Monday, December 17, 2018

Unusual species post CBC...Gray Catbird, Ruby crowned Kinglet and Yellow rumped Warbler

Gray Catbird, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Dec 17, 2018
Gray Catbird, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Dec 17, 2018
Ruby crowned Kinglet, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Dec 17, 2018
Ruby crowned Kinglet, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Dec 17, 2018
Yellow rumped Warbler 'myrtle', Hadley, MA, Dec 17, 2018
I had hoped to head out early this morning to try to catch up with any rarities seen by other teams yesterday during the Northampton Christmas Bird Count but the forecast called for snow, ice and rain overnight into the morning.  I got up around dawn and saw the frozen precipitation never really materialized here but it was still gray, breezy with occasional spits of rain and snow.  I stayed close to home hitting Quabbin Park before the rain picked up again which sent me back home.  By mid morning the rain had stopped and I saw a number of unusual reports of species that might still be around including a Gray Catbird and Ruby crowned Kinglet seen at UMASS by Keenan and Isabel and a Yellow rumped Warbler seen by Scott in Hadley.  I had not seen two of the three species yet this month and I had just a flyover Yellow rumped Warbler earlier in the month so I thought it would be worth reaching out for more details.  I got the locations for all of them courtesy of Keenan and Scott and with a little bit of time left in the morning I headed over to UMASS.  Both the catbird and kinglet were fairly quickly located and I got photos of both.  The thick tangles were both birds were located look to offer decent cover and food so hopefully both species will hang on for the winter.  I only had until about eleven and it was already past ten when I finished my time at UMASS but I decided I might as well try a brief swing by Aqua Vitae Road for the warbler.  I arrived and despite having only about 15 minutes available I found the bird thanks to great directions from Scott.   The bird was not super cooperative but I managed to get several looks and some marginal photos. Now I have seen and photographed a warbler species in every month this year in Hampshire County...something I have never been able to accomplish before this year.  The Gray Catbird and Ruby crowned Kinglet were both new species for the month for me in the county bringing my total up to 95...a highest total I have ever had for the month of December in Hampshire County.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Northampton Christmas Bird Count


Northern Pintail, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 16, 2018
Pileated Woodpecker, Hatfield, MA, Dec 16, 2018
White tailed Deer, Hatfield, MA, Dec 16, 2018
I spent the entire morning with the Griffith's covering our area for the annual Northampton Christmas Bird Count.  I arrived before dawn and immediately went to check the river in the north part of Hatfield where I had a nice selection of waterfowl with over fifty Common Goldeneyes and a Red breasted Mergansers flying past with a group of Common Mergansers.  Around 6AM I met up with the Griffith's and we covered the area around Great Pond and then back over to the river.  Although the Snow Goose seen at Great Pond a few days before was a no show and we were not able to relocate the Common Gallinule I had about two weeks ago, we did turn up impressive numbers of Black Ducks (over a hundred) as well as singles of Northern Pintail and Wood Ducks plus a flyover Common Redpoll and Great Blue Heron.  One of the staked out groups of White throated Sparrows were still around but another large group in another spot had moved on to a new area we were not able to locate.  Our return trip to the river turned up a number of woodpeckers and a few more small groups of waterfowl as well as a flyby Sharp shinned Hawk.  Overall the river area was quiet as far as land birds go with just a few sparrows and cardinals.  The weather conditions continued to deteriorate as morning came to an end with sleet and rain mixed with a steady breeze out of the north.  I left the Griffith's at that point to carry on without me as I made a brief stop back to Great Pond before heading for home.  I managed to find just 36 species but the weather conditions were far from ideal.  Besides the expected mammals such as squirrels we had a Red Fox, Eastern Coyote and three White tailed Deer.

