Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Update on Hurricane Joaquin

Hurricane Joaquin forecast track as of 2PM, Sep 30, 2015 (map courtesy of the NHC)
Tropical Depression 11 developed into Tropical Storm Joaquin yesterday and into Hurricane Joaquin today. As mentioned a few days ago when the depression was just forming, the potential exists for the storm to eventually have an impact here (or at least somewhere on the east coast). The current projection shows the storm continuing to develop and intensify and slowly begin to move in a northerly direction, possibly reaching Category 3 strength. The storm is over historically warm waters at this point and the main item that has kept it from intensifying even quicker has been continued wind shear.  The real question is where it goes after turning north. It could curve more northwestward and impact areas to our south or continue north and impact western mass directly or be curved out to sea. The latest guidance puts the track more west than east with an impact somewhere along the east coast. There various forecast models are having a tough time figuring out a high confidence track for the storm as there are many variables that could interact with the storm and change the actual track, especially out beyond a few days. Regardless of the final path we are likely to at least get some heavy rain and wind from the storm.  I will update over the coming days. 

Link to some additional related information regarding the storm and related birds can be found at a Birdcast post here:

A link to tropical system related birds in western Massachusetts as well as various of useful links related to tropical weather can be found at this link from an earlier post:

Below is the projected storm location and strength for the next five days.


INIT  30/1500Z 24.7N  72.6W   70 KT  80 MPH
 12H  01/0000Z 24.3N  73.2W   80 KT  90 MPH
 24H  01/1200Z 24.1N  74.0W   85 KT 100 MPH
 36H  02/0000Z 24.4N  74.4W   90 KT 105 MPH
 48H  02/1200Z 25.3N  74.5W   95 KT 110 MPH
 72H  03/1200Z 28.5N  73.5W  100 KT 115 MPH
 96H  04/1200Z 34.0N  73.0W   90 KT 105 MPH
120H  05/1200Z 38.5N  74.0W   75 KT  85 MPH

Last night and today we have dealt with heavy rain associated with a variety of weather features and the rains produced 5"+ of rain leading to some local flooding.  Beyond a few species of waterfowl likely being forced down I have not seen nor heard of anything way out of the ordinary associated with the heavy rain of yesterday and today.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Tropical system develops with possible impacts here

Tropical Depression 11 projected path as of Sep 28, 2015 (map courtesy of Weatherunderground)
Tropical Depression 11 projected path as of Sep 28, 2015 (map courtesy National Hurricane Center)
The tropics are stirring a bit and I figured it was worth a quick post regarding the chance of an impact here in the middle and end of the week.  Tropical Depression 11 formed today out in the Atlantic between Bermuda and The Bahamas.  It is over some very warm water but high wind shear is keeping further development somewhat in check.  The storm is forecast to slowly strengthen as it moves west and north and should reach tropical storm strength within the next day or two (if it does it will be named Joaquin).  The various models differ on the exact strength of the storm by the time the end of the week roles around.  There are several other factors at play here too including a high pressure system that will drift off to our east, additional tropical moisture coming up from the gulf and a cold front coming in from the west.  At this point it at least worth keeping an eye on as the potential is there for an impact here.  I will update as the week goes on if needed.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A couple of early Brant yesterday and more fog today

Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 26, 2015
Common Ravens, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 26, 2015
Black Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 26, 2015
Cooper's Hawk, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 26, 2015
As I only had a limited time in the morning on Saturday to get out I opted to stick close to home. I started predawn at Winsor Dam and noticed a fairly strong north to northeast wind. The wind made it impossible to hear any owls calling but I hoped it would entice some more birds to move. I then headed over to the park and had a few highlight including a Virginia Rail still calling and a single group of 72 Double crested Cormorants heading south.
Quabbin Park:

