Friday, May 31, 2013

Quabbin Park and more south winds

Sunrise at Gate 52, Quabbin Park, May 31, 2013

Sunrise at Gate 52, Quabbin Park, May 31, 2013
Black Bear, Quabbin Park, May 31, 2013

Today turned out to be the hottest day so far this year with a high temperature in the mid 90's. I got out early this morning (what else is new) to try to beat the heat. I decided to stay close to home with a visit to Quabbin Park and then a brief stop at gate 8 to search (in vain) for an Acadian Flycatcher. Quabbin Park was quite active with 69 species including four species of vireo, a family group of ravens, a dozen species of warblers plus many other species on territory.  On my way out of Quabbin Park I had a large Black Bear cross the entrance road to the visitors center right around 7:30am. I managed a few shots with the phone as it strolled away.

Wilson and I then took a long walk along the land trust trail before it got too hot. Still quite a bit of activity around with most birds being breeders on territory. Perhaps the only exception would be a Greater Yellowlegs in the small marsh near rt 181.  Overall for the morning I found a total of 80+ species with 
17 of those being warblers.

With today being the last day of the month I will give a quick snapshot of the month.  It was a great month for migration and I found a total of 167 species in Hampshire county alone for the month.  I will update my status in regards to my big county year in a post in the near future.

Now to look at the birding 'tea leaves' once again and see if I can try to predict some other potential for unusual birds. The next few days will feature a fairly strong and extensive flow of air out of the south (reaching all the way down to the gulf coast). The potential is there for something 'southern' to get caught up in the winds and pushed north. Perhaps a Mississippi Kite (or even a Swallow tailed Kite) or a White Pelican, a Black bellied Whistling Duck, an odd dove or who knows what else? I would be very surprised if something unusual does not show up. The southern flow will be ended by a cold front moving in late Sunday into Monday. The exact timing of that is unknown at this point but if the timing worked out right it could result in some birds being forced down until the weather improves.  Stay tuned!


Yesterday morning fog and whip-poor-will survey last night

Not much to report from yesterday morning as everywhere was fog, fog and more fog.  The thunderstorms of the previous night dropped a lot of rain and the humidity was quite high.  Not sure if anything came in after the storms but if anything did I didn’t get to see it!  Eventually the fog burned off and the temperatures climbed to 90.
View from Goodnough Dike, May 30, 2013
Last night I conducted my second whip-poor-will survey along with a couple biologists from Quabbin.  This survey route is a new one and starts near the middle entrance at Quabbin Park then to  the east entrance over to Goodnough Dike, up around the tower then over to Winsor Dam then south through Covey WMA and ending in southern Belchertown.  Not the best time to conduct the survey but I’m not sure a better time will present itself this year so we went ahead with it.  The route must begin at least 15 minutes after sunset and consists of ten stop with a total of six minutes spent listening at each stop.  We had a total of six Eastern Whip-poor-wills along the route with five at survey stops and one between stops.  The number should have been higher and if we get a chance in the next survey window in June we will run the route again.

Before the survey began I checked the reservoir from Winsor Dam and had a surprising 48 Mallards out on the nearly still water. I looked though the group but couldn't find anything more unusual among them then a single Hooded Merganser. During the survey we also ran across a Barred and Great Horned Owl in addition to the six whip-poor-wills.

Stop                                                       # of whip-poor-wills

1                                                              1            

2                                                              1

3                                                              2

4                                                              0

5                                                              0

6                                                              0

7                                                              1

8                                                              0

9                                                              0

10                                                            0

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Overnight rain brings down unusual birds -Black bellied Plovers and Short billed Dowitchers