Friday, December 14, 2018

More scouting for the Northampton Christmas Bird Count


Barred Owl, Hatfield, MA, Dec 14, 2018
Snow Goose, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 14, 2018
Snow Goose, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 14, 2018
White throated Sparrow, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 14, 2018
White throated Sparrows, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 14, 2018
Black Ducks, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 14, 2018
Canada Goose with extensive white on neck, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 14, 2018
Common Goldeneyes, Hatfield, MA, Dec 14, 2018
Eastern Coyote, Hatfield, MA, Dec 14, 2018
I spent a majority of the morning today continuing to scout for the upcoming Northampton Christmas Bird Count (CBC) that takes place this coming Sunday.  It was a pleasant morning checking the northern portion of the area (Great Pond and areas north along the river in Hatfield) assigned to our group.  I started off along the river before dawn where I had some small groups of waterfowl along the river but little in the way of land birds although I did have a day hunting Barred Owl on my way out of the area.  My next stop was over to Great Pond trying to catch back up with the Common Gallinule I found there about a week ago (no luck despite much effort).  I did have a nice selection of waterfowl including a Snow Goose in among the few hundred Canada Geese (one of which had extensive white on the neck), at least 122 Black Ducks (my highest count ever for a single location in the county), hundreds of Mallards, a Green winged Teal and a Northern Pintail.  I also had a few pockets of birds along the shore including dozens of White throated Sparrows. After a few hours in the area of the pond I headed back along the river where I picked up even more waterfowl including an impressive 79 Common Goldeneyes.  Overall for the morning I had 37 species within our CBC area.  Tough to say what will turn up on Sunday but hopefully some of the birds from this morning will stick around and if not some can become count week species for our area. The Snow Goose became species #90 for Hampshire County in December...a total I have not reached before and one I should be able to add to before the month comes to an end...I'm going to try for a hundred but it will be tough to get there.  Full eBird lists from the morning below:
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50654663
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50654667
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50655480
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50656163
https://ebird.org/view/checklist/S50656158
Snow Goose, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Dec 14, 2018
Canada Goose hybrid, UMASS, Amherst, MA, Dec 14, 2018
I made a brief stop by UMASS where I found a Snow Goose and the hybrid Canada Goose among the hundreds of Canada Geese on the fields and in the campus pond.  I ran out of time to scan through the flock on the pond completely to see if the Cackling Goose was still there.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Common Gallinule in Hatfield in December...adding yet another species to my year total for Hampshire County!

Common Gallinule, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
Common Gallinule, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
Common Gallinule, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
Northern Pintails, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
Mallards, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
Canada Goose with extensive white on neck, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
White throated Sparrows, Great Pond, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
Northern Mockingbird, Cow Bridge Road, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
White crowned Sparrow, Cow Bridge Road, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
White throated Sparrow, Cow Bridge Road, Hatfield, MA, Dec 6, 2018
I headed out before dawn this morning with my destination being the area of the Northampton Christmas Bird Count I will be covering with the Griffith's this year (area 35).  Although the count is still a week and a half away I wanted to see where the main pockets of birds were and to see if I could find anything unusual.  I started off along the Connecticut River where I found a few species of waterfowl but little in the way of passerines.  I then headed over to Great Pond to walk along the edge being warmed by the sun to see what might pop up.  I ran across a few pockets of birds including a large group of White throated Sparrows plus a few other sparrow species.  During my walk along the edge I finally managed to find a warbler for the month after quite a bit of looking when I had a Yellow rumped Warbler flyover.  With this sighting I have now seen at least one warbler every month this year in Hampshire County, something I have never been able to accomplish before.  As I continued my walk I could hear some waterfowl at the southern end of the pond and I eventually could see quite a few in the area of open water including lots of Canada Geese (including one with extensive white on neck) and lots of Mallards.  The more I looked, the more I turned up with several unusual species in among the Mallards including 8 Wood Ducks, a female Gadwall, two American Wigeon, 58 Black Ducks, four Northern Pintails and a Green winged Teal.  All the ducks were great but the best bird of the day by far turned up as I scanned the waterfowl and discovered a juvenile Common Gallinule!  Not a species I was expected to find today and one that was not really even on my radar to find.  I managed a few marginal shots before it disappeared, swimming into the marsh.  The gallinule is rare any time of the year around here but especially so in December.  I could not find any records in eBird of the species anywhere in western Massachusetts during the entire winter season (December-February).  There was a juvenile Common Gallinule that was up at Tritown Beach last seen about a month ago but tough to say if it is the same bird or not.  The gallinule pushes by year total for Hampshire County up by yet another species, bringing my total up to 241...pushing further and further past my best previous year.  With still a few weeks left in the year there is still a chance to push it up even further.  While I was in the area I walked a part of Cow Bridge Road and turned up another large group of White throated Sparrows as well as a juvenile White crowned Sparrow.  A really productive morning for sure.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

