Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Middle of August

Semipalmated Plover, Hatfield, MA, Aug 14, 2018
Ovenbird, Quabbin Park, MA, Aug 3, 2018
White tailed Deer fawn, Quabbin Park, MA, Aug 3, 2018
Green winged Teal and Mallard, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 7, 2018
Peregrine Falcon after capturing Green Heron in flight, Hatfield, MA, Aug 11, 2018
The first two weeks of August have featured similar weather to what we had in July...heat, humidity and almost daily bouts of showers/storms.  Shorebirds have continued to show up in small numbers with ten species so far for the month with the most notable being the Upland Sandpiper seen at the beginning of the month, a few Semipalmated Plovers on the fourteenth and a Black bellied Plover today in Hatfield.  While looking for shorebirds last weekend I noticed a group of four Green Herons flying over first thing in the morning and out of nowhere came a Peregrine Falcon that whipped past me and rapidly climbed taking out one of the herons before they even noticed the falcon...amazing to see.  Other notable or continued species include calling Eastern Whip Poor Wills at Quabbin Park, Marsh Wren through at least August 10 at Lake Wallace and a Merlin in Belchertown on August 11.  This August is looking to be my most productive ever in the county with 129 species for the month so far.  The year is also shaping up to be one of the more productive with 219 species already...had not planned on doing another big year but I may put in a little more effort if the unusual species keep showing up.
Red Fox, Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2018
Veery, Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 15, 2018
Raccoon, Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 10, 2018
Scarlet Tanager, Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 10, 2018
Warbling Vireo, Home, Belchertown, MA, Aug 8, 2018
All of the nesting birds at the house have now fledged and the first groups of mixed species flocks have started to move through.  The motion cameras continue to catch a variety of both birds and mammals.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Upland Sandpiper and Snowy Egret among other notables the first two days of August

Upland Sandpiper, Hatfield, MA, Aug 2, 2018
Upland Sandpiper, Hatfield, MA, Aug 2, 2018
Snowy Egret, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 2, 2018
Snowy Egret, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 2, 2018
Snowy Egret, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 2, 2018
Green winged Teal, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 2, 2018
Great Egret, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 1, 2018
 Green Heron, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 1, 2018
Great Blue Heron, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 1, 2018
August has started off with continued hot and humid weather but with some great birds too.  I have managed to find a total of 105 species without too much effort including some nice rarities.  Yesterday I had an Eastern Whip Poor Will still calling at Winsor Dam before dawn and then added my first Great Egrets of the fall at Lake Wallace (plus the continued Marsh Wren).  The egrets yesterday where part of a push of post breeding egrets into the area which included several reports of multiple Great Egrets and a group of eight Snowy Egrets in Hampden County (one of the largest groups of this species I can ever remember hearing about in Western Mass).  Today I had even better luck with rarities starting off with an Upland Sandpiper in Hatfield (only my fifth county record).  The bird was quite wary (probably due to the hawks and eagles crisscrossing the area).  It only settled out in the open a couple times and was last seen flying out to the west-southwest.  My good luck with shorebirds that started at the end of July appears to be continuing into August as I have already had six species of shorebirds despite there being little decent habitat for shorebirds among the mainly full farm fields and a very high Connecticut River.  I checked a few other areas on my way to the Holyoke Dam and didn't find too many noteworthy sightings.  Once I arrived at the Holyoke Dam I found a single Snowy Egret among a small group of gulls below the dam.  I also had another Great Egret a little bit further downstream.  I would not be surprised if an even rarer egret or heron shows up in the next several days given the incursion so far.  My last stop for the morning was to Lake Wallace where I once again had the Marsh Wren and a Green winged Teal.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

