Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Pink footed Geese continue...yes, more than one around!

Pink footed Goose, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Mar 26, 2014
Pink footed Goose, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Mar 26, 2014
Pink footed Goose, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Mar 26, 2014
Pink footed Goose, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Mar 26, 2014
Canada Goose with neck tag, UMASS campus pond, Amherst, MA, Mar 25, 2014
A quick post as I don't have a lot of time this morning but it appears that there are at least two (possibly three) Pink footed Geese present in the valley...amazing!  I tried to catch up with one of them again yesterday morning but didn't have any luck.  However this morning I did find one (possibly two) at Lake Warner in among several hundred Canada Geese.  Although I didn't find any Pink footed Geese yesterday I did find a few decent birds including two Black Vultures in among Turkey Vultures at West Farms Road and Ryan Road in Northampton (about the same spot I had Black Vultures last year)...I tried to get a few photos with my iPhone but I don't think they came out well enough to ID them (photos still on a flash drive at work).  I also found the neck tagged Canada Goose again...this time at the UMASS campus pond.  The other notable species yesterday was a Wilson's Snipe at East Hadley Road...the vultures and snipe became species #110 and #111 for the year respectively in Hampshire County.  I'm some how oddly ahead of last years record setting pace by five species at this point despite no real winter irruptives to speak of...crazy!  Still tons of geese around so I wouldn't be surprised if other unusual stuff eventually turn up...hopefully if anything else shows up it stays for awhile.

Monday, March 24, 2014

PINK FOOTED GOOSE! Another epic day of birding the valley!

Pink footed Goose, Old Pilgrim Airport, Hatfield, MA, Mar 23, 2014
Pink footed Goose, Old Pilgrim Airport, Hatfield, MA, Mar 23, 2014
Pink footed Goose, Old Pilgrim Airport, Hatfield, MA, Mar 23, 2014
Pink footed Goose, Old Pilgrim Airport, Hatfield, MA, Mar 23, 2014
Pink footed Goose, Old Pilgrim Airport, Hatfield, MA, Mar 23, 2014
Pink footed Goose, Old Pilgrim Airport, Hatfield, MA, Mar 23, 2014
What a great day of birding yesterday!  It was so busy and hectic I ran out of time to post about it yesterday so the post had to wait a day.  The highlight by far was a Pink footed Goose I found at the old Pilgrim Airport on the Hatfield/Whately town line.  Finding a first county record in Hampshire County (and one of only a few state records) is always a highlight and being able to have other people see it too was just icing on the cake.  I almost didn’t head over to Hatfield in the afternoon as I already had done a full morning of birding (more on that below) but I thankfully made the decision to go.  My main goal was to try to track down a flock (35-40) of Snow Geese that were seen earlier at Pilgrim Airport but took off to the south.  I decided I would try for them and I made it to Hatfield around 1pm and started checking various fields to the south of the airport.  Not much around to see with highlights being a Bufflehead and Common Merganser in the river in Hatfield and a few hundred other Canada Geese in various fields in Hatfield.  With little activity elsewhere I made it to the airport around 1:30 and scanned around and came up with five Snow Geese (all blue morph) which blended in quite well with the 542 Canada Geese present at that time.  I scanned through the flock a couple times but didn’t notice any other unusual geese but did find a few each of Wood Duck, Black Duck and Mallard plus a Killdeer.  I thought I might have some luck checking more fields to the south and east but came up with only a few dozen Canada Geese scattered around.  I then decided to stop back by the airport one last time in the hopes the Snow Geese came back and if they were not there I would head up to the Sunderland bridge and then come south through the fields in Hadley and Amherst looking for geese.  I started scanning through the geese again and this time I spotted a half dozen blue morph Snow Geese (I’m sure the sixth one was there on my earlier stop and I missed it).  I then scanned through the remaining geese and came across an odd individual that was actively feeding.  My first thought was a possible Greater White Fronted Goose but after just a few moments that ID went out the window.  The bird lifted its head up and I noticed a slightly darker head, a small pink bill with a black tip and base…I knew I had something good!  I was thinking Pink footed Goose but I had never seen one before and I was trying to recall the identifying marks of the bird.  The bird was moving around and then I saw the pink legs.  I had already gotten several digiscoped shots and I then tried to confirm the identification but the bird is not featured in most field guides.  I then sent a quick message (with photos) to Ian and then gave him a call.  He concurred with my initial thoughts on the bird so we then got the word out to people.  I made a few posts and a few phones calls before my phone finally died (iPhones don’t like the cold!).  As I waited for others to arrive I had a Snow Goose show which lasted the rest of the afternoon.  First a flock of fifty birds flew over high, calling but they kept moving.  A bit later a group of 46 came in and landed in the field plus I had at least two more in with distant groups of Canada Geese moving north bringing my total for Snow Geese up to 114 for the day including at least ten blue morph.  Over the next couple of hours dozens of people arrived to look at the bird with many of them seeing this species for the first time in their lives.  When I left at around 4:15 the bird was still being seen and it stayed through sunset from what I have heard.  In addition to the above mentioned geese I had the following totals for waterfowl: 1125+ Canada Geese (roughly 650 in the field with the remaining flying by), 3 Wood Duck,  9 Black Duck, 18 Mallard, 7 Green winged Teal (flyby) and a Common Goldeneye flying by distantly.  Other notable birds included a Killdeer and a flyby group of 48 Horned Larks.    A very productive afternoon of birding as far as I’m concerned and one that I will remember for quite some time to come.  The Pink footed Goose becomes the third first Hampshire County record I have found with the others being a King Eider last November at Winsor Dam and a White tailed Tropicbird at Winsor Dam following Hurricane Irene three years ago. 

