Monday, December 31, 2018

End of year wrap up and my highest total ever for species in Hampshire County

Wilson's Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 22, 2018
Common Gallinule (species #241 for 2018 in Hampshire County, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
Yet another year is now in the books and it was another great birding year for me.  I managed to break my Hampshire County record with a total of 241 species with two of those (Sanderling and Yellow crowned Night Heron) being new for me in the county (bringing my all time Hampshire County list to 295).  My previous attempts to maximize the number of species in the county ended with totals of either 238 or 237 on a few occasions so making it to 241 is a record I'm very unlikely to break.  A thank you to one and all who let me know of any rarity that showed up and gave me details.  The use of eBird made keeping track of all the species incredibly easy, plus it adds to a scientifically useful database that helps the birds.  I would highly encourage everyone to add their sightings and make your sightings count toward the many imperiled birds.

Overall for the year I had a total of 624 species.  Of those seen I found a total of 57 life birds split as follows: Costa Rica-6, Guatemala-40 and Colorado-11 brining my life total up to 1384.  This total goes up by two if you follow some different listing procedures with Chiriqui Yellowthroat in Costa Rica and Goldman's Warbler in Guatemala added in.  Although a vast amount of my time was spent relatively close to home a few trips took me further afield including Costa Rica in January, Guatemala in February, Florida in March and Colorado in July plus the beginning of another trip to Costa Rica starting at the very end of the year.  Warblers figured prominently into a few trips and a full summary of these colorful birds can be found at warblers 2018.

Next year promises to be another fun filled year with the year starting off in Costa Rica followed by a trip in late January-early February to Mexico, a quick getaway to Florida in February, a cruise to the Caribbean in March, a summer trip to Europe and who knows what else...stay tuned.

