Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Last few mornings

Great Blue Herons on nest, Lake Wallace, July 31, 2013
I made a brief stop at Lake Wallace to see what might be around and the Great Blue Herons have still not fledged.  Nothing else too unusual but still a good showing of Wood Ducks with 50+ present.  Despite my stop today at Lake Wallace and yesterday mornings stop along the rail trail I still have not caught up with a Great Egret (or any other unusual wader).  Perhaps August will bring better luck?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Rail trail in Amherst and Lake Wallace

Marsh at Hop Brook (contained at least 12 Green Herons), Rail trail, Amherst, MA, July 29, 2013
Eastern Cottontail bunny, Rail trail, Amherst, MA, July 29, 2013
Made a few stops this morning before running other errands.  I started at Lake Wallace where I found the Great Blue Herons still in their nest.  Similar species and numbers as compared to yesterday at the lake.  Since I needed to head over toward Amherst anyway I decided to next head over to the rail trail.  I walked from Station Road to Hop Brook. Highlights included at least 13 Green Herons with a dozen of those in the small marsh between the rail trail and the active tracks near Hop Brook.  There may have been even more but I didn't have a scope to check the area in detail.  The Green Herons spread out a bit from there as I was leaving.  Other activity in the marsh at Hop Brook included a Great Blue Heron and at least five Belted Kingfishers.  Certainly some good feeding there...wouldn't be surprised if something unusual shows up there in the near future. A total of 46 species in about an hour and a quarter.  I also had a very cooperative Eastern Cottontail that allowed very close approach and stayed put long enough for me to get a close up photo with my phone through my binoculars.  With behavior like this I cannot imagine this guy will last long! 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

A few stops in the local area

Great Blue Heron nest, Lake Wallace, July 28, 2013
Green Heron, Lake Wallace, July 28, 2013
Despite the forecast for clouds and possible rain in the morning the weather instead stayed at least partially sunny and dry through midday. I stayed close to home this morning with stops at Lake Wallace, Covey WMA and Quabbin Park. At Lake Wallace the waterfowl continue to grow in number with nearly 50 Wood Ducks, about a dozen Mallards, three Hooded Mergansers and 38 Canada Geese. The Great Blue Heron young are still hanging out in the nest but they should fledge any day now. Other birds of note included a calling Virginia Rail and a few Green Herons.

My next stop at Covey WMA produced some decent birds including a new species for the county this year when I had a calling male Ring necked Pheasant (species #214). I also had a couple of Black billed Cuckoos calling, assorted waterfowl and a couple of Great Blue Herons that flew over the marsh and flushed up the swallows that were perched in the grasses. Well over hundred swallows were present with the majority being Barn Swallows with a slightly lesser number of Tree Swallows. I was expected to find a Great Egret here or at my previous stop at Lake Wallace but no luck.

Bald Eagle nest with young, Quabbin Park, July 28, 2013
My final stop of the morning was over to a few spots at Quabbin Park (Route 9 marsh, Gate 52 and Winsor Dam). Nothing too unusual here but lots of juvenile birds around including two very large juvenile Bald Eagles that look about to fledge from the nest near Winsor Dam.

I also reached another eBird milestone when I submitted my 12,000th list. As I have mentioned before (and will certainly mention again) eBird is a great way to not only keep track of your records but also adds usefulness to yupr sightings as they become part of the largest collection of worldwide bird sightings. If you haven't tried it yet just go to the eBird website and sign up:

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Prescott in the morning

Eastern Phoebe, Prescott Peninsula, July 27, 2013
Eastern Phoebe, Prescott Peninsula, July 27, 2013
Eastern Phoebe, Prescott Peninsula, July 27, 2013
Black and White Warbler, Prescott Peninsula, July 27, 2013
Cedar Waxwing, Prescott Peninsula, July 27, 2013
Spent the first part of the morning back on Prescott Peninsula checking the various fields once again. A somewhat cool start at 53 warmed up fairly quickly by mid morning and eventually reached the 80's.  The early morning fog also burned off after a couple of hours and the sun stayed out the rest of the day. I spent a few hours on the peninsula checking several fields. More and more birds have stopped singing as breeding season begins to comes to an end. Yet again lots of juvenile birds around with a few areas quite active with various species and other areas quiet. No crossbills today but I certainly kept an ear out for them.

