Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Remnants of Hurricane Florence hit the area and produces ten species of shorebirds today plus night herons in the county

Killdeer, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Lesser Yellowlegs, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
With the arrival of the remnants of Hurricane Florence arriving overnight into this morning with heavy rain I had high hopes for something unusual being brought down by the weather.  I was up before dawn and could hear the rain pounding down as soon as I got up.  I headed over to North Hadley to be there at first light and was rewarded with nearly a hundred Killdeer as well as a few Least Sandpipers and a Pectoral Sandpiper.  The heavy rain would occasionally let up a little giving me an opportunity to scan the fields before it started pouring again.  I decided to try to cover a variety of areas in search of unusual birds and my next stop was down to the Honey Pot where I had to move a downed tree across the road before continuing down to the end of the town road.  Despite many great looking fields I only managed to turn up a couple Killdeer...always amazing how some fields look great to attract shorebirds but nothing shows up in them.  I then made my way across the river and thought of checking field in Hatfield but figured the mud would be too extreme to make it into many areas so I instead headed south checking out the Oxbow and the river down to the Holyoke Dam.  Unfortunately no unusual gulls or terns at any of the areas I checked (a Common Tern did show up in the Berkshires).  As the fields in North Hadley looked to be the most productive I headed back up there and found even more shorebirds then were present at first light with an impressive 134 Killdeer as well as five other species of shorebirds.  After about an hour of poking around different fields I headed back toward home but not before stopping briefly checking Winsor Dam (which was very quiet).
Pectoral Sandpipers, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Pectoral Sandpiper, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Wilson's Snipe, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Wilson's Snipe, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Semipalmated Plover, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Least Sandpiper, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
The end of rain, North Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
The heavy rain continued for the rest of the morning into the early afternoon and after getting some projects done at home I headed back over to North Hadley.  When I arrived it was still pouring but you could already see blue sky to the north (a very sharp drop off in areas with heavy rain and areas with no rain at all and clearing skies).  Although the numbers of Killdeer had dropped off a little the overall diversity was up and I had the best bird of the day when a Whimbrel flew over calling as it headed south.  I have only had this species four times previously in the county and almost always when the weather is rainy.  Besides the Whimbrel I had eight other species of shorebirds there bringing my total for the day to ten shorebird species.  It came really pay dividends to get out and bird when the weather is less than ideal.  The Whimbrel (and the night heron mentioned below) were both new species for my Hampshire County list this year (species #229 and 230) and puts me on a course to have a decent chance of breaking my highest total ever for the county which I set back in 2016 with 238 species.

Elsewhere more and more reports continue to trickle in of unusual species from southern locations more directly impacted by Hurricane Florence with loads of inland terns (including Sooty Terns), unusual inland gulls, a Sooty Shearwater, multiple jaegers and a Black capped Petrel...plus lots of other stuff I have previously mentioned the last several days.  More details on locations and dates of various rarities can be found at the Birdcast link to Hurricane Florence birds.
Green Heron, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Sep 17, 2018
Wood Duck, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Sep 17, 2018
I headed out bright and early yesterday in search of a reported Black crowned Night Heron at Lake Warner.  The person who found the bird was in a boat and the lake has many coves and inaccessible areas that make finding a bird there without a boat somewhat difficult.  I arrived for dawn in the hopes of seeing the bird flying to or from a roosting area.  I had four Great Egrets fly out and as they disappeared from view I had a Green Heron flyby heading in the opposite direction.  A couple minutes later around 6:20am a night heron flew past and although the views were brief I managed to note enough field marks to make me confident in calling the individual a Black crowned Night Heron (overall dark, stocky heron with only a slight foot projection beyond the tail).  I added a few Great Blue Herons and another Green Heron as I searched in vain for where the night heron landed.  After exhausting my options in relocating the bird and running short of time I headed home.  Later I saw a photo of the night heron the women saw and several people pointed out the photos looked a lot like a juvenile Yellow crowned Night Heron instead of the more expected Black crowned Night Heron.  Further review and the addition of another photo confirmed suspicions that the bird did indeed appear to be an extremely rare for the area Yellow crowned Night Heron.  A link to the eBird report I created for the report (with photos) can be found at the following link:  YCNH eBird report

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