Friday, October 30, 2015

Morning around Quabbin Park

Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 30, 2015
Common Loons, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 30, 2015
Hooded Mergansers, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 30, 2015
Horned Grebes, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 30, 2015
Horned Grebe, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 30, 2015
Horned Grebe, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 30, 2015
Horned Grebe, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 30, 2015
With the forecast calling for strong northwest winds for the day I had hopes that it could be a very good day for waterfowl over at Quabbin but the forecast was wrong and I arrived at Winsor Dam just before sunrise and had light southwest winds. I scanned the water and managed to come up with at least ten Common Loons (with eight in one tight group) but no other waterfowl. Devin said he would be joining me at some point in the morning but before he arrived I figured I would head over to Beaver Lake and the marsh on Route 9 in the hopes of finding something interesting. Absolutely no waterfowl on Beaver Lake (which has been very quiet this season). The marsh was a little more active with a growing number of Hooded Mergansers plus Wood Ducks, Mallards, Black Ducks and Green winged Teal. I then headed back over to Winsor Dam where I still had a number of loons plus a Bufflehead. Devin arrived and we continued looking for birds and eventually had another Bufflehead come in with a Long tailed Duck with it plus a couple Common Mergansers and a single Hooded Merganser. As the winds continued out of the west, southwest and with only a little activity we headed into Quabbin Park to try our luck there. The original plan was to go check the water at Hank's Meadow but the area was closed for the annual deer hunt (last week it was the filming of Super Troopers 2 and this week hunting....). Instead we hit the area near Goodnough Dike where we had a group of seven Horned Grebes together. We initially had some excitement as one of the grebes had lots of dark coloration on the face (we hoped for an Eared Grebe) but a better look revealed the bird to be a Horned Grebe still transitioning to non breeding plumage. We also found another lone Horned Grebe further out as well as three Common Loons plus a single flyby Hooded Merganser but no other waterfowl. We headed back to Winsor Dam in the hopes the winds had shifted to northwest but no luck. We still had a few loons on the water way out but no other waterfowl at all. We did have some movement of raptors with Cooper's, Sharp shinned and Red tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, Northern Harriers and Turkey Vultures as well as some migrant crows and a few flights of Pine Siskins. No luck finding a hoped for Golden Eagle but with the winds present I was not too surprised. Hopefully the winds will eventually turn to the northwest as forecast for tonight before turning back to a southerly direction for several days.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Morning stops the last several days, the remnants of Patricia moving through with southerly winds, a report of a Green tailed Towhee in Hatfield and the prospects of another Snowy Owl incursion

Common Goldeneye, power canal, Turner's Falls, MA, Oct 27, 2015
Lesser Scaup with Mallard, power canal, Turner's Falls, MA, Oct 27, 2015
Black Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 26, 2015
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 25, 2015
Red breasted Mergansers, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 24, 2015
A whole variety of topics to cover so here it goes. First of all a wrap up of some quick birding stops during the last several days. This past weekend into Tuesday I made brief stops at Quabbin Park primarily in search of waterfowl but overall it was quiet. Some areas continued to be closed off due to the ongoing filming of the movie "Super Troopers 2" (yes...really). Highlights from my stops at Quabbin included two Red breasted Mergansers at Winsor Dam on Saturday, a somewhat late Common Yellowthroat at Gate 5 on Sunday, a number (42+) of Black Ducks on a few different days and two Black Scoters at Winsor Dam on Monday. I stopped at Arcadia on Tuesday and found just the typical waterfowl (Canada Geese, Mallards and Wood Ducks). An evening stop before class to the power canal in Turners Falls turned up nearly six hundred Canada Geese, a Black Duck, 43 Mallards, a Lesser Scaup, two male Common Goldeneye and a Hooded Merganser. An even shorter stop at Baron's Cove produced four Bufflehead, a couple Double crested Cormorants and a Greater Yellowlegs along with the expected species there.

