Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Winsor Dam in the morning and evening produces again (species #232)...plus the anniversary of a couple storms

Red necked Grebe, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2013
Red necked Grebe, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2013
Red necked Grebes, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2013
Brant (really...I include these blurry distant photos as they are the best I got), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2013
Brant (really...I include these blurry distant photos as they are the best I got), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2013
With the northerly winds last night and the echo’s on the radar showing some decent movement last night (especially for late in the season) I decided to spend what little time I had this morning at Winsor Dam.  I arrived before dawn to a chilly and windy spot with sustained winds around 20MPH and the temperature in the high 20’s.  Approximately  ten minutes after I arrived the winds slackened up a bit but then the fog started rising off the water but luckily the fog didn’t completely disrupt viewing.  I had a Killdeer flying around calling before dawn and a Greater Yellowlegs come out of the west cove just before the sun came up (no luck with a Dunlin there today!).  The first waterfowl species I found was a grebe that kept drifting in and out of the fog but finally showed itself well enough to be identified.  It turned out to be a Red necked Grebe and became the first of three of the species there this morning.  I added three Common Loons as well as a flyby Long tailed Duck plus a Black Duck and several Canada Geese.  The best waterfowl by far arrived right around 7am when I had a group of birds moving north to south over the water that turned out to be a group of a dozen Brant.  The group passed by quickly to the south without stopping at the reservoir.  I attempted a few photos with my iPhone and a few came out but the light was not great and they are not exactly identifiable in the shots.  This time of year is the prime time to see this unusual species inland in Massachusetts and I have spent many hours specifically looking for them.  The Brant became species #232 for Hampshire County this year (two new birds in as many day in late October is great!).  I really have no idea what the next species might be (or if there will be any more species). 
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2013
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2013
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 29, 2013
A brief stop on my way home still produced some waterfowl despite the anti gull patrol.  I had a group of ten Bufflehead together, two Red necked Grebes, three Common Loons and four Black Ducks.  I can only imagine how much would have been around if there were not boats running at high speed back and forth.

Today marks the one year anniversary of the arrival of Hurricane Sandy: http://quabbinbirdingandbeyond.blogspot.com/2012/10/hurricane-sandy-birding.html. Overall Sandy didn't have a huge impact here but areas further south were devastated. Bird wise the main impact here was the arrival of large numbers of waterfowl such as scoters and long tailed ducks among others. The best bird here showed up several days after the storm when I found a Black legged Kittiwake at Winsor Dam:
More info on the birding associated can be found at these links....needless to say some decent birding did occur due to the storm.

Today also marks the two year anniversary of the start of an early season snowstorm that crippled the local area and resulted in extensive tree damage and loss of power for several days:

Thankfully this October 29 is shaping up to nice and quiet. I for one am grateful we will not be dealing with a third year of extreme weather on this date.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Quabbin produces again with a Dunlin (species #231 for Hampshire County this year)

Canada Geese, Quabbin Park, Oct 28, 2013
Hanks Meadow at dawn, Quabbin Park, Oct 28, 2013
Hooded Mergansers, Quabbin Park, Oct 28, 2013