Link to all the photos I got of the Pink footed Goose:

Snow Goose, Stockbridge Road, Hadley, MA, Mar 24, 2014
As an update the Pink footed Goose was seen again today along Stockbridge Road in Hadley during the midmorning but disappeared again not long after heading to parts unknown until it was refound late in the day back along Stockbridge Road.  I made a quick swing by to try to see it again but no luck...thousands of Canada Geese and a lone Snow Goose.  In addition perhaps another Pink foooted Goose was found in Hamden County today by Steve M....nice going Steve!

Snow Geese (blue morph), Old Pilgrim Airport, Hatfield, MA, Mar 23, 2014
Snow Geese, Old Pilgrim Airport, Hatfield, MA, Mar 23, 2014
Snow Geese, Old Pilgrim Airport, Hatfield, MA, Mar 23, 2014
Snow Geese, Old Pilgrim Airport, Hatfield, MA, Mar 23, 2014

Lesser Scaup with a Greater Scaup, Mitch’s Way, Hadley, MA, Mar 23, 2014
Lesser Scaup, Mitch’s Way, Hadley, MA, Mar 23, 2014
Now to cover the morning before I headed out again in the afternoon.  I spent nearly the entire morning exploring along the river looking for waterfowl.  I have included the locations and waterfowl totals (and other highlights) below. 

Atkins Farm area:  three American Woodcocks displaying.

Coolidge Bridge area: 340 Canada Geese, 2 Wood Duck, 32 Mallard, 2 Ring necked Duck, a Hooded Merganser, a Great Blue Heron and a couple of vocal Peregrine Falcons (perhaps they will nest on the bridge?).

Honey Pot: 70 Canada Geese, 2 Wood Duck, 3 Mallard, 2 Hooded Merganser and at least three Horned Larks.

North Lane Conservation Area: 2 Canada Geese, 23 Wood Duck, 4 Black Duck, 17 Mallard, 10 Ring necked Duck, a Hooded Merganser and a Red necked Grebe.

East Meadows (viewing river): 1700+ Canada Geese (including a neck collared bird…red tag with white letter “Y3R7”…seen in same area March 16th), 3 Wood Duck, 4 Black Duck, 16 Mallard, a Blue winged Teal (in with Green winged Teal), 16 Green winged Teal, 32 Ring necked Duck, 4 Hooded Merganser and 4 Common Merganser.

Hadley Cove: 8 Hooded Merganser

Mitch’s Way: 2250 Canada Geese (minimum), 102 Wood Duck, 7 Black Duck, 8 Mallard, 13 Ring necked Duck, a Greater Scaup (female with lesser scaup), 12 Lesser Scaup, 9 Common Goldeneye, 3 Hooded Merganser, 2 Common Merganser, an Eastern Phoebe and a couple ravens.

Brunelle Marina: a Wood Duck and a Common Merganser.

