Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Colorado 2018


It seems appropriate to resurrect a dead blog in the month that hosts Halloween!

A couple of weeks ago Valerie had a conference in Fort Collins, Colorado so we decided to take advantage of the location and turn it into a vacation. We hit a few reservoirs in the Fort Collins area before heading up to the Hereford Ranch in Wyoming. The Timnath Reservoir by far had the most activity. Highlights-Hundreds of Canada Geese, 5 Redheads, 330 Western Grebes, 6 Clark’s Grebes, 40 Bairds Sandpipers, 8 Franklin’s Gulls, 1000+ Double-crested Cormorants, 5 Say’s Phoebes and a Sage Thrasher.   

Our next stop was to the Hereford Ranch in Wyoming. I birded the area with fellow Western Mass birder Geoff LeBaron the day before. Geoff was also out in Colorado while his wife was attending a conference in the Denver area. With all the thickets, trees and water around the ranch buildings it’s a prefect migrant oasis in the middle of the farmlands. Some of the highlights- 4 Western Wood-Pewee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Green-tailed Towhee, Orange-cr Warbler, MacGillivray’s Warbler, 2 Townsend’s Warblers and an Olive-sided Flycatcher. From the ranch we traveled some of the local back roads around the area. We encountered a couple dozen Vesper Sparrows and a Lark Bunting!

The next day we worked our way from Fort Collins up through the mountains to Walden. On the way to Walden we encountered Steller’s & Canada Jays, Gray-headed Junco, White-cr & Fox (Sooty) Sparrows. After checking into our motel in Walden we drove out to the Coalmont area looking for Sage Grouse, but not too surprising, we didn’t come away with any, but clearly the highlight for the both of us was a Badger digging around on a nearby hillside. This was a life mammal for the both of us!

The next morning, we headed out early from our motel in Walden and headed over to the Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge-“The Auto Loop”. This loop produced a ton of ducks, plus White Pelicans, Golden Eagle, Northern Harrier, Merlin, Peregrine, Avocets, Bairds Sandpiper, Brewer’s Blackbirds, Yellow-headed Blackbirds and a bunch of Vesper Sparrows.

After Walden we made our way to Rock Mt. National Park, our final stop of the trip…. I paid a visit to the park in the mid 1990’s but this was Valerie’s first visit. We happen to time our visit just right, it was peak foliage time at the park. Now the foliage was nice, but certainly couldn’t compare to New England’s Foliage, but then again, we don’t have the mountains that Colorado does, so I guess things even out. We spent three days exploring RMNP and encountered the usual suspects (Steller’s & Canada Jays, Mountain Chickadee’s, Three-toed Woodpecker, Golden eagle, sage Thrasher etc) around the park, but despite a decent evert we couldn’t locate a White-tailed Ptarmigan. The other cool thing we happen to time was the Elk rutting season at the park. We were afforded excellent views both in the park and in downtown Estes Park, and of course the bugling of the males was a bonus.

We had an excellent week in Colorado and would not hesitate to go back.

 Western Grebe-Timnath Reservoir -Fort Collins area. 
 Say's Phoebe
 Loggerhead Shrike
 Vesper Sparrow-Pawnee National Grasslands. 
 Swainson's Hawk
 Olive-sided Flycatcher-Hereford Ranch
Townsend's Warbler
 American Dipper
 Prairie Dog-Walden area
 Golden Eagle
 Red-tailed Hawk (Western)

 Black-billed Magpie
 Yellow-bellied Marmot-RMNP
 RMNP
 RMNP
 RMNP
 RMNP
 RMNP
 Sage Thrasher- surprised to see this guy at the top of Rocky Mt. N.P
 Bear-This guy cross right in front of us on the main road into the park!
 Elk-male sounding off.

 Elk-grazing on Estes Park Golf Course....Grounds keeper must love this?

Valerie standing next to Snow Pole. These poles were being installed while we were at the park. These poles help the snow plow operators find the road during the winter! How much snow does this park get?




Sunday, March 20, 2016

Yellow-billed Loon

On Sunday March 6th, James Smith, Brian Kane and I made a trip to Race Point in Provincetown in search of Massachusetts first Yellow-billed Loon! The YB Loon was found a week earlier by the sharp eyes of Steve Arena. We departed Belchertown at 5AM and made it to the Race Point parking lot by about 9AM and then started the 1.9 mile march down the beach in the soft sand. We also made out like bandits with the weather this day, light winds and temps in the low forty’s, about an hour later we were on the Yellow-billed Loon!! As it would turn out, the Yellow-billed Loon was only part of the prize that day; the other part was the incredible amount of loons that were at the point. Without a doubt, it was the best viewing of winter plumage Common, Red-throated and even Pacific Loons that I had ever encountered! Very rough figures on the number of loons at the point that day,  Common 70-100, Red-throated 150-200 and 3 Pacific.  We just worked over the loons for the next several hours, along with the flotilla of loons; there were few hundred Razorbills, a handful Thick-billed and Common Murres, Iceland Gulls and the normal sea ducks one would encounter in late winter. It was a great outing with great company, the drive home just flew by……photos below

Yellow-billed Loon-1st Yr . Race Point

Yellow-billed Loon

Yellow-billed Loon

Common Loon and Yellow-billed Loon (rear)

Common & Yellow-billed Loon


Pacific Loon- one of three out on the point. Although rare in New England, in recent years Pacific Loons have been regular at Race Point.

