Monday, May 30, 2016

Rain overnight into this morning produces either an Arctic or Common Tern plus other sightings from the last few days

Arctic/Common Tern, Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown,  MA, May 30, 2016
Arctic/Common Tern, Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown,  MA, May 30, 2016
Arctic/Common Tern, Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown,  MA, May 30, 2016
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, May 30, 2016
Lesser Scaup, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, May 30, 2016
With southerly winds continuing overnight and some heavy rain (associated with once Tropical Storm Bonnie) that moved in well before dawn I had hopes that some migrants would be grounded by the weather. I could not get out until after work but I still managed to turn up a good bird. I worked my way over to Winsor Dam after a brief, fruitless stop at some farm fields in Hadley. It was still raining fairly hard as I scoped around and found the Lesser Scaup once again and then noticed a small bird sitting on the small platform way out. I had terns at the same location earlier in May and the bird looked really good for a tern so I headed over to Gate 5 to get a better look. I made it down to the water just as it started to rain even harder but I was still able to view the bird. It appeared good for an identification as a Common Tern although it appeared a bit smaller than the terns I had on the platform at the beginning of the month so it is best left as either an Arctic or Common Tern...always frustrating to not get a definitive ID.  Much thanks to the several experts I sent the photos to for their feedback.  The bird flushed up once when an eagle came through but them quickly returned to the platform. I managed to get some distant in flight shots as well as a video. I also checked the area of Goodnough Dike for anything good but no luck. Full album of the tern can be found at the following link:
It has been a very good year for terns in the area (mainly due to some rainy weather that hit at the right time to bring the birds down).
Lesser Scaup, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, May 29, 2016
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, May 29, 2016
Blue Jay, rail trail, Amherst, MA, May 29, 2016
Snapping Turtle laying eggs, rail trail, Amherst, MA, May 29, 2016
Before work yesterday I made a few stops with my first over to Winsor Dam were I once again had the male Lesser Scaup continuing to hanging around.  I then headed over to the Hop Brook along the rail trail looking for shorebirds but only found some Spotted Sandpipers.  I did have a few Snapping Turtles laying eggs just off the rail trail as well as a Blue Jay taking apart the nest it was sitting in last week and moving it to a new nesting location.  I assume the initial nest failed but tough to say if it is the same bird raiding its old nest of material or a new jay.
Mourning Warbler, UMASS, Amherst, MA, May 28, 2016
Mourning Warbler, UMASS, Amherst, MA, May 28, 2016
On Saturday I headed out early to avoid the heat later in the day (record setting high in the mid 90's) making multiple stops over the course of the morning starting at Winsor Dam (continued Lesser Scaup and three Eastern Whip Poor Wills being highlights) and continuing over to Amherst and Hadley.  One of the best birds of the morning was a male Mourning Warbler at Orchard Hill at UMASS which I first detected as it sang. I eventually tracked it down and got some decent looks before it disappeared back into the brush, not to be seen again.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Summer like heat arrives

Lesser Scaup, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA. May 27,2016
Lesser Scaup, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA. May 27,2016
Common Yellowthroat with odd face pattern, Quabbin Gate 15, MA. May 27,2016
The summer like weather continued today with early morning temperatures already in the mid 60's and highs once again reaching to near 90.  I headed out at first light with a stop over to Winsor Dam where I once again found the male Lesser Scaup...amazing the bird is still around after at least 3 1/2 weeks at the same location.  It seems to be able to fly without trouble and I have watched it actively fishing on several will be interesting to see how long it stays around.  With the conditions so calm and the water like glass on the reservoir I decided to make a quick stop at a few spots at Quabbin Park in the hopes that something of note be out on the water but no luck.  I then decided to head to the west side of Quabbin and check a few spots that have produced Acadian Flycatchers in the past including Gate 15 and Gate 8 but I found none.  I did come across an interesting looking Common Yellowthroat at Gate 15 with an unusual facial pattern.  Late in the morning Wilson and I took a long walk at Dufresne Park in Granby and came across a number of thrushes with the best being a Gray cheeked Thrush (#206).  I tried to get a photo with the phone through the binoculars but I failed.

