Sunday, December 27, 2009

Quabbin Christmas Bird Count 12-26-09

Gate 43 Fishing Area- Pretty much frozen up!

Twenty eight observers participated in the Quabbin Christmas Count under less than desirable conditions the day after Christmas. Although the weather conditions weren’t great, it could have been a whole lot worse. The freezing and steady rain that had been forecasted never really materialized, but the threat held back most of the observers from owling. Sixty Three Species were tallied, with four new high counts and one new species for the count, bringing the overall count total to 113.

As with other counts this season, huge numbers of White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Junco’s continue their dominance in the fields and thickets around Western Massachusetts. Most of the birders participating in the Quabbin count reported large flocks of Junco’s and medium size groups of White-throated sparrows. The last time White-throated Sparrows made this much of splash on the Quabbin count was December 2000.

American Black Duck 46
Mallard 134
White-winged Scoter 1- 2nd record.
Bufflehead 1
Common Goldeneye 9
Hooded Merganser 26
Common Merganser 39

Common Merganser-female. Holding on to the last bit of open water near the Horse Shoe Dam.

Ruffed Grouse 8
Wild Turkey 76
Common Loon 9
Horned Grebe 9
Bald Eagle 21 (11 Imm) (10 Ad)
Sharp-shinned Hawk 5
Cooper’s Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 15
Rough-legged Hawk 1 –New Species.
Golden Eagle 1 –Ad.
Ring-billed Gull 16
Herring Gull 21
Great Black-backed Gull 2
Gull Sp. 200
Rock Pigeon 66
Mourning Dove 74
Barred Owl 1
Northern Saw-whet Owl 1
Belted Kingfisher -2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 20
Downy Woodpecker 106
Hairy Woodpecker 46
Northern Flicker 3
Pileated Woodpecker 9
Northern Shrike 4

Northern Shrike- Adult. Gilbertville region.

Blue Jay 665
American Crow 157
Common Raven 33
Black-capped Chickadee 578
Tufted Titmouse 123
Red-breasted Nuthatch 47
White-breasted Nuthatch 156
Brown Creeper 38
Carolina Wren 1
Winter Wren 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet 95
Eastern Bluebird 11
Hermit Thrush 2
American Robin 1878 New High.
Northern Mockingbird 7
European Starling 138
Cedar Waxwing 76
Eastern Towhee 3 New High
American Tree Sparrow 129
Tree Sparrow- Hardwick

Fox Sparrow 1- 3rd record.
Song Sparrow 27
Swamp Sparrow 2
White-throated Sparrow 584 New High
Dark-eyed Junco 2297 New High
Snow Bunting 5
Northern Cardinal 74
Red-winged Blackbird 140
Purple Finch 2
House Finch 13
Red Crossbill 14
American Goldfinch 161
House Sparrow 410


River Otter 1
Red Fox 1
Red Squirrel 17
Gray Squirrel 19
Eastern Cottontail 1
Snowshoe Hare 1
Whitetail Deer 13
Bobcat 1
Muskrat 1

A friendly face on a chilly afternoon.

Tracks I.D. (Although not seen- A fresh dusting of light snow reveled these animals)

Good Birding,


Friday, December 25, 2009

Northampton C.B.C. Hadley area.

Snow Bunting- Honey Pot, Hadley.

Northampton Christmas Count- This is the first Christmas count I ever participated in and haven’t missed it in the last 33 years. My area is along the river in Hadley, and includes such notable locations as the Hadley Cove, Aqua Vitae Rd, Honey Pot and North Hadley. The forecast for the count was anything but encouraging, up to 10” of snow was expected to hit us in the early hours of the count. I got up around 3:45 am to see what was happing- NOTHING! We had dodged a big “Snowstorm” bullet. The storm pulled a little farther to the east, sparing us the white stuff. Along the coast they got hammered with 15” of the white stuff.

One thing we did get from the storm was the WIND! Walking across the corn fields in Hadley at times was tough, eyes watering and facial muscles locked into place was not a pleasant experience. Because of the wind, many birds were hunkered down, but we did manage to pull out 44 species, and a couple of them were somewhat note worthy.
Like the year before, I was joined by my friend James Smith of Amherst. James keen eye and ear were a tremendous help birding in the blustery conditions. Visit James blog page @ Pioneer Birding to view photos.

