Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Birding the last couple days of April and my totals for the month


Lesser Yellowlegs, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 30, 2019
Mute Swan, Lake Warner, Hadley,  MA, Apr 30, 2019 (iPhone shot through binoculars)
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 30, 2019
The final day of the month started off as so many others have with rain showers and gloomy conditions.  I started the day at Winsor Dam where I hoped to find some birds brought down by the rain but didn't have too much luck there beyond a few Bufflehead.  I had some errands to run in Hadley so I headed over that way with stops at Lake Warner and the rail trail in Amherst with highlights including a Red breasted Merganser with Common Mergansers at Lake Warner and my first Common Yellowthroat and Yellow Warbler along the rail trail as well as both species of yellowlegs.  I also made a run through Quabbin Park but didn't find anything too unusual but there were still some birds singing despite the conditions.  An early afternoon stop back at Winsor Dam found a few notable waterfowl species almost certainly brought down by the weather including a Long tailed Duck and two White winged Scoters as well as more Bufflehead.  There were also masses of swallows feeding low over the water but I couldn't find anything unusual among the gathering.
Orange crowned Warbler, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Apr 29, 2019
Orange crowned Warbler, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Apr 29, 2019
Chipping Sparrow, Covey WMA, Belchertown, MA, Apr 29, 2019
Eastern Phoebe, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 29, 2019
Yesterday provided a rare respite from the recent rainy, cool weather and I took advantage of it by hitting a number of spots during the morning. Although it was sunny to start it was also cold with a low of 30 degrees but the sun warmed things up a bit but the high temperatures never got out of the 50's.  I started my morning off at UMASS.  I found my first Wood Thrush for the year but it was otherwise rather quiet and I was on my way back to my car when I heard an odd chip note that sounded interesting. I tracked down the call and found an Orange crowned Warbler! Orange crowned Warblers can be tough to track down in western Massachusetts and are more likely to be found in the late fall than in the spring.  More details on the warbler can be found at the following link: Orange crowned Warbler.  After getting my fill of the warbler I headed over to the nearby rail trail in Amherst. The rail trail turned up my first Northern Parula and Warbling Vireo for the year in Hampshire County.  Without lots of activity along the rail trail I headed back east to Quabbin Park where I had a total of 44 species but nothing too unexpected.  Overall for the morning I had my first double digit count of warblers for the year in the county so far...just a taste of what is soon to arrive.  A more detailed look at warblers for the month can be found at the following link:April warblers.

Despite the month being way above average for rainfall (nearly setting the all time record for the month) the temperatures were near or above normal until the last week of the month and this certainly allowed for some migrants to move in, carried north via the southerly winds.

The month produced my largest April total in Hampshire County ever with a total of 151 species with a nice mix of early arriving migrants as well as a number of rarities.  Taking a look at the last five years of data (thanks to eBird mobile) not only has the month featured an above normal number of species, the year to date totals are also above normal.

April species in Hampshire County
2019  -151
2018  -131
2017  -140
2016  -131
2015  -120

Year to date totals -Hampshire County
2019  -166
2018  -147
2017  -156
2016  -158
2015  -148
Bobcat, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 28, 2019
Bobcat, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 26, 2019
Black Bear, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 26, 2019
Yellow rumped Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 25, 2019
Ruby throated Hummingbird, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 30, 2019
The cameras around the house continue to produce some great stuff (both videos and still photos) with multiple mammals around including quite a few captures of the Bobcat.  The two active Hooded Merganser nests both have cameras set up to capture the ducklings when they fledge from the boxes.  I finally had to stop filling my final suet feeder after a bear made a visit a few night ago...until next year!  The water feature camera and the hummingbird feeder camera should continue to produce throughout the year until fall.

Links to videos below:
Porcupine video
Bobcat video
Bobcat video #2
Bobcat video #3
Bobcat video #4
Raccoon video

Friday, April 26, 2019

Glossy Ibis and an early American Redstart yesterday and then rain today

Glossy Ibis, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2019
Glossy Ibis, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2019
Hairy Woodpecker, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2019
Black and White Warbler, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2019
Great Blue Heron, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 25, 2019
I managed to get a few hours off in the morning yesterday for my birthday before going into work and I enjoyed a productive morning that started off a bit chilly (36 degrees) but warmed up nicely once the sun came up.  I started off my morning at Winsor Dam where I had at least two Eastern Whip Poor Wills calling.  My next stop was over to the rail trail in Amherst going from Station Road up to Hop Brook.  The best birds were waiting for me up at the Hop Brook marsh where I heard a Virginia Rail calling as I arrived and as I scanned the marsh I quickly found a single Glossy Ibis...a quite rare species in Hampshire County.  I have only had sightings of the species on five other occasions in the county before yesterday at the following locations and dates:

1 on Apr 22, 2004 at Arcadia
3 on Apr 18-25, 2013 at Hop Brook in Amherst
5 on Apr 15, 2014 along Aqua Vitae Rd in Hadley
1 on Jun 28, 2016 at Arcadia
2 on Jul 31, 2017 at Arcadia

I watched the ibis for several minutes as it fed and actually called once as some geese were flying around near it.  I texted a number of people to see if they were available to come see the rarity for themselves.  The bird was still there when I left but people were unfortunately unable to relocate it later in the morning.  Another unusual bird at the marsh was a Sora that called a couple times as I was admiring the ibis.
American Redstart, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 26, 2019
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 25, 2019
I then headed back toward home to check out Quabbin Park for about an hour and a half.  The best sighting was an early male American Redstart (the record beats from previous earliest date a few days...my old record was April 29 in 2017).  Lots of other migrants around with high counts of Blue gray Gnatcatchers, Chipping Sparrows, Eastern Towhees and Black and White Warblers (actually a drop in numbers of these species from April 24 but still a good morning).  I made a few other stops on my way into work but didn't find anything too unusual.  The month is still shaping up to be one of the best every for overall number of species and rarities...I'll review it all in detail once the month ends.
Bufflehead, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 26, 2019
Today has featured rain most of the day with occasional downpours and some thunderstorms.  I stopped along Aqua Vitae Road on my way home and although the area looks perfect for shorebirds I once again came up empty in that department.  A stop at Winsor Dam turned up some Bufflehead but nothing else too unusual although a Red breasted Merganser and some Bonaparte's Gulls were reported later.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Third week of April


Blue gray Gnatcatcher, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 21, 2019
Black and White Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 21, 2019
Eastern Towhee, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 21, 2019
Solitary Sandpiper, Belchertown, MA, Apr 18, 2019
The last week has featured an impressive arrival of early migrants and some unusual species thanks mainly to multiple days of sustained southerly winds and occasional rain.  Prior to today notables have included Spotted Sandpipers, Bonaparte's Gull, both scaup and Ruddy Duck on April 15th, Common Gallinule and Marsh Wren on April 16th, a Solitary Sandpiper in Belchertown on April 18th, a Chimney Swift in Northampton on April 19th and a Red Crossbill yesterday at Quabbin Park.  I figured with more strong southerly winds overnight that this morning would feature more migrants showing up and I was right.  I started off early at Winsor Dam where I had a trilling Eastern Screech Owl and my first Eastern Whip Poor Will of the year.  I then headed over to Lake Wallace mainly in search of marsh birds but did not find anything unusual.  I was thinking of heading over to Hadley but instead decided to stick closer to home with a visit to Quabbin Park.  Many notables around the park including at least a dozen Yellow bellied Sapsuckers, four Blue headed Vireos, two House Wrens, at least 14 Blue gray Gnatcatchers, nearly fifty Chipping Sparrows (actually less today than yesterday when I almost 90 there), 30+ Eastern Towhee and half a dozen species of warblers including my first Black and White Warblers and two early Black throated Green Warblers.  More specifics on warblers for the past week can be found at warblers for the third week in April.

To illustrate how good it has been this month (and year) so far for both early migrants and rarities in the county I looked at my eBird data for the last few years and found that so far this month I have had 125 species which is 12 ahead of my previous best year by the third week of April.  For the year I have 145 species so far with the average for the last four years being 130 (with the previous best YTD total being 133).  Certainly above average all around even without trying for every rarity that has shown up.
Eggs in duck box #2, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 21, 2019
Palm Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 21, 2019
Lots of activity at home too with both migrants and nesting species around.  The second duck box now has even more eggs and the first box has a full clutch with the Hooded Merganser sitting on the eggs.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