End of July

House Wren with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Jul 28, 2018
Marsh Wren, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jul 25, 2018
Green winged Teal, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jul 25, 2018
Green Herons, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jul 25, 2018
Ruddy Turnstone, Hadley, MA, Jul 22, 2018
Red Fox, Home, Belchertown, MA, Jul 9, 2018
Purple Finch, Prescott Peninsula, New Salem, MA, Jul 7, 2018
I ended up with a total of 143 species in Hampshire County for the month, which is way above my typical numbers the last several years (the last three years have totaled 127, 125 and 128).  The larger than typical number of species for the month was helped along by a decent fallout of shorebirds including several tough to get species around here (Ruddy Turnstone and Short billed Dowitcher) plus a new county bird for me (Sanderling)....the month produced a total of 13 shorebird species.  Lake Wallace produced a number of unusual species throughout the month including Least Bittern, Pied billed Grebe, American Coot, Marsh Wren, Green winged Teal, Sora and Northern Goshawk plus some really impressive numbers of Green Herons.  The month was very warm and humid with nine days above 90 and only one day in the entire month that it did not reach 80 degrees.
Elk, Rocky Mountain NP, CO, Jul 9, 2018
Moose, Rocky Mountain NP, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Black billed Magpie, Granby, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Western Meadowlark, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Lark Bunting, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
The middle of the month featured a trip out to Colorado with visits to Rocky Mountain National Park, Pawnee National Grasslands and a few other areas near Denver.  A successful trip with eleven life birds among some 142 species in total.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Shorebirds along the river including Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Short billed Dowitcher (among ten species total) plus July species at Lake Wallace (Least Bittern, American Coot and Marsh Wren)


Ruddy Turnstone, Hadley, MA, Jul 22, 2018
Ruddy Turnstone, Hadley, MA, Jul 22, 2018
Short billed Dowitcher, Hadley, MA, Jul 22, 2018
Semipalmated Plover, Hadley, MA, Jul 22, 2018
Pectoral Sandpiper, Hadley, MA, Jul 22, 2018
Lesser Yellowlegs, Hadley, MA, Jul 22, 2018
A nice fallout of shorebirds occurred on Sunday when rain moved in overnight and continued into the morning.  When I left work it was pouring and I very briefly checked a few spots without any luck.  The rain eventually stopped later in the morning and I got a text around midday of a number of shorebirds down along the river.  I immediately headed out and made a few stops on the way before making it to the area where the birds have previously been seen.  Thankfully the birds seen earlier were still there and had been joined by a very rare for the valley Ruddy Turnstone (my last ones were during Hurricane Irene in 2011 and before that a single back in 2004).  Just as I found the Ruddy Turnstone I had a brief look at a bird that almost certainly a Sanderling but I could not find it again.  I eventually found a total of at least nine species of shorebirds including the above mentioned Ruddy Turnstone as well as a Short billed Dowitcher, a Semipalmated Plover, 3 Pectoral Sandpipers, a dozen Semipalmated Sandpipers, 38 Least Sandpipers, 5 Killdeer, 11 Spotted Sandpipers and four Lesser Yellowlegs....a really great haul for July in the county!

I headed out this morning to once again hit the shorebird spot in hopes of turning up something else unusual.  The rain had continued on and off overnight and continued into the morning making access even more difficult due to muddy conditions.  I finally made a long walk in and then the skies really opened up which quickly soaked me completely.  I eventually reached the spot and although the rising river had covered many of the flats there were still a few birds around including a Sanderling among a small group of Least Sandpipers as well as a few Spotted Sandpipers and Killdeer.  The rain was falling too hard to even try for a photo so I headed out back toward my car.  The rain let up a bit as I got closer to the car so I tried another vantage point to view the birds but only could see a few.  Shortly after a small boat came up river and flushed everything and they all headed south.  There were a number of swallows feeding low over the river including at least two Cliff Swallows.  I assume the Sanderling was the same one I thought I had there yesterday and brought the total species of shorebirds at the spot to ten in two days.  It also was a new Hampshire County bird for me (#294).
American Coot, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jul 3, 2018
American Coot, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jul 1, 2018
Virginia Rail, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jul 8, 2018
Green Herons, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jul 1, 2018
Green Herons, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jul 21, 2018
Lake Wallace continues to produce some impressive birds this month including a very rare Least Bittern back on July 8, an American Coot and Pied billed Grebe on July 1 (with the coot seen again on July 3), Sora and Virginia Rail on July 18, a Marsh Wren from July 14 until at least July 21 , a Northern Goshawk on July 22 and at least 17 Green Herons on multiple days.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Colorado trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, Pawnee Grasslands and other spots (July 8-16)

