Sunday, September 22, 2019

Small heron mystery solved...finally

Snowy Egret and Great Egret, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 22, 2019
Snowy Egret, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 22, 2019
Snowy Egret and Great Egrets, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 22, 2019
Great Egret and Great Blue Heron, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 22, 2019
Savannah Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 22, 2019
Lincoln's Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 22, 2019
Ovenbird, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 22, 2019
The mystery of the exact species of the small heron species I have seen flyover around dawn at Arcadia on a few mornings over the last week has finally been solved. I went there again this morning specifically looking for the bird but the dense fog made seeing it seem far from likely. Nonetheless as I walked down one of the roads the small heron appeared out of the fog in the company of nine Great Egrets (a noteworthy number for this species in September). The entire group appeared to have settled down in the area of Ned’s Ditch once again. I noticed Derek was also in the area so I messaged him and we went in search of the group. Our first few spots we tried produced just some Great Blue Herons and Green Herons but we finally caught up with the group in a small pool where we finally identified the small heron...a Snowy Egret...a four heron/egret morning for us! The fog that was suppose to burn off early never did so until late in the morning but the birds were still spectacular with lots of other notable sightings including a singing Warbling Vireo, a noticeable increase sparrows with the most abundant being Savannah, Song and Lincoln’s Sparrows (nearly 20 Lincoln’s Sparrows was great), 13 species of warblers, three Scarlet Tanagers and a female Blue Grosbeak mixed in among the large numbers of Indigo Buntings. The morning produced at least 75 species just at Arcadia which is great for the third week of September.  We have also enjoyed a nice late summer/early fall warm up with temperatures into the mid 80's for the last couple days and another warm day forecast for tomorrow...probably the last string of 80+ degrees day around here for awhile.

Friday, September 20, 2019

The third week of September


Prairie Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 16, 2019
Lincoln's Sparrow, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 16, 2019
The last several days have featured cool nights (in the low to mid 30's the last couple mornings) and days in the upper 60's to 70's with sunny conditions and low humidity...perfect conditions to be outside and great migration conditions.  I have had a number of decent sightings as the third week of September comes to an end.  The next few days are forecast to be warmer with highs into the 80's before another cold front comes through Monday.  Each morning I picked a new spot to explore and none disappointed although at times the early morning fog made viewing a bit tough.  I started the week at Quabbin Park on Monday where I had two Eastern Whip Poor Wills still singing, a Northern Saw Whet Owl, a late Eastern Kingbird, a couple Philadelphia Vireos, a late Veery and decent numbers of a number of other migrants.
Small heron species with Great Blue Herons, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 17, 2019
Small heron species with Great Blue Herons, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 17, 2019
Indigo Bunting, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 17, 2019
Least Flycatcher, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 17, 2019
Rose breasted Grosbeak, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 17, 2019
On Tuesday on went to Arcadia where I had a flyby small heron species moving in from their roost location.  The light was terrible and the fog made following up on where the heron came down impossible for quite awhile.  Among the 72 species for the morning I had a Least Flycatcher, another late Veery and a flyover Dickcissel.
Common Yellowthroat, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2019
American Dagger Moth caterpillar, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 18, 2019
In the middle of the week I went Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River where I had a frustratingly brief view of a first year Connecticut Warbler as well as a few groups of migrants but it was overall fairly quiet but it was foggy until quite late.  As the fog was lifted and I was leaving I noticed several kettles of Broad winged Hawks starting to form up as thermals got active.
Savannah Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 19, 2019
Black throated Green Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 19, 2019
Wood Ducks, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 19, 2019
Green winged Teal, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 19, 2019
Indigo Bunting, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 19, 2019
Small heron species with Great Blue Herons, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 19, 2019
Small heron species with Great Blue Herons, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 19, 2019
On Thursday I made a return to Arcadia in an attempt to relocate the small heron species and I once again had the bird flying in with a group of Great Blue Herons.  The light was slightly better but still sub par but it appeared the bird was lighter than the Great Blue Herons pointing to either a Snowy Egret or immature Little Blue Heron.  The entire group settled into the area of Ned's Ditch but my attempts to find them in there proved fruitless...the area is just too impenetrable.  Perhaps it is the Snowy Egret that had been hanging around at Paradise Pond a few weeks ago?    Other notables included a selection of waterfowl (including my first Green winged Teal of the fall), a continuing Least Flycatcher as well as a Willow/Alder Flycatcher, more sparrows than on my previous visit with at least eight Lincoln's Sparrows around, at least three Scarlet Tanagers and other species feeding on some large fruiting trees near the old orchard (looks prime to attract rarities and lingerers) and at least 20 Indigo Buntings.
Black and White Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2019
Palm Warbler 'western', Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2019
Turkey Vulture, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2019
Palm Warbler 'yellow', Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2019
Lincoln's Sparrow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2019
Barn Swallow, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Sep 20, 2019
This morning I headed back over to Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River in the hopes of finding another Connecticut Warbler but no luck on that front (I have not had a stellar year for them so far with just two for certain).  The fog that looked like it might lift not long after I arrived instead settled in and just got thicker.  After a couple of hours and not a ton of activity I left and headed over to the Honey Pot where I checked a few fields for shorebirds...nothing unusual but a decent number of Killdeer and lots of freshly plowed and harvested fields that look great to attract shorebirds.  With That's a Plenty Farm still closed due to an on going bee study I had to be content with roadside birding which still produced some good stuff including my first American Pipit of the fall, at least three Barn Swallows still hanging around and both subspecies of Palm Warblers and a few small groups of sparrows.

