Monday, December 31, 2012

End of year wrap up and species #228 for the year in the county

Indigo Bunting, Quabbin

Time for the end of year posting once again.  This year was yet another good year to be out and about checking my local areas as well as places far from home for birds. 

Blue gray Tanager, Los Cusingos, Costa Rica, Dec 2012
Caspian Tern, Viera Wetlands, FL, Jan 2012
Cooper's Hawk, Sweetwater Wetlands, AZ, Apr 2012
I took a few trips this year including a trip to Florida at the end of January-early February, Arizona in April and Costa Rica in December.   Other shorter trips included day trips to the Connecticut shore and down to the Plymouth area.
Yellow-headed Blackbird, Hadley, Oct 2012

Rough-legged Hawk, Hadley Honeypot, MA, Feb 2012
Little Blue Heron, Arcadia, MA, Apr 2012
Brewster's Warbler, UMASS Amherst, May 2012
Golden-winged Warbler, Amherst rail trail, May 2012
Lawrence's Warbler, Belchertown, May 2012

The rest of the time I spent mainly in the local area trying to maximize my county list for the year.  My initial goal at the beginning of the year was to top the 200 mark for the county which I had oddly never done before.  I managed to go well past the 200 mark and finished with a total of 228.  Although I missed on some birds I would normally expect such as American Bittern, Acadian Flycatcher, and Black Vulture I still reached a higher number than I had expected to.  I added several county birds to my life list this year including Little Blue Heron, Tricolored Heron, Yellow headed Blackbird, Rufous Hummingbird and Hoary Redpoll bringing my overall county total to 272.  Overall some really great warblers including a couple hybrids including at least two Brewster's Warblers as well as a Lawrence's Warbler plus the unusual Golden winged and a singing spring Orange crowned Warbler. 

Pine Grosbeak, Quabbin , Dec 2012
Common Redpoll, Hadley, Dec 2012

There was also a big incursion of winter irruptive species this fall and winter that continues with most every possible species represented in numbers (except for Bohemian waxwings which were around at the beginning of the year). 
Black-legged Kittiwake, Quabbin, Nov 2012
Hurricane Sandy brought a large number of sea ducks down onto Quabbin over the course of several days and finally delivered a notable inland bird for me...a Black-legged Kittiwake almost a week after the passage of the storm.  Two years in a row with tropical systems impacting the area...amazing.

I tried one last run through the Hadley Honeypot midday today to try my luck at catching up with a Northern Shrike or perhaps (with lots of luck) a Gyrfalcon that was there a couple weeks.  Although there was no Gyrfalcon around I did finally catch up with a Northern Shrike (county species #228 for the year!)  I was very happy to add one final species for the year.  Other birds of note around the Honeypot and nearby Aqua Vitae Road included dozens of Horned Larks, a handful of Snow Buntings and a lone Lapland Longspur.  I also made a brief stop at Quabbin Park at Winsor Dam and at least seven Pine Grosbeaks continue in the crabapple trees.

I managed to add a total of 69 new species to my life list this year with two each coming from Arizona and Massachusetts and the remaining 65 species coming from my recent trip to Costa Rica.  The highlights are many and a look back through the last year of postings will revel most of them.  A total of 556 species for the year and a total life list that now stands at 766.  Many of the highlights were captured on film and can be found at my flickr site at:

I continue to use eBird to record my sightings and I passed a few milestones this year including adding my 10,000th list and submitting almost 2400 lists this year with over 2175 of those lists from Massachusetts.  Yet again I will mention what a great resource eBird is for recording sightings and researching information of various species.  With the many advances made in accessing information and providing easy ways to submit data, more and more people will hopefully embrace the use of eBird and make the information even more useful to both the public and researchers.  The website to start your journey on eBird is here:

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Quabbin CBC

Although I missed the other Christmas Bird Counts this season when I was down in Costa Rica I managed to take part for a short time on the Quabbin CBC yesterday covering parts of the Prescott Peninsula.  I could only stay through late morning but during that time we managed 20 species with highlights being four Common Mergansers, eight Hooded Mergansers, a Common Loon, a Bald Eagle and a Great Horned Owl that got flushed and flew across a frozen marsh before disappearing into the woods.  Oddly no winter finches while I was there but hopefully they caught up with some later.  No photos from the day but the conditions were calm and cool with snow flurries turning to a steady snow later (after I left).