Below are a number of highlights from the past year in chronological order.
Lapland Longspur, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 1, 2018
White winged Scoter and Common Mergansers, Quabbin Gate 5, Belchertown, MA, Jan 8, 2018
White crowned Sparrows, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Jan 9, 2018
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Jan 12, 2018
January started out incredibly cold with record cold for the first week that made it feel like the arctic and froze out lots of open water.  The second week of the month produced record high temps with some flooding....a really odd mix with a near all time record low of -21 the first week and a record high of 61 by the end of the second week.
Black thighed Grosbeak, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 23, 2018
White nosed Coati, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 23, 2018
Baird's Trogon, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 21, 2018
Chiriqui Yellowthroat, San Vito Airport marshes, San Vito Costa Rica, Jan 18, 2018
Yellow throated Toucan (chestnut mandibled), Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 16, 2018
 Savegre Lodge, San Gerardo de Dota, Costa Rica, Jan 16, 2018
Sunset, Rio Magnolia Lodge, Costa Rica, Jan 21, 2018
In the middle of the month we took another trip down to Costa Rica (our 11th!) leaving here on the 15th and returning on the 25th.  It was another productive and relaxing trip with loads of birds (and other wildlife) including seven life bird during visits to San Gerardo de Dota, San Vito and the unbeatable Rio Magnolia Lodge.  I finally managed to catch up with the Chiriqui Yellowthroat which occurs only in a small portion of Costa Rica and adjacent Panama.
Snowy Owl, Northampton, MA, Jan 26, 2018
Once we returned from the tropics the end of January into February continued with typical winter weather with occasional cold snaps and some snow but nothing beyond the expected.  The Snowy Owls that started to show up at the end of 2017 continued into 2018 and I had a few sightings at different locations.
Pink headed Warbler, Unicornio Azul Lodge, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Fan tailed Warbler, La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
Goldman's Warbler, Todos Santos Regional Municipal Park, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
 Gray Silky Flycatchers, Finca el Pilar, Guatemala, Feb 10, 2018
Fuego Volcano (L) and Acatenango Volcano (R), La Reunion Resort, Guatemala, Feb 12, 2018
I made a solo trip down to Guatemala on Feb 8th for a focus tour (with Cayaya Birding) primarily looking for several species of warblers near the Mexican border including Crescent chested, Red faced, Goldman's, Fan tailed, Golden browed and Pink headed Warblers and managed to find them all as well lots of other good stuff including a total of 40 life birds.  A more detailed post regarding the various warblers can be found at the following link: Guatemala warblers.
Ross's Goose, East Hadley Rd, Hadley, MA, Feb 23, 2018
 Ross's Goose with neck wound, Russelville Rd, Hadley/Amherst, MA, Feb 24, 2018
Snow Goose (blue morph), Russelville Rd, Hadley/Amherst, MA, Feb 26, 2018
Northern Pintails, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Feb 24, 2018
Red shouldered Hawk, Quabbin Park, MA, Feb 23, 2018
Yellow rumped Warbler 'myrtle', Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Feb 21, 2018
Once I was back home in mid February the weather warmed to record levels and then stayed mainly above normal through the end of the month with a push of waterfowl late in the month that produced a number of early/unusual species including a Ross's Goose that stayed around for several days despite having a serious neck wound.  I ended the month with 88 species, my highest total ever for a February in the county.  The end of the month wrap up can be found here.
Canada Geese with neck tags (tagged in Greenland), Amherst, MA, Mar 3, 2018
Black Vultures, Lower Mill Pond, Easthampton, MA, Mar 10, 2018
Pine Warbler, Belchertown, MA, Mar 10, 2018
Palm Warbler 'western', Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Mar 25, 2018
Mink, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Mar 27, 2018
March unfortunately featured a return to more winter like conditions with cold weather and a parade of nor'easters which brought some very snowy and windy conditions to nearby areas (luckily we escaped the worst of the snow).  By the end of the month winter finally began to loosen its grip.  The highlights for the month included Cackling Goose, very early Palm and Pine Warblers, seven species of woodpeckers and Black Vultures.  As typical the waterfowl arrived in numbers during the month with some decent days and I again found a number of neck banded Canada Geese.  A wrap up of the month can be found at the following link.
Sanderlings and a Western Sandpiper, Melbourne Beach, FL, Mar 21, 2018
Wood Stork, Pelican Island NWR, FL, Mar 19, 2018
The middle of the month found us taking another trip to the south, this time to Florida.  We spent six days down in the Melbourne area and although the weather was nice and warm I got sick almost as soon as I got there and the flu like symptoms stayed with me through the end of the month.
Rusty Blackbird, Rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 3, 2018
American Robin with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 11, 2018
Eastern Bluebird, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Apr 17, 2018
Wilson in the snow, Covey WMA, Belchertown, MA, Apr 19, 2018
Eastern Phoebe with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 23, 2018
With the arrival of April the migrants really started moving as winter finally relented.  The first week of the month produced loads of birds with a total of 87 seen in just that week.  As typical the month featured a roller coaster of weather with warm weather followed by a return to cold with occasional snow.  I got the pond opened for the season and started getting birds right away including several banded during previous years.  A review of the month can be found at the full wrap up.
Blackburnian Warbler and Northern Parula, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 3, 2018
Brewster's Warbler, Sweet Alice Conservation Area, Amherst, MA, May 3, 2018
Red Fox kit, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 2, 2018
Black and White Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 5, 2018
Cattle Egret, Hadley, MA, May 7, 2018
Eastern Phoebe nest with eggs, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 14, 2018
Black throated Green Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 15, 2018
Cape May Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, May 16, 2018
Red Foxes with prey, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 21, 2018
Hooded Merganser chicks leaving nest box, Home, Belchertown, MA, May 3, 2018
The month I always look forward to the most finally arrived and it was a whirlwind of migrants moving in and setting up territories and others moving through to points further north.  In the yard the activity included one of my Hooded Merganser families dropping out of the nest box on the first of the month as well as a family of Red Foxes (additional info and photos here).  A decent push of migrants came in on May 3rd and included a number of notables including a Brewster's Warbler.  By the first week of the month notables included Cattle Egrets, White eyed Vireo and loads of other migrants.  The middle of the month brought the peak of migration and I took part in the annual Mass Audubon bird-a-thon on the 11th into the 12th and had an epic day on May 16th which produced a total of 29 species of warblers.  The third week of the month brought in even more migrants as many others were well along with the breeding season.  I took part in several bird surveys as the month came to an end including both of my Eastern Whip Poor Will surveys, the annual count at Kevin's farm and surveys on Prescott Peninsula.  A summary of the month can be found here: May wrap up.