Winsor Dam near dawn, May 29, 2013
Flock of Black bellied Plovers (I swear!), Winsor Dam, May 29, 2013
As predicted yesterday the rain overnight resulted in some unusual birds around this morning (nice to have one of my bird predictions come true!).  The winds stayed south during the night and the rain moved in overnight putting down some birds.  I heard the rain falling around 4am so I figured it could be good once I got up.  I headed over to Winsor Dam around 5:30 with a light rain still falling but luckily little fog.  As soon as I got to Winsor Dam I thought I heard Black bellied Plovers but scanned around and could not find them.  A couple minutes later I heard the calls again and this time caught sight of a group of about 25 birds in flight.  I had the scope out and got on them fairly quickly and had a total of 28 birds with 26 of them being Black bellied Plovers.  Along with the plovers were two other shorebirds that I originally called just dowitcher species.  The group circled around a couple times before finally disappearing to the north.  As the group flew around the plovers were calling constantly and the dowitchers called a few times (giving a three note call) which turned the ID to Short billed Dowitcher.  I quick grabbed out my phone and tried to get a photo despite the rain.  I managed a couple of out of focus shots of part of the group but nothing you could use to ID the birds.  Tough to get a flock of shorebirds moving by using the phone and a scope but I did give it a try!  These two species added two more species to my Hampshire county list for the year: Black bellied Plover (#209) and Short billed Dowitcher (#210).  This is only the second time I have had Short billed Dowitchers in the county and both times have been at Winsor Dam in May in rainy weather.  Before today I had a group of 32 together land along the dam during a heavy rain on May 17, 2009.  I have never had Black bellied Plover in spring before here but the views I got ruled out anything else.  I tried my best to turn at least a few into golden plovers but couldn’t.  All the plovers were in breeding plumage which made for a great sight as they flew by.   I’m sure there were other unusual birds out there just waiting to be found but with not many people looking and lots of potential spots for the birds to be I didn’t hear of any other reports in the valley.  A bit further east at Bolton Flats a Franklin’s Gull made an appearance so there were indeed other oddities nearby.
Here is yet another example of unusual birds being grounded by the weather in the local area. James Smith had an extremely rare inland Forester's Tern along with two Common Terns in Turners Falls. In addition he had a late Gadwall and flyover Black bellied Plovers and Short billed Dowitchers. Here is his blog post about some amazing birds that morning.  Great stuff James!

The next few days will feature summer like conditions with sun, humidity and heat with temperatures at or above 90.


Tuesday, May 28, 2013

My 10,000th eBird list in Mass

Today marked another eBird milestone for me when I entered my 10,000th list for Massachusetts this morning at Quabbin Gate 5.  The vast majority of these lists come from western Massachusetts with a handful from elsewhere in the state.  I have seen a total of 308 species in the state so far (I could add many if I visited the coast more but that is not too likely to happen!).  My 10,000th state list at gate 5 had a nice selection of birds in the half hour I was there with species such as Black billed Cuckoo (maybe two), eleven species of warbler including a Prairie Warbler and other resident birds.
I have posted many times about eBird and the advantages of using it to not only keep track of your records but to add to the scientific knowledge regarding bird abundance, migration and activities of birds around the world (or just in your back yard).  Although not everyone has to be as obsessive about it as I am I would urge anyone that birds to use eBird.  It makes you pay attention to a greater degree in coming up with accurate numbers of individual species and makes you really look at unusual species closer as you will likely be questioned on the ID (just to confirm that what you entered is what you really saw and to maintain scientific quality in the data).  If you are not using it yet just hit this link to get started:

Tomorrow morning could prove interesting with south winds continuing overnight and showers and storms moving in late night into the morning.  The conditions are right for terns and/or shorebirds to be forced down by the weather.  Keep your eyes out at any body of water or fields for something noteworthy…I know I will be looking.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A sunny day produces Golden winged Warbler and Olive sided Flycatcher (A GOOD DAY!)

Olive sided Flycatcher, Belchertown, MA, May 27, 2013
We finally got a sunny day today so I took advantage this morning and hit several areas looking for some late migrants.  I started the cold (37 degrees) morning at Winsor Dam and was going to head into Quabbin Park early but the gates were still locked so I headed over to Covey WMA instead.  On my way there I noticed several Great Blue Heron hanging out at the fish hatchery looking longingly at the fish protected by netting.  Nothing too unusual at Covey so I decided to head to new spots before the rest of the world woke up for the day.

Great Blue Heron on nest, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, May 27, 2013
A brief stop at Lake Wallace (mainly looking for Olive sided Flycatcher) produced lots of resident birds including a vocal Alder Flycatcher as well as a single nesting Great Blue Heron (first time I have had them nesting here). 

I then headed north to gates along the west side of Quabbin in Pelham looking for Hooded Warbler and Acadian Flycatcher.  No luck with these species but lots of other warblers around with some giving great looks.  Always fun to stand in one spot and have eight species of warbler sounding off. 