An update on the tropics shows that Tropical Storm Dorian continues to move toward the west but also continues to weaken and will likely become just a tropical depression soon. Although there was some slight potential for this storm there were just too many meteorological cards stacked against it to develop into something of consequence. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Lake Wallace (plus a new tropical storm forms)

River Otters, Lake Wallace, July 24, 2013
River Otter eating a fish, Lake Wallace, July 24, 2013
River Otters, Lake Wallace, July 24, 2013
Lake Wallace (three river otters middle of photo), July 24, 2013
Great Blue Herons on nest, Lake Wallace, July 24, 2013
Made a brief stop at Lake Wallace on the way to work this morning and had a few sightings during my short stay. The number of Wood Ducks continues to grow with the total topping out over 60 now. The Great Blue Herons continue to stay in their nests but I doubt for much longer. The Belted Kingfishers also continue to number around a half a dozen. The other sighting of note was a family of three River Otters that came in quite close and allowed for a few photos before they moved off.
Another tropical system has formed way out in the Atlantic and this storm is named Dorian. It is a tropical storm at this point with 50 MPH winds and moving west-northwest. It is forecast to remain a tropical storm throughout the forecast period (through Monday) at which point it should be near the Virgin Islands. Many, many variables could impact this storm over the next several days but it could potential have some effect on the US a week from now.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A couple of brief stops in the AM

Green Heron, Lake Wallace, July 22, 2013
Great Blue Herons at nest, Lake Wallace, July 22, 2013
Great Blue Herons at nest, Lake Wallace, July 22, 2013
With only a little time this morning I made a brief stop at Lake Wallace before heading over to Gate 52 at Quabbin Park. The Great Blue Heron nest at Lake Wallace still held the three young but they look about ready to fledge. The only other waders present were two Green Herons. I would expect a Great Egret or something more unusual to show up any day now. The Wood Ducks numbers totalled 37 with a variety of ages present. I also had at least seven Belted Kingfisher roaming around the area and creating lots of noise. 
Morning view at gate 52, July 22, 2013
I next headed over to Quabbin Park where I took a quick walk down to Gate 52. On the water I had at least three Common Loons with a bit of calling back and forth. A family group of half a dozen Common Mergansers slowly swam out of view heading north. I also had a group of crows calling back and forth and chasing each other. One of the group kept making a vocalization I have never heard before and I managed to get a distant recording but it is very difficult to hear.  I may upload it to my Flickr site later.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Prescott Peninsula

Common Yellowthroat, Prescott Peninsula, July 21, 2013
Common Yellowthroat, Prescott Peninsula, July 21, 2013

Common Yellowthroat, Prescott Peninsula, July 21, 2013

Pine Warbler, Prescott Peninsula, July 21, 2013

Secluded cove, Prescott Peninsula, July 21, 2013
The heat and humidity finally broke after a cold front came through last night. This morning started off at a 'chilly' 64 degrees (as cool as it has been here in weeks). I decided to spend morning on Prescott Peninsula checking on a few of my field survey sites as well as trying to track down any Red Crossbills that might be around. No luck with the crossbills today but I'm sure they are still around. Lots of good stuff around this morning but nothing way out of the ordinary. I have included the entire list for the day below.  A much more comfortable day to be outside although the 'cooler' temperatures didn't reduce the number of deer flies and mosquitoes very much. 

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail, Prescott Peninsula, July 21, 2013
Lots of butterflies around today too with a few allowing for photographs.  As far as mammals I had a couple of coyotes together plus other small mammals and lots of moose tracks but no moose.

