Friday, October 12, 2012

A cold front brings good birds...122 Brant and others.

Black Ducks, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

Song Sparrow, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

White crowned Sparrow, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

Ruby crowned Kinglet,  Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012
I spent today around the southern Quabbin area and was rewarded with some great birds despite the late fall like conditions.  I began before dawn at Winsor Dam and then headed into Quabbin Park itself.  I was trying for waterfowl this morning but the only species I had before the cold front came through were Canada Geese, a few Wood Ducks and Mallards plus several Common Loons.  I did find a few pockets of birds with a nice selection of sparrows plus kinglets and a few warblers (mainly Yellow rumped but one Blackpoll).  Also had three Yellow bellied Sapsuckers, a couple of Red Crossbills flying by, more Pine Siskins and at least a half dozen Hermit Thrushes in one small area.  I then headed back over to Winsor Dam but the area was fairly quiet with just a few loons way out.  I then decided to make a walk down from gate 5 to the water and see what might be hanging around that area.  Nothing too unusual at gate 5 but I didn't stay too long as the weather seemed to be heading toward rain.  I then headed to run some errands as the rain commenced. 

Mallards (iPhone photo through bino's), Covey WMA, Oct 12, 2012
As the rain appeared to be about to end a bit after ten I decided to head over to Covey WMA with Wilson.  It was still raining as we headed over so I took a brief detour to Winsor Dam to wait out the rain which proved to be a great decision.  I got out in the rain and set up the scope and scanned the water a few times finding a few loons but little else.  I then heard this odd noise and looked up and noticed a large 'ball' of geese nearly overhead heading south.  I immediately got on the birds with both binoculars and then the scope...the big group of geese were Brant!  I had them in view for maybe a minute or so but got great looks and was able to get a good count of the birds and the total came to 122!  Absolutely amazing to see this number of this species inland.  Until this morning my total number of Brant ever seen in western Massachusetts totalled 41 with only 15 of those in Hampshire County (all at Quabbin).  Oddly my largest group inland before today also occurred on October 12 back in 1999 on Spruce Hill at Savoy Mountain SF in Berkshire County when I had 25 fly past a hawk watch up there.  It was well worth standing in the rain to see those birds.  The Brant make species #209 for the county so far this year.  As I was heading for a walk with Wilson I left my good camera at home and only had my phone and I was unable to get a shot through the scope as the birds were moving too fast.  After that great sighting we headed to Covey WMA and had some good birds there including Winter Wren, more Pine Siskins and Purple Finches and two Rusty Blackbirds plus an assortment of sparrows and of course more Red breasted Nuthatch's.

Black Ducks, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

Double crested Cormorant, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

Canada Geese high overhead (with Red tailed Hawk upper right), Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

Sharpshinned Hawk, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

American Kestrel, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

After lunch I noticed a fair number of geese heading south over the house so I headed back over to Winsor Dam to try to catch up with more unusual geese.  I didn't have any luck with unusual geese but did have one group after another of Canada Geese heading south and west high overhead with a total of at least 213 in about 45 minutes of looking.  There were also 30 Black Ducks migrating through in two separate groups, a lone cormorant plus a bit of raptor migration too with several species including Red tailed, Cooper's and Sharpshinned Hawks, Northern Harrier, Osprey, American Kestrel and Bald Eagle.  It will be interesting to see the total numbers some of the local hawk watches get today.  With all the waterfowl on the move I cannot wait to see what I turn up tomorrow morning.  I'm hopeful for some scoters and who knows what else.
Hanks Meadow at dawn, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

Hanks Meadow at dawn, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

Winsor Dam as the front approaches, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012

Winsor Dam early afternoon, Quabbin Park, Oct 12, 2012
The day was quite changeable as can be seen in the photos above.  The day started out with sun, light winds that quickly picked up and temperatures in the mid 30's.  It then clouded up rather quickly, the winds picked up and the temperatures stayed in the low 40's.  The cold front came through with some rain and strong winds.  After the front it changed over to a mix of clouds and sun with strong northerly winds and temperatures topping out around 50.  It felt more like November today.  Tomorrow morning will probably feel more like winter with temperatures in the mid 20's and a hard freeze.

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