More unusual stuff today including Common Gallinule and Marsh Wren

Common Gallinule, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 16, 2019
Common Gallinule, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 16, 2019
Blue winged Teal, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 16, 2019
Blue winged Teal, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 16, 2019
Canada Goose with extensive white on neck, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 16, 2019
After the last few days of great stuff I didn't think today would turn up many more but it did.  I saw a post late in the evening yesterday about a Common Gallinule seen late in the day at Great Pond.  With the rain yesterday and the flooding associated with it I was not sure it would be worth a trip over there as access can be tough when it is wet and muddy.  However with strong northwest winds overnight and into today I hoped the area would be dry enough to access so I gave it a try.  The area near Great Pond was flooded but accessible on foot so I hiked my way in and found the Common Gallinule fairly quickly and it showed well for several minutes before it disappeared into the phragmites.  Common Gallinule is quite rare around here and I have had only a handful of records including another seen at Great Pond in December last year) As the gallinule disappeared I noticed a group of four Blue winged Teal (three males and a female)...a species that can be tough to find around here sometimes but this spring has been a good one for them.  There was a smattering of other waterfowl around including a Canada Goose with extensive white on its neck.  I headed back toward home after my time in Hatfield and stopped at a number of flooded fields in search of waterfowl and shorebirds but I didn't find too much.  The wind was a bit too strong to try to turn up many passerines so I didn't try too hard. 
Marsh Wren, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Apr 16, 2019
Marsh Wren, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Apr 16, 2019
Marsh Wren, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Apr 16, 2019
After getting home and doing stuff around the house I got a text from Jonathan about a Marsh Wren he found in a small marsh area at UMASS (the exact same spot I had one on September 30th last year).  I had to run a few errands over in Hadley so I decided to swing by UMASS on my way through and had the Marsh Wren right away.  Marsh Wren is a fairly uncommon species in the Hampshire County with most records from late summer into fall..in fact this is my first spring record ever in the county.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Pre dawn thunderstorms brings down some migrants

Ruddy Duck, Beaver Lake, Ware, MA, Apr 15, 2019
 Lesser Scaup, Beaver Lake, Ware, MA, Apr 15, 2019
Greater Scaup and Lesser Scaup, Beaver Lake, Ware, MA, Apr 15, 2019
Spotted Sandpipers, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 15, 2019
A round of heavy showers and thunderstorms rolled in before dawn this morning and brought a number of species to the area.  The worst of the storms finally ended a bit after 6:30 and I immediately headed over to Winsor Dam where I had three early Spotted Sandpipers as well as a single Bonaparte's Gull among the more common gulls.  I then stopped over to Beaver Lake and despite an increase in the rain once again I turned up a Greater Scaup and Lesser Scaup together giving a nice side by side comparison of these very similar species.  I then made a return trip to Winsor Dam where I had a pair of Blue winged Teal in with a small group of Black Ducks.  I have only had Blue winged Teal anywhere at Quabbin two times before this morning and today was the first time I have seen it at Winsor Dam...so quite a rarity for me at Quabbin.  After dropping off some groceries at home I headed back once again to the dam and not long after arriving saw a post from Aaron about a Ruddy Duck he found at Beaver Lake when he went to see the scaup I had seen there earlier.  I headed right over to Beaver Lake and quickly found the Ruddy Duck as well as the original scaup I had there plus a male Lesser Scaup that had joined the group.  This morning added a number of new migrants. continuing the activity of the last few days thanks to southerly winds and occasional bouts of rain. 


Sunday, April 14, 2019

End of the second week of April brings in more migrants

Palm Warbler 'yellow', rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 14, 2019
Yellow rumped Warbler 'myrtle', rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 14, 2019
Song Sparrow, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 14, 2019
Dawn fog over marsh, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 14, 2019
After the strong southerly winds yesterday and overnight into today there was a decent influx of migrants with the most noticeable being a large increase in the numbers of Ruby crowned Kinglets, Chipping Sparrows, Swamp Sparrows, Palm Warbler, Pine Warblers and Yellow rumped Warblers....these species were present almost everywhere I went today. I spent a few hours in the morning along the rail trail in Amherst before heading back home. A very pleasant morning with no wind and decent amounts of activity and lots of bird song.  The morning started off foggy but the sun eventually burned through for a time before more clouds moved in.  Besides the above mentioned species I had some other highlights including a Hooded Merganser that flew into a nest box, a few woodcocks early on, loads of Tree Swallows and a single Rusty Blackbird.  Most of the rest of the day was spent around the house where I had my first Broad winged Hawk and Barn Swallow of the year as well as a Virginia Rail calling sporadically late in the afternoon.
Wild Turkeys, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 13, 2019
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 13, 2019
Yesterday I had hopes for the rain that came in overnight to ground some migrants and with that in mind I started off the morning at Quabbin but after multiple stops there were no obvious storm related birds so I decided to make a trip across the river to Great Pond to see if I could find some more of the unusual species that have shown up there lately. A quick stop turned up the continued Dunlin and Pectoral Sandpiper but I didn’t see the Sandhill Crane but I didn't spend much time looking. The rain finally stopped for the day so I wanted to try again for grounded birds around Quabbin but found none. Overall the day eventually turned out to be quite pleasant and the warmest day (low 70’s) we have had here so far for the year.
Hooded Merganser eggs in duck box #1, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 6, 2019 (no photos of the nest yesterday as she was in the box and I didn't want to disturb her)
Eggs in duck box #2, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 13, 2019
Pine Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 13, 2019
Yellow bellied Sapsucker, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 13, 2019
Fox Sparrow, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 13, 2019
At home two of the three duck boxes continue to have eggs with the first nest confirmed to be Hooded Mergansers and the second still unknown. I checked the boxes yesterday and found the female sitting on the eggs at the first box and three eggs in the second box. I have mounted cameras at the base of each nest and hope to capture video of the young leaving the nest. Last year I got still photos so hopefully the attempt at video will be successful. I have already captured video of the female flying into the nest (link to video).  The water feature has only been open for a week but I have already captured two new species: a Yellow bellied Sapsucker and a Fox Sparrow (species #45 and #46 overall for the water feature).  The Pine Warblers continue around the house and I managed to get some photos of one that came down from the tree tops for a brief time.