Groundhog, Quabbin Park, May 27, 2013

Mystery small white birds, Quabbin Park, May 27, 2013
White tailed Deer swimming, Quabbin Park, May 27, 2013

On my way back home I briefly stopped at Winsor Dam again and ran across the "Monday morning birding group".  The last time I caught up with this group at Winsor Dam was just after hurricane Sandy when we had lots of scoters and other ducks around.  Not much for waterfowl today except a couple Mallards.  The mammal show was unusual for this time of day with crowds around...I had two deer along the far shore, another swimming across the reservoir and a groundhog right next to the fake coyote.  Just before I left I spotted two small white birds along the west shore that I just could not figure out.  There were also at least three Spotted Sandpipers in the same area and in comparison the two white birds looked to be around the same size...too small to be gulls.  I watched them and attempted photos for several minutes but could not figure out what they were.  I looked away for a few minutes and when I looked back to where they had been I, of course, could not find them again.  Another Quabbin mystery that will likely remain unsolved.  If anyone else had some ideas on them, let me know (I have a few potential species but all would be very unusual).

I headed for home to pick up Wilson to go for a walk and we headed to the land trust trail.  The first bird I got there was a Swainson's Thrush (one of at least three along the trail).  I then heard a Golden winged Warbler song and got a brief look at the bird.  I tried and tried to find it again but no luck.  No photo as I was out walking the dog so I didn't have any camera besides my phone and I didn't get a long enough look to even try to set up a shot with that.  I also had at least two Blue winged Warblers in the area with one giving an odd variant of the blue winged song. The Golden winged Warbler is a very rare species around here now and I have only had three (including today) in the county ever.  This became species #207.

Olive sided Flycatcher, Belchertown, MA, May 27, 2013
Olive sided Flycatcher, Belchertown, MA, May 27, 2013
Common Nighthawk, Belchertown, MA, May 27, 2013
Common Nighthawk, Belchertown, MA, May 27, 2013
'Traills' Flycatcher, Belchertown, MA, May 27, 2013
Common Nighthawk, Belchertown, MA, May 27, 2013
I spent the entire afternoon at home and had the Griffith's come over for a cookout and among the many species around the yard we had 14+ Common Nighthawks calling and feeding overhead, a Willow Flycatcher, a Blackpoll Warbler, and an Olive sided Flycatcher (#208).  There certainly were migrants still around with Blackpoll Warblers heard at several locations, a Northern Parula at Gate 12, Swainson's Thrushes and Golden winged Warbler at the land trust trail and an Olive sided Flycatcher at home among other likely migrants.  With winds predicted to shift around to the south the next few days perhaps a few more late season migrants will push through.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Annual Poverty Mountain bird survey and other stops before and after

Red breasted Merganser, Quabbin Park, May 26, 2013

Red breasted Merganser, Quabbin Park, May 26, 2013
Red breasted Merganser, Quabbin Park, May 26, 2013

Today marked the annual bird census up at Kevin Weir's property near Poverty Mountain on the Shutesbury/Amherst line.  I have taken part in this survey for several years now and we always manage to turn up something good but more about that later.  Before heading over there this morning I made a stop by both Winsor Dam and fields around UMASS in search of birds still down due to the recent rain storm.  Nothing storm related or unusual was found at either location.  At least viewing was a bit better today with the rain stopped and the sky occasionally showing spots of blue.  The temperatures was still quite low to start (40 degrees) but it warmed into the 50's but the wind increased so it still felt quite chilly. 

Highlights of the bird survey included swallows feeding over the fields including Cliff Swallow, an unusual species for that location .  There was also a late Lincoln's Sparrow along the edge of the upper fields.  This is actually the first one I have seen this spring and I still need it for my Hampshire County list.  If only the bird were about a 750 feet west it would be in Amherst and therefore in Hampshire County...oh well I will just have to wait until fall to find this species in county I guess.  The total of number of species for the morning survey are still being tallied but may be just a bit under the typical average of 60 species.

On my way home I decided to try my luck at a few fields in Hadley and see what I could find.  Along Mill Valley Road near the town line I had a few shorebirds but they were distant and the wind made viewing difficult (and photography impossible).  The best bird there was a Semipalmated Plover (#206) way out.  I also had a couple of closer in Spotted Sandpipers.  A stop at East Hadley Road produced just a single Killdeer as far as shorebirds go.  I had heard from a friend that they had several species of shorebirds yesterday during the storm but I assume most vacated the area as soon as the weather improved. 