Friday, December 28, 2012

First full day in Costa Rica

Chestnut-mandibled Toucan, Rio Magnolia Lodge, CR, Dec 16, 2012
Speckled Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, CR, Dec 16, 2012
Silver throated Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, CR, Dec 16, 2012
Dusky capped Flycatcher, Rio Magnolia Lodge, CR, Dec 16, 2012
A few pictures from my first full day in Costa Rica on December 16.  I spent the entire day around the area of the Rio Magnolia Lodge located around 800m in the southern pacific foothills.  More photos at my Flickr page:

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Back from Costa Rica

Green Honeycreeper, Los Cusingos, Costa Rica, Dec 19, 2012

I just returned from a 12 day trip to Costa Rica and will be posting more on it over the next several days.  I have just downloaded the photos but have just started to review them.  I don't have totals for the trip yet but suffice it to say it was a great trip.  More info and photos to follow.  Tough to leave the tropics and come back to all this snow and ice!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Hoary Redpoll, Cackling Goose and lots of Common Redpolls at Honeypot

Hoary Redpoll, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Dec 14, 2012
Hoary Redpoll, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Dec 14, 2012
Common Redpoll, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Dec 14, 2012
Common Redpolls, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Dec 14, 2012
Common Redpoll, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Dec 14, 2012
American Goldfinch, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Dec 14, 2012
Common Redpoll, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Dec 14, 2012

I decided to try one more time to catch up with the Hoary Redpoll and/or the Northern Shrike that had been seen at the Honeypot area of Hadley several days ago.  I arrived just before the sun came up and was treated to a spectacular sunrise.  I started at 'thats a plenty farm' and immediately heard Common Redpolls overhead but never more than five at a time.  I walked the area of the farm and then headed back toward the area of the model airplane field as that is where some of the groups of redpolls had been heading and is the area Scott Surner had a Hoary Redpoll last week.  I ran across a large (180+ bird) flock of Common Redpolls and spent some time trying to get views of all the birds in the flock that was actively feeding.  The flock would get skittish at times and fly up and around when a Red tailed Hawk appeared or for no apparent reason at all.  I finally ran across a Hoary Redpoll and I got views of the bird for about 30 seconds before a Red tailed Hawk put all the birds up again.  I managed a few marginal photos that show some of the field marks but not as well as actually viewing the bird did.  The bird was paler overall (although not as pale as I might have expected), had a short, stubby bill, limited fine streaking on flanks and unstreaked undertail coverts.  Wish I could have gotten a longer look and better photos but oh complaints!  This was a life bird for me as well as county bird #227 for the year!  After viewing the flock for quite some time a part of the group broke off and headed toward the dike (I caught up with that group on the way out). 
Cackling Goose with Canada Geese, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Dec 14, 2012
Cackling Goose with Canada Geese, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Dec 14, 2012
Cackling Goose with Canada Geese, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Dec 14, 2012
Just before I left a group of Canada Geese flew by heading southwest and in among them was a Cackling Goose. (Perhaps the individual that has been at UMASS...the birds were coming from that direction).  Other birds of note included a number of Horned Larks, a Swamp Sparrow and a variety of other more common species.
Common Goldeneye, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Dec 14, 2012
I also made a quick trip to Quabbin Park before heading for home and had a couple of Common Goldeneye at Winsor Dam as well as seven Horned Grebes and 30+ Mallards and a few Black Ducks at Hank's Meadow as well as a couple Common Loons.
Wilson and I then went for a walk along the Jabish Canal and the best bird there was a flyover Red Crossbill that was seen and heard.  Tried to get a recording of it to determine type but failed.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Quabbin Park in the morning and the Honeypot in the afternoon

