Sunday, August 16, 2015

A Summer Tanager in Belchertown plus more shorebirds and waders over the weekend

Spotted Sandpiper, Hadley, MA, Aug 16, 2015
Least Sandpiper, Hadley, MA, Aug 16, 2015
Great Egret, Hadley, MA, Aug 16, 2015
Least Sandpipers, Hadley, MA, Aug 16, 2015
Green Heron, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 16, 2015
Great Egrets (including indvidual with dark bill), Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 16, 2015
Green winged Teal (with Mallard), Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 16, 2015
Black and White Warbler, Belchertown Land Trust trail, Belchertown, MA, Aug 16, 2015
Proving that you never know what you will find while out exploring I ran across a Summer Tanager late this morning when we were out for a walk along the Belchertown Land Trust trail off Route 181. We were only a few hundred feet from the car when I heard an odd call that made me stop and listen. I heard it again within seconds and my mind started the process of trying to place the sound to a bird...I knew I had heard the sound before but my mind was racing to figure it out. I then heard it sing a bit of a song and my mind then made the connection....Summer Tanager! Although very uncommon around here I have seen (and heard) them quite a few times in other areas, especially in Costa Rica. I started frantically scanning the trees for the bird and after a couple of minutes I caught a glimpse of the front end of an the adult male as he worked his way through the upper canopy.  An overall red bird with large pale bill.  He called a couple of more times with the 'pitituck' call before going silent.  There was a small mixed species flock in the general area (mainly chickadees, titmice and nuthatches) but the bird did not seem to be associating closely with the flock.  As we were out walking the Wilson I had nothing beyond the binoculars and my phone. No chance for a photo and I wasn't quick enough to get a recording. After a few more minutes of searching we headed to the car and back to home where I picked up my camera and raced back to try to find it again. Despite looking for 45 minutes I did not manage to turn the bird back up again. Always disappointing when you see a rare bird and can't get a photo or audio recording of it.  This species was not even on my radar as a possibility in mid August which makes the sighting even better.
Even before finding the tanager it was a good weekend of birding with migration starting to pick up. With all the rain from a heavy thunderstorm last night I decided to try my luck in tracking down some muddy fields that shorebirds might find inviting as I figured the rivers would be running too high to have any exposed mud. The fields at the Honey Pot and in the East Meadows held no shorebirds at all (although the fog made viewing a bit difficult). With no luck with the fields I then turned my attention to the rivers and ponds and found the water levels to be low enough to offer some exposed mud that attracted shorebirds. My first stop at Paradise Pond found just a single Spotted Sandpiper but my next stop over to Arcadia proved much more productive with five species of shorebirds. The wader show also continued with four Great Egrets (including the dark billed individual) plus Great Blue Herons and Green Herons. I also found the continued group of four Green winged Teal there too. The nearby Lower Mill Pond had a couple species of shorebirds plus a couple more Great Egrets. My final stop was along the river in Hadley where I turned up six species of shorebirds plus another Great Egret. Overall for the morning I had seven species of shorebirds.

Honey Pot:
East Meadows:
Paradise Pond:
Lower Mill Pond:
CT River Hadley:
Belchertown Land Trust trail: 
Merlin, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2015
Merlin, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2015
Merlin, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2015
Bobolink, Covey WMA, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2015
Tree Swallow, Covey WMA, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2015
Beattle, Covey WMA, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2015
On Saturday I stayed more local with hour plus stops at Lake Wallace and Covey WMA as well as brief stops at Winsor Dam. Nothing unusual but some interesting sightings including a Merlin munching on a fresh kill. I watched the bird through the scope for several minutes as it tore the other bird to shreds. Not entirely certain of the species of the prey item but perhaps a Tree Swallow.  Lake Wallace also held 50+ Wood Ducks, at least eight Green Herons, a couple Virginia Rails and a Great Horned Owl that flew across the marsh.  Covey WMA had some swallows around plus a migrant group of 24 Bobolinks.

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