Sunday, March 31, 2019

March ends with warm weather and an influx of early migrants

Palm Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Mar 31, 2019
Wood Duck, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Mar 31, 2019
Hooded Mergansers, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Mar 31, 2019
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Mar 31, 2019
Rusty Blackbirds, Jabish Canal, Belchertown, MA, Mar 30, 2019
Fox Sparrow, Jabish Canal, Belchertown, MA, Mar 30, 2019
The last couple days have really felt like spring with temperatures reaching 70 yesterday and getting up to the low 60’s today before a cold front arrived midday with heavy rain. The southerly winds that brought us our warmest days of the season so far also brought in an influx of new migrants with several notable sightings. I got out a bit yesterday before spending the majority of the day around the house catching up on yard work. My stops in the morning yesterday included Lake Wallace, Quabbin Park, and Jabish Canal.  Highlights included nine species of waterfowl overall, a Yellow bellied Sapsucker and two Winter Wrens at Quabbin Park, two American Tree Sparrows (one singing), a Fox Sparrow and eleven Rusty Blackbirds along the Jabish Canal.  The afternoon around the house while doing yard work produced my second ever sighting of Fish Crow for the yard as well as a Red shouldered among some 33 species over the course of the day.  It was nice to have a warm day after another long winter. 

Today started out warm and breezy with lows in the mid 50's and I was out before dawn to see what the overnight southerly winds had brought in.  I started my day at Lake Wallace where I had a single Virginia Rail sounding off a few times before the sun was up.  My next stop was over to Winsor Dam where I arrived a bit after nine and noticed a large group of gulls on the water and quickly scanned them and noticed a relatively small dark backed gull among the Herring and Ring billed Gulls...a Lesser Black backed Gull!  I immediately got out and set up the scope and the birds all flushed up as a Bald Eagle made a pass across the reservoir.  The birds circled around and then almost all headed off to the southeast...damn eagle!  I took a few shots of the flock as they milled overhead but I was unable to pick out the LBBG among them after the fact.  The dam also featured a Double crested Cormorant and a singing Field Sparrow.  I then went into Quabbin Park which had a somewhat late flyover Snow Bunting and two Fish Crows plus an obvious influx of Turkey Vultures, Eastern Phoebes and American Robins with decent numbers at all my stops.  I then spent some more time at the dam to see what was moving on the strong southerly winds and had lots of flybys including my first Pine Warbler of the season (a species that was a bit overdue).  I hoped to turn up an early Palm Warbler at my stops this morning but I struck out, at least until I got home.  I headed out to do some yard work and came across a group of three Palm Warblers together..very unusual for late March!  The yard also produced another Pine Warbler.  More details on the warblers can be found at the following link.
Dark eyed Juncos, Home, Belchertown, MA, Mar 30, 2019 (ignore the date, forgot to change it when I put the camera out)
 Gray Squirrel with white tipped tail, Home, Belchertown, MA, Mar 30, 2019
I took advantage of the warm weather yesterday and tried to get the water feature up and running.  Unfortunately the vast majority of the water left in the pond was frozen solid.  I tried to melt it out but it was just not worth the effort.  I decided to set up the motion camera on the water to see if anything showed up and I managed to catch four species using it by the end of the day including Dark eyed Junco, Black capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse and Song Sparrow.  I tried again today but the large block of ice in the water reservoir was still in place with little melting having occurred overnight...hopefully it will melt enough this week to get the pump in and the water circulating.  Another notable sighting in the yard was a Gray Squirrel with a white tipped tail that showed up.  I got a few photos through the window before it disappeared.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Cruise to eastern Caribbean