Happy Holidays,


Location: Hadley, Hampshire County, MA, US
Observation date: 12/20/09
Notes: Northampton C.B.C.- Hadley Cove- Aqua Vitae Rd-Honey Pot & North Hadley.
Number of species: 44

Snow Goose- One bird in with hundreds of Canada Geese along the Connecticut River in Hadley.

Snow Goose 1
Canada Goose 1100
American Black Duck 9
Mallard 15
Northern Pintail 1 –female. (North Hadley)
Common Goldeneye 4
Common Merganser 21
Bald Eagle 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 10
Ring-billed Gull 2
Rock Pigeon 65
Mourning Dove 20
Belted Kingfisher 1
Red-bellied Woodpecker 7
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1-
Downy Woodpecker 12
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 3
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 15
American Crow 165
Horned Lark 40
Black-capped Chickadee 16
Tufted Titmouse 13
White-breasted Nuthatch 13
Carolina Wren 2
Eastern Bluebird 6
American Robin 3
Northern Mockingbird 6
European Starling 71
American Tree Sparrow 110                                         Canada Geese- 1100 seen on the river in Hadley.
Clay-colored Sparrow 1- At the end of Meadow Street in Hadley. 3rd one I’ve had on the count. See James Smith Blog for photos…”Pioneer birding” James was able to get some pretty decent pics of the Clay-colored, considering this bird was not cooperating at all!
Savannah Sparrow 6
Song Sparrow 50
White-throated Sparrow 30
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 30
Lapland Longspur 1
Snow Bunting 1
Northern Cardinal 30

House Finch 6
American Goldfinch 7
House Sparrow 10
(below) Eastern Bluebird in the Honey Pot.

Sunset at the East Meadows- looking towards Northampton, Mass.

Friday, December 18, 2009

December Broad-winged Hawk!

Yesterday, (12/12/09) my daughter called me to report a hawk at her mother’s house in Belchertown. The bird was sitting in the front yard and didn’t appear to be in a hurry to go any where soon. I was away for the day and told her that perhaps the hawk had struck the house or some other object in the yard- just leave it be and it will probably take off once it gets its bearings. Fast forward to 7pm, Samantha stops by for a visit and reports the hawk is still in the front yard- WHAT!

It’s obvious at this point the hawk was in real trouble, so we immediately headed down the road armed with gloves, a towel and a box to capture this bird. The front yard was pitch black, (forgot the flashlight) but she knew the exact location and we pick up the hawk with little resistance. (Hoping it wasn’t dead) At this point I still didn’t know its true identity, but it was a small hawk with a short tail? We get back to my house, get the hawk into the light and out of the towel - I was STUNNED to be looking at an Adult BROAD-WINGED HAWK.

The Broad-winged was in tough shape-barely alive. The only noticeable injury to the bird was to its right eye, but it was still alive. I called Tom Ricardi in Conway, (Raptor Rehabilitator) and told him I had a Broad-winged Hawk for him….a little pause at his end. He told me to keep it warm and if it makes it through the night, give him a call in the morning and he’d take it from there. Long story shortened- I met Tom in South Deerfield this morning and handed the Broad-wing off to him. The hawk was still in trouble, but was alert and Tom was at least a little optimistic about its survival.

A quick look through the Birds of Massachusetts (Veit/Petersen) shows the latest date for a Broad-winged Hawk was from Wellfleet, Nov 18th, 1959.

Update 12/14/09 - I talked with Tom Ricardi this morning, the Broad-wing was still alive, but had yet to eat. Tom indicated this was not unusual with raptors recently brought into his care. The injury to the hawk’s right eye that I mentioned earlier was recent. The eye still had fresh blood around it, if it was an older injury it would have dried up by now. Tom reports that the next 4-5 days will be critical to its survival. If the bird begins to eat on its own, things will look pretty good. If Tom is able to rehab the bird-he'll release it next spring.

Update- 12/18/09 -I spoke with Tom Ricardi this evening, my curiosity got the best of me and I wanted to know if the hawk was still alive. I quickly learned from Tom that the Broad-wing had died the day before. The obvious injury to the right eye was the tip of the iceberg. The left eye which looked perfectly fine- was not. The hawk was blind in both eyes! And an area of his left wing was partially swollen. Tom also believes the bird suffered more internal head injuries. Tom even tried to force feed the bird, but thirty minutes later it came back up. The injuries were probably brought on by a collision with a car (we found the bird in the front yard-close to the road) or possibly a window. The only thing certain is the injuries were recent- A hawk with these injuries would not have lasted very long.