As the wind continued to blow I headed back to Winsor Dam to do a little skywatching in the time I had left. Almost immediately it was clear some birds were taking advantage of the winds as I saw small groups of Canada Geese moving southwest as well as groups of Blue Jays moving north to south (I had nearly 300 jays over the course of the morning). Also some decent raptor movement with highlights including 9 Osprey, all three expected falcon species and a smattering of other species. The real highlight were the waterfowl with the most unexpected species being a couple of Brant moving quickly south. I first picked them up as I was checking out a small group of Canada Geese and the two Brant flew past them. The two birds were moving fairly quickly and stayed near the horizon but I had satisfactory looks through the scope. I attempted photos with the phone but the phone just could not lock onto such a distant target. This species is not unexpected here but usually they would not show up until weeks from now.  The Brant become species #228 in the county for the year. Perhaps the sustained winds from the north pushed them along a bit early?  I wish I could have stayed longer but just could not.
Bobolinks, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 27, 2015
Swamp Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 27, 2015
Lincoln's Sparrow, Aracdia, Northampton, MA, Sep 27, 2015
Northern Harrier in the fog, Aracdia, Northampton, MA, Sep 27, 2015
Today I debated about spending more time at Quabbin or heading over to the fields along the river to look for sparrows. With the winds forecast to be calm and then turn south I figured Quabbin would not be as productive as yesterday but I also knew the fog could be a problem along the river. I decided to take my chances along the river and had foggy conditions my entire time there. I started off at Arcadia where I hit the marsh (which was at least visible despite the fog) and then over to the meadows. Unfortunately the fog got worse plus a large number of workers were in the fields harvesting crops. These two issues taken together cut down quite a bit on the activity but I still had some good stuff (just nothing really unusual). A cool sighting occurred near the Ibis Pool as I was watching some sparrows along the road when a Sharp shinned Hawk suddenly appeared out of the fog rocketing down the road just a couple feet off the ground. It just missed a sparrow and then zipped past me almost at arms length away...very cool.  With no sign of the fog lifting I decided to head back across the river to the Honey Pot which turned out to be just as fogged in. I walked the edge of some of the roads and then through 'That's a Plenty Farm'. Again nothing really unusual but some good numbers of sparrows and Palm Warblers.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Morning at Arcadia and Honey Pot

Bobolink, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 25, 2015
Northern Harrier, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 25, 2015
Common Yellowthroat, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 25, 2015
Lincoln's Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 25, 2015
Palm Warbler (yellow), Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 25, 2015
Red eyed Vireo, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 25, 2015
I enjoyed a very nice late September morning by visiting Arcadia and the Honey Pot. Lots of good stuff around with an obvious influx of sparrows and a nice show of raptors migrating later in the morning. The warbler diversity was quite low but given the great migration conditions over the last several days that is not surprising. Lots of highlights but I will let the lists (with loads of photos) speak for themselves.


Honey Pot:

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Fall arrives

Sharp shinned Hawk, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2015
Greater Yellowlegs, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2015
American Kestrel, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2015
Snowy Egret, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2015
Snowy Egret and Great Egret, North Lane, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2015
Vesper Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 21, 2015
Vesper Sparrow and Savannah Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 21, 2015
Chipping Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 21, 2015
Palm Warbler (western), Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 21, 2015
Winter Wren, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 21, 2015
The last several days has featured the end of our unseasonably warm weather and a return to more expected conditions for the middle/end of September (lows in the upper 40's to 50' and day time highs in the low 70's). The change has certainly induced lots of birds to move as the warbler migration starts to wind down and sparrow migration begins to rapidly pick up.

On Saturday I stayed local with visits to Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park and Covey WMA. No luck again in finding a late whip poor will calling (they all appeared to have moved on) before dawn. The best birds I had where three calling Virginia Rails at Quabbin Park and another one at Covey WMA. Overall it was very quiet at all locations visited with only a smattering of obvious migrants. After I got home and took Wilson for a walk I noticed a posting about a Nelson's Sparrow being seen at the Honey Pot (a quite unusual species and not annual around here). I had other stuff to do so I could not make a run over there right away but I had to head over that way late in the day so I tried for it then without any luck (not really that surprising as trying to turn up a vagrant sparrow again can be hard to do).