Downy Woodpecker, Honeypot, Hadley, MA
Savannah Sparrow, Honeypot, Hadley, MA
Common Redpoll, Honeypot, Hadley, MA
Unusual Dark eyed Junco, Honeypot, Hadley, MA
Unusual Dark eyed Junco, Honeypot, Hadley, MA

I started out my day with a trip to Quabbin Park and despite another morning of some early fog, the visibility was fairly good at most spots.  The waterfowl included at least 114 Mallards (most in cove opposite Enfield lookout), a couple Black Ducks, 7 Hooded Merganser, a few Canada Geese, a lucky 13 Horned Grebes and a couple Common Loons.  No unusual landbirds today

After a call in the early afternoon from Scott Surner telling me about a Hoary Redpoll in a large flock of redpolls at the Honeypot in Hadley. He also mentioned he had a Northern Shrike in the same area but a Merlin had moved the shrike along. As I had never seen a Hoary Redpoll and I still have not seen a Northern Shrike in the county this year, I decided to head over there.  When I arrived there were several birders just getting there as well.  We had several flyover groups of redpolls, a variety of raptors and other typical species.  I walked around several areas and turned up a few groups of Horned Larks but still no Hoary Redpoll.  Additional birders arrived and we looked in vain to find either bird.  Perhaps I will get another chance to find these before the end of the year.  I did run across a unique Dark eyed Junco that had a white strip on its wings.  I got a few marginal photos of the bird.  There were also large groups of junco in a few spots as well as a handful of Savannah and Song Sparrows.

On my way home I stopped briefly at Winsor Dam and had eight Common Mergansers (seven males) fly in and stop briefly before heading out.  No Pine Grosbeaks in the crab apples this afternoon either.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rainy and foggy

Despite the rain and fog today I managed to get out for a bit checking the waters of Quabbin.  Nothing too unusual but you never know what you will find until you go out and look.  I started and finished at Winsor Dam with other stops at Goodnough Dike and Gate 52 plus Hanks Meadow.  I got fairly soaked as the weather was quite changeable with times of drizzle and then heavier rain.  Waterfowl was primarily concentrated at Hanks Meadow with only a few loons at other locations.  I had the following waterfowl this morning:  One Black Duck, ten Hooded Mergansers, nine Mallards, eight Horned Grebe and three Common Loons.  Given the weather conditions landbirds were few and far between but I did turn up five Pine Grosbeaks in the crabapple trees at Quabbin HQ.

Without too much activity at Quabbin I decided to try my luck at the UMASS campus pond to try and see what unusual waterfowl might be there.  There were only Mallards on the pond plus a handful of Ring billed Gulls.  The fields near the Mullin center had a 100+ gulls but nothing beyond Ring billed Gulls.  With the rain showing no sign of stopping I headed for home.

Monday, December 3, 2012

A warm day in December

Cedar Waxwing, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Dec 3, 2012
Yellow bellied Sapsucker, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Dec 3, 2012
Yellow bellied Sapsucker, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Dec 3, 2012
Ring necked Ducks, Quabbin Park, Dec 3, 2012
Common Loons, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Dec 3, 2012
Cedar Waxwing, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Dec 3, 2012

Pine Grosbeak, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Dec 3, 2012

Spent a good portion of this unseasonably warm day outside enjoying temperatures that made it up to 57 degrees.  The morning started out a bit foggy but not nearly as bad as yesterday.  I made a swing through Quabbin Park with a few stops at Winsor Dam too this morning and had the following waterfowl:  77 Ring necked Ducks in one group at Hanks Meadow, a lone male Long tailed Duck, 15 Horned Grebes (all at Hanks Meadow), five Common Loons, 18 Hooded Mergansers, three Common Mergansers, five Black Ducks, 21 Mallard and ten Canada Geese.  Other birds of note seen included a flyover Red Crossbill seen and heard (unable to get a good recording due to distance), a Yellow bellied Sapsucker (had all six species of somewhat expected woodpeckers today), half a dozen Pine Grosbeaks, a kingfisher and a handful of Bald Eagles (including one very vocal juvenile at Goodnough).

