Monday, November 30, 2015

Ecuador Day 1 and 2 (Quito and Yanacocha)

Sparkling Violetear (first life bird of the trip), Quito, Ecuador, Nov 16, 2015
I arrived in Ecuador very late on the night of Sunday the 15th and then spent the next day in Quito resting up for the next several days of intense birding. During my off day on Monday I spent some time outside in the small courtyard of the the hotel I was in and despite the activities and noise of the city I still managed to find some life birds including two new hummingbirds...Black tailed Trainbearer and Sparkling Violetear. I also added Eared Dove as a new life bird. Mid morning I walked several blocks up to a small city park (Parque La Carolina) and found many of the same birds I had at the hotel but added Great Thrush and Cinereous Conebill. Five new life birds in a day paled in comparison to what the next several days brought me.

Band winged Nightjar, Yanacocha, Ecuador, Nov 17, 2015
Hooded Mountain Tanager, Yanacocha, Ecuador, Nov 17, 2015
Barred Fruiteater, Yanacocha, Ecuador, Nov 17, 2015
Sword billed Hummingbird, Yanacocha, Ecuador, Nov 17, 2015
Turquoise Jay, Nono-Mindo Rd, Ecuador, Nov 17, 2015
Crimson rumped Toucanet, Tandayapa Lodge, Ecuador, Nov 17, 2015
On Tuesday I met the guide for the trip Jose Illanes bright and early in Quito and the group then headed out to Yanacocha, high up in the mountains along the slopes of the Pichincha Volcano. We made a couple of brief stops along the way and added a few species. Once we arrived we spent the next few hours there and were rewarded with a great number of birds including hummingbirds (including the impressive Sword billed Hummingbird among them), Band winged Nightjar, tanagers, fruiteaters and many others . We made it out a few miles to where we intended to turn back and then it started to rain (always happens when you are as far away from the car as possible!). We got soaked on the way back but a little time in the car and some food had us forgetting all about it. We then slowly worked our way toward Tandayapa Lodge along the old Nono-Mindo road with several stops along the way that produced more birds (and more rain!).  We made it to Tandayapa Lodge late in the day in the rain but the hummingbird feeders still put on a show with a dozen plus seen in just a little bit of time. Another noteworthy sighting was a Crimson tailed Toucanet that tried its best to capture a hummingbird but had no success.  The first full day on the tour produced 85 species total with 65 of those life birds.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Check of the valley for geese and other waterfowl

Cackling Goose, UMASS campus pond, Amherst, MA, Nov 29, 2015
Cackling Goose, UMASS campus pond, Amherst, MA, Nov 29, 2015
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 29, 2015
Red necked Grebe, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 29, 2015
I headed out this morning to try to see if I could catch up with any goose flocks in the area in the hopes of finding something unusual among them (a Pink footed Goose has been in Turners Falls the last few days on and off).  I started off along the river in Hadley and then went north through North Hadley and over to Amherst and then back down south to Hadley again before heading over to the Quabbin area.  Overall the goose numbers were very low but that is not really surprising in fall as the hunting pressure on the birds is quite high and finding good size flocks can be difficult (especially compared to spring).  Nevertheless I still managed to catch up with one unusual goose when I had a Cackling Goose at the campus pond at UMASS. There were no geese in any fields I checked and the only location that had any numbers of geese at all was the campus pond.  Low numbers of other waterfowl around with mostly the typical stuff with Mallards and Black Ducks as well as Hooded Mergansers, Common Goldeneye and a single Red necked Grebe.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Morning around south Quabbin

