Thursday, January 31, 2013


Gyrfalcon, East Hadley Road, Hadley, MA, Jan 31, 2013
Gyrfalcon, East Hadley Road, Hadley, MA, Jan 31, 2013
Gyrfalcon, East Hadley Road, Hadley, MA, Jan 31, 2013
Gyrfalcon, East Hadley Road, Hadley, MA, Jan 31, 2013
 After many a fruitless searches I finally found success today with the Gyrfalcon! It was a long, and at times, difficult journey to finally find this bird. I have looked without success so many times I was beginning to think (or really already convinced) that I would never find it. Many a cold day in December and January were spent trying to catch up with this bird in areas all over the valley.  Although I missed it on many previous occasions the search for this bird turned up many good species for the winter around here. I end the month of January with a total of 85 species in Hampshire County, by far the highest total I have ever had in January here.  In addition to the Gyrfalcon (#85) I also had an Eastern Meadowlark (#84) in the same area today.  Other birds of note around the immediate area included an American Kestrel along Mill Valley Road, a pair of Bald Eagles over East Hadley Road, a handful of Horned Larks, and a few cowbirds mixed in with the large Starling flocks.  The Gyrfalcon was originally found by Tom Gagnon this morning along South Maple Street and seen by several others before the bird disappeared again.  It was refound again later in the afternoon perched atop a tree on East Hadley Road and it then flew down in among the corn stubble were it stayed for an extended period.  It took interest in various other species that came by but never rose up from the field while I was there.  Other reported it took off after 4pm heading back toward the Connecticut River I believe.  The bird has been seen around the East Hadley Road/South Maple Street area for a few days now, so hopefully it will stick around for others to view it over the next several days.  There are only four previous records since 1930 in the valley according to the article written by Seth Kellogg and James Smith in the February 2007 issue of Bird Observer with those records occurring in  1934, 1968, 1982 and 1991.  A rare bird in the valley to be sure!  Finally finding this bird made me not think about my headache for awhile and certainly made my day.  I decided to celebrate with my last Cerveza Imperial that I have been saving for a good day....a county, state and life bird seemed like a good occasion!  Cheers!

More digiscoped photos can be found here:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fog then wind with a brief warm up and an update on the Gyrfalcon

Forecast winds for 4am tomorrow morning (courtesy of

The day started off foggy and ended the same way but the temperatures climbed to 55 by the end of the day with the wind picking up.  I attempted to briefly check the area of South Maple Street in Amherst for the Gyrfalcon that Dave McLain had there yesterday afternoon and got some great photos of.  The fog was just too thick to see anything and others that looked for the bird had no luck.  The strong south winds with gusts over 50 MPH will continue through tomorrow.  Hopefully the bird stays around and doesn't decide to use the south winds to head further north.  Time will tell.  The Gyrfalcon has been seen off and on (by others, not me) since early December so it certainly seems to be settled in.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Morning along the Connecticut River before the snow

Peregrine Falcon, Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 28, 2013
I spent the morning, along with Ian Davies, checking various locations along the Connecticut River from the Holyoke Dam up to the Honeypot.  We arrived near dawn below the Holyoke Dam where we had a fair number of waterfowl with the following seen: 17 Common Goldeneye (still could not get great looks at these distant birds), 3 Mute Swans, 212 Canada Geese, 66 Mallards, 34 Common Mergansers and half a dozen Hooded Mergansers.  We also had all three expected species of gull (including a Ring billed Gull with a single green wing tag which we were never able to read...the color shows it was tagged in the Quabbin area) plus a Bald Eagle and a kingfisher.  We tried a few locations nearby to get better looks at the goldeneyes without success. 

We started our way back north with a handful of stops along the river with the most productive being the Dinosaur Footprints area where we had couple Mute Swans, a couple Black Ducks, a half dozen Mallards, 15 Common Goldeneyes and nine Common Mergansers. 
Canada Geese with ice formations on bills, Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 28, 2013

Peregrine Falcon, Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 28, 2013

Peregrine Falcon, Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 28, 2013

We then headed through the East Meadows working our way over to the airport to get get views of the river and look for some redpolls seen in the area yesterday.  Highlights here included 89 Common Redpolls (flock was too skittish to see if any Hoary Redpolls were present), 80+ American Tree Sparrows, nine Horned Larks, a Peregrine Falcon that came up river over the waterfowl and then perched in a tree nearby, 1000+ Canada Geese including two neck tagged individuals ("18MA" and "34MA"), plus ten Black Ducks, 18 Common Mergansers and 35 or so Mallards.  Several of the geese and ducks were noted to have ice hanging on their bills which they attempted to remove without success.  They will certainly appreciate the upcoming warm up. 

