Thursday, October 11, 2018

Fruitless search for a Nelson's Sparrow today and an update on devastating Hurricane Michael

White crowned Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Oct 11, 2018
Savannah Sparrow, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Oct 11, 2018
Wilson's Snipe, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Oct 11, 2018
Pectoral Sandpipers, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Oct 11, 2018
White rumped Sandpiper, North Hadley, MA, Oct 11, 2018
Semipalmated Sandpiper, North Hadley, MA, Oct 11, 2018
Today I went in search of a Nelson's Sparrow seen yesterday in the East Meadows but despite quite a bit of looking I came up empty but did have some other good stuff there including several species of sparrows and a few different shorebirds (full eBird list here)  The Nelson's Sparrow may still be in the area but it was not in the areas I checked.  After striking out on the sparrow I headed over for a brief visit to the Honey Pot before continuing north to check on some muddy fields in Hadley.  I found a nice selection of shorebirds there and ended the morning with seven species including three Semipalmated Sandpipers (late).

Hurricane Michael came ashore yesterday in the Florida panhandle at just below Category 5 strength with winds around 150-155 MPH and a pressure of 919 mb making it one of the strongest hurricanes (by wind speed and barometric pressure) to ever make landfall in the U.S. and the strongest storm ever to make landfall in the U.S. in October.  The storm continued moving off to the northeast and entered inland Georgia as a Category 3 storm.  It continues to move rapidly and will likely maintain tropical storm strength before making it back over the ocean in the mid Atlantic where it will regain some strength as it becomes an extratropical storm.  A historic storm to be sure and one that caused catastrophic damage..a hurricane chaser I follow fairly closely describes the area of Panama City as looking as if a nuke was dropped on the city and is some of the worst damage he has seen (and he has chased many storms all around the world).  As far as birds are concerned Birdcast has a page dedicated to the storm at the following link:  Hurricane Michael birding.  The only impact we should see here is some tropical downpours today associated with the storm as it passes off to our south.  Our mild stretch (80's yesterday and 70's today) will be coming to an end with much cooler temps starting tomorrow courtesy of a stiff northwest wind (with highs around 60).  We could also have our first frost on Sunday morning.  Hopefully the northerly winds will bring us our first big push of waterfowl.
Wilson in the sun, Oct 10, 2018
There is at least someone who will be happy with the change to cooler weather...he was dragging yesterday in the 80 degree weather.

Monday, October 8, 2018

More shorebirds and another hurricane


Pectoral Sandpiper, Hadley, MA, Oct 8, 2018
Pectoral Sandpiper, Hadley, MA, Oct 8, 2018
Greater Yellowlegs, Hadley, MA, Oct 8, 2018
White rumped Sandpiper, North Hadley, MA, Oct 8, 2018
We continue to enjoy some nice warm days with an occasionally cool day thrown in as we rapidly head into fall.  We enjoyed a warm day on Sunday and the forecast calls for warm (near 80) again on Tuesday and Wednesday before a cool down comes for the end of the week, likely proceeded by some rain around Thursday associated with what will remain of  Hurricane Michael (more on the hurricane below).  Today was another overcast and cool day with occasional drizzle/light rain.  I followed up on reports of shorebirds at a few fields in Hadley and found a total of half a dozen species (Killdeer, White rumped Sandpiper, Pectoral Sandpiper, Solitary Sandpiper, Greater Yellowlegs and Lesser Yellowlegs) but missed a Dunlin that was present yesterday (and apparently back again later today).  The numbers of Pectoral Sandpipers have continued to be impressive with 16 present in just one field.  Overall a total of ten shorebird species have been reported in just a couple flooded fields in the area in the last two day (besides those species mentioned above there have been reports of Least Sandpipers, Semipalmated Sandpipers and Wilson's Snipe).  The various fields also held some waterfowl including several hundred Canada Geese as well as a female Northern Pintail and a bunch of Mallards.  Hunting season starts tomorrow here so waterfowl will become a little harder to find in some of the fields where they are now.

