Friday, August 21, 2015

Rainy day produces a Purple Martin and some shorebirds and waders (plus lots of other stuff)

Great Egret with dark bill, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Great Egret with dark bill, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Great Egrets, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Solitary Sandpiper, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Least Sandpipers, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Great Blue Heron, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Green winged Teal (with Wood Ducks and Canada Geese), Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 21, 2015
The forecast for today called for heavy rain moving in sometime around daybreak or just before and with that in mind I headed out early in hopes of finding some migrants downed by the weather. It would not be perfect conditions for this to occur but worth a try nonetheless. I woke up and looked at the radar and noticed the line of heavy rain was just to the west moving very slowly east as the rain itself moved more south to north. As I was up early I made a stop a bit after five over to Winsor Dam where I had at least three Eastern Whip Poor Wills calling. After a brief time there I headed west and almost immediately ran into some light rain. My first stop once I got over to the area of the Connecticut River was to an area of the river in Hadley where I had three species of shorebirds (Killdeer, Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpiper). As the rain picked up a bit I headed through a small portion of the East Meadows but did not have any luck in finding anything noteworthy. I then continued to work my way west with a quick stop at Paradise Pond (Great Egret, a couple each of Killdeer and Spotted Sandpiper plus a Solitary Sandpiper were present) before making my way to Arcadia where I stayed for an hour and a half in a now heavy rain. Most of my time there I spent under cover at the observation tower so I managed to stay one step away from totally soaked. A number of highlights here including 36 Wood Ducks, five Green winged Teal, nine Great Egrets including the dark billed individual which has been around for a couple weeks, four Killdeer, four Spotted Sandpipers, six Solitary Sandpipers, two Semipalmated Sandpipers and 27 Least Sandpipers. 
Killdeer, Solitary Sandpiper and Green Heron, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Great Egret and Great Blue Heron, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Aug 21, 2015

Once finished with Arcadia I worked my way just a bit further west to Lower Mill Pond in Easthampton where I had three Great Blue Herons, two Great Egrets, three Green Herons, three Killdeer, a Spotted Sandpiper, half a dozen Solitary Sandpipers and four Least Sandpipers. The rain continued to fall fairly steadily at this point with occasional lulls in the action. I was thinking of heading up through Hatfield to check the farm fields on the west side of the river but decided instead to head back over the bridge and hit up some areas on the east side of the river instead. My first stop back across the river was to the Honey Pot where a few fields looked good to attract shorebirds but I found none (only shorebird around was a single Spotted Sandpiper along the river). Notables at the Honey Pot included 65+ Mourning Doves in one spot (tried to find something unusual among them but no luck), 150+ swallows feeding over the river as well as some Bobolinks flying around. 
Swallows and swifts, North Lane, Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Great Egret and Great Blue Heron, North Lane, Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Chimney Swifts, North Lane, Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Lesser Yellowlegs, Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Lesser Yellowlegs, Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2015
Least Sandpiper,  Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Aug 21, 2015
I next decided to make a quick stop along North Lane to check the river and I'm certainly glad I did! I made it up to the bank of the river and noticed yet another Great Egret as well as a Spotted Sandpiper but the real show was all swifts and swallows feeding along the river. I quickly counted over a hundred Chimney Swifts plus hundreds of swallows (mostly Tree and Bank Swallows). As I was scanning through the flocks I heard a 'chew, chew' call that made me immediately start scanning the birds up above me to find what I hoped would be a Purple Martin and there it was! The bird was working its way down river and I last saw it heading in a southerly direction over the Honey Pot. I tried to snap a few photos with the phone through the binoculars but no luck. The martin is quite rare in western mass and one species I had hoped to find at some point in the county and today was the day.  The martin became Hampshire County species #286 for me. I ran back to the car to get the good camera in hopes the bird would come back but no luck. Another interesting bird was a Common Nighthawk calling and flying around mid morning in among the swifts and swallows. As I was having a good day finding waders I decided to make a quick stop up to Lake Warner to try to find more Great Egrets (or something even more unusual) but no luck. I made another stop along the river on my way home and found the same species of shorebirds I had there earlier plus a Spotted Sandpiper. A stop over to Winsor Dam on my way home produced the typical birds but nothing unusual.  A quick stop at the Route 9 marsh produced yet another Great Egret hanging out bringing the total number of Great Egrets I had in the county today up to at least 14...a really good year for them.  
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Aug 21, 2015
After taking Wilson for a walk and getting caught in another downpour I headed back over to Winsor Dam to try to turn up some other good stuff (hopeful for a Black Tern, but no luck...perhaps tomorrow?). Despite the meteorologists at noon saying that the heavy rain was all finished,  we somehow managed to have on and off heavy rain throughout the afternoon.  Later in the afternoon the rain finally stopped and the weather started to clear a bit so I tried Winsor Dam once again but no luck finding anything unusual.

The last several days have been good with two new species for Hampshire County this week (Summer Tanager and Purple Martin, #285 and #286 respectively.  So far for the year I stand at 218 which ties me at this point for my record setting year in 2014.
Hurricane Danny forecast map as of evening Aug 21, 2015
Meanwhile in the tropics Hurricane Danny strengthened today reaching category 3 strength and thus becoming a major hurricane. Given the compact size of the storm rapidly strengthening and weakening is expected and the long range outlook for the storm doesn't look good. The storm will be hitting a lot more wind shear as it gets closer to the Caribbean and the forecast is for the storm to weaken to tropical storm strength before reaching any of the islands. What happens to Danny after reaching the Caribbean is uncertain at this point but it may very well get torn apart and fail to maintain itself as a tropical storm. It is too far out to say with any certainty but the long range forecast does not look good for the storm maintaining strength but it still bears watching as there are many elements at work here and a change in any of them could have a big impact further down the line.

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