Bald Eagle, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Jan 28, 2013

River Otter running on ice, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Jan 28, 2013

Northern Pintail (female-2nd from right) with Mallards, Honeypot, Hadley, MA, Jan 28, 2013

After helping a fellow birder in distress we headed over to the Honeypot to try our luck in finding the...I don't even want to mention its name...but you can guess.  A vigil here did not produce the main target but we did have a Peregrine Falcon, a Rough legged Hawk, a Northern Harrier, a Bald Eagle, a Northern Pintail in among the 278 Mallards and ten Black Ducks and 13 Common Mergansers.  With our time running out for the morning we headed back to UMASS with a quick stop at the campus pond where we had 31 Black Ducks (an impressive number) and just over 200 Mallards.

Winsor Dam as snow begins to fall, Jan 28, 2013
I dropped off Ian and then headed toward home to take Wilson for a walk before the snow hit.  A brief stop at Winsor Dam found the water already starting to freeze here too.  In the open spots of water were a dozen Common Mergansers and five Black Ducks.  A walk at Covey WMA produced even more waterfowl with at least 28 Hooded Mergansers, five Black Ducks and 18 Mallards.  The snow continued to pick up while there so I called it a day and headed for home.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Morning along the Connecticut River

Ring necked Duck, Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 27, 2013
Canada Geese (one with neck tag "18MA"), Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 27, 2013
Although I have resigned myself to never finding the mythical Gyrfalcon I did occasionally glance around while out and about in the hopes that it would finally show itself.  The Gyrfalcon has a history of being found on Sundays (don't ask me why) and it was indeed seen this afternoon.  As per usual it was not seen by me.  I did manage to find some interesting birds in the few hours I had available this morning.  I started at dawn below the Holyoke Dam and had a nice assortment of waterfowl including 16 Common Goldeneye, a few Black Ducks, almost three hundred Canada Geese, three Mute Swans, 40+ Mallards, five Hooded Mergansers and almost fifty Common Mergansers.  Among the small assortment of gulls that came in a little after seven were all three expected species.  There was also a kingfisher working the area below the dam.  Among the goldeneyes one female looked a lot like a Barrows but the light was terrible for viewing and the heat shimmer didn't help. The head appeared more like Barrows then the surrounding Common Goldeneyes and there appeared to be more yellow on the bill but the look was just not good enough. Once the light got better I was unable to relocate the bird.

I next headed upriver to Northampton stopping back over in the East Meadows to scan the nearly frozen river for waterfowl.  A male Ring necked Duck was in one of the few open spots of water as were around 20 Common Mergansers, a few Mallards and 1068 (at least) Canada Geese.  Among the Canada Geese were two with yellow neck tags.  The one I could read was "18MA" and I have sent in this information and I will update the background on the bird when I get the info.  Brief stops along Aqua Vitae Road, the Honeypot and South Maple Street did not produce anything too noteworthy.

Both in the morning and evening I had Great Horned Owls hooting here at home.  Hopefully some additional owl species will join them soon.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

A cold day but some birds still around

Ring necked Duck (with Mallards and Canada Geese), Connecticut River, Hadley/Northampton, Jan 26, 2013
Yet another sunny, windy cold day here with temperatures starting out just above zero and topping off in the mid-20's with near zero wind chills.  I initially was going to spend some time this morning at Quabbin but the light snow we got overnight kept the park gates closed plus the wind was very strong at Winsor Dam so I headed over to the Hadley/Northampton area instead.  I started out in the East Meadows heading over to the shore of the Connecticut River to check out the large congregation of geese on the Hadley side.  With large portions of the river frozen the geese were all bunched up which made finding something odd among them difficult.  Among the just over 1000 Canada Geese was a male Ring necked Duck and a few Mallards.  Further up river around the Coolidge Bridge were around a dozen Common Mergansers.  As I was watching the area of the bridge I noticed a large falcon fly in and dive at a Bald Eagle.  Although I wanted it to be something more it was 'just' a Peregrine Falcon.  The bird came back around the bridge a couple times before heading north.  Besides the Bald Eagle that was the subject of the Peregrine Falcon's attention there were two other adult Bald Eagle sitting in a tree nearby.  I tried to catch up with all these birds by heading to the bridge but I could not relocate them. 