I then went east to Quabbin Park where I stopped a couple of times at Winsor Dam searching in vain for something unusual.  I also checked Goodnough Dike and Gate 52 in the park to see if anything noteworthy might be around.  The swallow show was much diminished at Gate 52 with just a handful of Tree, Barn and Bank Swallows present.  The highlight there was a female Red breasted Merganser which is quite unusual inland, especially this late in spring.

Meanwhile back at home this afternoon the bird activity continued with the young Eastern Phoebes getting more vocal, a Rose breasted Grosbeak competing with the local Scarlet Tanagers and Baltimore Orioles to see who can sing the loudest or the most.  The resident Louisiana Waterthrush called several times from down along the rain swollen Jabish Brook...hopefully the high water didn't wash away its nest.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Rainy, windy and cold.

Winsor Dam late in day when it calmed down a little, May 25, 2013
Cliff Swallow, Gate 52 at Quabbin Park, May 25, 2013
I didn't have high expectations for birding this morning and I therefore was not disappointed!  The day started out cloudy, breezy with drizzle and temperatures in the mid 40's and about the only change during the day was heavier rain and stronger winds.  The winds were out of the north at 10-20 MPH with higher gusts....especially at Winsor Dam.  The overall feel for the day was more like later October than the end of May.  I headed over to Quabbin Park with a few stops as I tried to get in a little time out of the car to see what might be around.  Winsor Dam looked more like the ocean with white caps and tough viewing conditions.  Some parts of the park were somewhat shielded from the wind and I found a few birds including 14 species of warbler.  I noticed groups of swallows using wind protected areas trying to feed.  Weather conditions like this can be tough for species like swallows but hopefully they will find enough to eat and enough to feed their nestlings.  I ended my morning birding excursion by just after 7am when the heavier rain started.  During the day at home I had a few notable birds including a singing Swainson's Thrush and Blackpoll Warbler.  Later in the day and into the evening I made return trips to Quabbin Park and Winsor Dam in search of anything brought down by the storm (mainly terns).  No luck with terns here today (Marshall I. had both Arctic and Black Tern in Pittsfield so terns were around).  I did find a feeding flock of swallows numbering 90+ birds of all five expected species feeding in the cove at Gate 52 in the evening.  Hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Winsor Dam and predictions for the upcoming hurricane season

Spotted Sandpiper, Winsor Dam, May 24, 2013
Spotted Sandpiper, Winsor Dam, May 24, 2013
Double crested Cormorant (distant group of nine), Winsor Dam, May 24, 2013
Double crested Cormorant (distant group of nine), Winsor Dam, May 24, 2013
I took advantage of the brief respite in the rain this morning to check out Winsor Dam before work.  With heavy rain yesterday and overnight bringing us a few inches of rain I thought I would check to see if anything of interest was put down by the storms.  I had 28 Double crested Cormorants (groups of 17, 9 and 2) plus three pairs of Common Loons but not much else of note.  I also made a quick walk down to the water at Gate 5 to get better looks at some of the birds but most had left by the time I walked down there.  The rest of the day brought more scattered showers and Saturday is suppose to be windy, rainy and cool with temperatures perhaps just making it to 50.With the coming arrival of June 1st comes the official arrival of hurricane season for 2013.  What will the next year bring as far as storms that could impact the area?  No one knows for sure but the predictions from a variety of sources points toward an active hurricane season for the Atlantic.  The last two years have featured storms impacting the local area with Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012.  Each of these storms brought their own oddities as far as birds go to the local area.  Irene featured a treasure trove of storm driven birds to the local area: .   In addition a few days after Irene I had a sighting of a large swift species that was almost certainly related to the storm: ( ).  Sandy hit later in the season and much further south than Irene and the main feature from that storm around here was downed waterfowl with scoters and long tailed ducks among others.  The most unusual sighting of that storm was several days after it hit when I had a Black legged Kittiwake at Quabbin.  ( ).  Here is the official word from NOAA on the 2013 hurricane season as of May 23:

In its 2013 Atlantic hurricane season outlook issued today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting an active or extremely active season this year.

For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 7 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

“With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time.” said
Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., NOAA acting administrator. “As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it’s important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding, and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall.”

Three climate factors that strongly control Atlantic hurricane activity are expected to come together to produce an active or extremely active 2013 hurricane season. These are:

  • A continuation of the atmospheric climate pattern, which includes a strong west African monsoon, that is responsible for the ongoing era of high activity for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995;
  • Warmer-than-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea; and
  • El NiƱo is not expected to develop and suppress hurricane formation.

“This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa."