This species of hawk breeds throughout New England and points north. From mid to late September, given the right weather conditions, thousands can be seen from lookouts around interior New England. By the first week in October hundreds of thousands are winging their way pass the hawk watches around Veracruz, Mexico. So...why did this individual stay behind? No one will ever know for sure, but for all practical purposes, the hawk seemed to be in good shape until its encounter with a large object on December 12th.

I far as I know, this is the latest date for this species in Massachusetts and maybe New England!


Valerie with Broad-winged Hawk.

Tom Ricardi- looking over the Broad-wing.

Tail shot.

Heading to the rehab center.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

HBC Trip to East side of Quabbin Reservoir.

Hampshire Bird Club-East Quabbin Trip.

Yesterday, seventeen members of (Saturday November 21, 2009) the Hampshire Bird Club had its annual November trip to the East side of the Quabbin Reservoir. We met are leaders (Tom Gagnon/Larry Therrien) at the Quabbin Reservoir Headquarters on Rte 9 in Belchertown at 7AM.

Headquarters didn’t offer much so we loaded up and headed out towards the east side of the reservoir. We entered the reservoir through gate 45 off of Greenwich Rd in Hardwick. Our travels up the east side of the reservoir would take us to areas like Shaft 12, Baffle Dams, Shaft 11 (all around gate 43) Horse Shoe Dam fishing Area, Dana Spruces, Dana Commons, Pottapaug Pond, Graves Landing, and finishing up the trip through North Dana- exiting gate 35. We ended the day with 51 species of birds, 6 species of mammals and two dragonflies. The other story of the day was the weather- simply put….fantastic!

The two stand outs this day… an Imm Great Cormorant at the Baffle Dams, and (2) Black-bellied Plovers near gate 35. Other highlights, Northern Pintail (3-all females), White-winged Scoter (1-male), Long-tailed Duck (1-female), Red-breasted Merganser (1-female), Ruffed Grouse (1-drumming), Common loon (30), Bald Eagle (7), Barred Owl (1), Horned Lark (1), Brown Creeper (12), Winter Wren (1) and (2) Fox Sparrow.

Good birding,                     View from Baffle Dams- Quabbin 


Great Cormorant-Baffle Dam Area.

Hooded Merganser.

Northern Pintail-female.

Horse Shoe Dam-Gate 43 Fishing Area

The group- this stop produced Red-breasted Merganser, Common Goldeneye and Bald Eagles.

Dana Center- All that's left of the buildings around the common is this Stone foundation.

Betsy- doing a little close up photography!

Tom on Beaver lodge @ Pottapaug Pond.

Common Loons- two of thirty birds.

North Dana

Meadowhawk on Sally's Shouldred- over 25 seen today.

Last stop of the day-called the old railroad line. This area had White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Horned Grebe and two Black-bellied Plovers.

White-throated Sparrow- many seen throughout the trip.

Horned Grebe- one of four.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Berkshire Lakes 11/9/09

Snow Bunting/Cheshire Reservoir

Sunday November 8th,

This was the last trip in a series of five fall birding classes I led for the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. (Amherst) The last trip was to an area with a series of Reservoirs, Lakes, and Ponds known as the Berkshire Lakes. (Berkshire county, Mass)

The weather started out clear, but a bit chilly- low 30 degrees, but would soon rise to an unprecedented 62 degrees by 1:00PM. Our first stop was to the Moran Refuge located just off Rte 9 in Windsor. This refuge is probably one of the best locations in the state, if not the best location for Northern Shrike. We pulled up to the first parking lot and join the Hampshire Bird club, who already had the Shrike in there scopes. After a few minutes the bird club departed and we hung around to make sure everyone got a decent, but distant view of this visitor from the north.

After about twenty minutes a Northern Harrier (Imm) appeared and gave everyone terrific views of this graceful raptor. The early morning sun against the brownish/orange color of the underparts made the bird glow. From the parking lot, we tried a side road for the off chance of stumbling upon an Evening Grosbeak or Crossbills….be no luck. Back to Rte 9 west- towards Pittsfield.

The lakes are known for there variety of waterfowl in the fall, our Stops included Cheshire Reservoir, Lake Pontoosuc and Onota in Pittsfield. In addition to the lakes mentioned, we would visit Richmond Pond and Mud Pond, but our schedule wouldn’t allow it this trip.

