Friday, January 31, 2014

Last day of January birding

Eastern Meadowlarks, Silvio O. Conte NWR, Hadley, MA, Jan 31, 2014
I spent the morning along with Jacob hitting a few spots along the Connecticut River.  We started at the Honey Pot and then across the river to the East Meadows and then back across the river once again to the Honey Pot once again before I had to get Jacob back for class.  After dropping Jacob off I headed back over to the Honey Pot trying in vain to find a kestrel (don't ask me why I have missed it so far this year) then down to the Holyoke Dam.  The temperatures today finally broke above freezing which felt really nice. Below are the highlights from the morning:

Honey Pot at dawn(with Jacob):
Short eared Owl -1 flew right over us on the dike
Hybrid Goose (canada goose x Graylag or GWF goose), Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 31, 2014
Hybrid Goose (canada goose x Graylag or GWF goose), Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 31, 2014

Hybrid Goose (canada goose x Graylag or GWF goose), Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 31, 2014
Wood Duck, Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 31, 2014
Northern Pintails, Connecticut River, Northampton, MA, Jan 31, 2014
East Meadows/CT river below Coolidge Bridge (with Jacob):
Canada Geese -1250 (minimum count...likely more)

Hybrid Goose -1 either a Canada x Greater White Fronted Goose or Canada x Graylag Goose (thoughts on bird welcome)
Black Ducks -57 (nice show of this species)
Mallards -410 (minimum count)
Wood Duck -1  female
Northern Pintail -2 males
Hooded Mergansers -3 (two males and a female)
Common Mergansers -6
Northern Harrier -1
Horned Lark  -21 (minimum)
Red winged Blackbird -110  groups of birds moving past us just before we left...high count for end of January. 

Honey Pot (with Jacob):
Northern Harrier -1
Snow Bunting -23  single group flyover
American Tree Sparrow -45 (minimum count)
Savannah Sparrow -1 (pale bird that I was unable to get a good photo of)
Song Sparrow -2
White throated Sparrow -1

Eastern Meadowlarks, Silvio O. Conte NWR, Hadley, MA, Jan 31, 2014
Eastern Meadowlarks, Silvio O. Conte NWR, Hadley, MA, Jan 31, 2014
Silvio O. Conte NWR (with Jacob):
Eastern Meadowlark  -7  seen well feeding in field, up to eight have been seen here lately but we had just the seven.  Quite unusual in winter, especially in numbers.

Bald Eagle, North Lane Conservation Area, Hadley, MA, Jan 31, 2014
Bald Eagle, North Lane Conservation Area, Hadley, MA, Jan 31, 2014
North Lane Conservation Area:
Common Mergansers -14
Bald Eagles -2
Peregrine Falcon, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 31, 2014
Honey Pot (again):
Canada Geese -500+ moving north
Peregrine Falcon  -1 making several passes at crows

Holyoke Dam area:
Canada Geese -109
Common Goldeneye -1 (just one...odd)
Common Mergansers -12
Gulls -nearly 60 but just Ring billed and Herring Gulls (largest groups of gulls there yet this year!)

Winsor Dam with reservoir frozen over completely, Jan 31, 2014

A brief stop at Winsor Dam found the entire reservoir frozen with very little activity at all.  Hopefully it warms up before the arrival of waterfowl this year. 

With today being the final day of January I will take a look at where I stand as far as birds seen so far.  Although I’m not trying to break my Hampshire County record it is always fun to compare one year to the next.  I currently have seen 81 species in the county for the year which is just bit behind from the 85 I had at this time last year.  However last year was a big irruption year of northern birds and the weather was a bit warmer so I’m very happy to have as many species as I do.  Compared to the last several years I’m a quite a bit ahead with the following totals from those years: 2012-60 species, 2011-45 species, 2010-51 species, 2009-34 species, 2008-51 species and 2007-42 species. 