Hadley Falls Canal Park: a Mute Swan, 17 Ring necked Duck, a Hooded Merganser and a Horned Grebe (in transitional plumage.

Holyoke Dam: 9 Canada Geese,  7 Bufflehead, 2 Common Goldeneye, 2 Common Merganser, a Killdeer, an early Northern Rough winged Swallow (seen and heard as it fed with Tree Swallows), 11 Tree Swallows plus around two hundred gulls but nothing unusual.

East Meadows (muddy fields past red barn):  320+ Canada Geese in distant fields.

East Hadley Road fields:  162 Canada Geese (half in fields, half in the air), 2 Killdeer and three Horned Larks.

 Overall I ended the day with 18 species of waterfowl in the county and added a life bird bringing my total to 819…a total I hope to add to very soon.  The goose became species number 311 for the state and number 279 for Hampshire County.
A quick additional post about some upcoming weather in the general area.  It appears a major nor’easter is set to develop off the coast on Tuesday.  Thankfully it looks to form a bit too far to the east to have a major impact here but the coast and into Canada could get nailed with a very powerful storm with winds at hurricane strength and heavy snow.  This could entrain some early spring migrants and deposit them well north of where the birds intended to go so I would not be surprised to see some unusual bird occurrences up in the maritimes of Canada.  I’m just happy the storm seems unlikely to hit us directly.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

A day at Winsor Dam

Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Turkey Vulture, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Red shouldered Hawk, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Cackling Goose (probable) with Canada Geese, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Cackling Goose (probable) with Canada Geese, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Cackling Goose (probable) with Canada Geese, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Cackling Goose (probable) with Canada Geese, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Deer carcass (not much left after a week), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Eastern Coyote, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
Eastern Coyote, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Mar 22, 2014
With the forecast of some early snow and rain showers and southwest winds I decided to spend some hours at Winsor Dam seeing what I might find migrating.  I stopped for a couple hours in the morning, another 30 minutes late morning before the rain showers came in and another couple hours in the afternoon after the rain.  Some really good stuff despite the reservoir still being a block of ice (and therefore not really inviting to waterfowl).  I still managed to find some good waterfowl moving  including a probable Cackling Goose in among a flock of Canada Geese, 227 Canada Geese (including a few that seemed as frustrated as me seeing ice still on the Quabbin), half a dozen Black Ducks and a pair of Hooded Mergansers.  Raptors also made a good movement today (mostly after the rain) with species including 16 Turkey Vultures (sadly no Black Vultures..thought it would be a good day for them...some where seen further west), three Cooper's Hawks, an unidentified large accipiter (maybe just a large Cooper's Hawk but too distant to say for sure), nine Bald Eagles (up to six in view at once), an amazing seven Red shouldered Hawks (probably my single best day for this species in the state), 17 Red tailed Hawks and an American Kestrel that acted more like a Merlin as it dove at a couple Red tailed Hawks.  The other highlights beyond the waterfowl and raptors included at least eight Great Blue Herons moving northeast, a couple flyby Killdeer, at least 349 American Crows with the vast majority moving northeast, four Common Ravens, a Red breasted Nuthatch (tough to find this year so far), 317 American Robins, 28 Red winged Blackbirds, a flyby Rusty Blackbird calling, 64 Common Grackles and at least three cowbirds.  It is always amazing to see what comes by one point at Quabbin over the course of the day when the winds are right.  It would be interesting to see how many species I could find just at the dam in a year.  Besides the bird life I also had at least three Eastern Coyotes, eight White tailed Deer alive and the picked over remains of the deer out on the ice...nothing but bones and some fur now with just crows paying any attention to it.

Friday, March 21, 2014

First full day of spring.

Canada Geese, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Mar 21, 2014
Canada Geese flying over meadows, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Mar 21, 2014
Canada Geese, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Mar 21, 2014
Bufflehead, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Mar 21, 2014
Greater Scaup, Mitch's Way, Hadley, MA, Mar 21, 2014
Northern Pintail, Mitch's Way, Hadley, MA, Mar 21, 2014
Peregrine Falcon, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Mar 21, 2014
American Wigeon (pair far right), Gadwall (bottom right) and Mallards, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Mar 21, 2014

Although today was the first full day of spring it certainly did not feel like it with temperatures in the 30's with a strong northwest wind with occasional flurries in the morning and more clouds than sun. Despite the less than stellar weather I headed out before dawn in search of waterfowl along the river and ended the morning with a total of 18 species of waterfowl including some unusual species. Certainly an influx of geese today with thousands around the valley but catching up with them to sort them out was quite difficult but I eventually had some success. Trying to stay ahead of the crew teams out on the river also proved difficult and frustrating but without a way to sink them I had to deal with them. Besides the waterfowl I had some other good birds but nothing too unexpected. I have included my stops below with the waterfowl totals and other highlights.

