Friday, February 24, 2017

Record setting heat continues


Common Goldeneyes, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 24, 2017
Looking east from Hank's Meadow, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 24, 2017
Ring necked Ducks, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 24, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 24, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 23, 2017
After nearly setting a record yesterday with a temperature in the upper 60's, today's high of 73 not only broke the previous record high for the date but also set an all time February high temperature (with records going back to the late 1800's).  Tomorrow is forecast to also reach the mid 60's but without the sun we have enjoyed the last few days.  The party is over by Sunday with highs in the 40's with a strong wind.  The strong southerly winds have continued to bring in more early migrants with loads of Red winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles, Brown headed Cowbirds and Turkey Vultures as well as a number of waterfowl species.  I did not have anything way out of the ordinary for waterfowl but managed nine species yesterday with my first Wood Ducks of the season as well as larger than expected numbers of Ring necked Ducks.  I'm sure something unusual is out there waiting to be found given the extreme temps and strong winds...it is really tough to believe it is still late February.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The warm up continues


Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 22, 2017
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 19, 2017
Killdeer, fish hatchery, Belchertown, MA, Feb 22, 2017
After arriving home just over a week ago and spending the better part of two days digging out from a couple feet of snow following a few major snow storms while we were gone the weather here has changed completely with temperatures continuing well above normal and snow slowly disappearing.  We have already hit the mid 50's a couple times and the forecast for the next three days call for temperatures up to around 60...very unusual for the end of February but very welcome.  The warm temperatures have spurred a few early migrants to start moving in even with a decent amount of snow on the ground.  I have run across Red winged Blackbirds at a number of locations as well as an American Woodcock at Winsor Dam this morning as well as an early Killdeer at the nearby fish hatchery in Belchertown.  Both Turkey and Black Vultures have started arriving and I finally managed to see a Turkey Vulture cruise past the house this afternoon.  The woodcock record beat my previous earliest county record ever (set last year on Feb 28).  Although I'm sure winter still has a few more storms to throw at us, spring feels like it is rapidly approaching.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Trip to Florida and Grand Bahama-Part 4: Florida again with a bonus day in the sun due to a snowstorm up north


Northern Parula, Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP, Key Biscayne, FL, Feb 12, 2017
Cape May Warbler, Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP, Key Biscayne, FL, Feb 12, 2017
Prairie Warbler, Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP, Key Biscayne, FL, Feb 12, 2017
Scrub and mangrove habitat, Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP, Key Biscayne, FL, Feb 12, 2017 (there is a Kirtland's Warbler somewhere in there)
After spending some time rebooking our flight home, finding a hotel for Sunday and extending our rental car for another day we had another unexpected day to spend in sunny, warm Florida. I noticed a sighting from Saturday of a very out of place Kirtland's Warbler in a park on Key Biscayne south of Miami and after seeing video of the bird there was no doubt on the identification. This very range restricted and endangered warbler breeds in Michigan and winter in the Bahamas with no known records of the species in the US during winter. The timing points more toward an overwintering bird instead of an early migrant. Thankfully we were looking for a place to spend the day and it didn't take much convincing to make the 45 minute drive down to Bill Baggs Cape Florida SP and try to find the bird. We didn't arrive until late morning and the reports from multiple birders already there all negative but I was still hopeful. We checked the area where the bird had been seen but we also had no luck so we decided to start searching the many nearby areas that also featured some decent habitat. Although we ran across a number of mixed species flocks none of the them featured the sought after bird. After a brief stop for lunch I continued the search once again and covered some of the same areas as well as new ones but still came up empty. As we were making our last run down another trail we ran into some other birders from earlier and found out they also had no better luck than we did finding the bird but they did point us toward a location that featured a female Western Spindalis and Cape May Warbler. We had much better luck with these species as well as a decent numbers of Northern Parula. It would have been nice to see the Kirtland's Warbler again as I have only seen them once before up in Michigan and never got photos but no luck this time. I'm certain the bird is still in the area and will hopefully be relocated, perhaps once there are less crowds around....UPDATE...the bird was relocated on Thursday the 16th and showed very well for many people.  It was right in an area I was looking for it in but I somehow missed it!