White winged Crossbills today and other sightings at the beginning of December

Northern Shrike, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Dec 3, 2018
Chipping Sparrow, Belchertown, MA, Dec 3, 2018
Swan species, Winsor Dam, Quabbin Park, MA, Dec 1, 2018
Barred Owl, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Dec 1, 2018
December continues our below average temperatures (with a slightly warmer day Monday) but thankfully we appear to have a dry week on tap.  As I was getting out of work this morning the temperature was a chilly 15 degrees and I was not sure I wanted to be out in the cold weather but thought I would give it a try for awhile and I was glad I did.  I decided to head to Arcadia to try to catch up with any late warblers that might still be hanging around (no luck with that quest).  I stayed mainly near the metal bridge and old orchard hoping to catch some birds taking advantage of the warmth of the sun as it came up.  As I was walking along the field edge near the solar array I heard a different call overhead that quickly produced three White winged Crossbills flying over heading off to the southwest...a new species for the year in Hampshire County, bringing my total up to 240!  No chance to get a photo and I was unable to relocate the birds despite a bit of looking.  Not too much else out of the ordinary around Arcadia so I headed across the bridge with a quick stop along Aqua Vitae Road before stopping for just under a half hour at Silvo Conte NWR where I had a couple Common Redpolls and half a dozen flyover Pine Siskins.  I also managed to submit my 26,000th complete eBird checklist while I was home in the afternoon.

Elsewhere for the beginning of December I had distant views of three swans at Winsor Dam on December 1st but they were too far out to determine species and it was too late in the day to try to get down to the end of Gate 5 road where I could have gotten better looks.  I could not check to see if they were there the next day but others that looked did not turn up any swans.  I suspect they may have been Tundra Swans but could not be sure.  I also caught up with a very late Eastern Phoebe and the continued Northern Shrike at a foggy Arcadia on the 3rd and a late Chipping Sparrow at the Griffith's on the first. 




Friday, November 30, 2018

November review and birding this morning

Rough legged Hawk, Hadley, MA, Nov 25, 2018
Northern Shrike, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 14, 2018
Cattle Egret, Rt 116, Hadley, MA, Nov 12, 2018
Cattle Egrets, Barstow's Farm, Hadley, MA, Nov 3, 2018
Palm Warbler 'yellow', Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Nov 28, 2018
Ruby crowned Kinglet, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 14, 2018
Rusty Blackbirds, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Nov 7, 2018
Now that November has come to an end I'll take a quick look at what birds the month produced.  I had a total of 110 species for the month in the Hampshire County, which fell just short of my best November ever (record is last year with 113 species).  Among the species were three new species for my Hampshire County year list (Common Redpoll, Northern Shrike and Rough legged Hawk).  The Rough legged Hawk broke my previous best year in the county becoming species #239 for the year.  The month started off with the biggest arrival of Cattle Egrets I have ever had with at least half a dozen noted starting on the 3rd and some continuing until at least the 12th.  There were a number of lingering species including Brown Thrasher, Ruby crowned Kinglet and multiple warblers (more on warblers for the month at the following link). The month was overall colder than normal with multiple record breaking cold days plus multiple bouts of snow and lots of rain (a record setting month for precipitation).
Common Redpoll, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Nov 30, 2018
Common Redpolls, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Nov 30, 2018
Northern Shrike, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Nov 30, 2018
To end the month I went out birding with Devin primarily in search of any species that would put Devin up over the 200 mark for the year in Hampshire County.  We had several possibilities to reach that goal with the first being a continuing Northern Shrike at Arcadia.  We arrived there just before dawn and after a bit of walking along the hedgerows we found the shrike perched on some telephone lines overlooking a bunch of sparrows.  We didn't want to bother the shrike too much as looked intent on hunting so we did not approach it too closely and instead took some shots from a distance.  The next two plus hours spent at Arcadia also proved quite productive with 38 species total seen or heard.  I'm sure if the forecast for a sunny day ever came to fruition we could have added a few more but we were both happy to see the stuff we did see.  We then headed back across the river to Hadley in search of the Rough legged Hawk seen hunting the fields south of the mall a few days ago.  No luck with that hawk but there were a number of other raptors around.  As we still had some time left we stopped over to Silvio Conte NWR where we got great looks at a flock of ten Common Redpolls feeding happily, adding another species to Devin's list for the year.  Overall a productive end to the month.
Black capped Chickadee with leg bands, Home, Belchertown, MA, Nov 16, 2018
The camera set up continues to capture a number of species including multiple leg banded Black capped Chickadees.


