Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween birding around Quabbin

Long tailed Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 31, 2014
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 31, 2014
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 31, 2014
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 31, 2014
Long tailed Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 31, 2014
Long tailed Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 31, 2014
Common Raven, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 31, 2014
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 31, 2014
Had a good morning at Quabbin Park despite some areas being closed off again due to a deer hunt and other areas near the spillway closed for repairs.  I started off the morning in the area near Goodnough Dike where I was unable to find the nearly tame Ruffed Grouse I have had there the last few weeks.  Unfortunately I think the bird may have been a victim of a hit by a car.  I did have a couple Great Horned Owls hooting back and forth plus some waterfowl out on the reservoir including five Long tailed Ducks, half a dozen Common Loons and a few Common Mergansers.  I also had 55 Black Ducks and a couple dozen Mallards flying past.  Other notable birds around included a couple Winter Wrens, a non tame Ruffed Grouse that exploded out of the underbrush as I walked by.  The Route 9 marsh produced more waterfowl including Hooded Mergansers, Wood Ducks, Canada Geese and a few more Black Ducks and Mallards.  After my brief stop at Quabbin Park I headed over to Winsor Dam for a stationary count where I ran into Evan and a couple friends who were already there.  We managed to find some stuff on the water and in the air (I have included my full list below).  A good morning for Long tailed Duck, Bufflehead and migrant crows.

Winsor Dam (7:49-9:31)

Long-tailed Duck 38 Group of 18 stayed in area occasionally flying around plus group of 20 flying south
Bufflehead 37 largest groups of 17 and 16
Common Loon 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Bald Eagle 1
Ring-billed Gull 6
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 519       Moving southwest
Common Raven 14     Group of 13 together
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Eastern Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 26
European Starling 8
American Pipit 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 5
Song Sparrow 2
Swamp Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 5
Northern Cardinal 1
Purple Finch 1
Pine Siskin 33
American Goldfinch 3
House Sparrow 4
Bufflehead, Beaver Lake, Ware, MA, Oct 31, 2014
I also made a brief stop at Beaver Lake in Ware where I found five more Bufflehead and a few Common Mergansers.  A stop back at Winsor Dam in the afternoon found 17 Bufflehead still sitting on the water.

As October comes to an end it is time once again to look at where I stand this year on my attempt to break my previous Hampshire County record.  I sit at 233 so far this year which is still one ahead of last year at the same time and puts me three away from reaching my total from last year.  I found five new species for the county this past month among the 118 total species seen.  We shall see if the next couple months can deliver four new species and break my record.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Morning visits to Quabbin Park the last couple mornings

American Coots, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 28, 2014
American Coots, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 28, 2014
American Coots, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 28, 2014
Black Ducks and Common Mergansers, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 28, 2014
Dawn, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 28, 2014
As the anti gull patrols at Quabbin started yesterday I didn’t have much hope of finding anything at Winsor Dam this morning but thought I would try anyway. I stopped just as it was getting light and had a couple flyover Killdeer plus a Great Horned Owl hooting. I set up the scope to scan the partially fogged in waters and then had three American Woodcocks fly past very low heading southwest followed by one more a minute later headed in the same direction. As expected no waterfowl at Winsor Dam so I decided to take advantage of the calm conditions and make a quick run over to Hank’s Meadow to try my luck there. Although limited on time I still managed to find a nice assortment of birds including four American Coots that initially were swimming around and occasionally diving before they came up on shore (quite unusual in the county and not a species I see every year). Video link here: waterfowl included 22 Black Ducks, two Hooded Mergansers, 11 Common Mergansers, four Common Loons and ten Horned Grebes.
Surf Scoter (L), Bufflehead (R) and Common Loons (rear), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 27, 2014
I made a brief stop by Winsor Dam on Monday before dawn and found a Surf Scoter, a group of nine Bufflehead that flew in and settled on the water near the scoter, eight Black Ducks flying southwest and five Common Loons. Also a large group of gulls numbering 120+ that all appeared to be Ring billed Gulls. A stop at the dam on the weekend turned up well over 300 gulls but they were too distant to identify. The anti gull patrols started on Monday evening which makes finding unusual stuff on the water at Winsor Dam a lot more difficult.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nearly fruitless search for geese in the valley and then a trip over to Quabbin Park, plus a bit about the chances of a Cave Swallow showing up around here

