Saturday, April 29, 2017

Big influx of migrants for the end of April

Black and White Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 28, 2017
White throated Sparrow, Home, Belchetown, MA, Apr 28, 2017
Yellow rumped Warbler, Home, Belchetown, MA, Apr 28, 2017
Tree Swallow, Covey WMA, Belchetown, MA, Apr 28, 2017
Osprey with fish, Covey WMA, Belchetown, MA, Apr 28, 2017
Rose breasted Grosbeak with nesting material, UMASS Amherst, MA, Apr 29, 2017
Red eyed Vireo, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 29, 2017
Tufted Titmouse with nesting material, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 29, 2017
The weather had been cloudy, rainy and foggy the last several days which had put a damper on any major migration movement but that finally came to an end on Friday when another front moved through early in the morning leading to sunny skies, southerly winds and warm temperatures (near 80).  The improvement of conditions resulted in a large influx of migrants over the last couple days.  I hit lots of spots both days turning up just over 80 species yesterday with eleven species of warblers and over 90 species today with seventeen species of warblers.  I added 22 new species for the year in just two days, which speaks to the volume of migrants moving through now.  Among the new species Warbling and Red eyed Vireo (early), Great crested and Least Flycatchers, Ruby throated Hummingbird (captured on one of my motion cameras...see below), Greater Yellowlegs, Spotted Sandpiper, Wood Thrush plus ten new species of warblers.  This has certainly been one of the bigger pushes as far as variety in late April that I have seen around here.
American Robin with leg bands, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Apr 27, 2017
Close up of band on American Robin, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Apr 27, 2017
Field Sparrow, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Apr 27, 2017

Despite the less than ideal conditions on Thursday some migrants did come in including a few more warblers. I found eight species of warblers Thursday morning between Lake Wallace and Quabbin Park including my first Ovenbird.  I hit a variety of spots on Thursday from the Quabbin area over to Hadley.
American Robin with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 26, 2017
Chipping Sparrows, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 24, 2017
American Robin with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 24, 2017
Black capped Chickadee with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 23, 2017

Yellow rumped Warblers, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 28, 2017
Ruby throated Hummingbird, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 28, 2017
Mink, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 28, 2017
Raccoon, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 21, 2017
More and more birds continue to show up in the yard including more banded birds including two American Robins and two Black capped Chickadees.  The motion cameras have captured a number of species in the yard including a number of mammals.  I did manage to add a new species for the yard yesterday when I had a Fish Crow fly over heading northeast.  The crow became species #163 for the yard.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Sightings in the third week of April

Palm Warbler, Rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 20, 2017
Louisiana Waterthrush, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 20, 2017
Ruby crowned Kinglet, Rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 20, 2017
Pine Warbler, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Apr 19, 2017
Rusty Blackbird, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Apr 19, 2017
Carolina Wren, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 18, 2017
Pileated Woodpeckers, Rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 18, 2017
As the third week of April comes to an end migration continues to pick up with new birds showing up everyday.  Some notables I have had over the last several days included both Blue headed Vireo and Broad winged Hawk on the 15th, Blue winged Teal and Black and White Warbler in Hadley on the 17th, an Eastern Whip Poor Will at Winsor Dam on the 18th (I had two there yesterday), House Wren at Mitch's Way also on the 18th and a Bonaparte's Gull at Winsor Dam on the 19th.  The warblers are just starting to arrive with decent numbers of Pine, Palm and Yellow rumped Warblers around plus a few Louisiana Waterthrushes and Black and White Warblers.  I was expecting some unusual stuff to be brought down by the raining weather overnight into this morning but no luck at the places I checked.  The next week into May should bring in a big influx of both numbers and variety.  This year I have decided to see how many warbler species I can find within Hampshire County by focusing on them.  My previous best years have been 2014 and 2016 with 32 warbler species plus a hybrid...we shall see what this year brings.