The next several months could prove interesting and I will update as storms develop that could potential have an impact here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Black Scoter, Snow Goose and Bonaparte's Gull on a rainy day

Black Scoter, Winsor Dam, May 23, 2013
Black Scoter, Winsor Dam, May 23, 2013
Bonaparte's Gull, Winsor Dam, May 23, 2013
Bonaparte's Gull, Winsor Dam, May 23, 2013
Gulls in the air, Winsor Dam, May 23, 2013
Bonaparte's Gull, Winsor Dam, May 23, 2013
Bonaparte's Gull, Winsor Dam, May 23, 2013
After yet another night of southerly winds and rain showers scattered around I started my morning at Winsor Dam where low clouds and fog made viewing a bit of a challenge at times.  I scanned the water and noticed a duck way out on the water that appeared interesting.  After a lot of looking and a slight improvement in viewing conditions I was able to ID the bird.  It was a male Black Scoter, which is very rare in spring inland.  It is actually the first record I have had of the species in spring in western Massachusetts.  The Black Scoter became county species #204 for the year.  The unusual birds did not end with the scoter as I found a Bonaparte’s Gull in among nearly seventy Ring billed Gulls near the dam.  It took a bit of time to get a really good look at the bird to confirm it wasn’t something more unusual.  I had a handful of other species around including several Common Mergansers, a couple Spotted Sandpipers, Bald Eagles at the nest and a variety of other species.  The radar last night showed a decent movement of birds and I heard several flight calls when I stepped outside around ten (plus had an Ovenbird singing then too).  After the dam I headed over to the rail trail off Station Rd in Amherst and made a quick walk up to the horseshoe dam.  Nothing too unusual but did have a Black billed Cuckoo, Blackpoll Warblers and Virginia Rails among the 43 species in about a half hour.  I also heard several other Blackpoll Warblers at various spots throughout the day.
Snow Goose, Hadley, MA, May 23, 2013
Snow Goose, Hadley, MA, May 23, 2013
Snow Goose, Hadley, MA, May 23, 2013
The remainder of the day featured heavy rain that continued past sunset.  I stopped briefly at Winsor Dam to check for anything unusual but only had a loon and cormorant.  A bit later I got a call from Tom G. that Scott had a late Snow Goose along Mill Valley Road in Hadley.  After a quick bite to eat I headed out the door and after a little searching I found the bird in among some Canada Geese and Mallards.  Certainly a late date for this species.  The Snow Goose became species #205.  Very happy to add two more species today.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

A few brief stops this morning

The winds last night continued out of the south slightly and with on and off thunderstorms and showers.  I hoped that something (terns or shorebirds) tried to move through but then got caught in bad weather and set down.  With this in mind I checked Winsor Dam at dawn but nothing unusual there.  I then headed toward Northampton with brief stops along the rail trail and a few fields in Hadley.  Again nothing unusual was found.  Perhaps someone did find something of note today but that someone was not me this morning.
The evening featured a nice Common Nighthawk show with at least 21 over the house late in the evening.  I also had a Barred Owl hooting and a Virginia Rail sounding off at home.  I had thoughts of trying to conduct the Quabbin Park area Whip-poor-will survey this evening but the weather made that impossible to do.  Perhaps this weekend or early next week?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Arcadia and an unexpected find later

Spotted Sandpiper, Arcadia, May 21, 2013

Killdeer, Arcadia, May 21, 2013
Spotted Sandpiper and Killdeer, Arcadia, May 21, 2013

The morning started off warm and muggy and once the low clouds and fog burned off it became hazy with a summer like feel with a high around 90.  With just a little time before work I decided to try my luck at Arcadia checking out the marsh area in the hopes of finding something odd (a Sandhill Crane and a pair of Northern Shovelers had been present there several days ago).  The mosquitoes were bad but not quite horrible yet....perhaps a 5 or 6 on the 'mosquito annoyance scale'.  A scan of the marsh revealed several each of Wood Duck and Mallard but nothing else for waterfowl.  There were a handful of sandpipers including a few Least Sandpipers, four (or more) Spotted Sandpipers and a couple Killdeer.   The nearby oxbow held at least ten Double crested Cormorants.  Although the radar last night showed some good movement I didn’t have the time to search too much for new arrivals but I did hear at least one Blackpoll Warbler calling as I headed out.
The best bird of the day came when I was at work and had no binoculars or camera.  I was at Smith College and heard an unusual bird along a large hedgerow near the Mill River.  After a bit of effort I was able to see naked eye a Mourning Warbler working its way through the underbrush and singing.  Not what I was expecting to find today!  This became species #203 for the county this year.

