Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Yellow headed Blackbird (briefly) and Black Vultures in Hadley

Black Vultures, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 11, 2014
Black Vultures, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 11, 2014
Mixed species flock of blackbird, grackles and cowbirds, Hadley, MA, Nov 11, 2014
Mixed species flock of blackbird, grackles and cowbirds, Hadley, MA, Nov 11, 2014

Mourning Dove with missing tail and missing flight feathers, Hadley, MA, Nov 11, 2014
The goal for the day was to finally catch up with the Yellow headed Blackbird that has been seen near Huntington Road in Hadley for the last few days. I have looked for it briefly without luck the last couple days but I eventually managed to find the bird before the morning was over after much effort.  I was joined for the morning by Jacob as we started looking for the bird before seven.  We had a few blackbirds there early but not many so we decided to make a brief run over to Lake Warner to check on any geese on the lake.  The lake was totally devoid of geese (or any waterfowl) due to hunters in the area so we left there and after checking a few fields headed back to the area of Huntington Road where we spent the next 45 minutes sorting through the 2500 blackbirds, grackles and cowbirds present.  Most were distant and the lighting was poor but we kept sorting through.  Eventually many of them flew across the river to Hatfield.  With no luck with the Yellow headed Blackbird so far we headed over to the fields around Russelville Road and then to UMASS looking for geese but found very few (hunters in various areas kept the geese away I'm sure).  The UMASS fields had quite a few Ring billed Gulls but little else.  We then decided to head back toward the river where I dropped Jacob off to check the Honey Pot as I headed back to my vigil to find 'that' blackbird.  Before I left the Honey Pot we ran across our biggest goose flock of the morning when we found around 125 Canada Geese on one of the fields.  Jacob then noticed a couple Black Vultures sitting in one of the large trees near the transfer station and we managed to get some photos of the birds (the vultures stayed put most of the day and other birders got to see them too).  I arrived back at Huntington Road around 8:40 and stayed there for almost three hours (joined at the end by Jacob).  The mixed species flock had grown in numbers (4000+) but remained fairly distant.  A large number vacated the area flying back across the river into Hatfield when a couple Red tailed Hawks made a run trough the flock.  The several hundred birds that remained started dropping into the far field to feed and around 10:05 I got a look at the Yellow headed Blackbird as it fed in the field.  It (along with all the other birds) were tough to view in among the corn remnants.  I tried to get photos but no luck.  A few minutes later a Cooper's Hawk came in and all the birds flushed and I had the bird in the scope as it (along with almost all the other birds) flew across the river.  Eventually some of the birds came back but I was never able to relocate the Yellow headed Blackbird again.  I really wanted some better looks (and photos) but no luck.  Perhaps it will stay around a bit longer and I will get another chance to try for it?  The Yellow headed Blackbird became species #234 for Hampshire County this year which puts me just two species away from matching my record from last year.  Fingers crossed for more good stuff showing up!  Overall it was another beautiful day for the second week of November with the high temperature reaching near 60 once again.  I guess Veterans Day is a good day to find unusual birds in the area as I had a first Hampshire County record of a King Eider on this date last year on the 11th at Winsor Dam (I stopped there briefly today but no eiders today).

In addition there have been some early sightings of Snowy Owls in the northeast the last couple weeks and the first one showed up in western Massachusetts when one was found yesterday afternoon at Stebbins in Longmeadow and another was found in southern Berkshire County this morning.  Hopefully one will show up in Hampshire County again this year.


  1. I still have to get the YHBL on my life list, someday I will.

    1. Much easier out west then here...I have just two around western mass.