Today also marked an international climate strike led primarily by young people.  One does hope it will eventually lead to a more robust response to the climate change crisis that may already be too late to change but at least major changes could help mitigate the problem.  There just needs to be the political will but with most politicians bought and paid for by those who stand to make money by ignoring the problem I don't have a lot of hope.  A study just released yesterday shows that one in four birds have been lost in North America since 1970 (that's three billion birds) and the decline will certainly not be helped by a changing climate with all the issues that go along with it.  You can read more on the study at the follow link.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Mid September birding update

Yellow billed Cuckoo, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Sep 15, 2019
Eastern Wood Pewee, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Sep 15, 2019
American Redstart, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Sep 15, 2019
Common Yellowthroat, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 13, 2019
Song Sparrow, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 13, 2019
Common Buckeye, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 13, 2019
Blue winged Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 11, 2019
Now that the middle of September has arrived I'm using the last of my vacation time to catch up on the peak of fall migration.  The last several days have featured some decent mornings as well as a few slow ones.  On the 10th I stopped on my way to work at Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River and had a Mourning Warbler that tried its bets to turn itself into a Connecticut Warbler but no luck.  After work on September 11th I headed over to Arcadia where I caught up with a few notable species including a late Worm eating Warbler (a species I seldom get in the fall but several others have been reported in the area lately so it appears a number are hanging around a bit longer than usual).  This past Thursday I planned on starting my first full day of vacation exploring UMASS but when I arrived there it was already breezy and that usually means a lot less activity so I ditched that plan and instead headed Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River where I had ten species of warbler including four Tennessee Warblers plus other 'stuff'. On Friday I started off the day before dawn at Arcadia and spent about four hours exploring various parts of the sanctuary and found quite a few good birds including my first Connecticut Warbler of the year (warbler species #52 for the year for me...you can keep tabs on my warblers here.) and a Marsh Wren.  On Saturday I started off before dawn at Quabbin Park where I still had at least one Eastern Whip Poor Will.  I then headed back over to Silvio Conte where I spent a couple hours in the gloom but still managed to turn up some birds but not as many as I had hoped for.  Today dawned foggy but I thought it might still be good so I headed over to UMASS where I spent almost the entire morning.  I had a number of good sightings with a few multiple species flocks around.  Highlights included four Common Nighthawks moving southeast at around 10AM, a trilling Eastern Screech Owl, a Merlin that zipped through and almost got a goldfinch, four vireo species, at least four Wood Thrush calling early in the morning, 15 species of warblers and four Scarlet Tanagers.  Tomorrow looks to be a bit rainy at times but there should be a big influx of birds for Tuesday morning...time will tell.
Ruby throated Hummingbird, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 13, 2019
White tailed Deer, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 15, 2019
White tailed Deer, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 15, 2019
White tailed Deer, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 13, 2019
The trail cameras at home have captured White tailed Deer fairly often the last several days and have continued to capture Ruby throated Hummingbirds as they fuel up for the journey south.

Monday, September 9, 2019

The last couple days plus an update on birds from Hurricane Dorian.


Common Yellowthroat, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 9, 2018
Lesser Yellowlegs, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 9, 2018
Greater Yellowlegs, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 9, 2018
Dawn, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 8, 2019
I made a few stops on my way to work yesterday and on my way home today.  Nothing too unusual and it was actually quiet this morning considering the time of year and the great migration conditions overnight.  The cool temperatures (upper 40's) and morning fog probably didn't help but I was surprised how quiet it was.  Nonetheless there were still some birds to be seen and any day out and about is a good one.