Mourning Dove, Quabbin Park, Oct 28, 2013
Yet another frosty morning with temperatures in the 20's found me making a run through Quabbin Park looking for waterfowl.  The morning eventually added another species to my county list for the year but more on that later.  I was a little later than usual in getting to some of the areas I usually check so I only found a few Black Ducks (they leave their roost quite early).  Overall the numbers and variety were a bit lower than yesterday but still some decent stuff around including 13 Hooded Mergansers, 3 Common Mergansers, 13 Black Ducks, 12 Wood Ducks, 8 Horned Grebes, a couple Common Loons, two Mallards and 34 Canada Geese (I added White winged Scoter and Double crested Cormorant later...see below).  Still looking for a Brant to show up but no luck yet.  In addition I once again had a trilling Eastern screech Owl, robins leaving their evening roost, some crows seemingly migrating and other expected stuff.  After a relatively short time in the park and a few stops at Winsor Dam I headed off to run some errands before heading home to get Wilson to go for a walk.
Wilson listening to some juncos, Jabish Canal trail, Belchertown, Oct 28, 2013
Wilson and I decided to take an earlier than usual walk along the canal.  It was a bit too early to have any of the trail in the sun so it was a bit cool but fun nonetheless.  Wilson kept seeing and hearing juncos and sparrows moving around but couldn't figure out how to herd them!  After an hour walking we decided (more my idea than his) to make a quick stop over at Winsor Dam to try once again to get some Brant moving by.  We got there about 10:15 and after several minutes I had a brief look at a shorebird as it passed by the far end of Winsor Dam.  It looked interesting but I couldn't ID it from that distance and with such a brief look.  After a couple minutes I heard an odd call and then noticed the shorebird flying east to west over the water in the same general area as a Ring billed Gull.  The bird flew around in a big circle before I lost it heading southeast back over the dam calling the entire time.  I got great scope looks at the bird.  A mid size shorebird with a longish (seemingly drooping) bill, short legs, light gray on chest with the color slightly darker on the head, with white wing stripe and light underwing.  Luckily I got great looks at the bird and it called several times.  I tried to get photos through the scope but the bird was too fast and I also tried a quick video to get audio but the bird was too distant by the time I tried that.  I listened to recording of Dunlin to reconfirm by ID and the call matched perfectly.  Not only did I had a new species (#231) for my county year in Hampshire County but the Dunlin became a new Quabbin and Quabbin Park bird bringing my total in Quabbin Park to 219 and my total in all of Quabbin to 229.  Yet again a bit of luck and good timing on my part resulted in a great sighting.  I stayed for another 45 minutes or so and added a White winged Scoter and a migrant group of 13 Double crested Cormorants.  Although I was looking for Brant I was very happy to come up with the Dunlin proving yet again you never know what Quabbin will produce.  In addition I ran across several friendly people as I scoped out the water including a few locals as well as a nice couple from China on their first visit to Quabbin whom I talked with for quite awhile.  A refreshing change from yesterday!

A few other stops at Winsor Dam during the afternoon didn't produce anything noteworthy.  Today also marks the beginning of the anti gull boat patrols at Quabbin so trying to find any waterfowl there in the early evening is no longer an option, at least during the week.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Quabbin Park this morning

Long tailed Duck (L) and Black Scoter (R), Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013
Long tailed Duck (L) and Black Scoter (R), Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013
Bufflehead, Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013
Bufflehead (L) and Hooded Mergansers (R), Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013
Black Ducks, Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013
Black Ducks, Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013
Horned Grebe, Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013
Common Loon, Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013
Hooded Mergansers, Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013
Winsor Dam area, Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013
Ring billed Gull, Quabbin Park, Oct 27, 2013

Another cool morning but not nearly as cold as yesterday.  The winds didn't pick up until later in the morning so viewing conditions were quite good.  I made yet another trip into Quabbin Park to see what I could scare up for waterfowl.  Several stops produced the following waterfowl- 5 Bufflehead, 3 Long tailed Ducks, a Black Scoter (female with long tailed duck), 118 Black Ducks (most at roost predawn), 11 Wood Ducks, 20 Hooded Mergansers, 8 Common Loons, 11 Horned Grebes, 16 Mallards and 30 Canada Geese.  Other notables included a continued Spotted Sandpiper at Hanks Meadow, a trilling Eastern screech Owl and a pair of Great Horned Owls.