Saint Lucia Warbler, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Saint Lucia Oriole, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Gray Trembler, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Saint Lucia Black Finch, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Saint Lucia Parrot, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Brown Booby, offshore St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Central and southern mountains, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Mount Gimie, Millet Nature Reserve, St. Lucia, Mar 12, 2019
Back from a successful trip down to the eastern Caribbean on a week long cruise out of San Juan hitting several islands including Saint Lucia, Barbados, Antigua, Saint Thomas and Tortola. We had an early flight out at 6AM on Sunday the 10th just as a snowstorm was arriving. It started snowing just before we left but we got out before getting delayed. We arrived into San Juan around ten and then headed to the ship to start enjoying the warm temperatures. The first full day was an at sea day which was mainly spent reading and relaxing but I did manage to find a few birds including a few White tailed Tropicbirds and Magnificent Frigatebirds as we headed southeast from San Juan toward our first destination of the trip, Saint Lucia. We pulled into Saint Lucia around 7AM and I was one of the first off the ship at around 7:40 where I was suppose to meet up with my guide. On our way into port I picked up my first life bird for the trip with a number of Caribbean Martins flying appeared the stop I was most looking forward to was going to be great but then came the trouble for the day. I arranged to have a guide for the day to track down all the endemics for the island including my main target, Saint Lucia Warbler. When I contacted my original guide a few weeks before the trip he had a change of plans and would be out of the country so he arranged another guide for me and assured me he would be there. I walked all around the area near the port for about 45 minutes with no luck finding him. I had a phone number for him but when I was able to make a call to him it was the wrong number and I could not reach the guide. I tried one more time before finally deciding that the prearranged guide was not going to show so I hired a taxi to take me into the mountains to the Millet Nature Reserve. We arrived there around 9:20 and spent the next three hours on the trails where I managed to pick up all my remaining target birds including Saint Lucia Oriole, Saint Lucia Warbler, Gray Trembler (near endemic, found on one other island), Saint Lucia Parrot (heard several times and seen well but distantly once), Saint Lucia Black Finch plus the local subspecies of Lesser Antillean Pewee.  There were a number of coconut feeders along the trails that attracted lots of Lesser Antillean Bullfinches as well as St. Lucia Black Finch, Gray Tremblers and Pearly eyed Thrashers...this was the first time I have ever seen this type of feeder in all my travels! Despite the snafu with my guide it was nice to finally make it to a location I have talked about going to for years. As we sailed out of Saint Lucia the ship was joined by first two, then three and finally four Brown Boobies.  More details on the search for St. Lucia Warbler and other warblers seen on the trip can be found at the follow:  Warblers during eastern Caribbean cruise.
Laughing Gull, offshore Barbados, Mar 13, 2019
Barbados from ship as we left, Mar 13, 2019
The next stop was to Barbados with the day spent with some morning snorkeling and the afternoon at the beach. Not much for birding all day but did have a group of parakeets fly over the beach as well as a few sightings of the endemic Barbados Bullfinch.
Magnificent Frigatebird, St. John's harbor, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019 
Prairie Warbler, McKinnon's Salt Pond, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Yellow Warbler, McKinnon's Salt Pond, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Carib Grackle, McKinnon's Salt Pond, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Little Blue Heron, McKinnon's Salt Pond, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Green throated Carib, Fort James Beach to McKinnon's Salt Pond area, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Bananaquit, Fort James Beach to McKinnon's Salt Pond area, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Common Ground Dove, Fort James Beach to McKinnon's Salt Pond area, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
Fort James looking toward harbor entrance, Antigua, Mar 14, 2019
On Thursday we stopped in Antigua and despite my best efforts before the trip to figure out a way over to nearby Barbuda to see the endemic Barbuda Warbler there was just no way to do it in the time we had in port. I will have to make a specific trip down at some point to finally catch up with the bird. We headed to the beach just a short distance from the port and it was near enough to McKinnon’s Salt Ponds for me to make the walk over to it. I spent a good portion of the day walking along the roads and paths between the old fort and the salt ponds and had a nice selection of birds including an unusual for the island Prairie Warbler. I had multiple species either building nests or carrying nest material including White crowned Pigeon, Carib Grackle and Lesser Antillean Bullfinch. Unfortunately some road work around the main part of the pond kept the area closed I was still able to view a portion of the pond and it produced a nice selection of waders and shorebirds.
Sunset, offshore St Thomas, USVI, Mar 15, 2019
The next stop was to St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands where we had a tour consisting of another day of snorkeling. Certainly not a birding day but some great snorkeling with tons of tropical fish plus turtles and octopus on our private tour. I did see a few birds along the way but nothing too unusual.
Brown Boobies, Roadtown harbor, Tortola, BVI, Mar 16, 2019
Sunset, offshore Tortola, BVI, Mar 16, 2019
The final stop of the cruise was to Tortola in the British Virgin Islands and we did a kayak tour where we spent three hours out in the sun exploring a mangrove area and a nearby bay. The damage left from the hurricane was quite evident on this island as well but the mangroves seem to be slowly coming back. Not too much for birds but a couple of American Oystercatchers were nice to see in addition to a handful of waders.  We returned to San Juan on Sunday the 17th bright and early and then it was off to the airport for the flight back home.