Meanwhile the tropics have started to stir a little with a tropical system poised to develop in the waters between the Bahamas and Bermuda.  The National Hurricane Center gives it a 90% chance to develop into a tropical system with the next day or two.  The forecast for the storm has it impacting the southeast coast of the US with the main threat being heavy rain.  If it does become a named storm it will be Bonnie (the first named storm of the season, Alex, formed in January with an impact on the Azores.  NOAA also issued its hurricane forecast for 2016 calling for a near average year but several other forecasting entities call for an above average season.  A nice synopsis of the predictions can be found here:
Common Mergansers, Quabbin Park, MA, May 26, 2016
Common Mergansers, Quabbin Park, MA, May 26, 2016
Common Mergansers, Quabbin Park, MA, May 26, 2016
Black thoated Green Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 26, 2016
Black thoated Blue Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 26, 2016
Chestnut sided Warbler, Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 26, 2016
Blackburnian Warbler, Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 26, 2016
American Robin on nest, Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 26, 2016
On Thursday I started the morning predawn at Lake Wallace where I wanted to check to see if anything noteworthy was around.  I ran across the expected waterfowl as well as four occupied Great Blue Heron nests (no sign of young yet).  After Lake Wallace I headed over to Quabbin Park where I spent the next few hours, joined by Taylor (a bird bander working for the Neighborhood Nestwatch Program), mid morning.  We covered quite a bit of territory but I had to leave by late morning to take care of some stuff at home.  The trees have really leafed out at the park since my last visit but I still got some decent looks at some birds.  Nothing really out of the ordinary as far as birds go but seeing a family of Common Mergansers was nice, as was a spot along a small stream that attracted several species of warbler that came down to take a bath.  The big highlights for the morning were mammals with a Bobcat that appeared behind me as I watched the mergansers and then quickly disappeared into the brush plus a weasel that ran right across the road in front of me.  It was yet another hot day with highs reaching 90.
Gray Catbird on nest, home, Belchertown, MA, May 26, 2016
The birds continue to nest here at home including a Gray Catbird in a relatively exposed location...hopefully they will be successful.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Various stops looking for unusual species

American Bittern, Cummington, MA, May 25, 2016
American Bittern, Cummington, MA, May 25, 2016
I spent the morning following up on some recent reports of unusual species as well as checking the status of a few other unusual birds that are likely nesting in the area. I originally intended to head straight for the hill towns but the early morning fog made me decide to make a stop at Orchard Hill at UMASS in the hopes the conditions would result in some migrants. A brief walk around the area didn't produce too much so I continued on to DAR State Forest to follow up on a White eyed Vireo seen there last week near the campground. I checked the area but did not turn up the bird but given the increased human traffic in the area I guess I was not too surprised. I then headed over to Cummington to catch up with some marsh birds and had an American Bittern pumping away as well as a few Virginia Rails. Video of the bittern pumping here:
Sandhill Cranes, Worthington, MA, May 25, 2016
Sandhill Cranes, Worthington, MA, May 25, 2016
Sandhill Cranes, Worthington, MA, May 25, 2016
Sandhill Cranes, Worthington, MA, May 25, 2016
I then headed over to Worthington where I found two adult Sandhill Cranes as well as a colt (looks like they have successfully bred there now!). The birds were all on private property and I will not be giving the exact location as public access is limited at best.
Great Blue Herons at nest, Williamsburg, MA, May 25, 2016
Northern Waterthrush, Williamsburg, MA, May 25, 2016
Once I had my fill of the cranes I worked my way back east with a stop in Williamsburg to once again try to find the Hooded Warblers there but yet again no looks like they were just around for a day..oh well. I then made a few stops along the fairly low Connecticut River but I found very few shorebirds with just a handful of Killdeer and Spotted Sandpipers.