Pacific Loon-Certainly not a great shot, but shows the thin chin strap, sharp demarcation line along the neck.

Pacific Loon

Iceland Gull

Black Scoters


closer to home.....Fox Sparrow (Red) at the feeder,


Red-tail Hawk in the West Meadows-Northampton

Red-headed Woodpecker- Still present as of yesterday (3-19-16) at the Fannie Stebbins Refuge in Longmeadow, Mass

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Barrow's Goldeneye-Turners Falls


Birded along the Connecticut River from Hadley to Turners Falls last Saturday.  Large flocks of Canada Geese were encountered in Hadley, Amherst and Deerfield with one lone Snow Goose in Hadley and at the Umass Campus Pond. Turners Falls had the most diversity with American Wigeon, Ring-necked Ducks, Common Goldeneye and a nice “Crisp”  male Barrow’s Goldeneye at the Turners Falls Rod & Gun Club.  Now that March is here, waterfowl migration is going to be kicking into high gear. Other early arrivals have included Red-winged Blackbirds, Common Grackles and Brown headed Cowbirds and a surprisingly large number of American Woodcock!   

Barrow's Goldeneye-Turners Falls Rod & Gun Club.

Common Goldeneye- Several seen from the Power Canal to Rod & Gun Club in Turners Falls.

Common Merganser- Numbers starting to build.

Red-tailed Hawk-Honey Pot

White-tailed Deer-Aqua Vitae Rd, Hadley

Coyote- This guy put up eight hundred Canada Geese in Hadley, including the one Snow Goose which ended up at the Umass Campus Pond later on.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

So.New Hampshire/Cape Ann




Greetings……Well to say it’s been a while since my last post…. would be a mild understatement. So I thought I’d give it a go again. 

The first trip of the spring season for the Hitchcock Center Birding class got off to a robust start last weekend. February trips to the coast are problematic to begin with, mainly because of the weather! Last year’s trip was cold and had seven foot snow banks. This year’s trip was met with 58 degree weather and zero snow.  The first part of the day was birding rte. 1A in Southern New Hampshire; we made our way north from Hampton Beach and ending up at New Castle. Our first stop was at the Fish Pier just south of Hampton Beach State Park. This location has hosted an Adult Glaucous Gull for the past couple of years and we were not disappointed this day. We pulled into the parking area and our target bird was in the parking lot with about 30 Herring Gulls. After viewing the gull and common waterfowl in the Harbor, we headed just up the road to Hampton Beach State Park. We pulled into the parking lot and almost immediately had two Snowy Owls…one in the dune and the other landed on the parking lot guard rail. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed these visitors from the north.

From there we hit many pull offs along Rte.1A, observing all three species of Scoters, Long-tailed Ducks, Common Goldeneyes, Common Eiders, Red-necked Grebes, another Snowy Owl and 20 Purple Sandpipers in Rye. We ended up in New Castle on a tip from Steve Mirick….Steve and Jane came upon a Gray Seal pup! This youngster was lying out in the sand soaking up the sun and looked to be in good shape. It was thought the pup was about 3-4 weeks old.

From New Castle we headed to Plum Island. We arrived midafternoon and stayed until 5pm taking in a pretty good Short-eared Owl show at the North Lookout.

Day 2 – Those that made it a two day trip spent the night at the Marriott in Amesbury. We departed around 8:00AM and headed for our first stop in Ipswich….Red-headed Woodpecker! It didn’t take too long to locate the Red-headed Woodpecker on Town Farm Rd. We had excellent scope views of the Imm Woodpecker and from there we headed to Gloucester. Our next stop was to the State Fish Pier – Here we had the continuing Thick-billed Murres and a nice assortment of Waterfowl. After the State Fish Pier we hit the normal stops around Cape Ann…Eastern Point, Niles Pond, Bass Rocks, Loblolly Cove, Andrew’s Point and last Halibut Point State Park. Highlights included, 3 King Eiders, Redheads, Razorbills and lots of Harlequin Ducks. We ended the trip with 54 species, all participants had a great weekend, some had life birds and as mentioned earlier the weather was simply outstanding. Photos below….

Glaucous Gull-Adult.  New Hampshire

Snowy Owl- Hampton Beach State Park

Snowy Owl #2

Lesser Black-backed Gull-

Purple Sandpiper-Rye NH

Gray Seal-New Castle, NH

Northern Harrier- one of 6 Birds. Plum Island

Short-eared Owl-not the best photo...but it does the job.

Short-eared Owl-Plum Island

Red-headed Woodpecker-Town Farm Rd-Ipswich

Thick-billed Murres

Eye of Great Black-backed Gull

King Eider- Imm Male- Andrews Point