Rough legged Hawk, Honeypot, Hadley, Jan 26, 2013

I next headed through the Honeypot and Aqua Vitae Road.  Aqua Vitae Road was fairly quiet with only a couple of Savannah Sparrows noteworthy.  At the Honeypot I had a light morph Rough legged Hawk teed up in a small tree right near the dike.  It then flew to one of the large trees near the transfer station were I got a few digiscoped photos.  The rest of the Honeypot was fairly quiet so I headed over to the Mill Valley Road/South Maple St/Moody Bridge Rd area.  Fairly quiet here also but I did find a new species for the year when I found four Brown headed Cowbirds (#83).  Also had an adult Red winged Blackbird in the area of Moody Bridge.
Bufflehead (poor photo but the bird was hardly ever on the surface...and it was damn cold!), Quabbin Park, Jan 26, 2013
Horned Grebes (2 of 12), Quabbin Park, Jan 26, 2013
Hanks Meadow at Quabbin Park, Jan 26, 2013

In the early afternoon I headed over to Quabbin Park and the road was open.  The reservoir is starting to freeze up with the Goodnough area totally frozen, the Hank's Meadow area 3/4 frozen and the area below Enfield Lookout frozen solid.  The area at Winsor Dam is mainly ice free at this point but due to the strong winds I didn't have too much here beyond a few Mallards and Common Mergansers.  Hank's Meadow was the most productive (and coldest) with a dozen Horned Grebes, a Bufflehead, a Hooded Merganser and seven Black Ducks.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Last full day in Florida-Jan 22

Northern Mockingbird, Disney Wilderness Preserve, FL, Jan 22, 2013
Brown headed Nuthatch, Disney Wilderness Preserve, FL, Jan 22, 2013
Yellow rumped Warbler, Disney Wilderness Preserve, FL, Jan 22, 2013
On my last full day in Florida I headed south a bit with a visit to Southport road and park at the south end of Lake Toho. This area can be good for grassland species and as usual all the expected species were found. The wind was a bit too strong to see much on the lake. The Tree Swallow spectacle was great as usual with thousands of birds feeding over the fields. I then headed to the Disney Wilderness Preserve which is a 12,000 acre Nature Conservancy property. I had hoped to find the group of Red cockaded Woodpeckers I had found there on a previous trip but no luck this time. I did have luck with other pine savanna species including Red headed Woodpecker, Brown headed Nuthatch and Pine Warblers among the many other species. I probably could have found others but I was feeling bad so called it a day by late morning.

Overall I ended the trip with 110 species. Given my limited time and inability to stay out as long as usual I was happy to get that total.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

More from Florida trip

Reddish Egret, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Jan 21, 2013

Reddish Egret, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Jan 21, 2013
Reddish Egret, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Jan 21, 2013
Great Blue Heron, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Jan 21, 2013
On Monday I was feeling OK in the morning so I decided to try my luck by heading to the coast and going to Merritt Island NWR and Canaveral National Seashore. It was, as always, a great time birding. I managed to hit just a few areas, specifically Black Point Wildlife Drive and Playalinda Beach and surrounding areas. Lots of waterfowl, waders and shorebirds along the wildlife drive.
Florida Scrub Jay, Canaveral National Seashore, FL, Jan 21, 2013
Northern Gannet, Canaveral National Seashore, FL, Jan 21, 2013
Royal Tern, Canaveral National Seashore, FL, Jan 21, 2013
Along the beach were the typical birds plus a good gannet show.  The road on the way to the beach produced several Florida Scrub Jays as well as a huge gathering of waterfowl in one of the water impoundments with tens of thousands of mainly American Coots and Lesser Scaup and a scattering of other species.

Meanwhile back here at home in the icebox the arctic cold continues with high temperatures today topping out in the mid teens with the morning temps at -5 and the forecast for this evening to be at least as cold.  Adding in the winds today dropped the windchill into the areas around -15 to -20.  Perhaps a warm up is in store next week, but who knows.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Back from a short trip to Florida

Wood Stork, Shingle Creek Management Area, Orlando, FL, Jan 20, 2013
Red shouldered Hawk, Shingle Creek Management Area, Orlando, FL, Jan 20, 2013

I'm back from a short trip to central Florida. I managed to get in a bit of birding but not as much as I would typically do as I continued to recover from a concussion following a fall on the ice a couple weeks ago. Instead of birding most of the day I would get out most mornings for a few hours until I started feeling bad and then head back to the hotel.