Mute Swans (with Canada Geese), Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Oct 26, 2014
Although it is a little earlier for big numbers of geese to show up a recent sighting of a Greater White fronted Goose in Berkshire County and a Cackling Goose up in Franklin County I decided to try my luck in the valley on a non hunting day.  I started before dawn at the UMASS campus pond where I found exactly zero geese (just Mallards and a couple Black Ducks).  I then headed through various fields between Route 116 and Route 47 in North Hadley but again found no geese so I stopped by Lake Warner to see if any geese were roosting there.  This is where I had the only geese of the morning along the river when I found 136 Canada Geese plus other waterfowl including three Mute Swans, a few Mallards and seven Wood Ducks.  Most of the geese eventually flew out and headed back toward UMASS so I went back through fields nearby but could not find where they set down.  I then travelled down Route 47 swinging through the Honey Pot, Aqua Vitae Road, Hadley Cove and then East Hadley geese or waterfowl at any of these spots.  As it appeared the chances of finding any real numbers of geese was low I decided I would head back toward home and see what Quabbin had to offer. 
Winsor Dam, Oct 26, 2014
I made it to Quabbin a little before eight and spent some time at Winsor Dam where I had some birds moving despite the westerly winds.  The most notable was a late Magnolia Warbler that flew directly overhead at a height of less than fifty feet.  Also had a single flock of 56 Pine Siskins moving rapidly to the southwest.

Ruffed Grouse, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 26, 2014
Ruffed Grouse, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 26, 2014
Ruffed Grouse, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 26, 2014
Ruffed Grouse, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 26, 2014
After my initial stop at the dam I made stops near Goodnough Dike and the route 9 marsh.  During one of my stops I was once again visited by a territorial Ruffed Grouse who came right up to me, pecking at my feet and the legs of the tripod.  The bird was too close most of the time to use my good camera so I had to use the phone instead!  The bird then continued to follow me down the trail for several hundred feet before finally breaking off the pursuit.  Always neat to see this species up close and personal.  The reservoir was fairly quiet with half a dozen Common Loons and a Horned Grebe.  A few raptors were fighting the headwind as they attempted to migrate through including two Northern Harriers together.  Also had another group of 35+ Pine Siskins flying through a pine grove.  The typical waterfowl at the marsh including the continued Pied billed Grebe.
Sharp shinned Hawk, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 26, 2014
A short return to Winsor Dam produced more raptors moving, a group of four Horned Larks flying by plus an American Pipit among others.

We are getting into the time of year (late October into mid November) when Cave Swallows become a possibility in the northeast if there is a sustained southwesterly flow reaching down to the deep south and this scenario is setting up for early this week.  Although there has not yet been a record of this species in western Massachusetts I believe one will eventually be found as large numbers end up on the coast and the Great Lakes with the right conditions.  There is a record from Worcester County in mid November of 2012 (  It could well be worth the time and effort to try to find this species from the south.

I have included a link to eBird records for Cave Swallow sightings between October and December in the last ten years to illustrate the influx of this species into the north and east.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Quabbin Park again...lots of siskins

Pine Siskins, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2014
Pine Siskins, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2014
Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2014
Ring billed Gull, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2014
Ruffed Grouse, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2014
Hank's Meadow looking east, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2014
Goodnough Dike at dawn, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2014
The winds were northwest and then west before calming down overnight and the radars looked fairly active so I hoped for some good stuff this morning. I headed out before dawn and started at Quabbin Park mainly trying to catch up with waterfowl. It was certainly more active for waterfowl there this morning with nine species Also had a couple Great Horned Owls hooting back and forth plus a tame Ruffed Grouse that ran out from under my car when I returned to it after a short walk. Full list for the park at this link:

After about an hour in the park I headed over to Winsor Dam where I spent the next two hours watching for migrants coming by and checking the reservoir for waterfowl. Very quiet on the water with just two Common Loons that flew in, a handful of Ring billed Gulls and a single White tailed Deer swimming across the reservoir. Migrants on the other hand were quite active with 300+ Pine Siskins (all flying southwest with a few groups making brief stops in trees west of the dam),123 Canada Geese (movng southwest in small groups), a couple American Pipits, 227 American Crows (most moving southwest), plus numbers of Yellow rumped Warblers, Purple Finches and Red winged Blackbirds. Also had some raptor movement going through with half a dozen species. Full list from the dam at this link:

I started feeling a little under the weather so headed home a little earlier than I initially planned so I'm sure I missed some more stuff.


