Tuesday, April 30, 2013

End of April birding

Black and White Warbler, Covey WMA, Apr 30, 2013
Blue winged Warbler, Covey WMA, Apr 30, 2013
Yellow rumped Warbler, Covey WMA, Apr 30, 2013
Yet another sunny and pleasant day spent in the field catching up with more migrants. Still no huge influx but I did manage to add five new species today. I started off predawn at Covey WMA and Quabbin Park where I had at least three Eastern Whip-Poor-Wills calling. I then spent some time with Devin at Covey WMA where we ran across a few new birds including Ovenbird (#163), Spotted Sandpiper (#164) and Blue winged Warbler (#165). 
American Redstart, Quabbin Park, Apr 30, 2013
After a long walk at Covey we headed over for a brief run through Quabbin Park where we had a few birds around including another new one, American Redstart (#166). We patted ways at this point and I headed home and got Wilson for a walk at the Belchertown Land Trust trail. The best bird here was a calling Prairie Warbler which became species #167. I also took a walk along Jabish Canal trying to find the woodpecker that sounded a lot like a Red headed Woodpecker. After a whole lot of looking I finally saw what was making the noise...it was an odd sounding Red bellied Woodpecker. Oh well, nothing too unusual but I'm still glad I finally chased it down to see what it was. Later in the day I walked a few west Quabbin gates but nothing too unusual was found.

A brief update as to where I stand in my quest to find as many species as I can in Hampshire County in a year. I'm currently at 167 species at the end of April. At this time last year I was at 130. It took me until May 5th to reach 167 last year (the big difference in just five days shows how fast and furious the bird arrive this time of year). I will add quite a few species over the next month as more migrants move in. By the end of May last year I had a total of 185 species. Who knows where I will stand at the end of this May...perhaps I will break over 200 species before the month ends?

Monday, April 29, 2013

American Bittern...Finally!

American Bittern, Cummington, MA, Apr 29, 2013
American Bittern, Cummington, MA, Apr 29, 2013
I woke up early once again so I headed out early starting out at the Barrett Street marsh before dawn.  Yet again I had several Virginia Rails calling but nothing more unusual.  Given the south winds last night and the indication of quite a bit of migration on the radar I headed over to UMASS to see if indeed there was a large influx.  Yet again the birds were few and far between with little in the way of warblers around.  There certainly was some increase in numbers of species that had already arrived but little new stuff.  The only new bird for the morning there was a flyby Baltimore Oriole (#157).  With the lack of new activity at UMASS I decided to head back across the river and at the last minute decided to head up to Cummington to hopefully catch up with an American Bittern (#158).  This time I had success right away when a bird flushed and then settled down in the reeds and started calling...always fun to see and hear.  Somehow I missed seeing this species last year but I was not going to let that happen again!  The Virginia Rails were also quite vocal here. 

Rusty Blackbird, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Apr 29, 2013
Rusty Blackbird, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Apr 29, 2013
Great Blue Herons, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Apr 29, 2013
I headed back down to the valley and decided to try my luck at Arcadia.  This proved to be a productive stop almost right away when I had a Chestnut-sided Warbler (#159).  I spent most of my time in the general area of the heron rookery trying to see if I could find any unusual herons/egrets among the 50+ nesting Great Blue Herons (nothing else besides a Green Heron).  During my walk around the area I had a number of Yellow rumped Warblers moving through but nothing unusual with them. There were several Yellow Warbler and Warbling Vireos in the area, with a few showing quite well.  I added Bobolink (#160) and then Least Flycatcher (#161) to my county list for the year.  Other notable sightings included a presumed pair of Eastern Meadowlarks chasing each other around the large field that typically hosts several pairs of Bobolinks and a Rusty Blackbird that called over and over as it fed.