I also went for a couple of different walks along the Jabish canal with Wilson and had a couple Winter Wrens as well as a group of three White winged Crossbills feeding in the pines.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Northern Saw-whet Owl (species #226) plus others on a foggy day

Northern Saw-whet Owl, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, Dec 2, 2012

Dark eyed Junco, Hampshire College, Amherst, MA, Dec 2, 2012
Today started out foggy and stayed that way through midday with cool temperatures starting out just below freezing.  I tried my luck at Quabbin Park first thing in the morning but the fog made viewing quite difficult.  I did manage to find a few landbirds of note including a Hermit Thrush, a Winter Wren, and a Ruffed Grouse.  As I was trying to find additional birds there I got a message from Ian Davies that they had refound a Northern Saw whet Owl at Hampshire College that was first discovered by them over a week ago in the same spot.  I headed my way over there and after a bit of looking, found the bird roosting near the top of a pine.  I managed a few photos but the conditions did not allow for any great shots.  I was very happy to find this bird as it became #226 for Hampshire County this year.  This may be perhaps the last species I add for the year but who knows? 

I then headed back through the fog to Quabbin stopping at Winsor Dam to see if I could once again catch up with Pine Grosbeaks there.  I immediately found them feeding on the ground and in the crab apple trees.  As the fog made viewing the water nearly impossible I spent some time just admiring the grosbeaks.  As I stood there watching them several dropped in around me and walked right up to me.  One even came and and walked over my feet as I stood there...amazing to see!  Pine Grosbeaks can be so much fun to watch as they are usually so oblivious to people.  There were birds out on the water as I could hear Mallards, Ring billed Gulls and loons but only the loon was ever visible in the dense fog.

I also took a walk with Wilson along the Jabish Canal but the birds were very few and far between there.

A return trip to Winsor Dam in the early afternoon found the fog starting to lift but the grosbeaks gone.  There were a handful of birds out on the water including a couple Common Loons, four Hooded Mergansers, four Black Ducks and a Mallard.  A flyby adult Bald Eagle also made a short appearance.
Pileated Woodpecker, Belchertown, MA, Dec 2, 2012
Besides the usual feeder birds at home today I had a Pileated Woodpecker make an appearance.  Wilson noticed it first as he stared out the window at the bird.  I managed to get a few marginal photos through the window before the bird moved on.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

First of December birding at Quabbin Park

Pine Grosbeak, Quabbin Park, Dec 1, 2012
Pine Grosbeak, Quabbin Park, Dec 1, 2012
Pine Grosbeaks, Quabbin Park, Dec 1, 2012
Pine Grosbeak, Quabbin Park, Dec 1, 2012
Common Redpoll, Quabbin Park, Dec 1, 2012
Common Redpoll, Quabbin Park, Dec 1, 2012

Pine Grosbeak, Quabbin Park, Dec 1, 2012
The first day of December started out with a winter like feel as the temperature hovered around 25 and snow was falling at daybreak.  I headed over to Winsor Dam and immediately found five Pine Grosbeaks still feeding in the crab apple tree there.  I scanned the water briefly before the snow picked up and reduced the visibility and found a single Common Loon and a trio of Black Ducks.  I then headed into Quabbin Park with a brief stop at the Route 9 marsh.  The marsh was mostly frozen over but a handful of Canada Geese occupied the little open water.  I also had a flyover Red Crossbill here that to me sounded like a Type 10 but I was unable to get a recording so I'm not certain.  In the park I stopped at Hank's Meadow and Goodnough and had half a dozen Horned Grebe, three Common Loons, a dozen Black Ducks, a Mallard and a pair of Hooded Mergansers as well as a single Common Merganser.  The landbirds here were few and far between.  I then had to head out to run an errand but after that I returned to Winsor Dam and found the count of Pine Grosbeaks had increased to nine, feeding both in the crab apple tree and on the ground.  They were joined briefly by a group of five Common Redpolls.  I was thinking of heading back through the park again but the roads through were being closed due to the snow so I headed for home instead.