Complete list for the morning:

Wood Duck  13     Adult with eight ducklings, adult w/three ducklings
Hooded Merganser  2
Great Blue Heron  1
Cooper's Hawk  1     juvenile
Solitary Sandpiper  2     Flyovers calling together
Mourning Dove  10
Yellow-billed Cuckoo  1
Black-billed Cuckoo  5     minimum, great number for this species
Ruby-throated Hummingbird  6
Belted Kingfisher  2
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  9
Downy Woodpecker  5
Hairy Woodpecker  1
Northern Flicker  2
Eastern Wood-Pewee  2
Least Flycatcher  3
Eastern Phoebe  16     minimum
Great Crested Flycatcher  1
Eastern Kingbird  4
Blue-headed Vireo  6     Feeding young
Red-eyed Vireo  51
Blue Jay  12
American Crow  3
Tree Swallow  8
Black-capped Chickadee  26
Red-breasted Nuthatch  5
White-breasted Nuthatch  5
Brown Creeper  1
House Wren  1
Veery  12
Hermit Thrush  5
Wood Thrush  5
American Robin  19
Gray Catbird  19
Cedar Waxwing  36
Ovenbird  9
Black-and-white Warbler  6
Common Yellowthroat  37
American Redstart  3     low number...where did they all go?
Magnolia Warbler  8
Blackburnian Warbler  1
Yellow Warbler  6     Feeding young
Chestnut-sided Warbler  5
Black-throated Blue Warbler  5
Pine Warbler  16
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)  4
Black-throated Green Warbler  8
Eastern Towhee  37
Chipping Sparrow  32
Song Sparrow  16
Swamp Sparrow  5
Scarlet Tanager  7
Northern Cardinal  1
Rose-breasted Grosbeak  5
Indigo Bunting  8
Red-winged Blackbird  103     Leaving roost-95+ at dawn, plus others
Common Grackle  9
Brown-headed Cowbird  2
Baltimore Oriole  3
Purple Finch  3
American Goldfinch  8

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Last day of the heat wave (hopefully)

Great Blue Herons on nest, Lake Wallace, July 20, 2013
I spent a bit of the early morning of the last day of our heat wave checking out Lake Wallace and part of Quabbin Park.  The morning started off at a toasty 76 degrees before sunrise and warmed to the low 90's by midday.  I started at Lake Wallace where I had six Great Blue Herons including three large youngsters in the nest there.  No sign of the Sora there today.  At least four Belted Kingfisher kept chasing each other around and making lots of noise throughout my entire time there.  A decent number (20+) of Wood Ducks plus a few Mallards and a Hooded Merganser rounded out the waterfowl. 
Morning view at Gate 52, Quabbin Park, July 20, 2013
Morning view at Gate 52, Quabbin Park, July 20, 2013
Quabbin Park was fairly quiet and I only covered a few areas (Winsor Dam, Route 9 marsh and Gate 52) due to the heat and large numbers of annoying insects.  Nothing too unusual at all with less activity then the previous week with much reduced song.  I did however have a singing Yellow Warbler, which I have not had in weeks. 

Hopefully tomorrow will be much more comfortable out and I intend to try to take advantage of some nicer weather.

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Forster's Tern in July at Quabbin (sadly not seen by me!)

Forster's Tern, Quabbin, July 3, 2013 (photo by Kiana Koenen)
Forster's Tern, Quabbin, July 3, 2013 (photo by Kiana Koenen)
Forster's Tern, Quabbin, July 3, 2013 (photo by Kiana Koenen)
Forster's Tern, Quabbin, July 3, 2013 (photo by Kiana Koenen)
Forster's Tern, Quabbin, July 3, 2013 (photo by Kiana Koenen)
As we continue to endure the ongoing heat wave (entering day six now with temperatures above 90) I have not spent a lot of time outside.  Today the temperature came close to 100 with a heat index around 105.  With little time spent outside lately the only interesting bird related item I have to write about occurred weeks ago and not to me!  However, given the oddity of the sighting I thought it would be interesting to cover.  While out on a recent loon survey with DCR staff at Quabbin a biologist (Kiana Koenen) mentioned she found a Forster’s Tern during an earlier survey and obtained photos.  I got the photos forwarded to me and the bird was indeed a Forster’s Tern, a very unusual species inland in Massachusetts.  Most previous records inland in Massachusetts have occurred in the fall and were associated with hurricanes.  The only previous record I could find for all of Franklin County occurred just a few weeks earlier when an adult in breeding plumage was found at Turners Falls along with two Common Terns (see )  The Forster’s Tern at Quabbin was a first year bird and was seen on July 3 around 10:20 in the morning during some inclement weather.  The bird was perched on a small limb in the water and allowed for photographs to be taken.  Thanks to Ki for letting me post the photos and details of this very unusual inland record.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Loon survey and Prescott Peninsula