Overall the trip produced a total of 126 species with 81 species in the Bahamas and 90 species in Florida with 13 life bird (three in Florida and ten in the Bahamas).  As far as warblers go overall for the trip I managed to find a total of 20 species of warbler with Florida producing 15 species and the Bahamas producing 17 (obviously some overall with specific species).  Additional information concerning warblers on the trip can be found here:  http://warblerpursuit.blogspot.com/

Loads of additional photos from the trip can be found at the following links:

Grand Bahama:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/54277284@N05/albums/72157676828739413

Florida:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/54277284@N05/albums/72157676828739463



Saturday, February 18, 2017

Trip to Florida and Grand Bahama-Part 3: Grand Bahama Feb 9-11


Bahama Warbler, Pine lands east, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Bahama Warbler, Pine lands east, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Bahama Warbler, Pine lands east, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Bahama Warbler, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Caribbean Pine lands, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Olive capped Warbler, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
Hooded Warbler, Garden of the Groves, Grand Bahama, Feb 9, 2017
I decided to make a slight change from my original plans of hiring a guide for a second day and instead rented a jeep for a couple of days to explore some areas on my own. With Sherri doing some other activities on Thursday I had the entire morning into the afternoon free to explore the pine lands east of Freetown in search of the two endemic warblers I missed the day before. As mentioned before these two species (Bahama Warbler and Bahama Yellowthroat) have apparently become very tough to find following Hurricane Matthew that hit the island last October but I was determined to track them down. I headed out just before sunrise to start looking east of Lucayan NP and after one minor missed turn I was on my way (the toughest part was driving on the left...a throwback to the English roots of the Bahamas). The area past the national park was somewhat quiet and there were not any good spots to penetrate into the pines so I decided to head back to a series of old logging roads which had some sightings of both of my target species before the hurricane. I started on a road north of Owl's Hole Road and one of the first birds I noticed was a Bahama Warbler (#1260) crawling its way up the side of a pine much like a nuthatch. I was really not expecting it to be so easy to find the bird after a lot of looking yesterday but luck was with me I guess. The area to the north of the main highway would eventually produce at least four individuals of this species plus I added two more individuals later on in the morning along Owl's Hole Road. Glad to see several individuals made it through the storm and continue to occupy the area. I ran across lots of other expected species but I had no luck finding a Bahama Yellowthroat north of the highway. I then decided to try my luck south of the highway in an area we spent some time in yesterday along Owl's Hole Rd. This proved to be a great decision as I ran across a Bahama Yellowthroat about a half mile down the road. I was pishing and had a yellowthroat scolding from the deep undergrowth but I was fully expecting to find another Common Yellowthroat. I tried a little playback and the bird immediately popped up giving me brief but decent looks at a female Bahama Yellowthroat (#1261) that promptly dove back down and would not show itself again so no luck getting a photo. At this point it was midday and after all morning out in the hot sun I was ready for a break so I headed back to Garden of the Grove to try my luck there and although I didn't find anything new I got much better looks at a Hooded Warbler there compared to yesterday.
Cuban Pewee, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 10, 2017
Cuban Pewee, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 10, 2017
American Redstart, Lucaya NP, Grand Bahama, Feb 10, 2017
Cuban Emerald, Garden of Grand Bahama B&B, Grand Bahama, Feb 10, 2017
Smooth billed Ani, Reef Golf Course, Grand Bahama, Feb 10, 2017
Our last full day on Grand Bahama dawned much cooler than previous days with temps in the low 60's but the sun quickly warmed us up into the 70's. We took the jeep out to Lucayna NP to walk on some of the trails there before the crowds appeared. Nothing unusual there and we missed on relocating the Barn Owls in their nest hole. The tide was also high when we got there so no luck with marsh birds working through the mangroves. The winds was picking up on our way out there and it they would continue throughout the day which made finding birds a bit tough. Our next stop was over to Owl's Hole Road where we walked for about an hour down through the pine lands and managed to turn up a new species when I found a pair of Cuban Pewees (#1262). No luck finding a Bahama Yellowthroat there despite a lot of effort. Our last stop for the morning was a lunch break and a walk around the trails at Garden of the Groves, which was fairly quiet but still featured some good birds. We then headed back to our lodging to enjoy the remainder of the day. I made a couple of short stops over to the nearby Reef Country Club which added some waterfowl and waders to my Bahama list.
American Kestrel (Bahama race), Reef Golf Course, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017
Belted Kingfisher, Reef Golf Course, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017
Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Garden of Grand Bahama B&B, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017
White cheeked Pintail, Emerald Golf Course, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017
Eurasian Green winged Teal (Common Teal), Emerald Golf Course, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017
Cuban Emerald, Garden of Grand Bahama B&B, Grand Bahama, Feb 11, 2017