In other news a tropical storm (Tropical Storm Arlene) has formed way out in the Atlantic, which is quite unusual for April.  It is no threat to any landmasses but certainly interesting to see this time of year.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Big Bend National Park produces lots of good stuff including Colima Warbler

Colima Warbler, Big Bend NP, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Colima Warbler, Big Bend NP, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Common Poorwill, Big Bend NP, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Mexican Jay, Big Bend NP, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Townsend's Warbler, Big Bend NP, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Townsend's Warbler (?) with limited yellow on breast, Big Bend NP, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Townsend's Warbler (?) with limited yellow on breast, Big Bend NP, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Blue gray Gnatcatcher with nest material, Big Bend NP, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Black crested Titmouse, Big Bend NP, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Vermilion Flycatcher, Fort Pena Colorado, Marathon, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Spotted Sandpiper, Fort Pena Colorado, Marathon, TX, Apr 10, 2017
Scaled Quail,  Marathon, TX, Apr 10, 2017
I was up and out the door bright and early on Monday to make the long run down to the Chisos Basin in Big Bend NP. The ride should take around 90 minutes but I took about two hours with frequent stops to let jackrabbits, deer and coyotes move out of the road. I also added some nocturnal birds including a number of Common Poorwills, a few Lesser Nighthawks and a couple Mexican Whip Poor Wills. I arrived in the basin before sunrise and started the hike up the Pinnacles trail to get to Boot Spring where my main target (Colima Warbler) can be found. The trail was steep but not too bad considering some of the horror stories I had heard regarding the difficulty. The scenery was truly spectacular with each new turn in the trail producing a new awe inspiring view. I made it up through the gap in the basin via the Pinnacles and then started down the Boot Spring trail where I ran across my first Colima Warbler which popped into view briefly but disappeared before I could get the camera on it. I continued down toward Boot Spring itself and continued to run across various mixed species flocks but I didn't have another Colima Warbler until I made it to Boot Spring where I had two more individuals which eventually showed but still not very well. I continued down the trail past the springs where I found another interesting warbler. The bird was in a mixed species and was singing an odd Black throated Green Warbler like song but did not appear to be a perfect BTGW. The mask of the bird was quite dark (much more like a Townsend's Warbler) but the belly was almost all white except for a hint of yellow just below the black throat, perhaps just an odd Townsend's Warbler.  A very interesting bird to be sure. Although it was still very comfortable in the shade of the upper mountains I knew I had a long walk back out through Laguna Meadow, much of which would be put in the open sun. I started down and while still up in the oaks I had two more singing Colima Warblers (bringing my total for the morning to five). I also got my best views of the species on my down as well as the best photos I was able to get. By the time I reached the parking lot in the basin it was early afternoon and very hot so I got rehydrated before making a short walk on the more level Window Trail before starting my way back toward Marathon arriving back there for an early dinner before making another stop to the nearby Colorado Park which produced some more new species for the trip but nothing too unusual.
Black throated Sparrow, South Llano River SP, Junction, TX, Apr 11, 2017
My last full day in Texas was the worst weather wise but was not totally lost as a large portion of the day was spent driving back to Austin. I had more and more clouds and eventually rain as I drove east. I made another stop at South Llano River SP but due to occasional rain I didn't stay as long as I had on the previous day there. I made it back to the Austin area by early afternoon where I tried my luck in finding a reported Yellow throated Warbler at Common Fords Park. A severe thunderstorm was rapidly approaching so I was unable to locate the bird but the small park was quite birdy and would certainly have been worth a bit more time exploring as it looked primed to produce good stuff but it was not to be on this trip. Overall for the trip I ended up with 120 species with six of those being life birds (Golden cheeked Warbler, Black capped Vireo, Scaled Quail, Colima Warbler, Black chinned Sparrow and Cassin's Sparrow) bringing my life list to 1305.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Texas hill country...Golden cheeked Warbler and Black capped Vireo