Common Loon on nest, Quabbin, July 15, 2013

Common Loon, Quabbin, July 15, 2013

Common Loon, Quabbin, July 15, 2013
Common Loon with leg bands, Quabbin, July 15, 2013
Common Loons, Quabbin, July 15, 2013
Osprey, Quabbin, July 15, 2013
Osprey, Quabbin, July 15, 2013
Double crested Cormorant, Quabbin, July 15, 2013

View toward phragmite island, Quabbin, July 15, 2013
Today I spent a few hours out on Quabbin assisting DCR staff with an ongoing loon census.  I met up with them around 9am at boat area 2 up in New Salem and we headed south visiting several areas and making it down to boat launch area 3 before heading back north. Some great views of various birds including at least two loons on nests and a total of twelve individual Common Loons (most paired). Other notable birds included at least one (possibly two) Osprey (which is an unusual species inland in July), three Spotted Sandpipers, a few Killdeer, three Double crested Cormorants, and at least 150 swallows over the phargmite island with the vast majority being Tree Swallows with a handful of Barn, Bank and Northern rough-winged Swallows. Although I hoped to find an unusual gull or a tern I was only able to find a few Ring billed Gulls.  I also got a report that a Forester's Tern was seen in this area in mid June and I will be getting a photo soon to check it unusual bird for the area.

Bald Eagle at nest, Quabbin, July 15, 2013
Bald Eagle, Quabbin, July 15, 2013
Among the total of five Bald Eagles seen this morning were two juveniles hanging around a new Bald Eagle nest that we ran across on one of the islands on the reservoir. We found the previously unknown nest and it appears that at least two birds have recently fledged from it. Overall a great day to be out on the water despite the warm temperatures.
Indigo Bunting, Prescott Peninsula, July 15, 2013
Wild Turkey, Prescott Peninsula, July 15, 2013
I spent a couple of  hours this morning checking out a few spots on Prescott Peninsula before meeting up for the loon survey. Prescott was active again and I ran across at least three Red Crossbills (two together and a single). I was not able to get a recording of them this morning but the birds were all in the same area as I had a couple of Type 1's a week ago and I suspect they are the same type today. Yet again lots of birds around with lots of evidence of breeding.
Wilson and a Painted Turtle, Belchertown Land Trust trail, Belchertown, MA, July 15, 2013

By the time I got home a bit after midday the temperature already topped 90 and continued to climb a bit more. Wilson and I took a walk along the land trust trail were we had 25+ species but nothing unusual. Wilson had a close encounter with a Painted Turtle and he didn't know what to make of a creature that can make its arms, legs and head disappear.

The next several days should feature temperatures above 90 with high humidity as we enter our fourth heat wave of the season. This one will likely last through Friday, making a six day heat wave.     

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Marsh birds and a bobwhite

Great Blue Heron nest, Lake Wallace, July 13, 2013
This morning turned out to be the coldest one we have had in weeks when the temperature was 'only' 68 degrees to start and cooled down to 65 when it started raining lightly.  The humidity was a bit lower also so it was much more comfortable to be outside.  It turned out to be a good marsh bird morning despite the occasional rain and chill!  I started out at Lake Wallace where I had a continued Sora as well as the Great Blue Heron family still in the lone nest there.  The number of Wood Ducks was reduced from previous visits but they were likely still around but just hidden in the marsh grasses.
March view, Covey WMA, July 13, 2013
I then headed over to Covey WMA and had a flyby American Bittern, a calling Virginia Rail and a Green Heron.  There were swallows feeding low over one of the marshes with decent numbers of Barn and Tree Swallows but not huge numbers yet.  Lots of other typical resident birds but one of the first signs of the end of breeding season has arrived as the Yellow Warblers have gone silent the last week or so.

I finally added a new species to my Hampshire county list for the year today when I had a calling Northern Bobwhite at Covey WMA.  I was never able to get a look at the bird but the tall grasses and dense brush makes viewing anything difficult this time of year.  Certainly a stocked bird but still fun to find.  The Northern Bobwhite becomes species #213 for the county this year.  This is the first new species I have found in the county since June 9.  I would expect to start adding a few more as the fall migration season continues to pick up (yes, it starts in July!)