This evening he had some thunderstorms and the next few days feature more of the same with warm weather and the chance of storms.  Not likely there will be much of an influx the next couple of nights.

Monday, May 20, 2013

A few stops on a foggy morning

Pileated Woodpecker (iPhone shot through binoculars), Rail Trail, Amherst, MA, May 20, 2013

Green Heron, (iPhone shot through binoculars), Rail Trail, Amherst, MA, May 20, 2013
Snapping Turtle laying eggs on beaver lodge, (iPhone shot through binoculars), Rail Trail, Amherst, MA, May 20, 2013

I set out today with the goal of catching up with a few species I have not yet seen this spring but have a reasonable chance of finding with a little (or perhaps a lot of) luck.  The main targets were Olive sided Flycatcher, Acadian Flycatcher, Lincoln's Sparrow, Mourning Warbler and Hooded Warbler.  Although I didn't have any luck finding any of these species it was fun trying and the search for them allowed me to run across lots of other species.  Also decided to experiment today (in poor light with fog and clouds) with taking photos with my iPhone through my binoculars and with a little practice, patience and luck, it can work in a pinch.  I started off at the rail trail in Amherst and the highlights there included five species of swallows, a male Orchard Oriole and lots of other species on nests or building them.  Also had a Snapping Turtle burying eggs atop a beaver lodge. 

Ruby throated Hummingbird, (iPhone shot through binoculars), Quabbin Gate 10, MA, May 20, 2013
Northern Watersnake, Land trust trail, Belchertown, MA, May 20, 2013
After the rail trail I headed to a few different gates on the west side of Quabbin walking a few miles and coming across quite a few resident birds and a few migrants.  I later picked up Wilson and went for a long walk along the land trust trail but again nothing too unusual.  A brief stop early afternoon at Lake Wallace also failed to produce an Olive sided Flycatcher there but it was worth a try anyway.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Another new species and other stuff around the Quabbin

Canada Geese (goslings tucked under the wings of the top bird), Covey WMA, May 19, 2013

Porcupine, Covey WMA, May 19, 2013

With the winds out of the south last night and the radar showing some good movement around 10:30 last night I dragged myself out of bed with too little sleep to head out to see what may have shown up. I started at Covey WMA and had a nice selection of local breeders as well as a few probable migrants. Nothing out of the ordinary for this date but still some good stuff. As I scanned through one of the marshes I noticed a pair of Canada Geese with one looking rather rotund. Further examination revealed a bunch of goslings keeping warm underneath her wings. On my way back out of there I had Porcupine feeding about 40 feet up on a branch that just seemed way too small to support his or her weight. After watching for several minutes I cautiously passed by ever mindful of the ability of an angry Porcupine to throw its quills 50 feet or more (or so I have heard other people say).
View from Gate 52 looking north, Quabbin Park, May 19, 2013
Double crested Cormorants, Quabbin Park, May 19, 2013
I next headed through Quabbin Park making a few stops along the way but skipping some areas as I wanted to make sure to have enough time to visit a few other areas too. Given my more limited time there today I got just 60 species or so but certainly got some good ones including 17 species of warbler (highlights of Tennessee and Blackpoll), a group of six Double crested Cormorants together, Swainson's Thrush and best of all a Yellow billed Cuckoo calling and seen distantly across from Gate 52. The Yellow billed Cuckoo became species #202.

I then made a few stops at gates along the west side of Quabbin with the main focus being trying to find either Olive sided Flycatcher, Hooded Warbler or Acadian Flycatcher. No luck with any of these target birds but still got some fantastic looks at various other species. Later in the morning I got a call from Bob about a certain species I have been looking for but have been unable to find so far.  I made a trip back out to the west part of Quabbin but despite a valiant effort I came up empty again. Perhaps next time?

The next several days will feature occasional showers and thunderstorms. With the right timing, the right winds and a little luck some of these rain events could down some migrants (typically shorebirds at this point in migration but anything is possible). I will be keeping my eye out at first light the next week to see if anything unusual does show up.  Two years ago tomorrow I had a Red Phalarope (perhaps a few) at Quabbin Park.  Maybe history will repeat itself?