The latest tropical system to form this hurricane season is Hurricane Michael which has rapidly progressed from a depression to a tropical storm to a hurricane despite less than optimal conditions.  The forecast calls for continued intensification as the storm tracks through the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall as possibly a major hurricane on Wednesday.  The storm will then track northeast and interact with a front and possibly bring us some rain toward the end of the week.  Once the storm passes by the temperatures will drop at the end of the week into the weekend with highs in the 50's with northerly winds which should bring in a decent push of waterfowl.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

eBird October Big Day today and other sightings for the beginning of October


White crowned Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Oct 6, 2018
Yellow Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Oct 6, 2018
Yellow bellied Sapsucker, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Oct 6, 2018
Pectoral Sandpipers, Hadley, MA, Oct 6, 2018
Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 6, 2018
The original plan for this week was for us to take a quick trip out to Utah to visit a few national parks (Zion, Bryce Canyon and Canyonlands) but the forecast for rain for most of the trip courtesy of the remnants of Hurricane Rosa (who would have thought a hurricane would impact travel in Utah in October!??!?) changed those plans.  Instead we stayed around the local area enjoying the fall weather and today I took advantage of a day off and decided to participate in the first eBird October Big Day  I started off predawn at UMASS and had a number of notable sightings including a couple American Woodcocks displaying and at least four Wood Thrushes (starting to get late but this area is one of the last spots I get them in the fall) and a Northern Waterthrush.  I had hoped the sun would be out early on and warm up the cool landscape and produce birds but the sun never made an appearance all day.  After about an hour I was joined by Devin and we decided to ditch UMASS and head over to some fields in North Hadley in search of shorebirds.  Among the shorebirds there were two late Least Sandpipers and 13 Pectoral Sandpipers plus some somewhat unusual waterfowl including a Northern Pintail and Green winged Teal among the more typical ducks.  There were also several flocks of geese moving around but scanning produced nothing but Canada Geese.  Once we had our fill of the fields we headed to the Honey Pot  where we spent the next two hours turning up several notables including three sapsuckers together, lots of Purple Finches (a common theme everywhere today), ten species of sparrows/juncos including a persistently singing White crowned Sparrow and my first Dark eyed Juncos of the fall and two Yellow Warblers (getting quite late for this species).  As both Devin and I had other commitments we parted ways and I headed for home but not before checking the reservoir at Winsor Dam where I had a Red necked Grebe (found by Scott earlier in the morning).  The remainder of the day during non birding activities I turned up a few more notables including a Great Egret continuing at the Route 9 marsh and a late Wilson's Warbler among a mixed flock at Goodnough Dike.  For the entire day I managed a respectable 85 species but certainly could have turned up others with a little more effort and visits to more locations.
Black and White Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Oct 3, 2018
Black throated Green Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Oct 3, 2018
Swamp Sparrow, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Oct 3, 2018
White crowned Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 5, 2018
 Blue Jay, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 5, 2018
 Red shouldered Hawk, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 5, 2018
 Palm Warbler 'yellow', Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 5, 2018
 Yellow rumped Warbler 'myrtle', Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 5, 2018
Savannah Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 5, 2018
I got out most mornings the first week of this month (at least for a bit) with visits to the Honey Pot  and Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River on Wednesday, a few fields in North Hadley, a quick visit with the continued Yellow crowned Night Heron at Lake Warner and the Honey Pot again on Thursday and the morning at Arcadia on Friday.  There were  a number of highlights including a late Northern Waterthrush on Wednesday, five species of shorebirds in North Hadley and two species of swallows (Tree and Barn) on Thursday and a Marsh Wren and a very interesting vireo at Arcadia that may have been a Bell's Vireo but was not seen well enough to be sure.  The numbers of sparrows continue to increase (with eleven species so far) as the variety of warblers continue to decrease (16 species so far).  Although it was tough to not go away I made the most of my time here and have so far tallied 120 species for the month so far.


Sunday, September 30, 2018

September comes to an end

Yellow crowned Night Heron, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
Baird's Sandpiper, Hatfield, MA, Sep 1, 2018
Yellow breasted Chat, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 2, 2018
Clay colored Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 19, 2018
Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 23, 2018
Lincoln's Sparrow, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
American Kestrels, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
Philadelphia Vireo, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 22, 2018
Dickcissel, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 20, 2018
Brown Thrasher, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 14, 2018
American Golden Plover, Holyoke Dam, South Hadley, MA, Sep 10, 2018
Wilson's Snipe, Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2018
Bobolink, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 19, 2018
Marsh Wren, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Sep 30, 2018
September has now come to an end and it was an epic month of birding around here despite a number of rainy days.  I blew away any previous September total for species in the county, ending the month with 164 species (average for the last five years was 155 species).  The biggest highlight of the month was a Yellow crowned Night Heron that I eventually caught up with after quite a bit of looking (and kayaking).  The heron added a new species for my county life list, bringing that total up to 295.  There were a number of other notable species for the month including a Baird's Sandpiper, Yellow breasted Chat, Pine Siskin, Clay colored Sparrow, several Dickcissel, Black crowned Night Heron, Whimbrel, White rumped Sandpiper and Marsh Wren.  Shorebirds were around in decent variety with fifteen species total for the month.  Warblers also gave a good showing with 27 species with several notables (more on warblers for the month at the follow link).  Sparrows have just started to show up in force and the numbers and variety should increase as October begins. With all of these species I found myself ahead of any other year in the county at this point so I think I will try a bit to see if I can break my big year record for Hampshire County (my current best is 238 in 2016).  I'm currently at 232 for the year with at least a few more relatively expected species to go and lots of potential for rarities as fall turns to winter.
Bobcat, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 27, 2018
Ruby cfrowned Kinglet, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 29, 2018
Bay breasted Warbler and banded House Wren, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 19, 2018
The house game cameras captured two new species at the water feature in September (Bay breasted Warbler and Ruby crowned Kinglet...species #43 and #44).  The camera near the brook captured my first ever Bobcat...in the middle of the day no less!