The upcoming few days of weather could feature some interesting conditions that may have some birding impacts. The remnants of Hurricane Patricia along with some other moisture from the gulf region continue to move up toward us with rain beginning today and then really ramping up overnight with heavy rain and increasingly windy conditions. The winds will switch from southeast to southwest and has the potential to bring in some southerly species such as Cave Swallow, Ash throated Flycatcher, unusual gulls (such as Franklin's Gull) or any of a number of other possibilities as the fetch of wind stretches down to Texas. Will anything show up with these conditions? Who knows but it will be worth keeping your eyes open. The heavy rain may also force down some migrant waterfowl or late shorebirds so worth looking for them too.

This morning I noticed an email from David Pritchard about a probable Green tailed Towhee he had along the dike in Hatfield. This western species is very rare out east and has never been seen in the county as far as I know. There are no eBird records for this species anywhere in the east so far this year so the sighting is exceptionally unusual. David's description in his email sounded very good for this species so I tried my luck briefly in finding it this morning but no luck. There were lots of other birds in the general area of thick scrub where he saw the bird but no towhee. It could be gone already but hopefully it is still around but not showing itself well. This species is a real skulker and can be tough to get good views of. There is lots of good habitat for it to hide in but hopefully it will eventually show itself again. Below is the description submitted to eBird by David:

"Hopped out from some brush into the open about 15 yards away. Thought is was going to be an American tree sparrow because of the red cap, but through the binoculars recognized it immediately as a green-tail: bright rufous cap, bright white throat and face stripe separated by black moustachial, clear breast, slim look overall, and bright yellow-green on wings and tail. The light was good and the bird in plain sight, out in the open for maybe 5 or 6 seconds. Couldn't get my camera out in time, but I'm familiar with green-tails from birding in the West and this was unmistakably a green-tail. A distinctive bird with strong markings, unlike anything else around here, especially for the strong facial markings and bright green in tail and wings. Stayed for half an hour hoping for a photo, but it didn't show again."

In yet another topic of interest (at least to me) is the early incursion of Snowy Owls into the US which appears to be quite extensive (especially for so early in the season). One was seen on Cape Cod yesterday so it does indeed appear that Snowy Owls could be making their way towards us for the third year in a row. Will the incursion be as extensive as the winter of 2013-2014? Tough to say but the early arrival of so many owls does point in that direction. Here is a link to a post regarding this from eBird:

Friday, October 23, 2015

Quabbin Park this morning and birds from the last week

Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 23, 2015
Turkey Vulture, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 23, 2015
Winsor Dam at dawn (before the waves really kicked up), Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 23, 2015
Wood Duck, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 23, 2015
After winds out of the south the last few days a cold front moved through late yesterday and brought in some much colder and windier weather (highs struggling to get into the 50's compared to a high in the 70's yesterday). I had high hopes that the northwesterly winds would bring in more waterfowl but unfortunately there were few to be found over the course of a few hours at Quabbin (although the route 9 marsh was quite productive).  There were some raptors moving as well as robins but not too much waterfowl given what I guessed would be great migration conditions.  I guess you never know until you go out and check.  I was joined for a time by Devin and we both endured some very late fall like conditions with a strong north wind and temperatures in the 40's.  List from the morning at Winsor Dam: and the list from Quabbin Park itself:
Cackling Geese (front) with Canada Geese, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 22, 2015
Cackling Goose, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 22, 2015
Greater White fronted Goose, Power Canal, Turners Falls, MA, Oct 20, 2015
Red tailed Hawk eating squirrel, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 20, 2015
Wild Turkeys, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 20, 2015
Earlier this week I made a few morning stops over to Arcadia mainly looking for waterfowl. On Tuesday I had 25 Canada Geese, 19 Wood Ducks, 4 Black Ducks, 33 Mallards and three Green winged Teal for waterfowl plus a group of 36 Wild Turkeys and a Red tailed Hawk dining on a squirrel.  Thursday at Arcadia produced two Cackling Geese in among the Canada Geese plus a decent number of Wood Ducks and Mallards.  I also managed a brief stop at the power canal in Turners Falls on my way to class on Tuesday and had the continued Greater White fronted Goose among nearly five hundred Canada Geese plus I ran into Joshua as I arrived and then James further down the canal.  The changeable weather of fall continued this week with the early part of the week also featured record setting cold with lows in the teens.