As mentioned in a previous post I will be conducting a couple of Eastern Whip-poor-will surveys this year. Despite less than ideal conditions last night I was able to complete the Prescott route for the second year. As in previous surveys the lower part of the peninsula contained all the whips with none noted past the mid point of the peninsula. Managed to find a total of nine Eastern Whip-poor-wills with seven of those at one of the ten survey points (the other two were between the points)
I hope to conduct a new survey route through Quabbin Park and nearby areas this coming week but the weather may not cooperate. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Species #200 for Hampshire County in 2013 (and #201) Birdathon

Common Merganser, Quabbin Park, May 18, 2013
Eastern Whip-poor-will, Covey WMA, May 18, 2013
Common Merganser, Quabbin Park, May 18, 2013
Common Merganser, Quabbin Park, May 18, 2013
I managed to reach the 200 species mark for the year in Hampshire County today when I found a calling Black billed Cuckoo but more about that later. Today continued the annual Mass Audubon Birdathon fund raiser and I spent the day covering areas around Quabbin. I planned on starting at Covey WMA to look for marsh birds, owls and others but after seeing several hunters at various parking areas I changed plans to try to keep myself from ending up with any bullet holes today! However, before I did head over to Quabbin Park I had a great view (and photographed) an Eastern Whip-poor-will at Covey. It was really neat to see it close up and of the best views I have ever had of this species. I then headed over to Quabbin Park where I spent the next three plus hours and managed 20 species of warbler and 80+ species overall. There were many highlights here including a few mixed species flocks migrating through, four Spotted Sandpipers, six species of flycatcher, four vireo species, and lots of migrant and resident birds.
Common Loon swimming with deer, Quabbin Park, May 18, 2013
Common Loon swimming with deer, Quabbin Park, May 18, 2013
Perhaps the oddest sighting there this morning (one I have never seen before) was a Common Loon swimming along with a White-tailed Deer at Gate 52...very odd. One other unusual sighting was a female Common Merganser that flew around and around the headquarters building and tried several times to land on one of the chimneys before finally giving up and landing on the water.
Cooper's Hawk, Quabbin Gate 5, May 18, 2013
Black billed Cuckoo (species #200 for the county year), Quabbin Gate 5, May 18, 2013
After Quabbin Park I made a few other stops including Lake Wallace and Piper Farm Conservation Area before heading back to Quabbin with a stop a Gate 5. As I was heading in another person was heading out and warned me of a Black Bear along the road down to the water. I never did run into the bear but I did have some good stuff nonetheless. Highlights included a good look at a Copper's Hawk, a flyover Evening Grosbeak (heard only so maybe more than one) and flyover Pine Siskin. The best bird was a calling Black billed Cuckoo which became species #200 for the year in Hampshire County. I had set a goal to try to reach 200 before the end of May and I was able to reach the goal just over half way through the month. As a comparison to my previous best year (last year) I reached the 200 mark on the 7th of September. At this point last year (May 18) I was at 183 so obviously I'm a bit ahead of last year. I still have a few species I will hopefully pick up in the next week or two before I have to really start hoping for rarities to push up my totals. There certainly have been rarities around lately so perhaps more will show up soon.
Canada Geese (photo through binos), Belchertown Land Trust trail, May 18, 2013
Late in the morning found me along the land trust trail in Belchertown where I caught up with a few more new species for Birdathon. The Prairie Warblers, Field Sparrow and Eastern Kingbird were busy collecting nesting material. The small marsh held a Solitary Sandpiper and Killdeer. I thought I might have found an unusual bird when I had a Blue winged Warbler call coming from the same field area I had a Lawrence's Warbler in last year around this time of year but the bird was indeed a typical looking Blue winged Warbler.

Common Nighthawk, Belchertown, MA, May 18, 2013
I spent a lot of the afternoon at the house catching up with more species and getting some yard work done at the same time. Late in the afternoon I had at least eight Common Nighthawks (#201) feeding and calling over the house.  Always fun to see and photograph two nightjars in one day here around home.  Overall for the day I managed a total of 108 species today with a total of 21 species of warbler. (UPDATE-With my Prescott Peninsula whip poor will survey I added American Woodcock for the day so ended the day with 109 species...makes me wonder how many I could get with a concerted 24 hour effort...perhaps foreshadowing for another time?)

Today also opens up the first window for my two whip-poor-will surveys.  I will attempt my first survey this evening on the Prescott Peninsula as long as the weather cooperates.  Stay tuned!