With the morning rapidly coming to a close I headed home to pick up Wilson and head out for more walks.  We started at Jabish Canal and had a few expected birds here including a Red shouldered Hawk.  The most unusual bird was one I never got a look at but certainly kept me looking for quite some time.  It sounded a lot like a Red headed Woodpecker but I was never able to see what species was actually making the sound.  I recorded the call but not sure that will really solve the ID mystery.  It could have been an odd sounding Red bellied Woodpecker but I really would have liked to have seen the individual making the call.  After our walk along the canal we decided to take one more short walk along the land trust trail.  This walk produced one more new species for the year when we ran across a couple Bank Swallow (#162)
Banded Canada Goose, Belchertown, MA, Apr 29, 2013
Banded Canada Goose, Belchertown, MA, Apr 29, 2013
I also ran across a dead Canada Goose along the train tracks near the Jabish Canal.  I reported the federal band on the bird and found that the bird was a female banded in Belchertown on 6/30/2011 and was hatched prior to 2010.  I presume the bird was hit by a passing train.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

A small pulse of migrants

Eastern Phoebe, UMASS Amherst, MA, Apr 28, 2013
Orchard Oriole, Wentworth Farm CA, Amherst, MA, Apr 28, 2013
Although today did not turn out to be "the day" of a big influx of migrants it nonetheless had some great highlights and added a number of species to my list for the year. I'll note the highlights of the day but I'm just too tired to go into great detail. I started out predawn at Covey WMA where I had a Eastern Whip-poor-will calling as well as Barred and Great Horned Owl. I tried for bittern here again but no luck. There were several Virginia Rails calling in various parts of the marsh. I next headed to a small marsh on rt 181 but, again no bittern. Same story when I went to the marsh near Gate 9 (more Virginia Rails but no bittern). I then headed over to UMASS starting at Orchard Hill where I joined a few other birders. The variety continues to increase with each passing day here and I added Gray Catbird (#150) , Nashville Warbler (#151), Warbling Vireo (#152), Black throated Blue Warbler (#153) and eventually Wood Thrush (#154). At this point we heard about a very unusual Mountain Bluebird found in Berkshire County. Everyone else headed up that way where they did indeed catch up with this species of the west. I stayed at UMASS and hit other parts of e campus where I added another new species to my year county list with a Northern Parula (#155). After UMASS I headed over to Wentworth Conservation Area before meeting up with Wilson and heading to Sunderland for a long walk off Middle Mountain Rd. Although not in Hampshire County ( the horror!) the area was quite nice and birdy with a nice show of Black throated Green Warblers and a point blank view of a Louisiana Waterthrush. On my way back home took another little walk around Wentworth Farm and turned up an Orchard Oriole (#156). I managed to add seven species to my county list for the year today.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

White eyed Vireo and others

Rose breasted Grosbeak, UMASS Amherst, Apr 27, 2013
Started the day predawn looking for American Bittern at a few marshes in Belchertown without luck (again). I did have a couple of Barred Owls calling back and forth at home before I left for the morning.  After my unproductive search for bitterns I headed over to Orchard Hill at UMASS. Although the conditions were not great for a big influx of migrants I was very surprised to not turn up a single warbler in over an hour. I did run across a couple of Rose breasted Grosbeaks (#146) as well as a few other migrants. 

White eyed Vireo, Barrett St marsh, Northampton, Apr 27, 2013
White eyed Vireo, Barrett St marsh, Northampton, Apr 27, 2013
Virginia Rail, Barrett St marsh, Northampton, Apr 27, 2013
Virginia Rail, Barrett St marsh, Northampton, Apr 27, 2013
I was on my way back to my car when I got a call about a White eyed Vireo at Barrett Street marsh in Northampton. I texted Ian and picked him up on my way through and headed over the river. We managed to find the bird fairly quickly but it never came in close but was actively feeding the entire time. The White eyed Vireo not only became species #147 for the year in the county it became my 274th species in Hampshire county ever. We also had at least three (probably many more) Virginia Rails calling from the marsh with at least two of them showing themselves very well (for rails). Also had a couple Green Herons (#148) flying past and then landing in the marsh. We decided to try our luck with finding some other unusual species at Mitch's Way but that area was fairly quiet. 

Yellow Warbler, UMASS Amherst, Apr 27, 2013
Yellow rumped Warbler, UMASS Amherst, Apr 27, 2013
Black and White Warbler, UMASS Amherst, Apr 27, 2013
We ended our morning checking out another part of campus where we ran across a few pockets of warblers including my first of year Yellow Warbler (#149). I tried my best to get to the 150 mark today but no such luck. However any day that gets me a new county bird is a good day indeed.