Cerulean Warbler, Skinner SP, Hadley, MA, May 25, 2016
My next stop was to Skinner SP where I checked on the Cerulean Warbler nest (which was occupied). There were several other birders there and I was able to get them all some nice scope views of the nest. There were at least two other Cerulean Warblers singing near the summit. My final stop checking on unusual species this morning was over to Winsor Dam where I had no luck relocating the Lesser Scaup but there was a boat out in the area the bird has been hanging around in so perhaps it will return later.  

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Two Eastern Whip Poor Will surveys, lots of Tennessee Warblers and loads of other stuff the last several days

Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, May 22, 2016
Common Nighthawk, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 22, 2016
Common Nighthawk, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 22, 2016
Common Nighthawks, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 22, 2016
After getting out of work today I made a stop along the rail trail looking for some shorebirds and found a Killdeer, a Solitary Sandpiper, three Spotted Sandpiper and a Least Sandpiper.  A brief stop at Winsor Dam was unproductive and I was too tired to go looking anywhere else for birds so I headed home.  Just as the clouds started to lift in the early afternoon I had at least 13 very vocal Common Nighthawks feeding over the house.
Black Vultures, Moody Bridge Rd, Hadley, MA, May 21, 2016
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, May 21, 2016
Before work yesterday I hit a few spots including Winsor Dam where the male Lesser Scaup continues (present since at least May 1st) and over to Moody Bridge Rd where I had two Black Vultures in among the roosting Turkey Vultures.  The rail trail was fairly quiet but my stop there was brief.  I also made a quick pass by a location where a probable Black crowned Night Heron has been heard a few times over the past week but I didn't have any luck finding it.
Cerulean Warbler on nest, Skinner SP, Hadley, MA, May 20, 2016
Tennessee Warbler, UMASS, Amherst, MA, May 20, 2016
Wilson's Warbler, UMASS, Amherst, MA, May 20, 2016
I spent the last day of my vacation on Friday out exploring on what started out as a foggy day but turned into a beautiful sunny day.  I initially had plans to stay around Quabbin but a walk at Gate 4 seemed quiet so I decided instead to make a trip west to UMASS which proved to be a good choice when as soon as I arrived I started hearing Tennessee Warblers.  I had at least eight on Orchard Hill and I think there were likely quite a few more.  The best bird of the morning turned out to be a calling Grasshopper Sparrow (#205) in the small field near the old observatory which I never got a look at despite my best efforts...a very odd location for this species.  I then worked south eventually ending at Skinner SP before heading back toward home.  I got fantastic looks at a Cerulean Warbler nest at Skinner which seems to be in a relatively exposed location but hopefully the nest will be successful.  I ended the day with a total of 25 species of warblers which is about as high a total as I have gotten this year.  Full lists from the day below:

Quabbin Gate 4:

UMASS Orchard Hill:

UMASS Northwest campus:

Mitch's Way:

Skinner SP:

Land trust trail-Belchertown:

Although I was tired the conditions were perfect to conduct my second whip poor will survey on Friday evening so I made a last minute decision to head to Prescott Peninsula to get it done.  I started the survey just before 8:30 at the southern end of the peninsula and then headed north making the ten stops.  Once again the lower part of the peninsula contained the majority of the whip poor wills and I ended the evening with a total of ten Eastern Whip Poor Wills heard with seven of those at official stops and three in between stops.  This total is three higher than last year but the same when looking at official stops only.  Just one Moose sighting as one crossed my path about half way down the peninsula at dusk.
Rose breasted Grosbeak on nest, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, May 19, 2016
Rose breasted Grosbeak, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, May 19, 2016
Pileated Woodpecker, UMASS, Amherst, MA, May 19, 2016

On Thursday I headed over to Orchard Hill at UMASS to follow up on a Hooded Warbler that was seen there on Wednesday but not surprisingly the bird was gone.  Although the forecast called for rain later in the day, it showered on and off through the first several hours of the morning which made most locations fairly quiet (at least by mid May standards).  Nonetheless I still turned up two Tennessee Warblers and a Bay breasted Warbler at UMASS and my first Willow Flycatcher (#204) at Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River.  A text from Mike regarding a possible Acadian Flycatcher at Conte NWR had me looking high and low for it but having no luck...oh well.  Full lists from the morning below:


Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River:
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, May 18, 2016
I conducted the first of two Eastern Whip Poor Will surveys on Wednesday evening and I made a quick stop at the dam before I started the route and had the male Lesser Scaup still there (present on and off since May 1).  The whip route goes through Quabbin Park and then south along the Swift River.  It involves ten stops of six minutes each with passive listening (no playback).  This year only four of the ten stops had any birds calling, which is lower than last year.  The total number of whips came to six which is half of what I had last year on the same route.  Perhaps the breeze at a few productive spots just kept them quiet and the birds are still around.  I managed to get some audio of one of the below (you will need to crank the volume to hear it)

I also added a new species to the yard list on Thursday morning when I went out with Wilson before dawn and heard an Eastern Whip Poor Will calling distantly to the east....species #161 for the yard!

Eastern Towhee, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 21, 2016
The list of birds seen at the new water feature continues to grow and now stands at 25 with new species added being Eastern Towhee and Tufted Titmouse.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

An impromptu Hampshire County big day and odd and ends the last couple day

Olive sided Flycatcher, home, Belchertown, MA, May 17, 2016
American Redstart constructing nest, Hadley, MA, May 17, 2016
Great Blue Heron on nest, Williamsburg, MA, May 17, 2016
Red bellied Woodpecker with extensive red on face, Williamsburg, MA, May 17, 2016
On Tuesday I headed over before dawn to Williamsburg to check on a few day old report of a couple of Hooded Warblers. Although I didn't have any luck finding them, the area I was checking was very active and I started adding up the species quite quickly. At this point I decided to conduct an impromptu county big day to see how many species I could find. I almost headed to the hill towns to pick up a few species (Sandhill Cranes and American Bittern) that would be very tough to find in the valley but I decided against it so I would be driving less and birding more. I headed to Arcadia and then down south to South Hadley and then back up through Hadley before heading back closer to home. I made it home by early afternoon and stayed around there instead of covering more ground. The house delivered some good birds including my first Olive sided Flycatcher of the year (#202) which I was able to share with Devin and Aidan (my second yard record for this species). I then headed out again near dusk and added a more species bringing my total to 133 including 25 species of warbler (full list of them below per request of Mr. Rose) . Highlights were many and included a flyby Evening Grosbeak and the continued Lesser Scaup. A pair of very intriguing birds flew past Winsor Dam around 7:30 that I'm still not sure what species they were...still trying to figure it out. I believe this total is my highest ever for a single day in the county but one that could certainly be eclipsed with a little more planning and effort.

Warblers for the day:
Worm eating Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Blue winged Warbler
Black and White Warbler
Tennessee Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Common Yellowthroat
American Redstart
Cerulean Warbler
Northern Parula
Magnolia Warbler
Bay breasted Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut sided
Blackpoll Warbler
Black throated Blue Warbler
Pine Warbler
Yellow rumped Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Black throated Green Warbler
Canada Warbler
Wilson's Warbler
Prairie Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 18, 2016
Chestnut sided Warbler with nest material, Quabbin Park, MA, May 18, 2016
Yellow billed Cuckoo with nest material, Quabbin Park, MA, May 18, 2016
Blue Gray Gnatcatchers at nest, Quabbin Park, MA, May 18, 2016
Today I stayed local and spent time at Covey WMA, Quabbin Park and a couple other local locations. Still a decent number of migrants around but more and more birds are on territory and starting the breeding process. I added one more species for the county for the year with an Alder Flycatcher (#203) in Belchertown.  Lots of good photos ops and I have included the full illustrated lists below:

Covey WMA:

Quabbin Park:

Black throated Blue Warbler, home, Belchertown, MA, May 17, 2016
Northern Cardinal, home, Belchertown, MA, May 18, 2016
I continue to add species to my list of those that I have managed to capture with a motion camera in the yard.  I added Black throated Blue Warbler yesterday and Northern Cardinal, Black capped Chickadee and Northern Flicker today bringing the total to 23 species as of this afternoon.