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

YELLOW CROWNED NIGHT HERON in Hadley and lots of other stuff this morning

Yellow crowned Night Heron, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
Yellow crowned Night Heron, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
Yellow crowned Night Heron, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
Yellow crowned Night Heron, Lake Warner, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
After a rainy day yesterday I was ready to get out this morning and see what might be around.  I started off checking out some flooded fields in North Hadley where I found half a dozen species of shorebirds including my first White rumped Sandpiper of the year.  Viewing was intermittent due to fog with visibility changing from minute to minute.  I tried to get some digiscoped shots of the White rumped Sandpiper as it was preening but could not get anything identifiable to come out.  I assume it was the same bird that Ted G. had in the same area yesterday.  I decided to try my luck a little further south at the Honey Pot where I hoped the fog was a little less dense.  Just as I arrived there I got a call from Mary letting me know she found a night heron roosting on the roof of a house at Lake Warner.  I immediately turned around and headed back up the road to meet up with her.  I arrived at the area near the dam at Lake Warner to see Mary still there looking at a juvenile Yellow crowned Night Heron.  The bird is almost certainly the same individual found by the friend of a birder about a week and a half ago while she was out kayaking.  I had tried multiple times for the bird before including a full circuit of the lake in a kayak without luck.  I guess I just needed to look up on the roofs of nearby houses instead of in the trees along the shoreline!  The bird seemed quite content on the roof, occasionally preening but otherwise just hanging out.  It appears to be a very young bird with some odd feathering on the head that has not quite filled in yet.  After about a half hour of watching the bird I headed out to other locales.  The night heron was not only a new bird for Hampshire County this year (more on that below) but also a new county bird for me overall, bringing my total in the county to 295.  Thanks to Mary for giving me a very timely call!
Yellow Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
Palm Warbler 'western', Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
My next stop was down to the Honey Pot which unfortunately was fogged in quite a bit but I nonetheless found a decent pocket of birds with a number of sparrows and warblers, including a late Yellow Warbler.  I waited a little bit for the fog to lift but it looked to be just getting thicker so I headed a little further away from the river in the hopes of finding better visibility.
Solitary Sandpiper, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
Lincoln's Sparrow, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
Northern Parula, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
Empidonax flycatcher, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
Northern Flicker, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
American Kestrels, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 26, 2018
I finally found some less dense fog filled areas when I stopped at the nearly deserted Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River. Thankfully the mosquitoes were tolerable compared to some other recent visits.  I spent the next couple hours there walking along the paths as well as covering a few field edges.  There were a number of mixed flocks moving through with a total of eleven species of warblers, a couple species of vireo and a few other migrants mixed in.  As I was walking around the trails you could actually feel when the warm front came through with an immediate and quite noticeable rise in the temperature and the humidity followed by a pick up in the wind.  The increased wind made picking out birds among the leaves quite difficult but not impossible.  It will be interesting to see if the southerly winds bring in anything unusual.

It was a great morning of birding to be sure as I managed to add two new species to my Hampshire County list for the year (#231 and #232) with one of those being a new county species for me.  I really had not intended to do another big county year this year but I really can't avoid it at this point as I have never had this many species at this time of year.  My previous best year for the county was back in 2016 when I had a total of 238 species.  I have included my overall totals for the previous four years. year to date and where I ended those years.

Year            Total as of 9/26      Final total for year
2018           232                         ?
2017           212                         224
2016           225                         238
2015           228                         237
2014           228                         237

Given that I still have a few months left in the year with at least a few easy to get waterfowl plus the possibility of any of a number of rarities there is a very real possibility of breaking my previous record...stay tuned!