I would also like to mention a major accomplishment for a team of birders that shattered the old single day record of species recorded in the USA in a single day by a wide margin when they managed to find 294 species in 24 hours in Texas on April 25!  Truly amazing when you think the old record (also achieved by this team) stood at 264.  Here is a link that sums up the story of this amazing achievement.  http://www.birds.cornell.edu/roundrobin/2013/04/27/294-species-and-one-shattered-record-on-almost-perfect-big-day/

Friday, April 26, 2013

Fruitless search for Black crowned Night Herons

Pine Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Apr 26, 2013

Eastern Screech Owl in Wood Duck box, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Apr 26, 2013
I spent about an hour and half this morning along the Mill River and Arcadia trying to catch up with a pair of Black crowned Night Herons seen there on Thursday. Despite a lot of looking I had no luck finding them but there is so much good habitat for them to hang out in they could easily still be around. Hopefully they turn up again at some point. As I looked for them I ran across a few pockets of birds including my first Black throated Green Warbler (#143) singing along the river path at Arcadia (I eventually had three of these warblers). Also had an Eastern Screech Owl sunning itself as it sat in the entrance to a Wood Duck box.  I got 46 species without trying too hard this morning with half a dozen of them warblers. Just the start of which should be a few great weeks of birding as all the migrants come north. I also ran across species #144 when I had a few Chimney Swifts over downtown Northampton later in the morning.

This evening I made a trip over to Covey WMA and Quabbin Park after sunset to try to find a whip-poor-will.  I had luck at my first stop within just a few minutes when I had an Eastern Whip-poor-will calling (#145).  My other couple stops did not produce any more of that species but I did have several American Woodcocks as well as a Barred Owl calling (making it a three owl day when you include the Great Horned Owl I had at home this morning).

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Birthday birding

Blue gray Gnatcatcher, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2013
Blue gray Gnatcatcher, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2013
Black and White Warbler, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2013
American Goldfinch, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2013
Glossy Ibis with Pied billed Grebe(right), rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2013
Blue gray Gnatcatcher, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2013
I spent my entire birthday morning out birding in various areas around the valley trying to catch up with any new migrants that may have arrived overnight.  Despite the decent winds last night and overnight rain I had very little in the way of evidence of migration.  I started at Orchard Hill at UMASS and then hit the rail trail in Amherst before making a brief stop at Winsor Dam.  I then headed home to pick up Wilson and we walked along Jabish Canal as well as along the Belchertown Land Trust trail.  I got my only new county bird for the year at Orchard Hill when I had a Northern Waterthrush (#142) calling (I found another individual along the rail trail).  Overall the hill was very quiet and windy so I headed to the rail trail to try to get out of the wind a bit.  The three Glossy Ibis continued in the same spot they have been for over a week now although today they were a bit further out in the marsh.  I also a Pied billed Grebe in the same area as the ibis. I have had a pair here on a few other visits lately.   Perhaps they will nest here (or already are nesting).  Numbers of some early migrants such as Blue gray Gnatcatcher, Brown Thrasher, Black and White Warbler, House Wren and others have increased in numbers.  The winds made viewing at Winsor Dam difficult so little was seen.  Jabish Canal had a decent raptor show with several migrating despite the northwest winds.  I had six species of raptor plus Turkey Vultures. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A cold day then a warm day

What a difference a day makes with the weather. Yesterday it was in the low 40's, cloudy and breezy and today it was sunny and it made it into the upper 70's!  I made a brief stop at Winsor Dam on the way to work but the winds made viewing difficult and I didn't have anything noteworthy.  I noticed a few raptors moving today when the winds switched around to southerly and increased.  The winds should stay like this tonight before a front comes through with showers and turns the winds back around.  Hopefully many migrants will take advantage of the winds early in the night and make their way north.  I would expect the arrival of at least a few new species tomorrow.  Time will tell!