Now for a little weather geek time about Hurricane Patricia that is impacting the pacific coast of Mexico.  I have been watching the storm for the last few days and have been truly amazed by the growth of the system. Until just a couple days ago it was forecast to just reach hurricane strength.  The storm has surprised most everyone with its explosive growth from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in just 24 hours.  It is now the strongest hurricane on record in the western hemisphere with sustained winds at 200 MPH and a pressure of 879 mb.  The storm dropped its pressure 100 mb in just 24 hours...absolutely amazing!  There is no doubt the storm will cause catastrophic damage where it makes landfall.  The storm will rapidly lose strength as it moves through Mexico and eventually into the gulf coast region.  We may feel some of the remnants of the storm mid to late next week in the form of some rain.  Additional details about this historic storm can be found at these links:

I also ran across a few blog posts about some of the new world birds that have shown up over in Europe lately (almost certainly at least related to the weather conditions associated with Joaquin). Here are the links:

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Waterfowl today including Brant, Red throated Loon and scoters and other stuff from the past week

Brant, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 18, 2015
Brant, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 18, 2015
White winged Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 18, 2015
Black Ducks, White winged Scoter and Black Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 18, 2015
Black Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 18, 2015
Common Raven, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 18, 2015
Red throated Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 18, 2015
Red throated Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 18, 2015
Wilson with snowflakes on him (too damn early for this!), Belchertown, MA, Oct 18, 2015

A very cold morning (20's) didn't warm up much as the day went on but the northwest winds brought in a nice selection of waterfowl (16 species) with the highlights including 72 Brant, all three species of scoters (including my first Black Scoters of the year) and a Red throated Loon.  I spent about two and a half hours at Winsor Dam before making a quick swing through Quabbin Park and then back briefly to Winsor Dam.  It was cold but sunny early on and felt more like the end of November.  By late morning while we were out walking Wilson it actually snowed a little...a very winter like day in mid October!  I managed to add two new species to my Hampshire County total today...Black Scoter (#233) and Red throated Loon (#234)...a tough feat so late in the year.  The loon had me wondering for awhile on the exact species as it looked a bit different then other Red throated Loons I have seen with a darker face but in the end it was a Red throated Loon.
Horned Grebe, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 17, 2015
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 17, 2015
I had just an hour or so on Saturday morning to check on arriving waterfowl before I had to go to class for the rest of the day.  I stopped first at Winsor Dam before dawn where I had three Double crested Cormorants but nothing else.  I then made a quick swing through Quabbin Park with stops at Hank's Meadow, Goodnough Dike and the Route 9 marsh.  My totals included 45 Canada Geese (all at the marsh), 48 Wood Ducks (marsh), 32 Black Ducks (most at marsh), 8 Mallards (marsh), ten Common Loons and half a dozen each of Horned Grebe and Double crested Cormorants.  I then went back over to Winsor Dam for about a half hour where I had just a few Canada Geese on the water but did have some waterfowl moving south including nearly a hundred more Canada Geese, a couple Common Mergansers ad two more Common Loons.  Also some raptors moving past as well as a few pipits and Yellow rumped Warblers flying by.  I was surprised there was not more activity but perhaps a longer stay would have turned up more.
Cackling Goose, Barton's Cove, Gill, MA, Oct 13, 2015
Greater White fronted Goose, Barton's Cove, Gill, MA, Oct 13, 2015
American Coots and Greater White fronted Goose, Barton's Cove, Gill, MA, Oct 13, 2015
Green winged Teal, Barton's Cove, Gill, MA, Oct 15, 2015
Early morning rainbow, Hank's Meadow, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 16, 2015
I managed to make very brief stops this week with the highlights being a continued Greater White fronted Goose, Cackling Goose (which actually called a few times as it flew out with a group of Canada Geese) and three coots at Barton's Cove and a mix of expected waterfowl at the refilled power canal including both Common and Hooded Mergansers on Tuesday.  Thursday didn't produce any usual geese at Barton's Cove but there were a pair of cooperative Green winged Teal in close.  I made it over to Quabbin on Friday morning before some rain moved in but it was fairly quiet.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Columbus Day weekend birding

