Sunday, January 18, 2015

Weekend birding...more waterfowl and a few new species for the year

Common Mergansers, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 18, 2015
Mallards, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 18, 2015
Red necked Grebe, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 18, 2015
Kelvin-Helmoltz clouds, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 18, 2015
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 18, 2015
With the forecast for freezing rain/snow/rain for the day today I headed out early to get in a little birding before the weather turned to shit.  I attempted once again to try to track down a screech owl (this time along the Swift River) but once again failed.  My owling stops turned up just three Great Horned Owls but I guess that is better than nothing.  As the skies brightened up a bit I headed to Winsor Dam where I had a group of about 130 gulls on the water but nothing unusual among them.  Waterfowl included four Black Ducks, 26 Mallards, three Common Mergansers and a couple Horned Grebes. I also had some Kelvin-Helmoltz clouds (AKA wave clouds) that appeared briefly on the horizon just before sunrise...the photo just does not do the formation justice...really neat to see.  A ride through Quabbin Park found some areas of open water which contained a couple Black Ducks, three Common Mergansers and a Hooded Mergansers.  I'm sure there were other species out there but I didn't spend tons of time looking before I headed back to Winsor Dam where I stayed for about an hour before the freezing rain started.  The waterfowl species composition had changed a bit with nine Black Ducks, 14 Mallards, ten Common Mergansers, a Horned Grebe and a Red necked Grebe.  Other notables around included four Bald Eagles (all adults with a pair at the nest site), a Common Raven and a flyby Common Redpoll (there may have been more than one but I never saw them, heard only).  I made it home before the roads got slick and took Wilson for a walk in the rain in the woods near the house where we flushed up a Ruffed Grouse.  The redpoll added yet another species to the county list for the month (#83).
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 17, 2015
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 17, 2015
Horned Grebes, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 17, 2015
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 17, 2015
Another productive morning at Winsor Dam on Saturday as I spent about an hour and a half there.  The ice is slowly but surely closing in on the open water but large areas of open water are still available for waterfowl.  When I arrived just before nine I immediately noticed some great birds out on the water including two distant Red necked Grebes and two Horned Grebes.  I headed out across the dam to try to get a better view (and some photos of the grebes).  About half way across the dam I scanned for the birds and then noticed a small dark diving duck that was just too far away to identify.  As I was trying to figure this bird out I heard the calls of White winged Crossbills and looked up to see three of them flying rapidly south.  As I only had the scope and phone I never got a photo of the birds.  I then went back to the diving duck and moved closer to it along the dam and finally got good views and it was a Bufflehead (likely the same individual I found here yesterday).  I took a couple iPhone shots and then the phone died (a common problem in cold weather).  I decided I wanted some photos of the bird so I walked back to the car and got my good camera and then came back to get some photos.  I also noticed some more ducks on the far western shore and started scanning through them when a Bald Eagle flushed the group.  The group eventually settled back down on the water and I counted a total of 243 Mallards and a dozen Black Ducks.  Overall a very productive stop as once again Quabbin produced some quality birds.  The crossbills also added another species for the month in the county bringing me up to 82 so far.
Mink, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 17, 2015
Before stopping at Winsor Dam I once again hit a few spots along the Connecticut River from South Hadley to Hadley.  I started out before dawn below the Holyoke Dam and counted a total of 690 Canada Geese, four Mute Swans, 44 Mallards, 41 Common Goldeneyes and five Common Mergansers plus a continued Peregrine Falcon sitting on a street light on the bridge.  I headed north hitting the Dinosaur footprints area (some Canada Geese and a few Common Mergansers), the river from the East Meadows (185 Canada Geese, 12 Mallards and four Common Mergansers), and then the Honey Pot (145 Canada Geese, 7 Common Mergansers, 28 Horned Larks and a light Savannah Sparrow among others).  The Honey Pot also featured a Mink that would run along the ice and then dive back into the river, repeating the action several times as it worked its way upriver.

After dark I also had some great looks once again of Comet Lovejoy as it is now almost overhead and giving great views.

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