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.


  1. Congratulations once again, Larry. Nice work. What a day! (Posted by Ed Kittredge)

  2. Thanks Ed. What a day indeed!

  3. Hi Larry,

    Thanks so much for sharing your finds and photos here ... your blog is a great guide to birding in the Valley!

    FYI - At Mitch's Way on 3/31 around 230 pm there was a Barrow's Goldeneye (male) in with a few Common Goldeneyes (and a grey ghost harrier in the field across Rt 47 - nice bonus!)

    1. Glad you like it! Wow...barrow's is always a great bird to find in the valley...missed many years. Wish I had seen it too!