Friday, October 24, 2014

Areas around Quabbin Park after the storm

Common Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 24, 2014
Northern Harrier, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 24, 2014
Spotted Sandpiper, Gate 52, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 24, 2014
Red necked Grebe, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 24, 2014
Spotted Sandpiper, Hank's Meadow, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 24, 2014
Spent the morning checking out south Quabbin in search of left over birds from the nor'easter that continues to move away.  I awoke to some fairly decent rain and a continued north wind.  I started at Winsor Dam where I found nothing at all in almost twenty minutes of watching in a driving rain at first light.  I then headed into the park to try my luck and find some areas a little more sheltered from the wind.  I made stops at Hank's Meadow, Goodnough Dike and the Route 9 marsh.  The only bird I had out on the water on the reservoir was a Common Loon at Goodnough. ...strange to have only one bird on the water in late October.  The marsh was much more active with seven species of waterfowl including 30+ Canada Geese, half a dozen Wood Ducks, four Black Ducks, six Mallards, two Green winged Teal, three Hooded Mergansers and a Pied billed Grebe.  The best bird I found during this stop at Quabbin Park was a somewhat late Spotted Sandpiper at Hank's Meadow that I managed to get a few photos of.  The rain let up a bit around 7:30 so I decided to head back to Winsor Dam again where I stayed for about an hour and had some birds moving despite the continued drizzle.  The only bird out on the water was a single Red necked Grebe that flew in from the north and settled in to feed to the west of the dam.  A couple Common Loons never set down but just flew around the area before disappearing to the north.  Also had several raptors including three Northern Harriers (two together plus a single a little later). Other migrants included about 30 Blue Jays and a dozen Pine Siskins.  I then tried my luck at Beaver Lake in Ware to see if any waterfowl might be more inclined to be on a smaller body of water...found just a couple Common Mergansers there.  I then wandered back to Quabbin Park heading over to Gate 52 where I found a single Horned Grebe (third species of grebe for the morning) plus a Spotted Sandpiper...probably the same one I saw earlier in the morning at nearby Hank's Meadow but who knows for sure?  A few more stops at Winsor Dam later in the morning turned up a few more geese migrating plus a few more species of raptor but nothing unusual.
American Pipit, Valley St., Hatfield, MA, Oct 23, 2014
American Pipit, Valley St., Hatfield, MA, Oct 23, 2014
The bulk of the storm hit yesterday with heavy rain (a few inches) and strong winds.  I was unable to get out at all until very late in the day as I headed north from Northampton to Deerfield for an appointment.  I checked several fields in Hatfield into Whately and most fields were devoid of birds.  I did manage to find 45 or so American Pipits along Valley Street in Hatfield as well a a few Rusty Blackbirds mixed into small blackbird flocks in a couple locations.  The only geese I found were a group of about half a dozen flying north.  Elsewhere yesterday I heard of all three species of scoter being grounded by the storm as well as few other waterfowl species but nothing unexpected.  Really wish I could have checked Quabbin yesterday...oh well.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The nor'easter begins

Winsor Dam, Oct 22, 2014
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA,  Oct 22, 2014
Winsor Dam (with Bald Eagle flying by), Oct 21, 2014
A nor'easter continues to slowly move up the coast, throwing rain/drizzle in from the east and cranking up the north and northeast winds.  The winds started yesterday but really increased today.  A stop by Winsor Dam yesterday evening didn't produce any waterfowl and another stop this evening produced just three Double crested Cormorants on the very choppy water.  On my way home I saw some geese dropping into a field off Middle St and Hadley so I made a quick stop and found a flock of 230+ Canada Geese but no unusual geese among them.  So far nothing unusual from the storm but I wouldn't be surprised if something good shows up.  Downed waterfowl are the most likely but a late shorebird, an unusual gull or some other coastal species is always possible with a storm like this.  Time will tell I guess.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Upcoming nor'easter should bring several days of on/off rain

Winsor Dam at dusk, Oct 20, 2014

Winsor Dam at dawn, Oct 20, 2014
White winged Scoters (blurry distant photo in the fog), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 20, 2014
The next few days will feature a potentially long duration rain event caused by a storm coming out of Canada that will redevelop off the coast and become a slow moving nor’easter.  The rain should be heaviest on Wednesday and Thursday but occasional showers will occur both tomorrow and Friday.  It will be interesting to see if any unusual birds get forced down by the extended period of rain and northeast winds.  I made a brief stop at Winsor Dam this morning before work and had five White winged Scoters sitting on the water as well as a group of Canada Geese (33) heading south plus a few dozen Black Ducks and Mallards leaving their evening roost heading south.  Wish I could have stayed longer and/or explored a few other spots but no time today.  Another quick stop at the dam on the way home produced two White winged Scoters as well as three Common Loons.