Eastern Phoebe receiving leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Jun 7, 2018
Mourning Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Jun 8, 2018
Blue gray Gnatcatchers at nest, Quabbin Park, MA, Jun 13, 2018
House Wren with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Jun 15, 2018
Moose, Prescott Peninsula, New Salem, MA, Jun 30, 2018
June continued my bird surveys including my breeding bird survey from Belchertown down to the Connecticut line and more surveys on the Prescott Peninsula.  Lots of nesting activity both in the yard and in most every other area I visited for the month.  June also brought the crew from the Neighborhood Nestwatch back to the yard for the fourth year to color band certain target species.
American Coot, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jul 1, 2018
Eastern Bluebird eggs, Home, Belchertown, MA, Jul 6, 2018
Ruddy Turnstone, Hatfield, MA, Jul 22, 2018
Marsh Wren, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Jul 25, 2018
Eastern Bluebird nestlings, Home, Belchertown, MA, Jul 26, 2018
Black billed Magpie, Granb, CO, Jul 10, 2018
Chestnut collared Longspur, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Forest Canyon, Rocky Mountain NP, CO, Jul 13, 2018
Pronghorn, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
Lark Bunting, Pawnee National Grasslands, CO, Jul 14, 2018
The arrival of July always brings a reduction in song and finding new species is quite difficult but there are lots of freshly fledged birds out and about.  Nonetheless there were still birds to be found including two types of Red Crossbills on Prescott Peninsula.  I also had my first nesting of Eastern Bluebirds in the yard ever.  We made a trip out to Colorado from July 8-16, visiting Rocky Mountain NP and the Pawnee National Grasslands where I found a total of eleven life birds.  Certainly a beautiful part of the country during the summer.  The end of the month brought in a nice haul of shorebirds including my first ever Sanderling in Hampshire County plus Ruddy Turnstone and Short billed Dowitcher.  Other unusual species at the end of the month included American Coot, Least Bittern and Marsh Wren (all at Lake Wallace) to the birds above here.  After so many unusual or rare birds by the end of July I decided I may end up coming close to breaking my Hampshire County record for a single year so I decided it might be a good idea to try a little harder.
Upland Sandpiper, Hatfield, MA, Aug 2, 2018
Green Herons, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Aug 24, 2018
Snowy Egret, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Aug 2, 2018
August featured a variety of notables including a Snowy Egret at the Holyoke Dam, a big concentration of Green Herons (at least 37) at Lake Wallace, a few early migrant warblers and more shorebirds including Upland Sandpiper and Buff breasted Sandpiper among a total of 13 species of shorebird.
Yellow crowned Night Heron, Lake Warner. Hadley, MA, Sep 27, 2018
Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 23, 2018
Baird's Sandpiper, Hatfield, MA, Sep 1, 2018
Dickcissel, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 20, 2018
Philadelphia Vireo, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 22, 2018
Bobcat, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 27, 2018
The month of September was spectacular in Hampshire County with lots of migrants moving through producing my best September total ever in the county with 164 species!  The biggest highlight was a Yellow crowned Night Heron that showed up at Lake Warner and provided me with my second new county bird ever (becoming #295).  Other notables around included Baird's Sandpiper, Whimbrel and White rumped Sandpipers among fifteen species of shorebirds, a Black crowned Night Heron, a Yellow breasted Chat, Pine Siskins starting to move, several Dickcissels, Clay colored Sparrow and another Marsh Wren.  There were also a nice selection of warblers for the month with 27 species total including eight Connecticut Warblers.  The month also produced a new mammal for the yard when I captured a Bobcat on one of the game cameras.  Additional info from the month can be found at this link.
Evening Grosbeak, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Oct 28, 2018
Purple Finch, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 19, 2018
Brant, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 21, 2018
Black Scoters, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 21, 2018
White crowned Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Oct 11, 2018
Wilson, Belchertown, MA, Oct 10, 2018
Pectoral Sandpiper, Hadley, MA, Oct 8, 2018
October was cooler than normal but there were a number of lingering species nonetheless as well as a number of irruptives including continued high numbers of Purple Finches, increased numbers of Pine Siskins and Evening Grosbeaks.  The numbers and diversity of sparrows reached their peak as did waterfowl.  It was another record setting month for me with more species than I typically find...a summary of the can be found here.
Common Redpoll, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Nov 30, 2018
Northern Shrike, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 14, 2018
Rough legged Hawk, Hadley, MA, Nov 25, 2018
Cattle Egrets, Hadley, MA, Nov 3, 2018
Eastern Comma, Jabish Canal, Belchertown, MA, Nov 4, 2018
Palm Warbler 'yellow', Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Nov 9, 2018
Black capped Chickadee with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Nov 14, 2018
November started off rather average but then turned sharply colder with well below average temperatures and occasional bouts of snow.  The beginning of the month featured an incursion of Cattle Egrets with multiple individuals continuing through at least the first week and a half of the month.  The month continued the irruptives from the previous month with my first Common Redpoll in addition to the others mentioned previously.  November produced three new species for the year (the redpoll, Northern Shrike and Rough legged Hawk) bringing my total up to 239, beating my previous best year ever in the county.  The feeders went back up for good and my new set up continued to capture photos of banded birds, including three individual chickadees.
Common Gallinule, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
Barred Owl, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Dec 1, 2018
Snow Goose, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 14, 2018
Gray Catbird, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Dec 17, 2018
Yellow rumped Warbler 'myrtle', Aqua Vitae Rd, Hadley, MA, Dec 17, 2018
With the final month of the year came more cold weather with a few bouts of snow as well as a day of heavy rain and record warmth.  The month produced two new county birds for the year (White winged Crossbill and Common Gallinule) moving my year total up to 241...way beyond my best ever previous year record (238).  There were also a number of lingering species including a Yellow rumped Warbler (giving me at least one warbler species in the county for every month of the year..a new feat for me), Gray Catbird and Ruby crowned Kinglet.  The year for me finished down in Costa Rica with a late month visit that will last into the new year (more on that later).