Now for another update on the birds carried into the area and points north from Hurricane Dorian. The following list is far from complete and I expect many more records to come to light over time as many areas in Canada hit hardest by the storm are still without power and communication. Within Massachusetts the most noteworthy sightings included a Brown Pelican in Salem and a Black bellied Whistling Duck on Nantucket. A few seawatches along the coast (mainly the cape) produced a number of shearwaters, some storm petrels and a number of gulls and terns.

Dorian made landfall in Nova Scotia as a hurricane and reports from the area so far indicate a large influx of a number of southern species including Black Skimmer (hundreds!), Laughing Gull (also hundreds), Glossy Ibis, “lots” of swallows of several species plus Purple Martin and Cave Swallow, Cattle Egret, American Avocet, Black necked Stilt, Marbled Godwit and Brown Pelican.  Many species of terns have been seen including Sooty, Bridled, Sandwich, Forster’s, Royal, Gull billed and Black Terns plus the more expected species. Unusual passerines were also noted including Cerulean Warbler, Kentucky Warbler, Worm eating Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Yellow throated Warbler and Summer Tanager.  I will update the list as more information comes to light.  Sadly many birds were killed by the storm outright and many others will perish after surviving the storm itself due to stress, starvation and predation.  Storm birds are always bitter sweet.

The tropics remain active with Tropical Storm Gabrielle way out in the central Atlantic (and not a threat to North America) and a few tropical waves coming off of Africa that may eventually turn into tropical systems but not within the short term.

Friday, September 6, 2019

The last couple mornings plus an update on Hurricane Dorian

Wilson's Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 6, 2019
Ovenbird, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 6, 2019
Magnolia Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 6, 2019
Northern Harrier, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 6, 2019
Solitary Sandpiper, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 6, 2019 (my only shorebird for World Shorebird Day)
American Redstart, Sweet Alice Conservation Area, Amherst, MA, Sep 6, 2019
Conditions overnight looked to bring in some migrants with light northerly winds.  The radar was lit up and there were a number of flight calls overhead last night and into the morning when I checked.  I originally was going to start at UMASS but it was already breezy there when I arrived there which usually makes finding stuff there difficult.  I decided instead to head down to Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River where I spent almost three hours exploring.  It was not as active as I had hoped but there were still some obvious migrants around.  The clouds being pushed north courtesy of Hurricane Dorian made photo ops less than ideal and the ever increasing breeze didn't help either.  I also made a brief stop by Sweet Alice Conservation Area before heading back home.
Chestnut sided Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 5, 2019
Black throated Green Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 5, 2019
House Wren, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 5, 2019
Yellow bellied Sapsucker, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 5, 2019
Yesterday I spent a good portion of the morning exploring Quabbin Park and turned up a few notable species and some good counts for several species.  A number of highlights for the morning including at least one Eastern Whip Poor Will, a couple of Eastern Screech Owls calling back and forth, at least four Yellow throated Vireos and ten species of warblers.
Black capped Chickadee with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 5, 2019
I also found one of my banded Black capped Chickadees that was banded this spring and I got a marginal photo through the binoculars....my first sighting of this individual in months.
Hurricane Dorian projected path as of 11AM, Sep 6, 2019 (courtesy of the NHC)
Hurricane Dorian finally moved north from the Bahamas after causing catastrophic damage to the northern part of the country including the islands of Grand Bahama and Abaco.  The storm stayed offshore of Florida then just skimmed South Carolina before making a brief landfall on the outer banks of North Carolina last night (just missing Alabama!).  The storm is projected to continue moving northeast offshore of the northeast and then into Nova Scotia and other parts of Atlantic Canada while maintaining hurricane strength (there will almost certainly be some crazy bird sightings up that way).  The only impact here should be breezy conditions and some rain overnight tonight into Saturday morning.  The cape and islands could see tropical storm conditions and are under a tropical storm warnings.  Will the storm bring any birds our way?  Probably not too likely as the storm will be too far away from us to have any great impact but one never knows.  Depending on the amount of rain and how strong the winds get here will determine if anything unusual gets pushed in or forced down.  Worth checking water bodies and any flooded fields just in case.  There is always the outside chance of something along the lines of a frigatebird showing up so worth keeping an eye out.  To check on bird sightings related to Dorian follow the link from Birdcast (Hurricane Dorian birds.).  More on the impact on  the birds of the northern Bahamas can be found at my earlier post about it here.  Birds Caribbean has started a fundraiser to assist the Bahama National Trust as they attempt to try to assist the birds that survived and begin to restore damaged habitat...fundraising link to assist the Bahamas