Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The end of January brings in some geese

Greater White fronted Goose, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Greater White fronted Goose, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Cackling Goose, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Canada Goose with white on neck, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Canada Goose with white on neck, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Graylag x Swan Goose hybrid, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Jan 31, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 31, 2017
After spending most of the last several days inside fighting a cold I finally got so stir crazy I had to get out a little this morning.  The weather turned cold overnight with lows in the teens which rapidly refroze several bodies of water with even a bit of ice on the reservoir at Winsor Dam.  I spent little time out of the car but nevertheless still had some great birds for the end of January.  My first notable sighting was a Northern Shrike along North East St in Amherst which stayed teed up long enough to get a look at but as soon as I tried to get the scope set up to take a photo it dropped out of sight.  The area looks perfect for a shrike to stay in so hopefully some others get a look at it too.  I then made a quick stop at Orchard Hill at UMASS where I successfully caught up with the juvenile White crowned Sparrow that Keenan found there a few days ago.  As I was on the hill I got a text from Keenan telling me he had several hundred geese on the playing fields at UMASS with more birds coming in.  I made it back to the car and drove down to the campus pond for a quick look around before heading over to meet Keenan.  I was quickly looking through the couple hundred geese there when I got another text from Keenan telling me a Cackling Goose just came in.  I quickly made the short drive over to the fields and got on the sleeping Cackling Goose as well as the hybrid Greylag x Swan Goose that was discovered at the campus pond a few days ago.  As we were trying to find some other unusual geese among the hundreds of Canada Geese more geese continued to arrive in small groups with the total eventually reaching 1403 Canada Geese.  Among one of the groups was a Greater White fronted Goose that showed quite well as it fed and slept on the far right side of the flock.  The geese were still present when I left and from other reports it appears the geese eventually headed over to the campus pond.  I was starting to have the effects of the cold catch up with me again so I headed for home to get Wilson so we could get a walk in before the snow arrived and I still had some energy left.  The snow started a little earlier than the forecast called for (late morning instead of early afternoon) so our walk was cut short.  I did manage to find one more good bird at home when I had a Winter Wren down along the brook (my first for the year...very unusual to not have more of this species around).  Ended the month with 84 species despite not being out for most of the last week.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Warm weather continues for the last couple weeks

Merlin, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Jan 17, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 17, 2017
Northern Mockingbird, Pulaski Park, Holyoke, MA, Jan 20, 2017
Common Goldeneyes, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 22, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 25, 2017
Ring necked Ducks, Beaver Lake, Ware, MA, Jan 27, 2017
Our warmer than average January has continued with temperatures 15+ degrees above average for several days during the last week...just fine as far as I'm concerned.  Quabbin continues to be totally ice free and even some small lakes and ponds have lost some (or even most) of their ice.  It looks like it will cool to near normal temperatures over the weekend and into next week.  I have gotten out a little the last couple weeks with a few highlights but nothing extraordinary.  Without too much effort I have managed to find 78 species in the county so far this year which is about ten below my previous best years at this point but still a fairly respectable total.

Jan 19- a Merlin in the East Meadows.

Jan 20- Long eared Owl continued in Belchertown and 21 Black Ducks, 290 Mallards, 4 Common Goldeneyes, a Bufflehead, 23 Hooded Mergansers, a Red breasted Merganser, 322 Common Mergansers at Quabbin Park plus a fruitless search for a reported Common yellowthroat at Pulaski Park in Holyoke.

Jan 21- Red headed Woodpecker continuing at Lake Wallace along with a couple Red winged Blackbirds and a single Common Grackle.

Jan 22- 19 Black Ducks, 220 Mallards, a Bufflehead, 92 Common Goldeneyes, 77 Hooded Mergansers, 151 Common Mergansers and a Hermit Thrush and a couple Purple Finches at Piper Conservation Area (along with 25+ deer ticks between Wilson and I...most I have ever picked up in January).