Our last day in the Bahamas was spent relatively locally and I started the day just before dawn at the Reef Country Club checking the various ponds and edge before the golfers showed up for the day. Nothing too unusual but got some good looks at some birds as well as a few photos. After about an hour and a half at the country club I headed back to our lodging and the gardens right outside our back door. On my second lap around the small garden I had brief looks at a Bahama Woodstar being chased by a Cuban Emerald and this added a final life bird for the trip (#1263). Yesterday our host (and guide) asked if I wanted to go with her to a couple of other nearby golf courses to try to get some other new birds and I figured, why not? We headed out late morning to the Emerald Golf Course where we found a number of new species on the pond there including White cheeked Pintails, Green winged Teal and Black necked Stilts.  Upon closer examination of the teal it turned out to be a Eurasian subspecies of the Green winged Teal (also known as Common Teal) and may be a first record of this subspecies (likely a full species) on Grand Bahama.  The golf course has been closed since a couple of severe hurricanes back in 2003/2004 and the area has become overgrown providing some great bird habitat. We walked along some paths through the dense vegetation and had a very intriguing yellowthroat that may have been a Bahama Yellowthroat but we never got good enough looks to be sure. Although it was getting near noon and I was looking forward to lunch we decided to make one more stop over to the nearby Ruby Golf Course in the hopes of finding some waders but the pond there was quiet so no luck finding anything new. The rest of the early afternoon I spent more time exploring the gardens at our lodging as well as packing for the trip home. We made it to the port to await the ferry and while there got a message that our flight was already cancelled for Sunday due to another big snow storm back home.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Trip to Florida and Grand Bahama-Part 2: Grand Bahama Feb 7 and 8


Painted Bunting, Garden of Grand Bahama Birders B&B, Freeport, Grand  Bahama, Feb 7, 2017
La Sagra's Flycatcher, Garden of Grand Bahama Birders B&B, Freeport, Grand  Bahama, Feb 7, 2017
Red legged Thrush, Garden of Grand Bahama Birders B&B, Freeport, Grand  Bahama, Feb 7, 2017
Ovenbird, Garden of Grand Bahama Birders B&B, Freeport, Grand  Bahama, Feb 7, 2017
Tuesday the 7th started very early with a ferry ride from Fort Lauderdale over to Freeport, Grand Bahama. We left Florida around eight and arrived in the Bahamas just before noon. My main targets for the trip over to Grand Bahama were the two endemic warbler species (Bahama Warbler and Bahama Yellowthoat) plus another near endemic warbler (Olive capped Warbler...also found on Cuba). I also had a list of around ten speciality species that I also hoped to add from Bahama Hummingbird to Key West Quail Dove. Sadly the two endemic warblers have not been reported since Hurricane Matthew devastated Grand Bahama back in October so I would really have my work cut out for me in finding them. After a bit of a snafu in our pick up from the port we eventually made it to our lodging for the next four days, Garden of Grand Bahamas B&B. Despite the damage from the latest hurricane the small garden on site produced some great birds including my first Thick billed Vireo, Cuban Emerald and La Sagra's Flycatcher (species #1254-1256). The garden also featured a couple very tame species that would walk to within hands reach including Red legged Thrushes and Ovenbirds. Many times the birds were so close that I could not focus the camera but instead had to use my iPhone.
Olive capped Warbler, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Pine Warbler, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Yellow throated Warbler, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Black faced Grassquit, Owl Hole Rd, Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Thick billed Vireo, Lucayan NP,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Western Spindalis, Lucayan NP,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Cape May Warbler, Garden of the Groves,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
White crowned Pigeon, Garden of the Groves,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Northern Waterthrush, Garden of the Groves,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Bananaquit, Garden of the Groves,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Cuban Emerald, Garden of the Groves,Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
Greater Antillean Bullfinch, Shannon Golf Course ATV trail, Grand Bahama, Feb 8, 2017
On Wednesday the 8th I hired a guide (Erica Gates) for the entire day to try to track down the above mentioned targets and had some success as well as a few misses. We started out in the pine lands on the way to Owl's Hole looking for pine specialties and after a bit of walking we ran across a mixed species flock that contained at least two Olive capped Warblers. Although we tried to turn up the other two endemic warblers we had no luck here (or any of the other spots we checked over the course of the day). I was certainly happy to get to see, hear and photograph the Olive capped Warbler which became species #1257. The walk along the road to Owl's Hole also produced species #1258 with a pair of Western Spindalis, a couple of unusual for the area Chipping Sparrows plus a number of other expected species. Our next stop was to Lucayan National Park where we explored the area near some entrances to underground caves as well as the nearby mangroves. One of the entrances to the caves produced a couple of nearly fledged Barn Owls in a nest hole, which was a surprise to both the guide and I. After an entire morning out in the pine lands we headed over to Garden of the Groves for lunch and a few hours around the park where we ran across a number of new species for the trip. We finally ran across another new species for me along some ATV trails through an old, overgrown golf course near Garden of the Groves when we turned up a Greater Antillean Bullfinch (#1259).