Coolidge Bridge area: 446 Canada Geese, 54 Mallard, 2 Ring necked Duck, 2 Common Goldeneye, 2 Hooded Merganser and a very vocal Peregrine Falcon.

Honey Pot: 31 Canada Geese, 2 Common Merganser, a Red necked Grebe and an adult male Northern Harrier.

North Lane Conservation Area: 620 Canada Geese (all flying north), 9 Mallard, 16 Ring necked Duck, 24 Common Goldeneye and 5 Common Merganser.

Numerous fields in Hadley and North Hadley: a handful of Canada Geese.

UMASS Campus Pond: 573 Canada Geese, 44 Mallard and a Peregrine Falcon at the nest box.

Mitch's Way: 1800+ Canada Geese, 12 Wood Duck, 6 Mallard, a pair of Northern Pintail, a Greater Scaup female and 4 Lesser Scaup. Probably the most frustrating stop of the day as I only had a brief chance to start going through the large flock on the river when a few crew boats flushed everything. I'm sure there were other things to be found in that huge flock.

Hadley Falls Canal Park: 22 Canada Geese, 2 Mute Swan, a Wood Duck, a Black Duck, 13 Ring necked Duck, a Long tailed Duck (distant and constantly diving...seems like this is a good spot for this species) and 4 Hooded Merganser.

Below the Holyoke Dam: 6 Canada Geese, 4 Mallard. 6 Bufflehead, 8 Common Goldeneye and 2 Hooded Merganser.

Silvio Conte NWR-Moody Bridge Road: 170+ Canada Geese in flight.

East Hadley Road-Hadley: 5 Canada Geese and 2 Killdeer.

East Meadows: a single Cackling Goose (seen well but briefly as it fed along Canada Geese...short neck, stubby bill and small overall size compared to Canada moved in and out of view among the corn and then flushed along with all the geese and could not be relocated), 1940+ Canada Geese (truly impressive when they all took flight when flushed), 4 Wood Duck, a Gadwall, a pair of American Wigeon, 9 Black Duck, 34 Mallard, a Turkey Vulture (which oddly flushed all the geese as it came by), at least 3 Red tailed Hawks, a flyover Snow Bunting and about 120 crows. Most of the ducks were seen only after everything flushed...when they settled back into the corn stalks they disappeared from view.

Perhaps some southerly winds will bring in more migrants tomorrow...time will tell.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The past several mornings of waterfowl (plus an evening of birding)

Common Mergansers, Hadley, MA, Mar 20, 2014
Common Mergansers, Hadley, MA, Mar 20, 2014