Elk calf, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 9, 2018
Elk, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 9, 2018
Moose, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 9, 2018
Moose calf, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 9, 2018
Elk, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 9, 2018
 Yellow bellied Marmot, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 9, 2018
Yellow bellied Marmot at Gore Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 9, 2018
 Yellow rumped Warbler 'audubon's', Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 9, 2018
 Clark's Nutcracker, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 9, 2018
 Mountain Bluebird, Granby, CO, Jul 9, 2018
Alpine Ridge, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 9, 2018
Back from a trip out to Colorado with lots of good stuff seen. We arrived into a very hot Denver on Sunday the 8th and then drove into the Rockies to stay at a cabin in Granby for five nights. The only really notable sighting for the first day were my first Black billed Magpies, which became species #1372 for me.  The first full day found us heading out early to the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park with our goal to make it up to the highest elevations before the crowds came out in force. We had a few quick diversions on the way to the top including a large herd of Elk (with lots of young) in a large meadow right along the road as well as a much smaller group of adult males further up. We made it to the Alpine Visitors Centera little after seven and walked around the nearly deserted area finding lots of American Pipits and just a few other species (including several Yellow bellied Marmots). I hoped to find White tailed Ptarmigan there but no luck so we headed a bit further east to Rainbow Curve where I had distant views of one (species #1373). A stop at another overlook up above tree line produced some more Yellow bellied Marmots and several Pika rapidly scurrying around. As the high elevation areas were starting to get busy we headed back down with a couple more stops including one at Lake Irene that produced a few pockets of birds including my first American Three toed Woodpecker (#1374). As it was getting quite warm and somewhat slow for wildlife by midday day we headed back to the cabin.
Black billed Magpie, Granby, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Black billed Magpie, Granby, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Dark eyed Junco (gray headed), Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Moose, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Red Crossbill (Type 5),  Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Mink, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Moose, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Kawuneechee Valley, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Adams Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 10, 2018
On Tuesday we once again were out the door early and headed back to the national park. The morning was sunny but even cooler than yesterday with a cool temperature of 42 degrees. We arrived at the Coyote Valley trailhead a little before 6:30 and were the first people there. We walked along the Colorado River for almost an hour and picked up a few new species of birds for the trip as well as fantastic looks at a bull Moose moving across the meadow. When we were almost back to the car we had brief looks at a Mink. Our next stop was a little further south to the River and Valley Trail where we walked over three miles over the course of a couple hours adding another Moose sighting and a decent selection of birds (and almost no people). By the time we finished this hike it was warming up nicely. Our final stop (and the most crowded) was a short walk to Adams Falls and the meadow above the falls. Some great scenery but a little too crowded for my tastes.
MacGillivray's Warbler, Monarch Lake, CO, Jul 11, 2018
Yellow Warbler, Ten Mile Creek, Granby, CO, Jul 11, 2018
American Three toed Woodpecker, Monarch Lake,  CO, Jul 11, 2018
Western Grebe, Lake Granby, CO, Jul 11, 2018
Monarch Lake,  CO, Jul 11, 2018
I headed out before dawn on the third full day of the trip to nearby Ten Mile Creek where I had a Sora among a few other species. Once it got to be after six I headed to the cabin to pick up Sherri and we headed a bit south of the national park to Monarch Lake is located at the southeast end of large Lake Granby and the road along Lake Granby proved to be quite productive with a single Western Grebe and a flyby Black Swift being highlights. The Black Swift was species #1375 for me and not one I expected to find at the lake. I may have seen the species post Hurricane Irene when I had a large swift flyby with Common Nighthawks but was not 100% certain. The storm displaced a number of Black Swifts of the Caribbean subspecies (likely a full species) to areas along the east coast of the US. Once we arrived at the lake we started our 4 mile hike around the entire length of the lake and turned up a number of species during the roughly three hours we were there. Among the nearly forty species were two Williamson's Sapsuckers which was another new species (#1376). By the time we finished up at Monarch Lake it was late morning and getting crowded with people. We still had some energy so we headed up to the park and took a mile hike around the area of the Kawuneeche Visitor's Center. Not a ton of activity as it was late in the morning and getting fairly warm. We then headed back to the cabin for lunch and then I made a return trip to Ten Mile Creek to get some photos of birds along the riparian area.

