Sunday, January 7, 2018

Record breaking cold for the first week of January

Lapland Longspur, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 1, 2018
Lapland Longspur, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 1, 2018
Northern Harrier, Aqua Vitae Rd, Hadley, MA, Jan 1, 2018
American Tree Sparrow, Aqua Vitae Rd, Hadley, MA, Jan 1, 2018
Horned lark, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Jan 1, 2018
The new year brought a continuation of our record breaking cold spell.  So many records have fallen I will just mention a few....several record low temps during the last several days, the longest stretch since the 1940's of high temperatures below 20 degrees (a full week) and some of the lowest high temperatures on multiple dates.

On New Years day I got up before the sun was up and was greeted by temperatures outside of -10.  The first bird of the year was a Great Horned Owl hooting away at home as I went out the door.  I then headed over to Arcadia to do a little owling and turned up a Short eared Owl, four Great Horned Owls and an Eastern Screech Owl.  I stayed at Arcadia for a bit as the sun rose before heading to numerous stops on either side of the river in search of new birds for the year.  Other highlights included the continued Red headed Woodpecker at Arcadia, a Lapland Longspur in the Honey Pot and a Swamp Sparrow along Aqua Vitae Rd.  A total of 49 species for the first day of the year...not too bad.
Fox Sparrow (photo with iPhone through binculars), Belchertown, MA, Jan 2, 2018
Northern Harrier, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Jan 2, 2018
On the second day of the year I once again headed over to areas on either side of the river with a chilly (-14 degrees) start in the East Meadows where I tried to find some unusual stuff but overall struck out in that area.  I then headed over to Arcadia where the bird of the day awaited me, a Yellow rumped Warbler.  Not what I was expecting to find on such a brutally cold morning but it was a nice surprise.  I initially heard the bird calling near the parking lot at Arcadia from an area near the house there.  The bird then flew and continued to call as it disappeared to the south.  I tried to relocate in the area I last heard it but I could not turn it back up until I was heading back to my car and heard it once again in flight and tried desperately to get my phone out to get a recording but I was not quick enough to capture it.  I will try to find it on another day in the near future.  Amazing that this bird is still around despite our record setting cold spell.  The other unusual species for the day was a Fox Sparrow that was found yesterday by Aidan and Devin at a private residence in Belchertown.
The morning out and about brought the year total up to 57.
Dawn in the East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Jan 3, 2018
I had a brief amount of time to look for stuff on my way to work on the third but didn't have anything too noteworthy although the sunrise was spectacular.
Winsor Dam at the beginning of the storm, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 4, 2018
A major snow storm came in on the 4th and continued throughout the day with heavy snow and strong winds.  On my way home before it got too bad I found a Brown headed Cowbird among the starlings at a farm in Hadley and a Red breasted Merganser with four Common Mergansers at Winsor Dam.  I was surprised to find any birds given the strong winds and low visibility.  The storm brought up around a foot of new snow and had  an even bigger impact to our east with more snow and major coastal flooding.  The storm was one of the stronger nor'easters with a central pressure that bottomed out around 960 mb (with a 45 mb drop in 24 hours....very impressive indeed).
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 6, 2018
The extreme cold continued through the end of the week into the weekend with bitter cold wind chills and high temps in the single digits and lows below zero once again.  I managed just a quick stop at the Coolidge Bridge on my way to work on Friday and the only ducks in the small bit of open water were a few Common Mergansers.  After work on Saturday I made a variety of stops on my way home turning up a few decent birds despite the poor conditions including an American Kestrel along South Maple St in Hadley and a White winged Scoter at Winsor Dam.  The amount of available open water in the area continues to rapidly shrink which will continue to concentrate the remaining species of waterfowl (and perhaps turn up more unusual species).
White crowned Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 7, 2018
White crowned Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 7, 2018
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 7, 2018
Sunday morning brought the peak of the cold weather with a morning low of -21 (yet another record and one of the coldest mornings I can ever remember around here)....we missed the all time record low for any day by just one degree...a record set back in the 1960's.  At least the wind had died down from the previous days but it was nonetheless just brutal to be outside for even a short period of time.  I hit a variety of locations on either side of the river through mid morning (by which time it had warmed to a balmy zero).  Highlights for the morning included an American Pipit at a farm in Hadley, a Fish Crow (also in Hadley), 130+ American Tree Sparrows, at least two White crowned Sparrows (probably three), 23 Song Sparrows and a male Ring necked Pheasant at the Honey Pot and 68 American Tree Sparrows and 38 Song Sparrows along Aqua Vitae Road.  I also stopped at Winsor Dam on my way home and the reservoir is nearly frozen over with just a few open spots way out from the dam.  Oddly Quabbin Park also continued to be closed for snow removal but the road has looked clear for days...not sure what is going on with it this year as it has never been closed in the past as much as it has been this year.  Overall for the first week of January I have found a total of 66 species in Hampshire County which is around average (surprising given how cold it has been).

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