Winsor Dam:
Quabbin Park:
Covey WMA:
Honey Pot:

Sunday I headed out early over to the Honey Pot to try to find the Nelson's Sparrow (no luck). Highlights of the morning included a flyby Snowy Egret (which I then relocated in the river viewed from North Lane), a Great Egret, several species of raptors, a few flyby shorebirds, a late Tree Swallow and a smattering of other migrants.

Honey Pot:
North Lane:

I started off a very cool Monday morning once again at the Honey Pot where I turned up a number of migrants as the overnight conditions for migration were ideal. I really wish I had more time as the activity seemed to be increasing as the sun warmed things up but I had to head to work. No luck again turning up any unusual sparrows but I did have some decent stuff including a Winter Wren (unusual there), a continued Yellow Warbler, eight species of sparrow including at least four Vesper Sparrows (with one singing) and my first White crowned and White throated Sparrows of the fall.

Honey Pot:

Today I stopped at Arcadia before work and checked the marsh and a small part of the meadows. A couple Killdeer and a Greater Yellowlegs were the only shorebirds I could turn up. There was certainly an influx of Palm Warblers (both yellow and western) and Swamp Sparrows since my last visit. Other stuff was around but not in huge numbers but a lot of farming activity probably knocked down the bird action a bit (not to mention the cool temps). Another interesting sighting included a Great Blue Heron capturing an enormous fish (that it somehow managed to consume...wish it was a little lighter out so I could have gotten some photos)

Yesterday also marked the anniversary of an epic hurricane hitting the area back in 1938.  The storm caused extensive damage but also delivered some very unusual birds to the area.  I did a post about it (plus other tropical systems) back in February...if so inclined to read a bit about it here is the link:

Friday, September 18, 2015

More migrants the last couple days including a Connecticut Warbler

Connecticut Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2015
Connecticut Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2015
Connecticut Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2015
Savannah Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2015
Vesper Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2015
Merlin, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 17, 2015
Northern Harrier, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 17, 2015
Scarlet Tanager, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 17, 2015
Yellow Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 17, 2015
Palm Warbler (western), Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 17, 2015
The last couple days have featured very similar weather conditions with foggy cool mornings that turn into sunny and warm days in the 80's. Thursday morning was very foggy and it did not burn off until after 10 AM. Luckily this morning it burned off a little earlier which makes finding stuff much easier. On Thursday I headed over to Arcadia and stayed there through late morning figuring the fog would lift at any moment. Despite the fog I still had some good stuff around.


Today I headed back over toward the river (with a brief detour to Winsor Dam to try to turn up a whip poor will but had no luck). I spent most of my time at the Honey Pot and had some really good stuff including another flyby Dickcissel which was flushed up by a Cooper's Hawk and was last seen heading to the southwest from the area of the dike. I also had some great looks at a Connecticut Warbler which I found at the edge of a corn field. I was not expecting to find this species there but it popped up and showed well and I managed to get a few decent photos (decent for this usually tough to photograph species). Mike L. was driving by right after I great looks of the bird but our efforts to make it pop back into view for Mike were unsuccessful.  No luck finding the Grasshopper Sparrow again but I did have a total of seven species of sparrows including seven Lincoln's, a few Field and a Vesper Sparrow among the other more typical species. I also made a stop over to Arcadia to try my luck again at finding the American Coot there or the Lesser Black backed Gull but I came up empty. A brief stop at Lower Mill Pond turned up a continued Great Egret as well as a few shorebirds (one each of Killdeer, Spotted Sandpiper and Least Sandpiper). Overall a nice when to end my vacation week.