Sunday, November 25, 2018

Rough legged Hawk becomes species #239 for the year in Hampshire County and breaks my previous record for a year in the county

Rough legged Hawk, Hadley, MA, Nov 25, 2018
Rough legged Hawk, Hadley, MA, Nov 25, 2018
Rough legged Hawk, Hadley, MA, Nov 25, 2018
Although the forecast called for heavy rain this morning it had all moved out to the east before daybreak so I was able to get a little birding in after work.  I started out at the East Meadows in the hopes of finding a Rough legged Hawk seen there yesterday.  It is a species I have not yet seen this year in Hampshire County and if I could find one it would push me past my old record for species seen in the county in a year.  I scanned for a bit and found some Red tailed Hawks but no Rough legged Hawks.  There were also swirling groups of Horned Larks and Snow Buntings plus a few Lapland Longspurs mixed in.  I didn't venture too far into the meadows as it was quite muddy and I certainly didn't want to get stuck.  I decided to try my luck across the river in Hadley and drove through various open areas/fields.  I noticed a decent movement of geese heading north from the area of Moody Bridge Road so headed north to see if I could find where they had settled down to feed.  As I got to Mill Valley Road and South Maple Street I noticed a raptor hovering over the fields...a dark morph Rough legged Hawk!  I managed to make a quick stop and set up the scope and get a few digiscoped shots with my phone before the bird continued to drift off to the south.  I posted about the bird and I know several people were able to follow up on it and relocate it in the same general area including at least one person who had never seen the species before.  The Rough legged Hawk became species #239 for me in the county for the year and surpasses my previous best year back in 2016 when I had 238.  My previous attempts at big years for the county topped out at 237 in 2014 and 2015.  With just over a month left in the year there is still a chance for another species or two but it will have to be an irruptive species or a rarity as I have found all the expected species at this point.
Canada Goose with white markings on neck and head, UMASS campus pond, Amherst, MA, Nov 25, 2018
After seeing the Rough legged Hawk I continued north to look for geese (and run a few errands).  The biggest group of geese I found were on the partially frozen campus pond at UMASS where there were well over 500 Canada Geese including one individual with white markings on the neck and head.  A return run past the area of South Maple Street turned up four late Turkey Vultures together as well as an American Kestrel but no sign of the Rough legged Hawk.
Lapland Longspur, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Nov 23, 2018
Lapland Longspur, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Nov 23, 2018
Savannah Sparrow, East Meadows, Northampton, MA, Nov 23, 2018
I ventured down to the East Meadows on Friday on yet another very cold and frosty morning and turned up at least five Lapland Longspurs among the flocks of larks.  There were also a few pockets of sparrows including a number of Savannah Sparrows as well as a single adult White crowned Sparrow.