Sunday, October 19, 2014

Winsor Dam produces Brant (and others)

Brant, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
Brant, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
Brant, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
Brant (group of six moving southeast), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
Brant (group of 18 moving southeast), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
Mute Swan, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
Black Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
Common Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
Red tailed Hawk, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
Double crested Cormorants, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 19, 2014
I had high hopes for this morning and I was not disappointed!  As mentioned in previous posts the conditions were right for a decent influx of migrants today with a strong northwest wind after several days of southerly winds.  My plan was to conduct a stationary count at Winsor Dam and that is exactly what I did.  I arrived around 6:40am and stayed for about three and a half hours.  I was joined for most of it by Aidan and Devin and we managed to find them some new county birds.  A total of 35 species including a dozen species of waterfowl with the highlight by far being a total of 19 Brant!  Most of them went by as a group a little after 7am and about an hour later a lone individual flew around over the water for over 15 minutes before finally heading out.  The Brant is a somewhat rare bird in the county and all my records come from Quabbin.  The Brant became species #233 for Hampshire County this year.  The birds were moving from daybreak on and it was tough to cover all the sky at once and I'm sure we missed some stuff.  There were birds moving high that you would only come across as you were checking out another closer bird.  The number of siskins was lower than expected but the noise from the wind and the water probably kept us from hearing some groups move by.  It was a great morning to watch migration in action with many species on the move.  We didn't have much on the water at all until late in our time there (and even then, nothing was too close).  I made a brief stop back at the dam in the early afternoon and found ten White winged Scoters and a couple Surf Scoters way out on the water, a couple more Great Blue Herons moving south as well as another Osprey.  Wish I had the time and energy to have spent the entire day there as I'm sure the total numbers would have been impressive. 

Winsor Dam

Brant 19 Rare inland, initially saw group of six which joined with group of 12 all heading southwest around 7:10. A single bird flew around and around between for 15 minutes well out from the dam, briefly landing on water.
Canada Goose 131 small groups heading south and west
Mute Swan 2 Adult and juv
American Black Duck 68 Minimum count
Mallard 23
Surf Scoter 5
White-winged Scoter 2
Black Scoter 1
Long-tailed Duck 5 group together way out on water
Common Merganser 1 flying northeast with five black ducks
duck sp. 47 35 flying south extremely high, 12 way out on water
Common Loon 3
Double-crested Cormorant 9
Great Blue Heron 4 Three together moving south plus a single moving south
Turkey Vulture 1
Osprey 1
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Cooper's Hawk 4
Accipiter sp. 2
Bald Eagle 8 Minimum
Red-tailed Hawk 4
Ring-billed Gull 155+
Herring Gull 7
gull sp. 35 too far out to ID
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Peregrine Falcon 2
Blue Jay 24
American Crow 21
Common Raven 2
American Robin 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 3
Chipping Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 2
Northern Cardinal 2
Pine Siskin 34 Couple of groups moving south
passerine sp. 15

After tomorrow the forecast turns rainy which could result in some waterfowl (and others) being forced down but the exact timing remains to be seen.  It could well be worth checking bodies of water and fields to see what is around.  A great spot to check out the forecast for migrants is at Birdcast:
Another weather event that has a long shot of impacting birding here is a set up that could funnel birds from Europe over to North America...certainly more potential at the coast but you never know.  Here is a quote about it from the Birdcast web site:

North Atlantic Oscillation Side Bar

In the past Octobers since the start of the BirdCast project, the team has discussed the promise of European vagrants appearing in North America a number of times (see this original posting from 2012 and the posting about Sandy that spawned it). Now, finding ourselves in the midst of October and surfing the inter web for potentially interesting meteorological tidbits, we find the past and coming weeks having two rather substantial low pressure systems (including the remains of Hurricane Gonzalo) moving across the Atlantic. Winds are forecast to be rather strong and from the east to the north of these systems as they spin way toward Europe, creating the potential bridge between the Palaearctic and Nearctic migration systems that may bring European visitors. Furthermore, the time is right for high pressure to establish itself over the North Atlantic, the so-called Greenland High, a rex block in the North Atlantic, or the “negative phase” of the North Atlantic Oscillation. Will someone in Northeastern North America be the lucky person to find a Yellow-browed Warbler, a bumper crop of which has appeared in Iceland already this October?