Sunday, January 14, 2018

Second week of January brings some record warmth for the end of the period with several unusual species around

White winged Scoter, Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown, MA, Jan 8, 2018
Common Mergansers and White winged Scoter, Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown, MA, Jan 8, 2018
Horned Grebe, Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown, MA, Jan 8, 2018
Red winged Blackbird, Swift River, Belchertown, MA, Jan 8, 2018
Red winged Blackbirds, Swift River, Belchertown, MA, Jan 8, 2018
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 8, 2018
The second week of January started out a little warmer than the first week with highs reaching into the 20's after a morning low in the low teens...a near heat wave.  I decided to stay close to home on Monday with a predawn visit to Quabbin Gate 5 where I turned up a number of decent birds including a Northern Saw Whet Owl and seven species of waterfowl including 138 Mallards, 18 Black Ducks, the continued White winged Scoter, a pair of Common Goldeneyes, 7 Hooded Mergansers, 24 Common Mergansers and a single Horned Grebe.  After walking back back to the car I headed over to Winsor Dam where I had 74 Common Mergansers.  The vast majority of the area near the dam is frozen with the only large areas of open water out toward Gate 5.  I then hit a variety of spots south of Quabbin Park (which is still closed to traffic).  Highlights for the rest of the morning included a Wood Duck among more typical waterfowl in the few open areas of the Swift River plus a flock of 17 Red winged Blackbirds and a single Common Grackle also in the area of the Swift River.
White crowned Sparrows, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 9, 2018
White crowned Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 9, 2018
White crowned Sparrows, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 9, 2018
Song Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 9, 2018
Mute Swans, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Jan 9, 2018
Great Black backed Gull, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Jan 9, 2018
Tuesday I started off at Arcadia trying to relocate the Yellow rumped Warbler(s) I had there a few days ago but despite much effort I came up empty in that search (one and possibly two were seen the next day so they are still around).  All was not lost as my time looking for the warblers turned up other good stuff including a Hermit Thrush, a Gray Catbird and at least two Rusty Blackbirds (all new stuff for the year).  The sparrows at the Honey Pot where impressive once again with a total of at least 85 American Tree Sparrows, at least five White crowned Sparrows and 23 Song Sparrows.  After running a few errands I proceeded south to check out the Holyoke Dam where I had my first Great Black backed Gull of the year, an unusual for winter Ruby crowned Kinglet and 43 Common Goldeneyes plus a dozen Mute Swans  I also had a very interesting bird at the Holyoke Dam that might have been a Barrow's Goldeneye but the bird was in terrible light and I was never able to get a good enough view to confirm.  The overall shape certainly looked like a Barrow's Goldeneye but the birds flushed for some reason and when they settled back down I could not find the bird again so I assume it went further down river with a small group that didn't settle back on the water within my view.  Winsor Dam produced a single red breasted Merganser and the nearby fish hatchery produced a female Northern Pintail in among a group of Mallards.
Red breasted Merganser, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 10, 2018
Red breasted Mergansers, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 10, 2018
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 10, 2018
Wednesday started out cold but it warmed up to above freezing with mostly sunny skies.  I started the morning before dawn in Granby where I had a calling Barred Owl.  I then headed over to the south Quabbin area where I had a few decent birds including my first Common Loon of the year, the continued White winged Scoter as well as three Red breasted Mergansers (a male and two females)...all at Winsor Dam.  I actually had all three merganser species in view at once.  I tried to turn up some other new stuff along the Swift River but struck out on anything new.
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 12, 2018
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 12, 2018
On my way to work on Thursday I stopped at the Coolidge Bridge where a bit of open water has opened up and contained the largest gathering of waterfowl there so far this year but unfortunately there were no unusual species to be found.  While at work I heard about yet another Snowy Owl sighting in the area but I would have to wait to try to find it.  It has been the best season for Snowy Owls in quite awhile around here but unfortunately the less than ethical behavior of a number of people has resulted in the sightings not being publicized widely.

Friday dawned much warmer than normal with temperatures that started in the 40's and climbed into the 50's with strong winds and heavy rain later in the morning through the remainder of the day.  The temperature actually broke the record for the day topping out at 61 degrees (the previous record for the date was set just last year at 55 degrees).  Odd to have record cold on multiple days last week (including a near all time record low) and then have record warm temperatures.  The morning was quite foggy but I still had some good stuff nonetheless including a Snowy Owl that appeared briefly before disappearing back into the fog after apparently trying for Canada Geese.  Other notables included at least two White crowned Sparrows at the Honey Pot and a pair of Red breasted Mergansers at Winsor Dam.
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 14, 2018
Saturday was a very changeable day with another record high set for the day (59 degrees) in the morning before the temperatures crashed rapidly with the arrival of a cold front.  The front moved through with more wind and rain just before dawn as I was driving to work.  The temperature dropped from 58 degrees to 40 degrees in about five minutes...a very impressive drop in temps!  The rest of Saturday got progressively colder and windier as it got sunnier.  On Sunday the low bottomed out around ten with a slight breeze.  I tried my luck at Mitch's Way to catch up with a reported group of Yellow rumped Warblers but the flooding and ice made access to the location where they were reported impossible to reach.  All was not lost there as I had my first of the year Yellow bellied Sapsucker along the road.  I then ran through some farm fields in Hadley which were all quite quiet.  Before heading home I stopped at Winsor Dam to try to find some unusual waterfowl seen by Scott S. there yesterday but the wind made viewing a bit difficult.  I did manage to find a male Bufflehead but had no luck finding the red necked Grebe or the continued Red breasted Mergansers. The wind, rain and warmer temperatures of the last few days had cleared out almost all of the ice.

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