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

Sunday, July 26, 2015

P'Town Pelagic July 18, 2105

It’s been a while since my last post, so I thought I’d take advantage of this rainy Sunday morning to do so. A week ago (July 18th) I had the pleasure of taking a five hour mini pelagic trip out of Provincetown (MA) to cash in of the ever growing number of shearwaters off Provincetown and out on Stellwagen Bank. This trip was organized by Blair Nikula. Blair was been doing these six person trips out of Chatham for a few years now, but the boat he normally uses has been out of commission because of ongoing repairs. So Blair contacted the captain of the Beth Ann, dock in Provincetown, to see if he would be interested?  As it turned out this would be his first charter for pursuing only birds, normally its fishing charters and an occasional Whale Watch. 
I met Blair at the Beach Forest parking lot along with Sue Finnegan, Judith Davis and her son; from there we carpooled to a nearby parking lot and met up with our last participant …Steve Arena. Blair hit Race Point for a few minutes before meeting us at the Beach Forest and reported lots of Cory’s Shearwaters in the Surf!  A good Omen indeed…..
We boarded the boat around seven and headed out…..the weather was overcast with intermittent rain, and had 2-3 ft swells. Certainly not the greatest day, but as we got around Race Point we really wouldn't worry about the weather again. Well, let’s just cut to the chase …….”Thousands of Shearwaters Everywhere” We first encountered Cory’s Shearwaters fairly close to the shore and has we moved out a little farther we started to come across Great, Sooty and finally a few Manx’s Shearwaters.  The Bird of the day however was not any of the Shearwaters, but a Fea's Petrel!! Perhaps a 2nd state record. It turned out to be a very exciting 10-15 sec. Below are Blair’s best estimates from his ebird report were as follows…..The shear number of birds out there was simply AMAZING!
Cory's Shearwater
^ Amazing numbers continue, with largest concentrations along the backside from P'town to Truro. Many in heavy molt now.
Great Shearwater
^ Largest numbers over the northern portion of our route; many in heavy wing molt.
Sooty Shearwater
Manx Shearwater
^ continue to be scarce.
Wilson's Storm-Petrel
^ widely scattered through the area covered, with no concentrations.
Leach's Storm-Petrel
^ over the SE corner of Stellwagen
Northern Gannet
2 ad.
Age & Sex
Age Unknown
Sex Unknown
Pomarine Jaeger
^ all apparent 1cy (based upon photo review)
jaeger sp.
^ probable POJA (surprisingly, no PAJA seen)
Black-legged Kittiwake
all 1cy, transitioning into 2nd basic.
Bonaparte's Gull
inshore off Provincetown
Laughing Gull
all inshore along backside (additional birds between Wood end and Race Point
Herring Gull
most over the SE corner of Stellwagen (hundreds more gulls roosting on the outer beach not included in this total)
Lesser Black-backed Gull
all 1cy
Great Black-backed Gull
most over SE corner of Stellwagen
Common Tern
all inshore off P'town (many more between Wood End and Race Point)
Around 8:30AM things really started to get interesting…..While scanning through the Cory’s Shearwaters I spotted another bird just above them circling back…..after processing this for about 3 seconds I screamed out “GET ON THIS BIRD” I had just come across a  Pterodroma Petrel!  This was my first Pterodroma Petrel, I knew it wasn’t a Black-capped Petrel, and quickly thought it might be a Fea’s, but once I knew the others were on the bird I just grabbed my camera and started shooting, this all happened within 10-15 sec. As it turned out, we did have a Fea’s Petrel…perhaps a 2nd state record!
It just seems  the marginal weather days produce the best birding…Photos below
Capt Rich and Blair discussing trip route.

Heading out

black-legged Kittiwake 

Cory's Shearwater-one of thousands!

Cory's Shearwater up close

Fea's Petrel....the Star of the show.


Fea's Petrel- showing dark underwing.

Sooty & Great Shearwaters

Great Shearwater

Great Shearwater

Pomarine Jaeger

Pomarine Jaeger-1st cy

Pomarine Jaegers

Sooty Shearwater

Sooty Shearwater