White throated Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Oct 10, 2015
Chipping Sparrow, Orchard Hill, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Oct 10, 2015
The forecast for Saturday showed northerly winds all day and I hoped that the winds would bring in some waterfowl. I intended on spending the morning at Quabbin but the activity there was much lower than expected with just a few Common Loons and a couple Horned Grebes on the reservoir plus 27 Wood Ducks and 14 Black Ducks at the marsh. With so little activity at Quabbin I decided to change my plans and headed over to Orchard Hill at UMASS on the long shot chance of catching up with a Yellow breasted Chat that was captured and released in the area yesterday. Not surprisingly I was unable to find the chat but it could still be in the area as there is an extensive amount of good habitat around (or perhaps it has moved on). Stops at the campus pond and a few fields in North Hadley were not very productive. A brief stop at Lake Warner produced a high count of five Blue winged Teal plus two Pied billed Grebes. My final stop over in the Hadley area was over to 'That's a Plenty Farm' where there were decent numbers of sparrows but nothing beyond the expected species. 
Wilson checking out the fall colors, Jabish Canal, Belchertown, MA, Oct 10, 2015
Black Vultures (really!), Jabish Canal, Belchertown, MA, Oct 10, 2015
I then headed for home to pick up Wilson to go for a walk along the Jabish Canal which produced two Black Vultures soaring by together...first time I have had this species there.
Blue headed Vireo, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 11, 2015
Baltimore Oriole, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 11, 2015
Red eyed Vireo, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 11, 2015
Yellow rumped Warbler 'Myrtle', Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 11, 2015
Lincoln's Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 11, 2015
Northern Mockingbird, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 11, 2015
Wilson's Snipe, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 11, 2015
On Sunday morning I headed over to Arcadia and despite some dense fog on my way there, Arcadia was relatively clear. I spent the majority of my time exploring the meadows but started off the morning at the marsh and had decent waterfowl numbers including nearly a hundred Mallards, 44 Wood Ducks and 9 Black Ducks plus one each of Green winged Teal and Canada Geese (lots more geese flew over throughout the morning). The meadows once again featured lots of sparrows and Palm Warblers (although the numbers were down a bit from my last visit here a few days ago). Nearly sixty species over the course of the morning was was the weather eventually when it warmed up (patchy frost over there to start the morning). Full lists with additional photos here:
Horned Grebes, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 12, 2015
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 12, 2015
Today I decided to stay close to home in the morning and spent time checking a few spots at Quabbin (Winsor Dam, Hank's Meadow and the Route 9 marsh) as well as Beaver Lake.  The early morning fog made viewing a bit tough but I was able to eventually check the areas I visited fairly thoroughly.  Still not a ton of waterfowl but a slight increase from previous visits with highlights including 28 Wood Ducks, 13 Black Ducks, five Common Loons and a half dozen Horned Grebes plus some Canada Geese and Mallards.  It was much more pleasant today with morning temperatures in the mid 40's and highs reaching the mid 70's (our last gasp of warm weather I suspect).  We have one more day near 70 tomorrow and then the tumble begins with highs by the end of the week and next weekend forecast to struggle to reach 50...fall is certainly here now.