With February comes the true doldrums of birding here, especially with a cold winter.  Most areas of water are frozen over and there is little movement of birds.  At least as the month drags on owls should get more vocal, some raptors will get more active and Turkey Vultures should arrive.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The last few days of cold weather

Honey Pot at dawn, Hadley, MA, Jan 29, 2014
Although it has been bitter cold once again the last few days I have managed to find a few new birds for the year.  I found a Red shouldered Hawk along Mill Valley Road in Hadley on Monday and a Yellow bellied Sapsucker working through some trees along King Street and Trumbell Road in Northampton on Tuesday.  Both of these species were found in passing without specifically looking for birds (but I guess I’m always looking).  In addition I stopped at the Honey Pot briefly before dawn on Monday morning and had a least one Short eared Owl hunting the fields while on Wednesday morning I had two.  In the evening on my way to Deerfield I checked several fields in Hatfield but didn’t have any luck finding any owls at all.

Wilson enjoying the wubba after getting home from his doctors appointment
The reason for going to Deerfield this evening was a scheduled follow up ultrasound for the Wilson.  He did well but was certainly happy to be home!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Quabbin Park and a nice gift to commemorate my big county year

Bald Eagles on ice, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Jan 26, 2014
Bald Eagles on ice, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Jan 26, 2014
Bald Eagles on ice, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Jan 26, 2014
River Otter eating fish, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, Jan 26, 2014
Winsor Dam at dawn, Quabbin Park, Jan 26, 2014
After the snow last night more cold air moved in overnight with some fairly strong winds.  I originally planned to head over to some areas along the river but with the cold temps and strong winds I decided to stay a bit closer to home.  I spent about an hour at Quabbin Park with most of that time at Winsor Dam.  Not a whole lot of activity but it was interesting to watch a group of River Otters playing around and fishing near of the small areas of open water.  They managed to catch a few decent sized fish, which caught the attention of first one then another eagle.  Eventually at least six Bald Eagles came in to try to see if they could get in on the action.  If the cold weather continues (which it is predicted to do) the reservoir should freeze over completely and perhaps a carcass will make it out onto the ice.  When a carcass makes it out there (usually from the DCR staff but sometimes due to a deer falling on the ice) the eagles will congregate in good numbers.  It has been several years since the reservoir has frozen completely but this year looks like it will probably happen again.  Beyond the eagles had just over 30 Ring billed Gulls but no big numbers of gulls roosting.  I also had a flyby Common Merganser at Winsor Dam and a group of four of them in a small open water area at Goodnough Dike.

Late in the morning while on my way to Hadley I made a brief stop at the Silvio Conte NWR along Moody Bridge Road and found a single Eastern Meadowlark way out in a field.  I'm sure there were more around (up to 8 have been seen lately) but I didn't have too much time to look around.
Mosaic of a large selection of the birds I found in Hampshire County last year
A big "Thank You" to Steve, Ann and Bob for the fantastic gift they got me to commemorate my big Hampshire County year last year.  They took the time to go through my photos and pull out a large selection of those I found throughout the year and put them into a large mosaic...very cool.  The card along with it was great too.  Although I would have enjoyed a six pack of Imperial beer from Costa Rica, the photo is even better.  Thanks again....if I get gifts at the end of a big county year perhaps I should try it again!  (However, trying to beat last years total of 236 may be beyond my skill and luck!)

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Quabbin Park

Hanks Meadow looking east, Quabbin Park, Jan 25, 2014
Hanks Meadow looking north, Quabbin Park, Jan 25, 2014
Ring billed Gulls, Quabbin Park, Jan 25, 2014
Winsor Dam at dawn, Quabbin Park, Jan 25, 2014
Made a brief run through Quabbin Park this morning and found a few birds but overall it was quiet.  The reservoir continues to freeze over with only a few areas of open water left.  Waterfowl consisted of half a dozen Common Mergansers near Goodnough and 19 Mallards flying north plus a single Mallard in a small open water area near Winsor Dam.  Other birds of note included my first of the year Ruffed Grouse, a couple vocal Common Ravens and a couple Bald Eagles.  I searched a bit for a saw whet owl but came up empty. 