Glossy Ibis (one of three), Rail Trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 23, 2013
Tree Swallows and a couple Northern Rough winged Swallows, Rail Trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 23, 2013
Yesterday I added species #141 at home in the morning before sunrise when a House Wren sang several times.  I also stopped briefly along the rail trail in Amherst to see if the Glossy Ibis were still present.  After a bit of looking I found all three birds fairly close but somewhat obscured.  I last saw them fly out low up over the trail and put down further upstream along Hop Brook.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Costa Rica -April 9, 10, 11 and 12

Spot-crowned Euphonia, Rio Magnolia Lodge, April 9, 2013
Bare throated Tiger Heron, Hatillo Mangroves, April 9, 2013
On our third full day we made a midday trip down to the coast to take a kayak tour through the mangroves north of Dominical. Although quite hot in the sun the mangroves provided a nice cool down. I didn’t bring the regular camera along for the day but a point and shoot filled in to get a few photos. Nothing new but some great looks at Bare-throated Tiger Heron (including one on nest), American Pygmy Kingfisher and Mangrove Cuckoo among others. Before leaving for the kayak tour I added one life bird when a Tiny Hawk came over the lodge and landed briefly allowing some photographs before disappearing once again. The remainder of the day was spent at the lodge.

Common Tody-Flycatcher, Los Cusingos, Apr 10, 2013
White-tipped Sicklebill, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Apr 10, 2013
April 10 found me heading off the mountain to Los Cusingos to see what I could find on the trails at the old home of Alexander Skutch.  Sadly the fruit feeders there were almost empty due to some thieving monkeys but I still managed to find some decent birds.  Nothing too unusual but still a nice morning to be outside checking out the grounds there.

Three-toed Sloth, Hacienda Baru, Apr 11, 2013
Our last day trip away from the lodge was down to Hacienda Baru on the Pacific coast.  The very warm, sunny weather made for some tough hiking but was tolerable if you stayed within the forest.  Although we didn’t arrive until mid morning I still manged to find a couple life birds over the course of the several hours we were there including Yellow-green Vireo and Red-rumped Woodpecker.  Oddly no monkeys for the day but did manage to find a Three-toed Sloth with a baby which was just a few feet off the trail and low in the trees,
Cherrie's Tanager, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Apr 12, 2013
Dusky-capped Flycatcher, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Apr 12, 2013
I spent the last full day in the area around the lodge and it was once again a great day of birding.  Overall for the trip I ended up with 204 species total with 14 of them life birds and 26 of them new to me in Costa Rica.  The lodge once again proved to be a great base to explore from and I would highly recommend the place to anyone- http://www.riomagnolia.com/

Many more photos from the trip can be found at the following links to my Flickr site:

Birds: http://www.flickr.com/photos/54277284@N05/sets/72157633255364904/

Around Rio Magnolia Lodge: http://www.flickr.com/photos/54277284@N05/sets/72157633255364892/

Insects, butterflies, mammals, landscapes,etc: http://www.flickr.com/photos/54277284@N05/sets/72157633267573507/

Monday, April 22, 2013

Various areas around Quabbin

Sunrise over Quabbin, Gate 5, Apr 22, 2013
After Wilson decided it would be a good idea to wake up just before five I took the opportunity to head out and see the sunrise at Quabbin.  Before I even left the house on this cold morning (below freezing again) I had a Great Horned Owl hooting.  I headed for Gate 5 and walked down to the waters edge.  I had a couple Ruffed Grouse drumming as I checked out the water and watched the sunrise.  There were a number of gulls on the water but the distance was just too great to pick out anything unusual.  I had a pair of mating Cooper's Hawks as I headed back up the road to my car.

I next headed north up to the large marsh near Gate 9 in hopes of finding a bittern but had no luck (again).  However I did run across at least two Red Crossbills, which according to Matt Young at Cornell are likely Type 1 (confirmation will have to wait until he analyzes the calls).  I also had a large group of migrant warblers moving along the edge of the marsh that I was never able to fully look through as the crossbills distracted me.  After Gate 9 I headed south and stopped at the Packardville Road marsh where I tried for an early Northern Waterthrush but instead had a Louisiana Waterthrush calling several times.  My next stop was Lake Wallace where I once again struck out in finding a bittern.

Pine Warbler with unusual markings, Quabbin Park, Apr 22, 2013
Pine Warbler with unusual markings, Quabbin Park, Apr 22, 2013

Red breasted Merganser, Quabbin Park, Apr 22, 2013
I then headed over to Quabbin Park with the notable birds being a Red breasted Mergansers viewed from Hanks Meadow and an odd Pine Warbler with a complete black 'necklace' on its lover neck/upper chest similar to a Canada Warbler.  I managed a couple of digiscoped photos.  Nothing else too unusual there but some decent numbers of typical migrants. 