And in another chapter of the "I have never had that happen before"....I went into Quabbin Park early this morning not long after the gates opened and made my way to Hanks Meadow.  There was a truck parked in the middle of the small dirt road going down to the parking lot.  I was able to squeeze by the truck and went into the parking lot.  I got out and started getting my scope and such out and the truck moved down the road and stopped behind me.  I figured he was going to ask me if I had seen any deer or any eagles (a typical question here despite the fact it is nearly impossible to miss either species here).  Instead he asks me if I would mind not stopping here or if I had to come here then to go slow on the road because he was watching a few deer from his truck.  I thought he was kidding as I can't imagine anyone having any more of a right to be here then anybody else and I honestly don't think the deer here can be scared away, even if you tried.  The deer are tame and eat out of peoples hands here.  I have to shoo them off the trails to get by at times.  I said "you serious?"  Apparently he was and I kept my cool as best I could but told him I come here most every day and I'm not likely to stop and it is nearly impossible to scare the deer away.  I didn't mention the fact that he was blocking the road with his gas guzzler of a truck and the deer where all still standing in the field after I passed and driving his truck up to me certainly wouldn't recreate whatever nature moment he believed I ruined by driving past him.  I assume he doesn't come here much as it can get very busy on weekends and if someone driving past him upset him so much perhaps he may want to find a new spot to become one with nature.  I'm not sure what he was expecting me to say but I'm glad it happened early in the day on a day off instead of after a stressful day of work because I'm fairly certain I would have snapped a bit.  Luckily most people I run across first thing in the morning here are fairly decent but every now and then you get someone who is just an ass...but that is life I guess. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Northern Saw whet Owl becomes species #230 for Hampshire County this year

Wood Ducks, Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013
Hanks Meadow looking toward Gate 52, Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013
Spotted Sandpiper, record shot of late record, Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013
Ring necked Ducks (L) and White winged Scoter (R), Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013
Black Ducks, Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013
Herring Gull (L) and Ring billed Gulls, Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013
Northern Harrier (male), Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013
View near Winsor Dam as fog lifted, Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013

American Crow, Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013

Wild Turkeys, Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013
Wild Turkey, Quabbin Park, Oct 26, 2013
As we all know (or at least should know) finding particular birds involves a certain amount of luck and I proved that this morning when I found another new county bird for the year. I had every intention of sleeping in a little this morning before heading out as I knew it would be in the upper 20's and my cold continues to hang on to some degree ('sleeping in' is a relative thing....perhaps not getting up until 6:30 instead of before six. However that plan didn't work out as the coffee maker went off at the typical weekday time of 5:45 instead of the weekend time of seven. With the signal to begin the day with the starting of the coffee maker, the animals all decided to come in and wake us up. I decided to just stay up and perhaps do a little unplanned owling. I headed over to Covey WMA and after a few stops before dawn I had a Northern Saw whet Owl respond to some playback. The owl became species #230 for Hampshire County for me this year. This species is the last really likely species for me to get this year and I was very happy to get it. Glad the start of the morning worked out the way it did!

As the sun came up I started my way around Quabbin Park once again looking for waterfowl. I made a quick stop at Winsor Dam but it was just too foggy to see anything yet so I headed over to the park itself with a stop at Hanks Meadow and then a brief stop at Goodnough Dike and then the Route 9 marsh. The fog was a bit of a challenge in spots while other spots were already getting windy...very odd weather! Hanks Meadow featured a group of 100+ individuals of various species on the water (I'll give the totals later) plus a couple of hooting Great Horned Owls and a somewhat late Spotted Sandpiper. Goodnough was too foggy to see much early on. The route 9 marsh featured more waterfowl with the expected species there. I then headed to Winsor Dam just as the fog was lifting and stayed there for about an hour before heading back to one area near Goodnough Dike. The only waterfowl at Winsor Dam were all flying by and featured nothing unusual. Yet again I had an adult Northern Harrier flying by, moving southwest. The trip back to the area of Goodnough Dike produced some more waterfowl but again, nothing too unusual. My totals for waterfowl included a White winged Scoter, 15 Ring necked Ducks, 99 Black Ducks (some seen flying later in morning may have been repeats seen earlier), 21 Wood Ducks, a couple Hooded Mergansers, 4 Horned Grebes, 8 Common Loons, a Double crested Cormorant, 40 Mallards and 41 Canada Geese.
The morning got progressively more windy with a strong southwest breeze with gusts approaching 30 MPH.  With the strong south winds that originate in the deep south the chance is always there for some bird to get caught up and pushed north.
A year ago Hurricane Sandy was moving through the Caribbean on her way to the Atlantic seaboard.  Quite a change from last year with no tropical activity and a quiet season overall so far.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Winsor Dam in the evening and Lake Warner in the morning

