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.

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