A late morning walk with Wilson along the Jabish Canal had 44 Mallards along with a Black Duck flying north plus the other usual expected species.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A very cold morning along the Connecticut River

Common Goldeneye, below Holyoke Dam, Chicopee/S. Hadley line, MA, Jan 24, 2014
Common Goldeneyes, below Holyoke Dam, Chicopee/S. Hadley line, MA, Jan 24, 2014
I spent a very cold (near zero with a breeze) morning with Jacob exploring a few areas along the Connecticut River.  We started at dawn at the Holyoke Dam trying to find some waterfowl or gulls.  With all the recent cold temperatures few areas of open water exist so with that in mind we had hopes of finding some good stuff.  No gulls at all here and we only had one gull the entire morning!  Waterfowl were a bit more active with at least 46 Common Goldeneyes, a couple Hooded Mergansers, a half dozen or so Common Mergansers, a dozen plus Mallards and 140+ Canada Geese.
Rough legged Hawk, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 24, 2014
Rough legged Hawk, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 24, 2014
Rough legged Hawk, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 24, 2014
After the Holyoke Dam we headed north and checked out the area below the Coolidge Bridge and had just a couple Common Mergansers.  A quick run through Aqua Vitae Road was unproductive so we headed over to the Honey Pot.  We had some decent birds there including a Rough legged Hawk, at least two Lapland Longspurs in among the larks, at least 125 Horned Larks, several Snow Buntings and at least 55 American Tree Sparrows.  A couple other spots along the river and fields along South Maple St proved to be unproductive.
Winsor Dam with the reservoir nearly frozen over, Jan 24, 2014

Wilson at Covey WMA, Jan 24, 2014
I dropped off Jacob a bit before 9 and then headed back toward home to pick up the Wilson.  I made a brief stop at Winsor Dam and had just a couple species.  The reservoir was nearly completely frozen over with just a few small open spots of water.  I did have a River Otter playing on the edge of the ice near one of the open channels of water...always fun to watch!

Once I picked up Wilson we headed to Covey WMA and had just a handful birds with almost all concentrated around the feeder at the Fish and Wildlife HQ.  The Swift River was totally frozen with no open water at all. 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Florida trip Jan 17-21

Willet, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Jan 19, 2014
Just back from a short trip down to central Florida and lucky for me I arrived just before the arrival of another snowstorm and more below zero temperatures! At least it was nice down south even if it was a bit chiller than normal down there on a couple days. We stayed in Orlando and made a few day trips to various spots. Nothing too exciting but did mange to find a total of 105 species without too much effort during my time there.
Red shouldered Hawk, Southport Rd, FL, Jan 18, 2014
Eastern Meadowlark, Disney Wilderness Preserve, FL, Jan 18, 2014
Orange crowned Warbler, Disney Wilderness Preserve, FL, Jan 18, 2014
On the first full day down there I headed south of Orlando to Southport Road and then down to the Nature Conservancy's Disney Wilderness Preserve. Southport road is a good spot for open country birds in among the large working cattle farms. The Disney Wilderness Preserve is a large area of pine savannah with a different groups of birds. No luck with the Red cockaded Woodpecker on this trip but spent lots of time looking.
Northern Pintails, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Jan 19, 2014
White Pelican, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Jan 19, 2014
Belted Kingfisher, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Jan 19, 2014
Dunlin with leg band, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Jan 19, 2014
Dawn, Merritt Island NWR, FL, Jan 19, 2014
On Sunday I headed to the coast for the morning going to Merritt Island NWR and the nearby Canaveral National Seashore. A few other spots I have stopped at on previous trips were closed on Sunday so I had to be satisfied without hitting those areas. Merritt Island NWR held lower than normal numbers of waterfowl once again. The area was not as dry as last year so I have no idea why the numbers were so low. I actually did not find a single American Coot (normally there are thousands)...weird. I also ran across a group of three Dunlin that were fairly freshly dead along one of the side access roads. I didn't see any obvious trauma. Perhaps they hit some nearby power lines or perhaps someone killed them...who knows? One of the birds had a federal leg band which I reported. I'll post more details when I get them back about the bird.
Split Oak Preserve, FL, Jan 20, 2014
On the last day we took a trip over to the Split Oak Preserve east of the airport and enjoyed a long walk during our warmest day down there. A few nice pockets of birds but once again nothing too unusual.
Wilson on the run, Jan 21, 2014
Once I got home I decided to take Wilson on a short walk despite the arctic like conditions. We got our walk in without freezing to death and before the snow arrived.  A short stop at the still open water of the Quabbin didn't feature any waterfowl at all...just a couple of Bald Eagles and a handful of other species. Perhaps with this next shot of cold weather the water will freeze over?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