Long tailed Duck, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2013
Long tailed Duck, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2013
Long tailed Duck, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2013
I made a stop early this evening at Winsor Dam to check to see if any waterfowl could be found on the rough waters of the reservoir.  Despite strong winds out of the northwest I was able to find a couple Long tailed Ducks bobbing in the water near the far end of the dam.  The only other waterfowl that I could find where a few small groups of Canada Geese moving southwest.  Raptors seemed to be moving with several Red tailed Hawks, a few Bald Eagles, a Cooper's Hawk and a gray adult male Northern Harrier skimming across the water.  Also a nice influx of juncos that seemed to have arrived overnight.  With the strong northerly winds I had hopes of finding some Brant or perhaps a Golden Eagle but no luck.  I'm sure an all day vigil may have turned up one of these species today...oh well!
Green winged Teal, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Oct 25, 2013
Canada Geese, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Oct 25, 2013
Before work I made a couple brief stops looking for waterfowl including the UMASS campus pond (which only had a few Mallards and Canada Geese...very low numbers...later in the day among the hundreds of Canada Geese a Cackling Goose showed up...timing is everything!) and Lake Warner in Hadley.  The Canada Geese were just starting to lift off from there when I arrived and I counted over 500 but nothing unusual among them.  Also had four Green winged Teal and a few Mallards.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Very brief stop at Quabbin

Canada Geese at Hanks Meadow, Quabbin Park, Oct 24, 2013
Canada Geese at Hanks Meadow, Quabbin Park, Oct 24, 2013

Although this morning was fairly cold (around freezing) and a bit foggy in spots I decided to make a couple quick stops at Winsor Dam and Hanks Meadow before work.  No luck in viewing much of anything except some vertically challenged clouds at Winsor Dam.  Hanks Meadow was a little more productive with eight Horned Grebes, half a dozen Common Loons, five Common Mergansers, a couple each of Mallards and Black Ducks plus 15 Canada Geese.  With my lingering cold in mind I limited my time outside to the bare minimum. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Waterfowl (and others) to be on the lookout for when at Quabbin

Winsor Dam area of Quabbin
As the fall waterfowl migration continues to roll on I will take time to post about some of the really unusual species I keep my eye out for every time I make a trip over to Quabbin to scan the waters there.  I have a list of species of waterfowl that are all possible but have occurred only a few times (or perhaps not at all, yet).  Here are the seven species in no particular order.  The first is King Eider which has occurred in western Massachusetts just once when a flock of ten(!) was seen and photographed in spring in Pittsfield.  A recently accepted record of a male from Worester County in November shows the birds do indeed move through on occasion.  The next species is Common Eider which generally migrates along the coast and very rarely occurs inland.  Western Mass has just five or six records occurring in both spring and fall with two of those occurring at Quabbin and both in fall.  The next species on my list is Pacific Loon, which has been reported in the general area only about a half dozen times with some of those records not accepted by the Mass Avian Records Committee (MARC).  Most records have occurred from late October-December and usually on large bodies of water so Quabbin is certainly a good place to look for this species.  Another loon species that I have in mind when looking for rare waterfowl would be a Yellow billed Loon.  The species has never been confirmed in Massachusetts but Quabbin certainly would be a great spot for one to turn up.  Both loons are quite distinctive in breeding plumage but tough to ID when in the typical plumage they would have when likely occurring in the state.  The next two species are both grebes with Eared Grebe being the first.  Only one record for Eared Grebe exists for western Massachusetts and it occurred in late November at Winsor Dam at Quabbin.  The other grebe is Western Grebe which has two old records from late Dec-Feb in the early 1930’s during an incursion of the species into New England.  Other reports have surfaced recently of the species inland but none have been accepted by MARC.  The species may have indeed occurred more recently but without supporting documentation the records have not been officially accepted.  The other species of waterfowl I keep my eyes out for has not yet occurred in western Massachusetts but is at least possible.  The next species is Harlequin Duck.  There are a few inland records but none this far west.  Any of the above mentioned species would be a banner day if found while scanning the waters of Quabbin but would need to be documented in detail to assure the record is accepted.  Hopefully sometime in the future I can come across at least one of these species.
There are other waterfowl species that I would love to find at Quabbin that I have not yet turned up including ducks such as Tufted Duck, Redhead, Canvasback, Eurasian Wigeon as well as geese including Greater white fronted, Ross’s, Barnacle and Cackling.  Overall at Quabbin I have found the following waterfowl: three species of geese, two species of swan, 23 species of duck, two species of loons, three species of grebes and two species of cormorant.

