Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Continued search for post hurricane birds

Radar image evening of Oct 31, 2012
As the remnants of Hurricane Sandy continue to slowly rotate through New York and Pennsylvania the reports of storm related birds continues to come in from areas near and far from the storm track.  Although the morning has been relatively quiet as the day moved on odd birds continued to be seen.  As the days go on the chances of finding something unusual become less and less likely as the birds displaced by the storm find their way back to their usual locations or succumb.  I tried Winsor Dam this morning and then over to Hank’s Meadow and Goodnough Dike briefly.  Winsor Dam only had five Common Mergansers and a few Mallards.  All the various species present at sunset last evening (scoters, bufflehead, long tailed ducks) appeared to have left overnight.  There were no birds at Goodnough and Hank’s Meadow produced a single Ring necked Duck and Common Merganser plus a couple Horned Grebe.  There may have been other birds around but I did not have too much time to check in any great detail.  Only other bird of note this morning was a flyover Evening Grosbeak.
Additional information on the sightings from the storm so far can be found on the ABA blog at the following two links:
October 30th post:

Black Scoter flock, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 31, 2012

Dusk at Winsor Dam, Oct 31, 2012

Black Scoter (left) and White winged Scoters (distant right),Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 31, 2012
An evening stop at Winsor Dam was a bit more productive than my early morning stop with 44 Black Scoter, 3 White winged Scoter, a Common Loon and 3 Common Mergansers plus a heard only White winged Crossbill.  Still no extremely unusual sightings from here today


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Post Hurricane Sandy birding

Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin park, Oct 30, 2012

Surf and White winged Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

Surf and White winged Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012
White winged Crossbills in flight, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

Long tailed Ducks and Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012
A bit more now on the birds associated with Hurricane Sandy.  I started out this morning predawn in the pouring rain at Winsor Dam where I was joined by Scott Surner, Evan Dalton and a few others.  Nothing way out of the ordinary but we did have some sea ducks with the following species of waterfowl seen: Surf Scoter (3), White winged Scoter (17), Black Scoter (1), Long tailed Duck (4), Bufflehead (13), Common Merganser (3), Common Loon (4), Double crested Cormorant (1) and a few Mallards.  In addition to the waterfowl we had a group of ten White winged Crossbills (species #219 for county this year) come by and land in the pines near the headquarters building plus a few flyby Pine Siskins and Evening Grosbeak.  After spending a little over an hour there I headed to work.
Elsewhere from the storm, reports of birds continue to come in.  In the immediate area there has been a good showing of scoters, Long tailed Ducks and Bufflehead plus a report this morning from Turners Falls of a Red Phalarope and a few Laughing Gulls over the border in New Hampshire.  Elsewhere in Massachusetts the most unusual species so far would be at least three Northern Lapwings seen on the coast and islands!  I'm sure the next few days will result in more amazing reports of rare or out of range birds.

Here is a link to the latest update regarding storm birds from eBird.

A small excerpt from the article regarding interior New England can be found below:

Inland New England: Fallouts of sea ducks (especially Brant, scoters and Long-tailed Ducks), loons (including Red-throated), grebes, and gulls should be expected. With winds as strong as they are, Leach's Storm-Petrel and possibly a Dovekie or other alcid could be found on inland ponds or lakes. These may be a long shot since most of the coast and inland areas won't be seeing really strong winds, but it could happen (and has in the past, sometimes with large numbers of those species). Inland Leach's most likely closer to the coast. Be aware for inland storm-petrels just in case.

As predicted by eBird the real show inland was indeed various species of sea ducks.  Given the size and scope of the storm additional species could still indeed show around here over the next few days.
White winged Scoters, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

White winged Scoter, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

White winged Scoter, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

Red breasted Merganser, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

Common Loons, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

Horned Grebes, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

Horned Grebes, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012
As the day went on I got a few e-mails and saw several sightings of storm related birds from around the surrounding states so I figured I would use a little time off from work and head out in the afternoon to see if I could catch up with anything else unusual.  The weather started out perfect with some sun and temperatures around 65...very nice for the end of October.  I stopped at Winsor Dam and had a group of scoters near the dam including Black Scoter (32), Surf Scoter (3) and White winged Scoter (10) plus four Bufflehead.  I then went into Quabbin Park with stops at Hanks Meadow and Goodnough Dike.  Hank's Meadow was the best stop with two Red throated Loon way out on the reservoir.  This made for species #220 for the county this year (two new birds today!).  There was also a couple of White winged Scoters close to shore as well as three Horned Grebes, three Common Loons and a Red breasted Merganser that flew in from the east.  A brief stop at Goodnough on my way out added two more Common Loons. 