I was in Orlando from Saturday Jan 19- Wednesday Jan 23. On Sunday I birded at the Shingle Creek Management Area in Orlando.  Nothing too out of the ordinary there but still nice to be out and about.  I'll add some more from the other days as I get time to do so.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in Costa Rica and trip totals

White-tipped Sicklebill, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Dec 25, 2012
Black-mandibled Toucan (Chestnut-mandibled), Rio Magnolia Lodge, Dec 25, 2012
Cherrie's Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Dec 25, 2012
Bay headed Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Dec 25, 2012
White-crowned Parrot, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Dec 25, 2012
Squirrel Cuckoo, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Dec 24, 2012
Violet-headed Hummingbird, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Dec 24, 2012

I spent Christmas Eve and Christmas around the lodge trying to catch up with a few new species and get better looks (and photographs) of ones I had already seen.  Yet again I had a lot of luck and the days just flew by.  It was very relaxing spending almost the entire day just poking around the grounds to see what I could find.  The final two days were capped by a great Christmas dinner.  The next day we had just a short time around the lodge before the long drive back to San Jose and our flight home.  The best bird on that day would be a pair of Scarlet Macaws near the town of Jaco. 
My totals for the trip worked out as follows: 
Total species on trip-250
Life birds-66 
New Costa Rica birds-92

I have now loaded all my photos from the trip to my Flickr site at:

Let me know what you think of them.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A day into the Cordillera de Talamanca -Dec 23

Resplendent Quetzal, San Gerardo de Dota, Dec 23, 2012
Resplendent Quetzal, San Gerardo de Dota, Dec 23, 2012
Fiery throated Hummingbird, La Georgina, Dec 23, 2012
Volcano Hummingbird, San Gerardo de Dota, Dec 23, 2012

Collared Trogon, San Gerardo de Dota, Dec 23, 2012
Rufous collared Sparrow after eating berries, San Gerardo de Dota, Dec 23, 2012

On the morning of the December 23rd  I made the trip up to San Gerardo de Dota with guide Johan to bird a higher elevation area in the Cordillera de Talamanca mountains with the biggest target species being the Resplendent Quetzal.  The ride from the lodge to the location took hours but was worth it in the end.   A brief stop near the tops of the mountain at a local restaurant with a number of hummingbird feeders proved quite productive with killer looks at Volcano, Fiery-throated, and Magnificent Hummingbirds and Green eared Mango’s.  The weather here was windy, foggy and temperatures around 4 degrees Celsius.  A ride down into the Savegre River valley to San Gerardo de Dota provided lots of great birds which I have not seen before.  The list is long and included a total of 32 new species to my Costa Rica list and 27 of those life birds, including the stunning Resplendent Quetzal.  It was a long, full day of birding that was truly spectacular.

Meanwhile back at home I added a Northern Pintail (#81) flying over with a group of Mallards at Quabbin Park.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Around the lodge -December 22

Swallow-tailed Kite, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Dec 22, 2012
Swallow-tailed Kite, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Dec 22, 2012
Purple crowned Fairy, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Dec 22, 2012
As a continued recap of my recent trip to Costa Rica December 22 found me once again around the area of the lodge.  That morning I was joined by bird guide Johan Fernandez for the entire morning and with his help we found a nice selection of species including several trogons, lots of hummingbirds and a wide variety of others.  One sighting that was great but I didn't get a picture of (left the camera back at the cottage as the trails were slick) was a Barred Forest Falcon sitting near the top of a tree in the open repeatedly calling.  Another raptor highlight was an Ornate Hawk-Eagle  that was soaring over the forest calling while a Barred Hawk circled next to it.  During the afternoon I spent more time around the lodge including a lot of time scanning the area for the multitude of raptors with the handful of Swallow tailed Kites putting on a great show. 

Meanwhile back here in Massachusetts we got another dose of snow with a few inches of heavy wet snow blanketing the landscape that had just recent lost its coating of snow.  Hopefully the new snow will force the birds in the fields along the Connecticut River to congregate once again and perhaps, just perhaps, the Gyrfalcon will resurface again.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Marino Ballena National Park, Costa Rica -Dec 21

Brown Booby, Marino Ballena National Park, Dec 21, 2012
Brown Booby, Marino Ballena National Park, Dec 21, 2012
Royal Tern with leg band, Marino Ballena National Park, Dec 21, 2012
Magnificent Frigatebird scratching an itch, Marino Ballena National Park, Dec 21, 2012
Brown Booby, Marino Ballena National Park, Dec 21, 2012
On December 21st  we took a whale/dolphin tour out of Uvita to Marino Ballena National Park.  Although the number of total species was low it was neat to see close up views of Brown Boobies as well as a number of Magnificent Frigatebirds.  Although we saw no whales we got spectacular close up looks at a number of Tropical White sided Dolphins.  There were also a number of terns and gulls including a Royal Tern with a leg band.  I didn't notice the band until I looked at the photos.  Unfortunately I cannot read the numbers.  It would have been very interesting to see where the bird was banded and when..oh well.