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:

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