Mute Swans, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 27, 2015
Common Goldeneyes, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 27, 2015
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 27, 2015
After spending yesterday trying to get over lack of sleep from the previous days and the effects of a cold I got out a little this morning to see what might be around and enjoy some of the unseasonable warmth (50's in the AM climbing to the low 60's).  I stayed close to home with visits to Quabbin Park and Beaver Lake.  Winsor Dam was quiet for birds but I did run into Bob Z. and he mentioned he had the Pink Footed Goose (found by James S. the previous day) leaving the power canal in Turners Falls yesterday so hopefully it is still around and will works its way down the river to Hampshire County.  Quabbin Park produced a little excitement when I got down to Hank's Meadow and saw a group of five swans round the corner near the area of Gate 52.  I really hoped they would be Tundra Swans but they were just Mute Swans (an unusual species at Quabbin but not nearly as good as Tundra Swans would be).  Also had eight Common Goldeneyes, nine Horned Grebes and four Common Loons in the area.  Beaver Lake was a little busier then it has been lately but didn't produce anything unusual.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Back from Ecuador

Choco Toucan, Milpi, Ecuador, Nov 21, 2015
Choco Trogon, Milpi, Ecuador, Nov 21, 2015
Just back from a spectacular trip to Ecuador.  Loads of birds and many, many photos to go through.  I will just put up a couple of digiscoped shots for now.  I'll review the entire trip in upcoming posts but for now this will have to suffice.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Another Franklin's Gull this morning!

Franklin's Gull, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 15, 2015
Franklin's Gull, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 15, 2015
Franklin's Gull, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 15, 2015
With just a short amount of time available to me this morning I managed to turn up a Franklin's Gull for the third consecutive morning at Winsor Dam...crazy!  The bird was not in view when I arrived around six but came in with a group of Ring billed Gulls a few minutes later and stayed for about 15 minutes before heading out to the west with the other gulls around 6:20.  Luckily Steve arrived just in time to see it but unfortunately Bob was a few minutes too late.  I assume it roosted with the other gulls a bit to the north so checking out the birds coming back to roost this evening or stopping at first light tomorrow might turn the bird up again...who knows?  The full list from the morning here:

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Another Franklin's Gull and some waterfowl on a windy, cold day

Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 14, 2015
Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 14, 2015
Long tailed Ducks, Black Scoter and Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 14, 2015
Northern Pintail, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 14, 2015
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 14, 2015
The invasion of Franklin's Gulls continued today as I found yet another one at Winsor Dam at first light. It appeared to be an adult (or near adult) in flight along with a number of Ring billed Gulls. Even with the anti gull boat patrols in place last night there were still a couple hundred gulls around although most were well to the north and could not be easily identified but most were likely Ring billed Gulls. The Franklin's Gull stuck out among the closer group of Ring billed Gulls by its size, flight style, partially visible hood and wing markings. I last had it in view moving to the west along with a large group of gulls. I then spent the next couple hours hoping that the strong westerly winds would bring something else rare past the dam but it was not to be. There was a decent movement of both waterfowl and raptors but nothing really unexpected. The winds were strong and occasionally would come out of the northwest but mainly the winds stayed west. It certainly felt like the middle of November with temperatures around 40 and winds up to 30+ MPH. I have included the full list from the morning below with additional photos embedded here: With no gull patrol on the reservoir tonight hopefully a Franklin's Gull or two will make it into the roost there and will be visible a first light tomorrow. I'll be there for just a little while in the morning before heading out but hopefully it will be a productive brief stop.

A link from eBird regarding this major incursion of Franklin's Gulls can be found here:

Friday, November 13, 2015


Franklin's Gulls, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 13, 2015
Franklin's Gulls, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 13, 2015
Franklin's Gull, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 13, 2015
Franklin's Gulls, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 13, 2015
Franklin's Gulls, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 13, 2015
A strong low pressure system has been moving through the midwest and Great Lakes region and has resulted in some displacement of birds.  I was not really expecting any to make it out to western Massachusetts today but they certainly did!  The forecast called for strong west winds today and then northwest winds tomorrow so I hoped that some good stuff would arrive but I thought tomorrow would be the day.  I started out the morning at Winsor Dam which featured southwest winds and was quiet so I headed through Quabbin Park and then to Beaver Lake.  Overall fairly quiet with just a smattering of expected species.  I then headed back over to Quabbin to see if the winds had shifted a bit but they had not. I quickly scanned the water with binoculars and noticed two gulls on the water but initially passed by them to scan the remainder of the water.  I then set up the scope and went back to the gulls expecting to find Ring billed Gulls but instead found a couple of dark hooded gulls that immediately struck me as larger than Bonaparte's Gulls with larger, stouter bills.  The dark hood was incomplete on both birds with the hood upsweeping on the back of the neck.  The overall look of the bird had me thinking either Franklin's gull or Laughing Gull but the feel of the bird leaned heavily to Franklin's. The build, less extensive bill and head pattern as well as tail pattern pointed to Franklin's. The two birds were very close together with one appearing to be a near adult (or 2nd winter) with white spotting on dark tail, a hint of eye arcs and gray back.  The second individual appeared at times to be a bit smaller and had a bit of brownish coloration on the back...perhaps a juv bird just transitioning to its winter plumage?  After watching the two for maybe ten minutes a nearby gunshot startled the birds and then flew up and circled around for several minutes allowing me to get some video and photos in flights.  The birds both showed a white trailing edge in flight, an almost short necked appearance, relatively clean under wing, dark wing tips with some white at tips (on at least one of the birds).  They would flap several times and occasionally glide (almost accipter like at times).  They slowly gained altitude and eventually were joined by a third gull but by then they were too far away to see much detail on so there may have been a third individual.

Full album on Flickr with additional photos and video:

It appears there was (and continues to be) a major influx of Franklin's Gulls into the east in northeast with some locations producing three digit counts!  My gulls this morning are only the second county record and one of only a handful of western mass records.  The conditions that are produced the Franklin's Gulls could also very well produce Cave Swallows so it could be well worth looking for either species over the next few days.

The Franklin's Gulls became a county bird (#288) a state bird (#318) and a life bird (#916) all in one!  This species also broke my previous big county year total (which I tied just a couple days ago with a Pacific Loon at Winsor Dam also!).  My new year high count for Hampshire County now stands at 237.
Common Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 13, 2015
Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 13, 2015
Besides the gulls there were a number of other birds around including a few species of waterfowl moving south in small groups (Canada Geese, Ring necked Ducks and Common Mergansers among others), a decent movement of American Crows migrating plus some raptors around and a few Snow Buntings and at least one Lapland Longspur with them.

Full list from the morning at the dam:

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

PACIFIC LOON at Winsor Dam!

Pacific Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 11, 2015
Pacific Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 11, 2015
Pacific Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 11, 2015
Pacific Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 11, 2015
Pacific Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 11, 2015
The forecast for today called for some strong northerly winds with a bit of rain this morning and with that in mind I headed over to Winsor Dam to see if the winds would blow in any waterfowl.  I arrived about 6:15 and the winds were quite busy out of the north with occasional rain. I set up the scope and started scanning and almost immediately came across a small, dark loon fighting through the waves.  After just a few seconds of looking I knew it was something good and as it turned and gave me a profile look I noted several field marks (small rounded head, short bill, dark back, well defined white/black demarcation line on neck and darkish face) that immediately pointed to Pacific Loon!  An absolutely crazy bird to have at Quabbin and one I hoped to find one day (see an earlier post concerning the subject here:  I studied the bird for several minutes and got a few looks at the hint of a chin strap.  I  attempted some digiscoped shots but the light was just too faint to allow my phone to get an definitive photos.  As I was watching the bird it flushed off the water (thanks to a Bald Eagle) and started gaining altitude as it circled around and headed off to the southeast.  I figured the bird was gone for sure.  I then spent more time scanning and had a number of Common Loons moving by as well as a single group of half a dozen Long tailed Ducks.  A bit after seven I once again found what appeared to be the bird further out when where I had it earlier but the better light allowed for some distant shots through the scope.  Although the view was more distant the field marks were still there.  I again watched the bird for several minutes before taking my eyes off it for a little while during which it either left the area or moved beyond the ability to see it among the waves and rain.  My phone started giving me trouble (which it continued to do for the rest of the day).  I made several return trips to the dam during the rest of the morning into the afternoon with no luck relocating the bird until later in the afternoon when I once again found it even further out than before.  Once again I got a few more shots through the phone before it stopped working again.  The photos once again showed the field marks of the bird.  The loon becomes species #236 for the year which now ties my previous record from last year (a very good year so far as I was not even trying to break my old record).  More photos can be found at the following link:

The only other western Massachusetts records I could find for Pacific Loon (from Seth and James article in Bird Observer) include one found in spring in Holyoke (1937) and four records at the lakes in Pittsfield spanning the dates of Oct 30-Dec 2 with most records from the early part of November (1938, 1943, 1964 and 1985).  I could find no records for Hampshire County so it appears to be a first county record if accepted.  Oddly two year ago to the day I found another first county record at Winsor Dam when a female King Eider passed through.  I guess November 11th is a good day to look for unusual waterfowl at Winsor Dam.
Long tailed Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 11, 2015
Common Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 11, 2015
Common Raven, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 11, 2015
Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 11, 2015
Oddly there was little other movement of waterfowl at Winsor Dam beyond the loons with just a half dozen Long tailed Ducks, singles of Surf and Black Scoter and a Black Duck (not a complaint just odd given the weather conditions and the time of year)  A few raptors were also up and about and moving around.  I made brief stops at other nearby spots too looking for waterfowl but didn't have much luck

Yesterday I woke up early so I headed over to Arcadia before work to try my luck at catching up with a Short eared Owl that Dave M. saw a couple days ago.  Luckily the clouds kept it dark long enough to make it over there before it got too light and the owls went to roost for the day.  I arrived a bit before six and after a few minutes of looking spotted a Short eared Owl coursing over the freshly cut fields out near the old trolley line. The owl became species #235 for Hampshire County for the year.  I heard this evening that two owls were present hunting over the fields so may try to catch up with them again if I get a chance.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Weekend around Quabbin

Bald Eagle, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 8, 2015
Greater Scaup and Long tailed Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 8, 2015
Lesser Scaup?, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 8, 2015
Black Ducks, Mallard and Greater Scaup (R), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 8, 2015
This morning found some waterfowl arriving but still not in the numbers I would expect given the conditions and the date. Perhaps the lack of freeze out to the north has kept the waterfowl from coming down south? I spent the morning, along with Jacob and Justin, at Winsor Dam and then into Quabbin Park. Our first couple hours were spent at Winsor Dam where we had some waterfowl coming in to rest on the water and others moving by to the south. The highlights included a couple Long tailed Ducks, some Bufflehead and a few groups of scaup plus some Black Ducks and Common Loons. There was also a decent movement of American Robins and American Crows as well as a smattering of Snow Buntings, Horned Larks and American Pipits. Here is the full list from our time there:
Brant, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 8, 2015
Long tailed Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 8, 2015
Red necked Grebes, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 8, 2015
We then headed into Quabbin Park where we made stops at Hank's Meadow and Goodnough Dike. Hank's Meadow held a Common Loon and seven Horned Grebes but little else. Goodnough Dike was more productive with a Brant seen distantly sitting on the water (an unusual species in the county) plus another loon plus a big raft of gulls. We then parted company as they went back toward the river to check a few other spots and I stopped at the route 9 marsh (Black Ducks, Mallards and Green winged Teal) and then headed back to Quabbin. A few of the species of waterfowl were still out on the water and a group of three Red necked Grebes had joined them. Another hour at the dam didn't produce too much in the way of new stuff but still fun looking.  Lists from Quabbin Park and from Winsor Dam
Snow Buntings, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 7, 2015
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 7, 2015
Common Loon, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Nov 7, 2015

Yesterday morning I hit some of the same areas but turned up less waterfowl than today.  The highlights included half a dozen each of Bufflehead, Common Merganser and Hooded Merganser plus 14 Common Loons and a Horned Grebe.  I also had a flock of 39 Snow Buntings zip by as they moved past the dam and appeared to settle into the west cove out of sight plus had some flyover finches and siskins.