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Trip to Florida and Grand Bahama, Part 1: Florida Feb 5-6


White Ibis, Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, FL, Feb 5, 2017
Palm Warbler (western), Evergreen Cemetery, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Feb 5, 2017
Black throated Blue Warbler, Richardson Park, Wilton Manor, FL, Feb 5, 2017
White eyed Vireo, Richardson Park, Wilton Manor, FL, Feb 5, 2017
Anhinga with nest material, Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, FL, Feb 5, 2017
Blue winged Teal, Green Cay Wetlands, Boynton Beach, FL, Feb 5, 2017
Just back from a week or so in Florida and the Bahamas and it was a great trip with warm, sunny weather and some great birds.  We headed down to Fort Lauderdale on Sunday the 5th arriving there midday to sunny and warm weather. After a quick bite to eat we made a couple brief stops to look for some unusual species being seen in the Fort Lauderdale area (including a Bananaquit, Black throated Gray Warbler and Hooded Warbler). The first stop was at Evergreen Cemetery to try to find the Black throated Gray Warbler which I eventually found traveling with a mixed species flock but I missed getting a photo of it after a brief look and never managed to track it back down. Lots of other warblers in the cemetery including Yellow throated, Prairie, Palm (both western and eastern) and Yellow rumped Warblers plus Northern Parula. Our next stop was a bit more to the north to Richardson Park where I managed to hear the Hooded Warbler but missed on finding the Bananaquit (thought I might have heard it once but could never see it). Despite missing the Bananaquit I was happy to find the Hooded Warbler and a female Black throated Blue Warbler as well as a few Blue crowned Parakeet (an exotic species that was introduced to the area and appears to be established) plus a Spot breasted Oriole (a long established exotic in south Florida). The parakeet and oriole were both new species for me becoming #1251 and #1252. Our final stop in the afternoon was even further north up to the Green Cay Wetlands, which is a fantastic spot for bird photography. We spent a couple hours there and added a number of species but nothing out of the ordinary. Overall for the afternoon of the first day I had a total of 63 species with ten species of warbler (adding Common Yellowthroat and Pine Warbler for the day at Green Cay).
Wood Stork, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Purple Gallinule, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Black and White Warbler, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Orange crowned Warbler, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Gray headed Swamphen, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Neotropic Cormorant, Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Boynton Beach,  FL, Feb 6, 2017
Yellow throated Warbler, Evergreen Cemetery, Ft Lauderdale, FL, Feb 6, 2017
Blue crowned Parakeet, Evergreen Cemetery, Ft Lauderdale, FL, Feb 6, 2017
Red masked Parakeet, Evergreen Cemetery, Ft Lauderdale, FL, Feb 6, 2017
The first full day of vacation we spent in Florida hitting a few new spots as well as repeat visits to a couple others. We started at Wakodohatchee Wetlands in Boca Raton. The man made wetlands there are a smaller version of the Green Cay Wetlands we visited yesterday and held a few new species. The rarest bird there was a continued Neotropic Cormorant that has been present on and off for a couple years now. The area also featured a large congregation of nesting Wood Storks (over a hundred individuals present) plus a number of nesting Anhingas, Double crested Cormorants and Great Blue Herons. It was great to see so many storks nesting here as this species has been in decline. Beyond the nesting species I ran across a mixed flock containing a number of warblers including my first American Redstart, Black and White Warblers and Orange crowned Warbler. We left the wetlands late morning and made it over to the Gumbo Limbo Nature Center along the coast. Very quiet bird wise due to the crowds but still managed to add one more new warbler, a Northern Waterthrush. Even without many birds it was still interesting to see work being done there on sea turtle research as well as sea turtle rescue. After a brief stop for lunch we returned to Richardson Park once again to try to find the Bananaquit I missed the day before but once again struck out. In fact I had no luck finding anything unusual there so we moved on to another repeat visit, this time to the Evergreen Cemetery in Fort Lauderdale. My goal here was to try to get some photos of the Black throated Gray Warbler there. Despite much effort I never managed to find the bird but did have another nice mixed species flock and got some additional photos. All was not lost for the stop as I added another established exotic to my list with a group of Red masked Parakeets flying past which I managed to get photos of as well as photos of a few Blue crowned Parakeet. Overall I ended up with 77 species (with three life birds and nine new species to my state list) in Florida in just a few days with 14 species of warblers among the total.

Next up the trip to Grand Bahama....