In addition to the waterfowl mentioned above as the fall progresses I also have the long shot hope of finding an inland alcid species.  So far four species have occurred in western Massachusetts and they include Thick billed Murre,  Razorbill, Black Guillemot, and Atlantic Puffin.  There are three records for Thick billed Murre (totaling five individuals) with all occurring in December with a record of two birds from 1932 and records of two birds and a single from 1950.  Both Razorbill and Black Guillemot have only occurred once in western Mass and both records are from Quabbin with the Razorbill seen at Gate 16 in early November 1973 and the Black Guillemot seen near Goodnough Dike in late December 1971.  The only Atlantic Puffin  record occurred in November 1970 and the bird was found in the company of Ruddy Ducks out in the Berkshires.  As always you never know what birds will show up and trying to keep your eyes and ears open at all times will hopefully lead to something unusual being found.

All the information contained in the above post comes from the “Western Massachusetts Rarities” article written by James Smith and Seth Kellogg in the February 2007 issue of Bird Observer or from “Birds of Massachusetts” by Veit and Petersen.  Additional information was also collected from the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee website:  http://www.maavianrecords.com/home

Bonaparte's Gull and Surf Scoters, Quabbin Park, Oct 23, 2013
Bonaparte's Gull and Surf Scoters, Quabbin Park, Oct 23, 2013
Bonaparte's Gull and Surf Scoters, Quabbin Park, Oct 23, 2013
Bonaparte's Gull and Surf Scoters, Quabbin Park, Oct 23, 2013
On my way to get more cold medicine I stopped by Winsor Dam and had a few decent birds including a couple Surf Scoters, three Common Loons and a Bonaparte's Gull. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Quabbin Park again

Horned Grebes, Quabbin Park, Oct 21, 2013
Dawn at Hanks Meadow, Quabbin Park, Oct 21, 2013
Black Scoters, Quabbin Park, Oct 21, 2013
Common Loon, Quabbin Park, Oct 21, 2013
Common Loons, Quabbin Park, Oct 21, 2013
Little Quabbin, Quabbin Park, Oct 21, 2013
Looking west toward Gate 52, Quabbin Park, Oct 21, 2013
Surf Scoter, Quabbin Park, Oct 21, 2013
View north from near Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Oct 21, 2013
Although I knew I wouldn't be able to stay out long this morning as I continue to fight a cold I just couldn't keep from making a brief run through Quabbin Park.  Yet again my focus was on waterfowl and I turned up some good stuff (nothing new for the year but good stuff nonetheless).  Waterfowl at Quabbin Park this morning included the following: Red throated Loon (flyby at Winsor Dam), 9 Common Loons, 11 Horned Grebes, 2 Double crested Cormorants, 18 Black Scoters (groups of 11 and 7), a Surf Scoter (female), 14 Wood Ducks, 53 Black Ducks, a Hooded Merganser, 11 Common Mergansers, 19 Mallards and 23 Canada Geese. Also had a Spotted Sandpiper that I flushed from along the shore near Hanks Meadow and a couple flyover American Pipits at Winsor Dam.

Later in the morning a walk along the Belchertown Land Trust trail turned up a somewhat late Eastern Towhee and a late Common Yellowthroat plus a Field Sparrow and a flyover group of three Pine Siskins.

My cold really started catching up with me by mid morning so I headed back home to rest a bit.