Saturday, March 2, 2013

Various stops produce new birds for the year including a Black Vulture!

Killdeer, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Mar 2, 2013
I spent the morning exploring several areas looking for some new arrivals and I was not disappointed.  I started off briefly checking the Gyrfalcon roost location but had no luck.  There were quite a few other birders there and no bird was seen while I was there.  It appears the bird has left that roosting area and may have left the area completely.  I then headed over to various spots along the Connecticut River starting in South Hadley and working back up to Northampton.  On my way through South Hadley I had the best sighting of the day when a Black Vulture (together with a Turkey Vulture) soared low over the trees right in front of me at about 6:45.  I looked long and hard for Black Vulture last year in the county and missed so I was very happy to see this individual.  This became species #91 for the county this year.  The bird was just too quick to allow me to get a photo.

Ring necked Ducks and Hooded Merganser, South Hadley Canal Park, South Hadley, MA, Mar 2, 2013

With the thawing of the various bodies of water the waterfowl have started to spread out and are no longer concentrated in just a couple areas.  At Holyoke Dam the only waterfowl around included a single Hooded Merganser, four Common Mergansers and a Canada Goose.  Up above the dam I had another Hooded Merganser, a lucky 13 Ring necked Ducks, plus a pair of Mute Swans and more Canada Geese.  Near the dinosaur footprints in Holyoke I had nine Common Goldeneyes.  Working up to Northampton I checked out the old Mill River and had a handful of Black Ducks, Mallards and Canada Geese. 

Mixed flock of blackbirds, grackles, cowbirds and starlings, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Mar 2, 2013
I then headed through a small part of the East Meadows.  The road conditions were a bit iffy at best so I didn't go far but I did manage to find some good birds nonetheless.  I ran across a mixed species flock of 50+ Red winged Blackbirds, a few Common Grackles, several Brown headed Cowbirds and lots of Starlings.  Several Horned Larks were scattered throughout the meadows but I never had any big groups.  The best birds here were four Killdeer (#92) foraging on the ice in a flooded field near the red barn. 
Wood Duck, Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Mar 2, 2013

The Coolidge Bridge proved to be unproductive but a brief stop along Aqua Vitae Road turned up the continuing Vesper Sparrow.  I also made a brief stop at the Honeypot with the best bird being a Rough legged Hawk plus a Bald Eagle sitting on the nest there.  A stop along the Connecticut River produced the third new county bird of the year when I found a male Wood Duck (#93) in among a large group of Canada Geese, Mallards and Black Ducks.   My attempt to find some snipe along East Hadley Road produced no good results.  I then headed back toward home to hit a little of Quabbin before the morning ended.
Bufflehead, Quabbin Park, MA, Mar 2, 2013
Common Mergansers, Quabbin Park, MA, Mar 2, 2013
Quabbin Park was relatively quiet but still produced some decent sightings including a pair of Common Goldeneyes, a Common Loon, a Bufflehead, several Common Mergansers and the Bald Eagle still on the nest plus a number of American Crows moving east and north in groups...early migration?  Overall a productive morning with three new birds for the county this year.  I turned up Red winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles at a number of areas plus the waterfowl numbers are just starting to increase and should peak in a few more weeks.

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