Monday, October 15, 2012

Late Ruby-throated Hummingbird and a fruitless search for the Yellow-headed Blackbird

Ruby throated Hummingbird, Hampshire county, Oct 14, 2012

Ruby throated Hummingbird, Hampshire county, Oct 14, 2012

Ruby throated Hummingbird, Hampshire county, Oct 15, 2012

Ruby throated Hummingbird, Hampshire county, Oct 15, 2012
I, along with Ian Davies and Jacob Drucker, began the day at a private residence where a hummingbird was sighted yesterday.  The owners requested that the location be kept confidential initially until the ID was determined and a plan was put in place as far as access to the residence in the event it was something unusual. The bird was a bit of an ID problem with the two likely species being either a Ruby throated Hummingbird or a much more rare Black chinned Hummingbird.  Here is a link to an article regarding the difficulty of identifying these two similiar species.
I had gotten some photos late in the day yesterday but the photos were not diagnostic.  The bird was still seen at the location until dark last night so we held out hope it would be seen again today.  The bird did indeed show again and after over an hour of observing the bird and obtaining photos the identification leaned toward a likely late Ruby throated Hummingbird.  The bird was banded mid morning and was determined to be an adult female Ruby throated Hummingbird.  Although not a rare hummingbird the date is quite late for a Ruby throated Hummingbird in Massachusetts.  The owners of the residence were the bird showed up got the word out to a few people right away and contacted a bander immediately to determine the species and hopefully add another piece to the puzzle of fall occurring hummingbirds in the northeast.  A word of thanks to them for allowing us to view the bird.

Rose breasted Grosbeak, Hampshire College fields, Hadley, MA, Oct 15, 2012

Brown headed Cowbirds and Starling (flock of 100's), East Hadley Rd, Hadley, MA, Oct 15, 2012

Ruby crowned Kinglet, Hampshire College fields, Hadley, MA, Oct 15, 2012

Fox Sparrow, Hampshire College fields, Hadley, MA, Oct 15, 2012
After viewing the hummingbird we headed back to the area of East Hadley Road in Hadley to try to refind the Yellow headed Blackbird that was present there yesterday.  We were joined there by Evan Dalton.  We found several scattered flocks of cowbirds and blackbirds in the area but none contained the bird we were looking for.  Several other birders were seen in the area as well but none had any luck with the bird as far as we knew.  We also looked further afield for the bird and came across a very large congregation of blackbirds, grackles and a few cowbirds near the Hampshire College facilities building on Bay Road.  The noise from the flock was quite impressive with the total number of birds reaching way into the 1000's.  Despite a lot of looking for the Yellow headed Blackbird we came up empty.  We did manage to find several Rusty Blackbirds within the flock as well as a large number of sparrows along the edge of the cornfield including a Fox Sparrow.  We also had a Rose breasted Grosbeak fly out from the cornfield and into the woods.  We then returned once again to East Hadley Road but again came up empty.  The bird could indeed still be around as there are many groups of blackbirds moving around the area and trying to catch up with each flock is tough.

Winsor Dam early afternoon, Oct 15, 2012

I headed for home and went for a walk with Wilson along the Jabish Canal and also stopped by Winsor Dam before the rain but neither place turned up anything too unusual.  Despite the overcast conditions throughout the day and late rain the weather was much warmer than it has been lately with high temperatures topping out in the low 70's.  At times there was a fairly strong wind out of the south which, as mentioned previously, may bring some unusual birds into the northeast.  Time will tell.

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