On Thursday we had a rafting trip planned for the morning starting at nine leaving out of Kremmling and floating down the Colorado for a bit under five miles. We were on the river for a couple hours and during that time a few notable birds were seen despite the high level of human activity on this part of the river. The highlight for me was a flyover Prairie Falcon that came through one of the more secluded canyons. Also had a close up look at a Western Grebe as well as lots of swallows including a colony of Cliff Swallows on a bridge near the small town of Radium. The Prairie Falcon was a new species for me and became #1377. We got back to the cabin in the middle of the afternoon with several thunderstorms moving through.
Elk, Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 13, 2018
Mallards diving, Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 13, 2018
Wilson's Warbler, Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 13, 2018
Elk, Sprague Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 13, 2018
Lava Cliffs, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO, Jul 13, 2018
Friday was our transition trip from the Rockies down into the middle of Denver. We got up early to make the trek over the mountains and into the eastern part of the park before the hordes of people showed up. On our way over the top we stopped at a few pull offs up at the highest elevations and turned up a few flyover Brown capped Rosy Finches (#1378) as well as my first Horned Larks of the trip. Once we were down on the east side our original plan of hiking the area around Bear Lake was scrubbed as the roadside signs showed the parking lot full prior to 7:30AM. We then went with our alternative plan of hiking around Sprague Lake. When we arrived to a rapidly filling parking lot but it was still somewhat active with a few birds around including some juvenile Red Crossbills (recorded but unable to determine type), some diving Mallards and a few warblers. In addition two bull Elk decided to take a soak in the lake, which provided for some great photo ops.
Grasshopper Sparrow, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Lark Bunting, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Chestnut collared Longspur, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Chestnut collared Longspur, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Prairie Rattlesnake, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Lark Bunting, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
 Brewer's Sparrow, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Mountain Plover, Briggsville, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Pronghorn, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Common Nighthawk, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Western Meadowlark, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
I headed out bright and early from Denver on Saturday to make the drive north up to the Pawnee National Grasslands where I arrived right around six. The grasslands are a large remnant of a habitat that once existed over a large portion of the west but has largely disappeared since the arrival of Europeans. It is a unique habitat with a group of species that depend on it for survival. I had a few species I wanted to find during my time there and I eventually found them all (and more). I stayed in the western unit of the grasslands plus a few close by areas that are not part of the grasslands. Driving along the dirt roads through the grasslands (list 1) provided impressive numbers of Lark Buntings, Grasshopper Sparrows and Horned Larks plus a new mammal for me with several Pronghorn. The Pronghorn were incredibly fast when they decided to take off (the second fastest mammal on earth after the Cheetah). The first target species I found was a Ferruginous Hawk along the roadside and by the time I could get over to a spot to try for a photo, it was gone....species #1379. After about an hour and a half in the grasslands I drove a bit more east to some recently tilled farm fields were I found at least three Mountain Plovers (#1380). The birds were a bit distant but I was just happy to find them. I then decided to head back to the western unit and drive into the heart of the grasslands in search of a couple species of longspurs. Lots of the same species I had earlier but also a few large prairie dog towns which included several Burrowing Owls. I eventually ran across several Chestnut collard Longspurs (#1381) and a single McCown's Longspur (#1382). The Chestnut collared Longspurs but on quite a show with several males still in breeding plumage flying around and calling. The birds hardly ever settled down in the open for long. Unfortunately the McCown's Longspur showed only briefly and I was never able to get a photo of it (list 2, list 3). After spending the morning in and around the grasslands I started the long trek back to Denver for the rest of the day satisfied with having found all my targets (four life birds) plus a new mammal for me.
South Mesa Trail, CO, Jul 15, 2018
Lazuli Bunting, South Mesa Trail, CO, Jul 15, 2018
White throated Swift, South Mesa Trail, CO, Jul 15, 2018
Spotted Towhee, South Mesa Trail, CO, Jul 15, 2018
Long billed Dowitcher, Walden Pond Wildlife Habitat, Co, Jul 15, 2018
House Wren, Walden Pond Wildlife Habitat, Co, Jul 15, 2018
On the last full day of the trip I headed northwest out of Denver to the South Mesa Trail near El Dorado Canyon in Boulder. Although I arrived early the park was already rapidly filling up but there were several trails so I was still able to find some good stuff. I added a number of new species for the trip during my three hours there but no more life birds. The day started out with a mix of sun and clouds but the clouds quickly won out and a cool breeze kicked up. After my time there I wandered around the nearby area as I dodged occasional rain showers. I stopped briefly at Baseline Reservoir and the Valmont Reservoir overlook at Legion Park once again adding more species for the trip. My final stop was an hour and half spent at the Walden Ponds Wildlife Habitat which is a series of ponds and marshes harboring a nice cross section of birds including a pair of Long billed Dowitchers. I thankfully made it back to the car just as the skies opened up once again. As the rain didn't seem to be letting up at all I called it a day and headed back to Denver.  On our last day in Denver we stayed mostly in the city visiting a few spots before making a mid afternoon stop at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal NWR, which was fairly quiet during the heat of the afternoon.

Overall for the trip I found a total of 142 species including eleven life birds bringing my world total to 1382.  Among the 142 species were eight species of warbler (more details on those can be found at the following: Colorado warblers