Ring necked Duck, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Mar 19, 2014
Red necked Grebe, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Mar 19, 2014
I woke up a bit earlier than usual on Wednesday so had a few more minutes to spend searching for unusual waterfowl before work.  I hit the area below the Coolidge bridge before the crew teams got a chance to scare everything away and found the following waterfowl: 32 Canada Geese, half a dozen Mallards and a single Hooded Merganser…some of the lowest numbers I have had there in quite awhile.  I then headed over to the North Lane Conservation Area and had 14 Canada Geese, three Mallards and 8 Ring necked Duck.  My final stop was a quick stop to view the Connecticut River from the Honey Pot and had  12 Canada Geese, 7 Wood Duck, 21 Mallard, a Ring necked Duck, two Hooded Merganser, a Common Merganser and a Red necked Grebe.  I also had at least three Horned Larks flying over as well as an eagle sitting on the nest.  While I was at work someone reported a Snowy Owl being mobbed by a couple of Peregrines at the Honey Pot.  Other searching for it later in the day had no luck.  I’m sure the owl was moving through back north and unfortunately ran across a pair of falcons which made it feel less than welcomed.  Hopefully it will find a spot to feed and fuel up a bit close by before continuing north.
On my way home I stopped briefly along the river in Hadley and had three Wood Ducks, 11 Mallard and 21 Common Mergansers plus a couple Turkey Vultures drifting by.
Bald Eagle at deer carcass, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Mar 18, 2014
Bald Eagles on ice, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Mar 18, 2014
On a  sunny but cold (near 10 degrees) Tuesday morning I had just a couple minutes in the morning so I stopped at the Coolidge Bridge area and had 72 Mallard, 10 Ring necked Duck and 3 Hooded Merganser.  Later in the day I took Wilson for a late walk at Covey WMA and we had at least four Turkey Vultures circling around.  We made a brief stop at Winsor Dam on the way home and found four Bald Eagles (with three still on the much reduced deer carcass).  I returned to Covey at dusk and found two distant, displaying American Woodcock as well as some waterfowl including a couple Canada Geese, a couple Black Ducks, at least 27 Mallards and a pair of Hooded Mergansers.  All the waterfowl were flybys as the marshes at Covey remain frozen.  As it got dark I walked a bit checking out spots for owls.  My reward for spending some time out on the icy trails was a Northern Saw whet Owl responding to playback.  Never got a look at it and I didn’t stick around too long as I didn’t want to bother it too much.  Oddly no other owls at all besides this one.

Ring necked Duck, Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Mar 17, 2014
On Monday I stopped first at North Lane where I had 12 Canada Geese, 18 Ring necked Duck and two Hooded Merganser and then I stopped over near the Coolidge Bridge and had 67 Mallard, 6 Ring necked Duck and a Hooded Merganser.  No time to check other spots that day.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Cold weather comes back after a one day break

Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Mar 16, 2014
Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Mar 16, 2014
Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Mar 16, 2014
Bald Eagles on deer carcass, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Mar 16, 2014
Rough legged Hawk, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Mar 16, 2014
Canada Geese with neck tag, Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Mar 16, 2014
Killdeer, state fish hatchery, Belchertown, MA, Mar 16, 2014
With the forecast of strong northwest winds my original plan was to stay close to home but when I got up and went outside with the Wilson the winds seemed fairly calm and I had a Great Horned Owl hooting so I decided to head a bit further afield.  I headed east toward the Connecticut River once again in the hopes of catching up with some unusual waterfowl or other early migrants. Before dawn I finally caught up with an American Woodcock near Atkins Farm despite the winds which were a bit higher over that way.  I then made several stops along the Connecticut River including North Lane Conservation Area, the Honey Pot, the CT river near the Coolidge Bridge, then over to the old Mill River, the East Meadows and then a few fields in Hadley. Overall the waterfowl numbers were a bit reduced from yesterday but I still managed to find some good stuff (or at least what I consider good stuff...good is so subjective).

North Lane Conservation Area- a Wood Duck, a couple Mallards, 24 Common Goldeneye, 4 Hooded Merganser and 4 Common Merganser.

Honey Pot- 40 Canada Geese, 2 Wood Duck, 37 Mallard, 6 Ring necked Duck, 2 Hooded Merganser, 6 Common Merganser, a couple Bald Eagles and a Rough legged Hawk.

Coolidge Bridge area- 427 Canada Geese (including a neck tagged individual with a red tag with the code "Y3R7"...I have reported the tag but the last goose I had with a red tag with a similar code came from Quebec...I will update when I get the info back    ****update**** banded goose was tagged in Varennes, Quebec on 7/3/2010), a Wood Duck, 198 Mallard, a Northern Pintail female, 11 Ring necked Duck, 4 Hooded Merganser, a Great Blue Heron, a pair of Peregrine Falcons,

Old Mill River- 5 Canada Geese, 13 Wood Duck, pair of American Wigeon, 19 Black Duck, 41 Mallard, a Green winged Teal, 2 Hooded Merganser and 3 Common Merganser.

East Meadows-no real highlights here...area has limited access at this point with lots of large puddles and ice.

After my journey along the Connecticut River I headed over to Winsor Dam to check on the deer carcass (spoiler was still dead). At least half a dozen Bald Eagles were in the vicinity with up to three feeding on the carcass at any one time. It really felt like winter there again with the winds really blowing strong out of the north. A stop at the nearby fish hatchery turned up a couple Killdeer but not much else.