Golden cheeked Warbler, Balcones Canyonlands NWR, TX, Apr 8, 2017
Golden cheeked Warbler, Balcones Canyonlands NWR, TX, Apr 8, 2017
Golden cheeked Warbler, Balcones Canyonlands NWR, TX, Apr 8, 2017
Looking west from Warbler Vista, Balcones Canyonlands NWR, TX, Apr 8, 2017
I headed down to Texas for a brief trip starting on Saturday the 8th and began in Austin to visit the hill country before making the long ride down to Big Bend National Park. The main targets for the trip included Golden cheeked Warbler and Black capped Vireo in the hill country and Colima Warbler at Big Bend NP. All three of these species have limited range in the US with the first two being endangered species due to ongoing habitat destruction. Colima Warblers are not as rare overall but the only spot they nest in the US is within Big Bend NP. I had to make some changes to my plans in regard to more intense hiking as I hurt my back at work again and I almost didn't get to make the trip but thankfully I managed to salvage the trip. I arrived in Austin around midday and after a quick lunch headed over to St. Edwards Park northwest of the city to try to catch up with some Golden cheeked Warblers that had recently been seen there.  Unfortunately due to it being the weekend and the park being quite crowded there were no warblers to be found.  Without too much luck at St Edwards Park I decided to make a run out to Balcones Canyonlands NWR to try my luck there. I arrived there late in the afternoon and despite the late hour and a near continuous wind I found first one and eventually four Golden cheeked Warbler including at least three males singing, all in the area of the appropriately named Warbler Vista. The Golden cheeked Warbler became life bird #1300 for me as well as my 69th new world warbler species. A beautiful, sunny start to the trip to be sure.
Black capped Vireo, South Llano River SP, Junction, TX, Apr 9, 2017
Black capped Vireo, South Llano River SP, Junction, TX, Apr 9, 2017
Yellow breasted Chat, South Llano River SP, Junction, TX, Apr 9, 2017
Black throated Sparrow, South Llano River SP, Junction, TX, Apr 9, 2017
Black tailed Prairie Dog, Marathon, TX, Apr 9, 2017
Burrowing Owl, Marathon, TX, Apr 9, 2017
I was up before dawn on Sunday and was greeted with clouds, a decent breeze and occasional drizzle as I drove back out to Balcones Canyonlands NWR again. I waited outside the gate for the park to open and added a calling Common Poorwill for the trip. Once the gate opened I drove back up to the same area I had the Golden cheeked Warblers and once again had one singing despite the less than ideal conditions. I was certainly happy I made it up the previous day when the weather was nicer and the birds more photogenic. After my time in the Warbler Vista section of the refuge I drove further north to visit the Shin Oak area in the quest to find some Black capped Vireos. This area is known for the species but is typically closed to the public in the early part of the nesting season. Thankfully the area just opened up the day before to the public and upon my arrival was rewarded right away with at least a couple calling vireos. True to their reputation of staying well hidden I never managed to get more than fleeting glimpses of the birds despite them being mere feet away at times. Nonetheless I was still quite happy to find them even if the looks were less than stellar. As the morning wore on and the weather did not seem to be improving in the area I was in I decided to begin my long drive over to Big Bend (with frequent stops to stretch my legs). My best stop along the way was at South Llano River SP just south of Junction which had recent reports of both Golden winged Warbler and Black capped Vireo. It turned out to be a very active place with both of the above species present (including much better views of the vireos). In addition the bird blinds and trails there were quite productive for a wide range of species both resident and migrants. It was tough to tear myself away from the area but I still had a lot of driving to make it to my lodging near Big Bend. Another neat stop on my way was just outside the town of Marathon at a large prairie dog town, which produced several Burrowing Owls, Scaled Quail (life bird), various raptors and lots of prairie dogs.

Hooded Merganser eggs in box #1, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 13, 2017
Eggs in box #2, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 13, 2017
American Robin with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 11, 2017
While I was gone from home for several days the area experienced some record setting heat (85 degrees) brought in by southerly winds. The winds also brought in a number of early season migrants and I spent some time this morning tracking some of them down including my first Yellow rumped Warblers, Louisiana Waterthush, Barn Swallow, Blue gray Gnatcatcher, Field Sparrow and Eastern Towhee. I also checked the duck boxes again and this time found a Hooded Merganser sitting on eggs in one of the boxes...still not sure what species is in the second box. Also while I was away I had one of my motion camera set on the water feature and I had 220+ shots to go through! Most were Gray Squirrels and Dark eyed Juncos but I also managed to get Song Sparrow, Mourning Dove, American Goldfinch, Black capped Chickadee and American Robin (including a banded individual I had not seen since last fall) plus a mouse.