Without going into a play by play of each stop at each lake, the waterfowl numbers and variety were on the thin side. Basically it was just too nice of a day! The highlight at Cheshire Reservoir was a beautiful Snow Bunting that had work his way down from the arctic and afforded everyone killer looks. Below are the waterfowl numbers of the different locations…..

Location: Eugene Moran Wildlife Management Area--IBA

Ring-necked Pheasant 1 –On way home-Rte 9, Northern Harrier (1 Imm.) Northern Shrike( 1 Adult), Black-capped Chickadee10,Red-breasted Nuthatch 1, White-breasted Nuthatch 1, American Robin 10, Northern Cardinal1, and two American Goldfinch.

Location: Cheshire Lake
Canada goose 12, American Black Duck 4, Mallard 35, Ring-necked Duck 1, Bufflehead 11, Common Goldeneye 4, Belted Kingfisher 1, Brown Creeper 1, Snow Bunting 1

Pontoosuc Lake
Canada Goose 14, Mallard12, Bufflehead 9, Hooded Merganser 9, Common Merganser 110, Red-breasted Merganser 1, Red-necked Grebe 1,

Location: Onota Lake - Canada Goose 105, Wood Duck 1, American Black Duck 8, American Black Duck x Mallard (hybrid) 1, Mallard 26, Common Merganser 12

Good Birding,


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Quabbin Area -Nov 1st.

A quick trip to Quabbin H.Q. (Windsor Dam) this morning produced my first Scoters of the fall, along with a winter plumage Long-tailed Duck, 3 Lesser Scaups and 7 Buffleheads. A small group, but nice variety -which was welcomed compared to only two Common Loons  found during yesterdays storm. From there I headed out to check a few fields in the Hadley area,  hoping to locate a large flock or two of geese, Shorebirds, perhaps a late swallow along the river- but it wasn't ment to be. I ended up in the Honey Pot and had a few species of sparrows (Savannah, Song, White-cr) American Pipits and a couple flyover Lapland Longspurs. All in all a great morning to be out.

Good Birding,


Location: Quabbin Reservoir--Park HQ.
Observation date: 11/1/09

Canada Goose 1
Lesser Scaup 3
Surf Scoter 3
White-winged Scoter 1
Long-tailed Duck 1
Bufflehead 7
Wild Turkey 12
Common Loon 2
Accipiter sp. 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
American Crow 6
Black-capped Chickadee X
Carolina Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 4
American Robin 5
American Pipit 1
White-throated Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) X
American Goldfinch 1

Location: Honey Pot (Hadley)
Observation date: 11/1/09
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Ring-billed Gull 70
Rock Pigeon 24
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 1
Blue Jay X
American Crow 70
American Robin 20
European Starling X
American Pipit 14
Savannah Sparrow 19
Song Sparrow 6
White-throated Sparrow X
White-crowned Sparrow (Eastern) 2
Dark-eyed Junco X
Lapland Longspur 2
Northern Cardinal 2
House Finch 5
American Goldfinch 1

Belchertown- Goodell Street
Sharp-shinned Hawk (1Ad)
Great Horned Owl (1)
Pileated Woodpecker (1)

Lesser Scaup- (digiscoped) Always a good bird for the Quabbin area. 

Lesser Scaup & Surf Scoters. (digiscoped) Hanging out in the cove to the left of the the dam.

Buffleheads (digiscoped)

Sharp-shinned Hawk -Soaking up the morning sun on Goodell Street in Belchertown.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monhegan Week

Monhegan Island Week

A week of birding at one of New England’s finest migrate traps…Monhegan Island, Maine. As I have stated in earlier blog posts….This is one of my favorite birding locations in New England. It’s been several years since I’ve spent a week on the Island, and as usual, it was fantastic!

(Above) An amphibious vehicle that was used during the Vietnam War. It would carry personnel and large vehicles (tanks) It is use around Port Clyde to deliver Propane and Oil trucks and whatever else to various homes on the islands around Port Clyde, but not Monhegan. This thing goes about 10 miles an hour and  the tires are "10 feet high". Last year while waiting for the boat to Monhegan...I watch them load a Propane truck into this thing...I could not see the Propane truck- "it just disappeared"

The Saturday crossing (Sept, 26) was uneventful, and that can be a good thing. Some crossings have been known to get a bit rough and little wet, but this day was smooth. Highlights of the crossing included numerous Black Guillemots, (already in their winter attire) hundreds of Common Eider, Northern Gannets (mostly sub-adults) and a handful of Harbor Porpoise.