Scoters and Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

Scoters and Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

Scoters and Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

Afternoon view from Winsor Dam, Oct 30, 2012

Bald Eagles at nest, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

Long tailed Ducks and White winged Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

White winged and Surf Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 30, 2012

I made my way back to Winsor Dam to spend the rest of the afternoon until sunset seeing if any new birds would come by or settle in on the water for the night.  The waterfowl that I had there earlier was still present and additional birds were noted including five Long tailed Ducks and five more White winged Scoters.  I had a nice show of Bald Eagles with six in flight plus two hanging out on the nest.  There was also a bit of crow migration noted as numbers of birds moved southwest.  A flyover Evening Grosbeak also made an appearance.  I was joined later at the dam by Ian, Jacob and Nora as well as Scott Surner right near dusk.  The clouds also closed in and the rain started to fall.  Additional birds added later on included three Common Mergansers, a couple more Bufflehead, another Black Scoter and a few Common Loons.  We stayed until sunset but no extraordinary birds showed up.  I will be back again tomorrow morning to try my luck once again.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy birding

Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 29, 2012

Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 29, 2012

View from Winsor Dam early morning, Oct 29, 2012

The storm has finally started to have an impact here.  Although the storm is still forecast to make landfall tonight along the southern New Jersey coast we will be effected by it in the form of some strong winds.  I started the morning at Winsor Dam with Ian Davies and Keenan Yakola and we had a few birds including two Long tailed Ducks, 15 Bufflehead, a few Common Loons and a number of Ring billed Gulls.  They stayed through 9:30 or so and then they departed and  I headed for home for a little while too.  I returned to Winsor Dam around 10:30 and stayed through noon and added a Double crested Cormorant plus one group of Bufflehead.  The winds continued to pick up from the northeast during the morning with sustained winds around 25 with gusts above 40 MPH.  The visibility was quite variable depending on the amount of rain coming down.  Overall the morning was rather uneventful birdwise but the conditions were not optimal for producing great numbers of odd birds.  I did see a report from yesterday from Tom Pirro at north Quabbin of a Common Eider (VERY unusual inland) so the potential is there for good stuff to show.  The coastal areas of Massachusetts have been seeing impressive numbers of sea birds being pushed in close to shore.  Perhaps some will make it inland to Quabbin?  I will be out checking as conditions allow and I will update as I can depending on if the power stays on.

View from Winsor Dam early afternoon, Oct 29, 2012

Windfield map as of 11am, Oct 29, 2012

Projected path as of 2pm, Oct 29, 2012
I returned to Winsor Dam early this afternoon and found the winds and rain had increased even more which made viewing quite difficult and limited the birds seen to a single Ring billed Gull in an hour of watching!  The time of landfall in New Jersey is suppose to be around 6pm tonight so we should continue with strong winds here for the next several hours. 

View late in afternoon, Oct 29, 2012
Another stop later in the afternoon was equally unproductive with only one bird seen in a half hour...a Ring billed Gull.  The winds were really strong and the rain heavy so yet again, viewing was quite difficult.  Hopefully tomorrow morning will be productive there.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Various spots around the valley before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy

Gray Catbird, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Oct 28, 2012

Geese and ducks on pond, Arcadia, Oct 28, 2012

American Wigeon, Arcadia, Oct 28, 2012

American Wigeon, Arcadia, Oct 28, 2012

Green winged Teal, Arcadia, Oct 28, 2012

Mallards, Arcadia, Oct 28, 2012

Canada Geese, Arcadia, Oct 28, 2012

I managed to get in a bit of birding this morning before the weather turned too bad. There was a noticle breeze out of the northeast but nothing compared to what is coming. I met up with Ian Davies and we visited a variety of areas around the local area. We started at UMASS but found nothing of note and then drove past a variety of fields in Hadley and Amherst but found no geese at all. On our way through Hadley we stopped at Lake Warner and had 157 Canada Geese and 7 Mute Swans plus a Great Horned Owl that flushed and then perched for a few minutes before flying off. We then decided to head to the oxbow to see if anything out of the ordinary was present there. Not much action on the oxbow but we noticed some geese in Hurburt's Pond at Arcadia so we headed over to the observation tower there. The pond contained 480+ Canada Geese, one American Wigeon, 22 Wood Ducks, 8 Black Ducks and  85+ Mallards. Other birds of note there included Great Blue Heron, Winter Wren and four Rusty Blackbirds.
Large flock of American Crows, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Oct 28, 2012