No luck finding the Snowy Owl in Deerfield

This morning I hoped to finally catch up with the Snowy Owl that has been hanging around in some fields near Old Deerfield way up there in Franklin County but the owl was just not cooperative....perhaps the owl didn't realize how infrequently I travel up that way and that he should have made himself visible.  The only birds of note during my time up in Deerfield were several hundred Canada Geese and at least 18 Horned Larks.  I didn't run across any other birders while I was there but did have a guy in his pick up 'walking' his dog through the fields (by walking his dog I mean driving his pick up behind the dog beeping his horn).  He stopped briefly and said the owl was present yesterday sitting on a dirt mound less than 50' from the road.  He also said he has tried to get the owl to flush with his dog so he could see the bird fly but the dog had no interest...another example of the dog being smarter than the owner. 

I also stopped briefly at the Honey Pot before dawn but no luck with a Short eared Owl either (think I may have been just a few minutes too late).  The only owl I managed to find today was an Eastern Screech Owl in the Bashin area of Hatfield. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Trip to the mountains in Costa Rica-Dec 23rd

Green Violetear, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 23, 2013

Fiery throated Hummingbird, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 23, 2013
Collared Redstart, Paraiso Quetzal Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 23, 2013
Volcano Junco, Parque nacional Los Quetzales, Costa Rica, Dec 23, 2013
Sooty capped Chlorospingus, Savegre Mountain Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 23, 2013
Slaty Flowerpiercer, Savegre Mountain Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 23, 2013
View from the high point-Cerro de la Muerte, Costa Rica, Dec 23, 2013
Flame colored Tanager, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, Dec 23, 2013

On December 23rd I joined bird guide Johan Fernandez for a trip to the top of the Cerro de la Muerta and the nearby San Gerardo de Dota valley.  This all day trip produced 15 life birds including the Volcano Juncos that we missed finding last December up in the same area.  Among the 15 life birds found on that day was the 800th species for my life list, a Timberline Wren.  Although I got some brief, but great looks at it, I was unable to get a photo but managed lots of photos of species #801…the Volcano Junco.  The guide was great and would recommend him for anyone planning a birding trip to Costa Rica.  Just let me know if anyone needs contact information for either guide…I would be happy to provide it.

Winsor Dam (somewhere out there is a Gadwall!), Quabbin Park, Jan 11, 2014
Meanwhile back here in the great white north we had to contend with a little freezing rain overnight into this morning which turned to just plain rain as the temperatures rose into the 50's.  The rain and fog made viewing difficult at times and I never made it over to Winsor Dam until after 7:30 (late for me!).  Despite the on and off heavy rain I managed to get out a little and find some birds.  The best by far was an odd in January male Gadwall at Winsor Dam.  The bird was fairly far out and the photos I got are too blurry to even post.  I also hit Hank's Meadow and the only species of waterfowl was a single Mallard.  Overall quite quiet but I was very happy to find a Gadwall.  A few other stops at Winsor Dam only produced a single Common Merganser.