 3 That's A Plenty Farm
Vesper Sparrow 8 **high count. At one point I had three Vespers in view, and could hear two singing! Two birds were singing near some rows of planted trees just south of the dirt road, birds were also seen on the ground in the same area, along with two flyovers at That's A Plenty Farm and two on powerlines.
Savannah Sparrow 61 *high count. Likely many more, always tough to get a handle on true numbers of these
Song Sparrow 41 *high count. Likely many more, always tough to get a handle on true numbers of these
Lincoln's Sparrow 5 *high count. Three at That's A Plenty Farm, two in fields north of turn in dirt road.
Swamp Sparrow 6
Northern Cardinal 2
Indigo Bunting 6
bunting sp. 1 One Indigo Bunting/Blue Grosbeak seen quickly in flight a couple times, never at rest. Looked very dark in flight, with much blue evident, and seemingly deep rich brown overall. However, it looked smaller than would be expected for BLGR, and was never seen well enough to be sure. Much time was spent trying to coax it out of the weeds where it was calling from, unfortunately it only flight called and never gave a chip note. For what it is worth, the flight call was detectably lower than the Indigo Buntings calling nearby.
Dickcissel 2 *rare, high count. Both at That's A Plenty Farm. One flyby watched land in corn stalks, heard calling once. Another bird silently flew over low, picked up coming over the treeline from the north, coming over the river. We watched this individual as it flew over the whole field complex and kept going south over the river on the other side.
Bobolink 1
Red-winged Blackbird 1
Purple Finch 3
House Finch 4
American Goldfinch 105 *high count. This count could possibly be half again higher, the numbers feeding on sunflowers at That's A Plenty Farm are astounding. Harriers put the flocks up a couple times, and in the swirling it was tough to get a handle on how many were there.
House Sparrow 4

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Orchard Hill, Skinner State Park and a new yard bird

American Redstart, Orchard Hill UMASS Amherst, Sept 20, 2012

Radar image capture from 10:00 pm last night, Sept 19
Another good migration day today with a influx of a variety of species. I did some listening last night for about 45 minutes for flight calls of nocturnal migrants. Although the radar showed a lot of movement the number of birds that could be heard was fairly low. I had one Gray cheeked Thrush (county year bird #206 and yard species #147), a couple Swainson's Thrush and a dozen plus warblers of species unknown.
Black throated Green Warbler, Orchard Hill UMASS Amherst, Sept 20, 2012
American Redstart, Orchard Hill UMASS Amherst, Sept 20, 2012

Swamp Sparrow, Orchard Hill UMASS Amherst, Sept 20, 2012

This morning I started out before dawn on Orchard Hill with Ian Davies. It got fairly busy after the sun started hitting the trees and warming everything up from our night time low in the high 30's. There were many highlights such as Tennessee Warbler, many Northern Parula, a few Scarlet Tanager, a couple hummingbirds, Wood Thrush, and many Eastern Phoebe's. There were many other good birds around.  Here is the eBird list:

Great Egrets (five of six viewed from summit Skinner SP), Hadley, MA, Sept 20, 2012
Scope view of kettle of Broad winged Hawks, Skinner SP,Hadley, MA, Sept 20, 2012
Ian had to go to class fairly early so we parted ways and I birded a bit longer there with another UMASS student before he to ad to go to class.  It started to slow down a bit so I decided to head out and ended up going up to Skinner SP to do a little hawk watching for about an hour. There were a few small kettles of Broad winged Hawks totalling about 70 birds moving as well as a handful of other raptor species. I had some other notable birds viewed from there including a group of six Great Egrets in the Connecticut River, five Common Mergansers loafing on a sandbar and some warblers and juncos moving along the ridge. There was a fairly impressive flight of Blue Jays in evidence both here and elsewhere today.

Wilson enjoying his walk

Once I got home midday I picked up Wilson and we headed to Jabish Canal for a long walk. We had about 100 Broad winged Hawks in a few large kettles moving by a distance away. There were a number of Eastern Phoebes around as well as a mixed species flock.

In the yard today I had a Ruby throated Hummingbird and a Swainson's Thrush as highlights.

With the ongoing fall migration moving along rapidly the upcoming winter season approaches and with it comes the potential for irruptive species.  As mentioned previously Red Crossbills and Red breasted Nuthatch's are in the midst of an irruptive event here.  What other species may follow?  Here is a link to the annual finch report from Quebec that can give some indication of what species may move this way this winter.

It could be a good year for several species...time will tell.