Sunday, November 30, 2014

Snowy Owl this morning beats my old Hampshire County record for number of species seen in the county in one year

Snowy Owl, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 30, 2014
Snowy Owl, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 30, 2014
Snowy Owl, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 30, 2014
Snowy Owl, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 30, 2014
Snowy Owl (my initial view in the predawn darkness as it sat on a telphone pole), Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 30, 2014
I headed out this morning before it got light as I woke up early and couldn't fall back to sleep (yes I do sleep despite what some people think!).  I decided to head over to the Honey Pot to try to find a predawn Short eared Owl hunting the fields.  I arrived around 6:15 and started scanning the fields.  After a few minutes of not seeing anything on the fields I started scanning the tops of the various telephone poles between the dike and the river.  On the third pole I looked at I found a big white blob sitting on top of the pole...SNOWY OWL!  I sprinted back to the car to grab the scope to get better looks and try for some photos.  I shot off a few shots through the scope in the near darkness plus got some decent looks and posted the sighting to the facebook group (a little early to start calling people)  A car then came up the road and the owl flushed down into a nearby field.  I headed down off the dike and went to the field where the owl was sitting and I got a few more photos before it flew again to a much more distant field where it sat for about a minute.  It then flew almost right over me and disappeared back over the dike and out of my view.  I then headed back up to the dike and started scanning.  I found the bird fairly quickly in the middle of a distant field right up against a large tuft of grass.  Slowly but surely more and more people arrived to get views of the bird.  The bird stayed put and got tucked in really close to the grass tuft and if you didn't know where it was you could easily miss the well camouflaged bird.  The bird was still being seen when I left after a few hours of watching it and people continued to arrive to see it (it flew across the river to Hatfield a bit later from what I heard).  It was great finding the bird and also nice to share it with so many others.  How can you not like looking at a Snowy Owl?

The Snowy Owl became species #237 for Hampshire County this year which broke my previous record of 236 that I set last year.  I was not really sure I would ever break that record but finding three new species in four days in late November was enough to push me over the top (the other two included the Lark Sparrow and Common Redpoll).  Oddly enough Snowy Owl set my old record last year so I guess Snowy Owls are a bit lucky for me.  Other notables around the Honey Pot included two Northern Harriers and hundreds of Horned Larks and a few Snow Buntings.  Link to full album of photos:

After the owl I went in search of unusual geese in among the flocks of Canada Geese but didn't have much luck.  I covered lots of fields in Hadley and Amherst but found nothing but Canada Geese. 
Eastern Towhee, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 29, 2014
Eastern Towhee, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 29, 2014
Common Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 29, 2014
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 29, 2014
Yesterday I spent a very cold morning (around 15 degrees to start the day) around south Quabbin again.  I was finally able to make it in the Quabbin Park plus I made stops at Winsor Dam and Beaver Lake.  The cold morning made viewing a little tough early on as a low fog hung over the warmer water.  Yet again a decent flight of Mallards and Black Ducks leaving morning roost.  I had a fair number pass Winsor Dam a little before 7AM and another group heading south passing by Hank's Meadow a little later.  My totals for waterfowl between Quabbin Park and Winsor Dam were as follows: 71 Canada Geese, 20 Black Ducks, 324 Mallards, a Common Goldeneye, 8 Hooded Mergansers, 8 Common Mergansers, 3 Horned Grebe and 5 Common Loons.  Besides the waterfowl I had other notables including the best bird of the day which was a very cooperative male Eastern Towhee that was at the visitors center at Quabbin Park.  I heard it scratching under some of the bushes there and then it popped right out into view.  A little late for this species now so nice to see one again.  Also had a hooting Barred Owl at first light at Winsor Dam (had another Barred Owl at the house last night when I took Wilson out for his evening bathroom break)...oddly I had no heard one in weeks and then have two with a few hours of each other.

At the nearly frozen over Beaver Lake (80-90% of surface) I managed to find just 16 Mallards and 11 Hooded Mergansers. 


  1. Another great year, Larry, or should I say "another great eleven months"?Congratulations! Great stuff! (posted by Ed Kittredge)

    1. Thanks! It has been a great year so far....who knows what the last month will bring?