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!

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