Jan 27- Three Ring necked Ducks at Beaver Lake.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Long eared Owl plus some unusual waterfowl for January

Ring necked Ducks, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2017
Ring necked Duck, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2017
Bufflehead, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2017
Ring necked Ducks and Bufflehead, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2017
I went out bright and early this morning to take advantage of the calm winds to listen for owls and I was not disappointed.  I found a number of Great Horned Owls and Barred Owls but the best by far was a Long eared Owl in a potentially breeding location in Belchertown (precise location not disclosed).  I heard the bird not long after I started listening as it gave a short harsh hoot call several times.  It was a very unusual sound as I have not heard this type of vocalization from this species before.  I will try to check the area again in the near future to see if I can relocate it.  Besides the owl I had a number of other decent sightings today including my first Ruffed Grouse of the season plus a number of unusual species of waterfowl including a pair of Ring necked Ducks and a Bufflehead within Quabbin Park itself plus a Red necked Grebe seen distantly from Winsor Dam.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

January thaw the last couple days

Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 12, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 11, 2017
After a couple days of some ice and snow and very cold temperatures (near zero) the weather changed dramatically yesterday with some sun and highs into the 50's. Today continued a brief January thaw with record high temps in the mid 50's along with some rain. Nothing extremely out of the ordinary as far as birds go but I did find a Hermit Thrush yesterday along the Jabish Canal and  today I added a Green winged Teal in among 500+ Mallards and 21 Black Ducks along the Connecticut River, a Fish Crow calling in among a group of American Crows leaving their roost near the Holyoke Dam and a Swamp Sparrow and flyby Pine Siskin along the land trust trail in Belchertown.  I hoped to run across more waterfowl at Quabbin but it was very quiet there.  Winter will return starting tomorrow with strong winds out of the northwest and lows tomorrow night near zero.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

2016 Review and some sightings for early January

Florida Scrub Jay, Canaveral NS, FL, Jan 18, 2016
Barrow's Goldeneye, Connecticut River, Hadley, MA, Jan 29, 2016
Palm Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 13, 2016
White whiskered Puffbird, Carara NP, Costa Rica, Apr 11, 2016
Royal Flycatcher (life bird #1200), Carara NP, Costa Rica, Apr 11, 2016
Cerulean Warbler at nest, Skinner SP, Hadley, MA, Jun 10, 2016
Eastern Screech Owl, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 10, 2016
Sedge Wren, Arcadia, Northampton, Sep 17, 2016
Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, Sep 22, 2016
Pink footed Goose, UMASS campus pond, Amherst, MA, Dec 6, 2016
Yellow-throated Toucan (Chestnut-mandibled), Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Dec 17, 2016
Mountain Bluebird, Turners Falls Airport, Turners Falls, MA, Nov 15, 2016
Time for a quick recap of 2016 before we get too far into 2017.  Overall for the year I had 582 species and submitted 3163 eBird reports (which included my 20,000th eBird report).  I took a variety of trips away from the local area during the course of the year including a short trip down to Florida in January, two trips to Costa Rica (one in April and the another in December), a long weekend trip to northern Vermont and nearby New York and a visit to Puerto Rico in December.  The two trips to Costa Rica produced a total of 310 species and the trip to Puerto Rico produced 97 species.  Overall I have now reached 1250 species with 60 new species this year with seven of those in Costa Rica in April plus 17 more in Costa Rica in December, 35 life birds in Puerto Rico and a single new species here in Massachusetts (a Mountain Bluebird).  Loads of other highlights in the local area including an incredible year for Connecticut Warblers (at least ten including one at home!), a Sedge Wren, Barrow's Goldeneye, a Cerulean Warbler nest, a couple of Yellow breasted Chats (among 32 species of warbler this year), a second county record for Pink footed Goose...more on my Hampshire County year below.
Red headed Woodpecker, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Oct 15, 2016
'Ipswich' Savannah Sparrow, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Jan 9, 2016
'Gambel's' White crowned Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 24, 2016
I topped my best year in Hampshire County by reaching 238 species with two of those being new in the county for me (Forester's Tern and Red headed Woodpecker) bringing me up to 290 species in the county ever.  I also picked up two unusual sparrow subspecies in Hampshire County with a 'Gambel's' White crowned Sparrow and an 'Ipswich' Savannah Sparrow.
Ruddy Duck, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 4, 2017
Ruddy Duck (with Horned Grebes), Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 4, 2017
Red headed Woodpecker, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jan 5, 2017
Ring necked Ducks (with Hooded Mergansers), Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 5, 2017
Meanwhile the birding this year is off to a decent start around here with the weather somewhat cooperative with average temps and no major storms.  The Red headed Woodpecker originally found in October continues at Lake Wallace and I found a Ruddy Duck at Quabbin Park (a tough species to find at any time in the county and very unusual for January) yesterday and relocated it today plus I added a pair of Ring necked Ducks for the year at Winsor Dam this morning.  I have no plans for another big county year but it is always fun to see how many species you can find in January around cold Hampshire County...up to 58 species so far.