Friday, February 28, 2014

Last day of February

Red breasted Merganser, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
Red breasted Merganser, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
As predicted the weather this morning was very cold with a temperature around zero with a wind putting the wind chill well below zero. I decided to try my luck once again on turning up some waterfowl along the increasingly frozen Connecticut River.  One of my first stops turned up the most unusual species of the morning when I found a male Red breasted Merganser in the river seen from the end of Honey Pot Road.  An unusual species at any time of year, especially in winter.  Likely another displaced bird from the now mostly frozen Great Lakes.  Along with the Red breasted Merganser I had five Common Mergansers and four Common Goldeneye as well as 17 Horned Larks on the drive down Honey Pot Road. 
Ring necked Duck, Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
Wood Ducks, Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
My next stop was over to the river below the Coolidge Bridge where I had a large gathering of waterfowl that included the following:  Seven Wood Ducks (four males), 33 Black Ducks (a quite high count for this species), at least 754 Mallards plus several hybrids, one Ring necked Duck, a pair of Hooded Mergansers and four Common Mergansers.  Oddly no Canada Geese were around at all this morning until I made it down to the Holyoke Dam.
Common Goldeneye, Mitch's Way, Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
Common Goldeneye, Mitch's Way, Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
As I headed south I stopped at Mitch's Way to 'sail along with mitch' and found more waterfowl in  among the few spots of open water among the large sheets of ice moving downriver.  I had at least 17 Common Goldeneye plus several Common Mergansers.  No sign of the White winged Scoters that hung around this location for a few days.
Common Goldeneye, Connecticut River, South Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
Common Merganser, Connecticut River, South Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
Common Goldeneye, Connecticut River, South Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
My final stop moving south was down to the Holyoke Dam (both above and below the dam).  The area above the dam was mostly frozen with just a few Common Mergansers for waterfowl.  Below the dam was a bit more active with 41 Canada Geese, a pair of Mallards, at least 63 Common Goldeneyes (probably my biggest group of goldeneyes I have ever had inland...I searched for a Barrow's Goldeneye in among them but came up empty today...the birds were very active so I may have missed some), a Hooded Merganser and nine Common Mergansers.  The dearth of gulls continues here with just 14 Ring billed Gulls.  Not sure where all the gulls are this season but they are not below the Holyoke Dam (an Iceland Gull was reported there a few days ago but I had no luck turning it up this morning).
Greater Scaup, North Lane Conservation Area, Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
Greater Scaup, North Lane Conservation Area, Hadley, MA, Feb 28, 2014
I decided to head back north along the river and recheck some of my previously visited areas.  I stopped back by Mitch's Way and then to the Honey Pot.  I ran across Dave M. there and he mentioned he had the Red breasted Merganser in the same area I had it but it had since flown upstream.  Nothing else new was in the river and he had just come from below the Coolidge Bridge with the only addition being another Ring necked Duck.  I decided to skip another stop at the bridge and instead headed toward home with a quick stop at North Lane Conservation Area where I had a Greater Scaup, five Common Goldeneyes and eight Common Mergansers.  Overall a nice morning along the Connecticut River with some decent numbers and species for the end of February.
Wilson eating some of the copious amounts of snow, Feb 28, 2014
Once I got home I grabbed the Wilson and we headed out for a walk.  We stopped briefly at Winsor Dam to see if any birds of interest were around but no luck.  We went for a walk at Covey WMA and it was fairly quiet with the Swift River nearly frozen solid again (a few open spots of water held a pair of Hooded Mergansers). 

Now that February is coming to a close (none too soon as far as I'm concerned!) I will take a look at my year so far.  My totals for Hampshire County this year so far add up to 95 which puts me five ahead of my record setting number from last year at the same date. I did not reach 95 until March 6 last year. Although slightly ahead of last year, not many of my total so far include birds I would not likely find later in the year so it will be interesting to see how the next several months play out. February held a total of 80 species in the county which is fantastic for February especially considering how cold and snowy it was almost the entire month.

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