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:

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