Overall for the trip I had a total of 63 species with seven of those being life birds (Caribbean Martin, St. Lucia Oriole, St. Lucia Warbler, Gray Trembler, St. Lucia Parrot, St. Lucia Black Finch and Rose ringed Parakeet).

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Lots of new arrivals the last few days as spring arrives

Greater White fronted Goose, North Hadley, MA, Mar 19, 2019
Yellow rumped Warbler 'myrtle', East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Mar 20, 2019
Carolina Wren with nest material, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Mar 20, 2019
Wood Duck, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Mar 20, 2019
Northern Pintails, Hadley, MA, Mar 20, 2019
Snow Goose, Amherst, MA, Mar 20, 2019
After getting back from the Caribbean last Sunday (more on that in a later post) I have spent the last few days catching up with newly arrived migrants with waterfowl being the main focus.  It has certainly felt more spring like compared to the weather when I left in the early part of March (but still not as nice as the tropics!).  I have seen a total of 17 species of waterfowl since returning north with several of those new for me for the year including Greater White fronted Geese, Gadwall, American Wigeon, Green winged Teal, Ring necked Duck and Lesser Scaup with most found along the Connecticut River or in nearby fields.  Other early migrants have also started arriving including Killdeer, Tree Swallows, Fox Sparrows, American Woodcock, Rusty Blackbirds and Wilson's Snipe.  Red winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles have also arrived in large numbers with flocks of several hundred around.  In addition to all the new arrivals I found the overwintering Yellow rumped Warbler still surviving in the East Meadows plus a pair of Carolina Wrens gathering nest material.
Bobcat, Home, Belchertown, MA, Feb 22, 2019
Mink, Home, Belchertown, MA, Mar 5, 2019
Raccoon, Home, Belchertown, MA, Mar 12, 2019
White tailed Deer, Home, Belchertown, MA, Mar 13, 2019
Brown Creeper, Home, Belchertown, MA, Mar 17, 2019
Black capped Chickadee with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Mar 5, 2019
I have also caught a number of notables on my game cameras at home including the continued Bobcat, a group of White tailed Deer (largest group I have yet had on the cameras), Raccoons and a Mink plus a Brown Creeper still coming to a suet feeder and banded Black capped Chickadees.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

A cold and snowy first week of March

Red shouldered Hawk, Belchertown, MA, Mar 7, 2019
Barred Owl, Hadley, MA, Mat 7, 2019
Jabish Brook after the snow, Belchertown, MA, Mar 4, 2019
Yellow rumped Warbler, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Mar 1, 2019
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Mar 1, 2019
The first week of March has come to an end and it has been quite winter like with several inches of snow over the weekend into Monday followed by below average temperatures for the remainder of the week (highs in the low to mid 20's and lows in the single digits the last couple days).  I have not been out too much so have not seen too much but have had a few decent birds including the overwintering Yellow rumped Warbler in the East Meadows, a Red shouldered Hawk at the Stop and Shop in Belchertown and the continued incursion of Barred Owls in many areas.  Waterfowl numbers continue to be low but I expect that to change over the next week or two as more bodies of water start to thaw out.  Until the thaw comes I'm ready to go back to the tropics!