Later in the morning Wilson and I took a walk along Jabish Canal and the highlights included a pair of Broad-winged Hawks hunting along the canal and at least one Rusty Blackbird calling.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Brief morning of birding

Great Blue Herons coming into land (part of group of 11), Covey WMA, Apr 21, 2013
The weather has turned a bit cooler to say the least with temperatures this morning below freezing with a fairly strong northerly wind.  At least it is sunny!  I had a little time this morning to get out before I head to head off for the day so I took Wilson on a walk around Covey WMA.  Fair numbers of expected birds plus at least three Virginia Rails at various points including one that popped out of the grass ten feet away and looked at us for a few seconds before disappearing again.  I tried to find an American Bitter and/or Sora but had no luck.  The surprise bird for the morning was a flyover Evening Grosbeak which became species #140 for the county this year.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

South winds and overnight rain = good birding

Bonaparte's Gull, Winsor Dam, Apr 20, 2013
Iceland Gull, Winsor Dam, Apr 20, 2013
Iceland Gull, Winsor Dam, Apr 20, 2013
Iceland Gull, Winsor Dam, Apr 20, 2013

Horned Grebe, Winsor Dam, Apr 20, 2013

I had high expectations on finding something good this morning when I headed out before dawn to Quabbin Park.  With the strong southerly winds yesterday followed by some rain late at night into the morning the potential existed for some good birds to have been forced down due to the weather.  Although rainy and cool before dawn at Winsor Dam I still managed to find a Bonaparte's Gull right away feeding along with Ring billed Gulls.  Additional birds out on the water included four Horned Grebes, four Bufflehead, a couple Common Mergansers, a few Black Ducks and a couple Common Loons.  A few other birders arrived and as we watched the nearly hundred gulls a late Iceland Gull appeared.  My expectations of a good morning certainly appeared to have been met but more was to come.

Red throated Loon, Quabbin Park, Apr 20, 2013

Red throated Loon, Quabbin Park, Apr 20, 2013

Horned Grebe, Quabbin Park, Apr 20, 2013

Bald Eagle, Quabbin Park, Apr 20, 2013

With all the good birds at the dam I figured the rest of the park would be good so my next stop was over to Hanks Meadow which held a couple more Bufflehead, another Horned Grebe and best of all a distant juvenile Red-throated Loon (an uncommon species anytime, but especially in the spring).  The Red-throated Loon became species #137 for the county this year.  Other areas around Quabbin Park held other waterfowl including a few each of Ring necked Duck, Wood Duck, Hooded Merganser, Mallard and Canada Geese.  I finally added Eastern Towhee (#138) for the year.  The numbers of other early migrants such as Blue Gray Gnatcatcher, Palm Warbler, Pine Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler and Chipping Sparrow continued to increase. 

Horned Grebe, Winsor Dam, Apr 20, 2013

Bonaparte's Gulls, Winsor Dam, Apr 20, 2013
After the park I decided to stop back at Winsor Dam to see if anything new arrived.  I'm certainly glad I stopped as I added yet another new species when a couple of White-winged Scoters (#139) appeared among the various other species of waterfowl on the water.  Other species of waterfowl present included three Long tailed Ducks, a Ring necked Duck, at least 21 Horned Grebe, seven Bufflehead, four Common Merganser, a Common Loon and a couple each of Mallard and Canada Geese.  I stayed at the dam for over an hour and a half and managed to see 47 species during that time.  Other notable birds included at least two Bonaparte's Gulls, a couple Great Blue Herons, a Red shouldered Hawk, a few Broad winged Hawks, a Blue headed Vireo, three species of swallows and three species of warblers moving past.

Once I got home I got a call from Jacob Drucker about an adult Laughing Gull along South Maple Street in Hadley.  I immediately headed over there but the bird left prior to my arrival.  I searched every field from East Hadley Road up past the UMASS campus to Russelville Road but had no luck relocating the bird.  It was last seen heading northeast so I even tried Winsor Dam on my way home in hopes it landed there, but no luck.  In addition there was a report of a possible Le Conte Sparrow at the Honeypot in Hadley but not confirmed.  Certainly a good day to be out birding early despite the rain!