Friday, April 5, 2019

A Mallard x Northern Pintail hybrid plus lots of other waterfowl today and other sightings for the beginning of April

Mallard x Northern Pintail hybrird, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 5, 2019
Mallard x Northern Pintail hybrird, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 5, 2019
Mallard x Northern Pintail hybrird, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 5, 2019
Mallard x Northern Pintail hybrird, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 5, 2019
Northern Shoveler, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 5, 2019
Gadwall (pair), Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Apr 5, 2019
Red breasted Merganser, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Apr 5, 2019
I headed out this morning specifically looking for waterfowl and I was not disappointed!  I started off the frosty morning up at Great Pond in Hatfield which has been producing some good stuff lately (but can be tough to access when the roads are muddy).  I started to get good stuff right away with at least three Gadwall, a continued male Northern Shoveler and loads of Green winged Teal, Wood Ducks, Mallards, Black Ducks and Canada Geese as well as a few Northern Pintails and Common Mergansers.  I then caught sight of a female Blue winged Teal (which disappeared before I could get a shot through the scope)...a fairly unusual species around here.  As I searched again for the teal I came across an unusual duck in with a group of Mallards that appeared to be a Mallard x Northern Pintail hybrid (a hybrid I have never seen before).  I was a really neat looking duck with a mix of traits of the two parent species.  I got quite a few digiscoped shots but none too close as I didn't want to spook the birds.  I tried again to relocate the teal but never was able to do so.  I continued exploring the pond and found several American Wigeon and some Ring necked Ducks further up in the pond..a total of a dozen species of waterfowl plus hybrids at just one stop.  Other notables around the pond included two Virginia Rails and a couple Wilson's Snipe.  I made a few stops after Great Pond including Pilgram Airport, the Oxbow, Lower Mill Pond, Winsor Dam and Lake Wallace.  The most productive spot was the dam where I had a Red breasted Merganser in among the Common Mergansers plus a Bufflehead and a Common Loon.  Overall for the morning I found a total of 16 species of waterfowl.
American Tree Sparrow, rail trail, Amherst, MA, Apr 2, 2019
Palm Warbler, Lake Wallace, Belchertown, MA, Apr 2, 2019
Pine Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 2, 2019
Canada Goose with extensive white on neck, Hadley, MA, Apr 1, 2019
Elsewhere for the first few days of the month I found a wide variety of birds as migration begins to pick up with more and more new species showing up.  Waterfowl have figured prominently as there migration starts to peak with a total of 18 species so far including an unusual Canada Goose (with an extensive white neck) I had one the first of April.  One of the more unusual sightings occurred yesterday when I had two flyby Sandhill Cranes at Winsor Dam.  I also came across several Palm Warblers, Pine Warblers, numerous sparrow species including a few singing Fox Sparrows and Rusty Blackbirds in several locations.  The first days also produced higher and higher numbers of a number of species including Tree Swallows, Eastern Phoebes and American Robins.
Pine Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Mar 31, 2019, 2019
Pine Warbler and Hairy Woodpecker, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 1, 2019
Downy Woodpecker, Pine Warbler and Tufted Titmouse, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 2, 2019
Pine Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 3, 2019
Black capped Chickadee with white spots on head, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 3, 2019
Chipping Sparrow and Pine Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 3, 2019
Pine Siskin and Pine Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 4, 2019
Pine Warblers, Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 4, 2019
Egg in duck box (second active nest), Home, Belchertown, MA, Apr 5, 2019
The cameras at the house continue to capture some great stuff as I have left some suet out and it has attracted some Pine Warblers as well as others including Pine Siskin and Chipping Sparrow (plus the other usual suspects).  I specifically have kept the same set up I used during the winter to try to capture a Pine Warbler showing up in spring at the feeders and I was quite successful. In addition the water feature started attracting birds even before I had it set up (uncovered it and tried to set it up a few days ago but it was still frozen).  As of today I have it up and running and look forward to seeing what it attracts.

A check of of two previously unusual duck boxes found a solitary egg in one so I know have two active boxes again this year.