Honey Pot:
Lower Mill Pond:

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The last few days have produced a steady stream of migrants

Lincoln's Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 14, 2015
Red eyed Vireo, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 14, 2015
Northern Harriers, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 14, 2015
Red tailed Hawk, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 14, 2015

I have been enjoying the last few mornings out and about during my vacation on what has turned out to be a beautiful week of weather. Other than Monday being a little cloudy and cooler, the rest of the days have been sunny and warm with light winds. This time of year brings many possibilities as so many species are on the move so you never know what you will find until you go out and look. 

On Monday morning I went over to search fields along the river looking once again for shorebirds as well as other stuff.  I started at the Honey Pot and found just one Killdeer.  I then ventured over to the East Meadows and had 34 Killdeer in one field but no other shorebirds at all.  Three Northern Harriers may have had something to do with the lack of shorebirds visible.  My next (and longest) stop of the morning was over to Arcadia where I had some decent stuff including at least four Northern Harriers, several other raptors, a Traill's Flycatcher, a Least Flycatcher, 7 species of warblers and 3 Lincoln's Sparrows among others.
Philadelphia Vireo, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 15, 2015
Tufted Titmouse with a large caterpillar, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 15, 2015
Black throated Green Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 15, 2015
Ovenbird, home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 15, 2015
Tuesday morning I stayed closer to home with most of my time spent at Quabbin Park. I started before dawn at Winsor Dam where I still had at least two Eastern Whip Poor Wills calling despite the cool temperatures. Quabbin Park featured a nice selection of birds with highlights including a Virginia Rail calling, five species of vireos (including three Philadelphia Vireos) and 14 species of warbler and lots of other good stuff.
Grasshopper Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 16, 2015
Savannah Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 16, 2015
Common Yellowthroat, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 16, 2015
Northern Harrier, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 16, 2015
Snowy Egret, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 16, 2015
Wednesday I headed over to Orchard Hill at UMASS at first light hoping to catch some migrants enjoying the warming rays of sunshine at dawn. Overall it was very quiet warbler wise with just four species (singles of Tennessee, Wilson's and Nashville Warblers plus a few Common Yellowthroats). Other highlights included at least four Wood Thrush popping off early on and tons of Gray Catbirds.
I decided to head over to the Honey Pot next to try my luck there and I'm glad I did. After checking the plowed fields for shorebirds without any luck my stop near the 90 degree corner to look for sparrows was much more productive. I got a Grasshopper Sparrow to pop up almost immediately and it showed well for several minutes including a little bit of time sitting on the power lines....very cooperative individual! As I was watching the Grasshopper Sparrow a Dickcissel flew over giving it's typical 'farting' flight call (never saw the bird but it sounded like it was headed east). Two good birds in just the first twenty minutes was great! The Dickcissel is unusual but not totally unexpected here and this year seems to be producing several in the area already.  I also looked through a large flock (130+ individuals) of House Sparrows trying to find the Dickcissel among them but no luck (it is not uncommon to find Dickcissels hanging out with House Sparrows).  The Dickcissel becomes species #227 for Hampshire County this year. I then spent a few hours exploring the roadsides and 'That's a Plenty Farm' and turned up more migrants.  Just before I left I walked down to where the town road ends and noticed a small white egret on the far shore...Snowy Egret. I assume it is the same individual that was in the same general area a few days ago. I got much better looks at it today as well as some better photos...a really good year for this species in the area.  Lots of other highlights (with more photos) in the lists below.

Orchard Hill UMASS:
Honey Pot:

A couple other items worth mentioning. One would be some postings from the bird observatory in Cape May, NJ from a few mornings this week that featured tens of thousands of warblers flying out during the morning flight there...well worth the effort to read about what must have been an incredible experience to witness first hand.
Another item would be a record set by Noah Strycker who broke the all time record of number of species seen in a year in the world when he reached 4342 today in India when he saw a pair of Sri Lanka Frogmouths. He still has a few months of birding ahead of him so his goal of reaching 5000 (about 50% of the existing bird species on earth) certainly seems within reach.