Sunday, August 30, 2015

Shorebirds in the valley this weekend including Short billed Dowitcher and Upland Sandpiper

Short billed Dowitcher, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 30, 2015
Short billed Dowitcher, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 30, 2015
Short billed Dowitcher andLeast Sandpipers, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 30, 2015
Spotted Sandpiper, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 30, 2015
Least Sandpipers, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 30, 2015
Lesser Yellowlegs, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 30, 2015
Great Egret, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 30, 2015
Song Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 30, 2015
Bobolinks, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Aug 30, 2015
My original plan for today was to stick closer to home but after talking to Bob Z. about his luck with herons and shorebirds yesterday at Arcadia I headed back over that way bright and early. I was certainly glad I took the trip over by the river this morning as I managed to find lots of good stuff. I started out at Arcadia and spent the next three plus hours there with the best bird by far being a Short billed Dowitcher that showed up after scanning the marsh for about thirty minutes. I was not sure I would find anything there as when I arrived a Cooper's Hawk was making repeated runs at the shorebirds that were present. This was my first Short billed Dowitcher in fall in the county and only the fourth time I have run across this species in the county (previous records including twice at Winsor Dam in May during inclement weather and once at Pilgrim Airport in Hatfield)  The Short billed Dowitcher became species #220 for Hampshire County this year. After quite a bit of time at the marsh I walked a bit through some of the fields before returning to the marsh once again before I headed back across the river. No luck finding the Black crowned Night Heron that Bob Z. had yesterday but still managed three wader species. Overall I had eight shorebird species at Arcadia (and added another species later at the Honey Pot making it nine shorebird species for the fall day yet for shorebirds). Numerous other highlights among 66 species at Arcadia this morning with the full list attached below:
Solitary Sandpiper, CT River, Hadley, MA, Aug 30, 2015
Once I finished up at Arcadia I made it across the river to the Honey Pot to scan the fields for more shorebirds. I started at the dike and as I was walking up with my binoculars and scope I heard a three part call overhead and started scanning and picked up a small headed, short billed streamlined shorebird heading away...Upland Sandpiper! I immediately regretted my decision to leave the good camera in the car. I watched the bird disappear to the southwest toward the East Meadows. Not long after a Cooper's Hawk zipped through making me think the Upland Sandpiper probably flushed because of the raptor moving through....right place at the right time for me. The Upland Sandpiper becomes species #221 for Hampshire County this year which actually puts me ahead of my record setting year of 2014 (only for a day probably as I hit 222 on August 31 last year). Although not really trying to break my previous record this year looks prime to come very close. It will be interesting to see what the next week brings. The forecast calls for warmer weather through Thursday with a cold front moving through then meaning that Friday into next weekend could be quite good.  Full list from the Honey Pot  and the nearby CT river below:

As far as the tropics are concerned Erika has been reduced to an unnamed tropical low pressure system and no longer even a remote threat to the northeast at this point. There is always the chance for regeneration at this point but not really likely. A new storm has formed way out near the Cape Verde Islands named Fred. It is a tropical storm at this time but will likely soon become a hurricane. It is forecast to move westward eventually but the threat to the US is unlikely and a long way off.
Solitary Sandpiper and Killdeer hunkered down as Merlins pass by, Arcadia, Northampton, Aug 29, 2015
Great Egret, Arcadia, Northampton, Aug 29, 2015
Merlin, Arcadia, Northampton, Aug 29, 2015
Yesterday I headed over to a few spots along the river in search of shorebirds. As is typical this time of year early morning fog made viewing difficult in some spots. My initial stop at the Honey Pot found the fog thick so I decided to head over toward Arcadia in the hopes that the fog would be less intense over that way. As I drove over the fog lifted a bit in downtown Northampton so I stopped at Paradise Pond before continuing over to Arcadia. Just a few shorebirds at the pond including a couple each of Solitary Sandpiper and Killdeer.  Arcadia was a little foggy but the marsh was visible and I had a couple each of Great Egret and Great Blue Heron plus a Green Heron. Shorebirds were present on the ever increasing mud and I had Killdeer, Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Least Sandpiper. After just a few minutes of trying to find more shorebirds a couple of Merlins came in and repeatedly strafed the marsh until a bird flushed. They managed to get a Least Sandpiper to flush and they just barely missed the bird on several occasions. The Merlins seemed to be hunting together...not something I have seen with this species before. The hunting style was more reminiscent of Peregrine Falcons I have seen cooperatively hunting. Once the Least Sandpiper made it out of the area unscathed the next bird to flush was a Solitary Sandpiper that also managed to escape but had to dive into the water a couple times to get away. As the rest of the birds stayed crouched down the Merlins continued to make passes through the marsh. As it seemed unlikely anything new would show itself with the Merlins around I headed back over to the Honey Pot where the fog was a bit thinner and allowed closer inspection of several good looking fields. Alas no shorebirds were in them, at least that I could see. The only shorebirds around were along the mudflats in the river but these were quickly flushed by boats.

Another spot along the river in Hadley produced two Lesser Yellowlegs and a Solitary Sandpiper.
Full lists from the day:
Olive sided Flycatcher, Jabish Canal, Belchertown, MA, Aug 29, 2015
Once I got home I picked up Wilson and we went for a walk along the Jabish Canal once again and once again found an Olive sided Flycatcher successfully hunting in the large marsh.

I got a text from Steve later in the morning that Bob Z had a juvenile Black crowned Night Heron at Arcadia as well as additional shorebirds that were not there earlier in the morning. I guess once you take away a couple of hungry Merlins more birds arrive. 

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