Gray Catbird (two in same tree), East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Oct 28, 2012

Fox Sparrow, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Oct 28, 2012

Gray Catbird, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Oct 28, 2012

American Goldfinch, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Oct 28, 2012

We then headed to the East Meadows to try our luck at finding geese, a longspur and any odd lingering birds among the hedgerows. Although we had several flocks of geese in flight there were none down in the meadows. We did however have great luck with Lapland Longspurs when we noticed some calling within a large group of Horned Larks (70+). We initially had at least two but when we caught up with the flock a bit later we had at least seven Lapland Longspurs which is a fabulous count for inland. The longspurs make species #218 for the county this year.  We also ran across a few other notable birds here including two Gray Catbirds, a few Fox Sparrows, Ruby crowned Kinglets, several Yellow rumped Warblers, American Pipits, a few Rusty Blackbirds, about 120 Mourning Doves, large groups of crows (at least 378 of them), a couple Northern Harriers together and a few groups of Yellow rumped Warblers.

After covering a large amount of the East Meadows we headed back across the river to see if we could catch back up with the Yellow headed Blackbird along East Hadley Rd. Oddly the area there was almost devoid of birds and there were no blackbird flocks at all. Other areas in the immediate vicinity also had no blackbirds at all. This is quite a change as there have been flocks of over 10,000 birds.  There was an Eastern Phoebe at Hampshire College but little else
Canada Goose with odd plumage, UMASS Campus Pond, Amherst, MA, Oct 28, 2012

Canada Goose with odd plumage, UMASS Campus Pond, Amherst, MA, Oct 28, 2012

Canada Goose with odd plumage, UMASS Campus Pond, Amherst, MA, Oct 28, 2012

A couple of final stops around UMASS produced a few hundred Ring billed Gulls on the fields and a gathering of 282 Canada Geese on the campus pond plus a few Mallards.  Among the few hundred Canada Geese was this individual with white on its head and neck.  Keeping track of these unique type individuals is a great way to see what groups of geese come and go at the pond.  Also a few yellow rumped Warblers and a Ruby crowned Kinglet in the trees around the pond.

Dawn at UMASS, Oct 28, 2012
My camera phone was just not up to the task of capturing an amazing sunrise this morning but it gives you a tiny glimpse of how vivid it was.
Hurricane Sandy windfield map, Oct 28, 2012

Hurricane Sandy as of 2:33pm Oct 28, 2012

Projected path of Hurricane Sandy as of 5pm, Oct 28, 2012
Now the daily update on Hurricane Sandy.  It is still forecast to hit south of us, coming ashore in central New Jersey as a category 1 hurricane.  We are forecast to get strong winds (25-35 MPH sustained with gusts to 60+ at times) and several inches of rain.  The track could still vary a bit but the current track puts it a bit too far south to give us a great chance at great birds but I will still be out looking in the hopes something makes it here.  Oddly this storm is forecast to hit almost a year to the day that we got hammered by an early season snow storm that left us without power for almost a week.  There has certainly been some strange weather around Halloween here.

View from Winsor Dam in the evening, Oct 28, 2012

Distant view of White winged Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 28, 2012
As part of my attempt to find some storm related birds I spent an hour this evening at Winsor Dam.  The winds were up to about 10-15 MPH and there was occasional drizzle at times.  The only birds of note were eight White winged Scoters.  We shall see what tomorrow brings.  I will be at Winsor Dam off and on trying my best to find something good...hopefully I will be reporting something good tomorrow (provided we still have power!) 

Yesterday was yet another milestone on this blog when I reached the 30,000 view mark...who knew so many people had an interest in the birds I have seen and the places I have gone??!?!