Our main stay for the week was a lovely house near the Ice Pond. This area happens to be one of the better birding locations on the Island, but whether renting a house on the Island or staying at one of the Island Inns –you’re just foot steps away from great birding.

Although we never experienced one of Monhegan’s legendary avian fallouts, we did have a nice steady stream of birds all week. Our group consisted of Valerie and I, Bill  and Nancy Buchanan, Lynn Rubinstein and Joe Shoenfeld, Together we tallied 104 species for the week. Some of the birding highlights….Cory’s (60)and Greater Shearwaters (15), hundreds of Northern Gannets, Great Cormorants, Black-crowned Night-Heron, 7 species of raptors, Sora Rail, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, (many) Western Kingbird, five species of Vireos-White-eyed, Blue-headed, Warbling, Philadelphia and Red-eyed, 17 species of warblers, Clay-colored and Lark Sparrows, Blue Grosbeak, and close to fifty Baltimore Orioles.

Another nice aspect of birding the Island this time of year is the birders”. The Island was well represented and covered by many individuals and birding tour companies. It was nice to catch up with Kristen Lundquist, Bill Longergin, and Pat Sanborn. I also was delighted to meet Pat Moynihan who years earlier participated in the Quabbin Christmas Count!! (The world just keeps closing in) and Joanne Stevens, both were friends of Pat Sanborn. It was also a treat to be joined by Sue and Mike Frazier, Judith Espinola and Susan Perry, all were first timers to the Island and judging by their reaction, they'll be back. Some of the tour companies present, Wings- Will Russell and Evan Obercian, Vermont Bird Tours –Bryan Pfeiffer, Derek Lovitch - Freeport Wild bird Supply, and Massachusetts Audubon Society.

I started birding Monhegan in May of 1984 and during all my visits in spring and fall, I had never witnessed “Trap Day”. Trap Day is the beginning of the lobster season for the Lobstermen that live on Monhegan. Traditionally the season always began on Jan 1st. A few years back they moved the start date to Dec 1st, but three years ago the season was extended to ten months and now begins on October 1st. Currently, there are eleven active lobstering boats on the Island. What makes Monhegan unique is they have their own fishing grounds – roughly a two mile area around the Island that they call their own. No other lobstering boats from the mainland can come within two miles of the Island, and no Monhegan lobster traps can go beyond the two mile limit. With the extension of the lobstering season, Monhegan can only put out three hundred traps, unlike the six hundred they used to deploy. So…a couple days before “Trap Day” the Island is very busy with everyone participating in moving all the lobster traps to the dock and getting the first wave loaded on the boats for the October 1st dawn send off. (See photos at end)

We certainly lucked out in the weather department, after Monday morning the rest of the week was outstanding - basically sunny to partly cloudy with temps in high 50’s to low 60’s. Below are a bunch of photos from the week…..

(Below) Lobster boat from the mainland  heading in.

Lone Lobster boat in the late afternoon.

Monhegan Island- about 20 minutes away.

Looking down at the village from the Lighthouse.

Ice Pond- Islanders used the pond to harvest ice up until 1972.

Baltimore Oriole- after mid week- high count of fifty.

Bay-breasted Warbler- we had seventeen of the twenty species reported.

Cedar Waxwing- Juv

Black-throated Green Warbler.

Mourning Warbler- 1st fall bird near the Ice Pond.

Nashville Warbler- Worms took a beating that week.

(Below) Merlin on patrol.                                                                                                                                             

Looking towards the cliffs of Whitehead.                                                                                                                                                          

above- Clay-colored Sparrow- one of eight reported. We had five at one time at the feeding station across from the Trailing Yew.

Indigo bunting- Not showing a lot of indigo this time of year.

Lark Sparrow- one of two birds.

Brown Thrasher

White-eyed Vireo- always a good bird on the Island. This bird stayed all week around our house at the Ice Pond.
(Below) Philadelphia Vireo.

Warbling vireo - The only one of the week.

(Below) American Pipit- A very tame individual near the Lighthouse.

(Below) Horned Lark-near the old ball field.    
Lobster traps waiting to be loaded.

Lobster traps heading for the dock.

The Dock getting a bit busy!

Some of the boats loaded up for the Thursday morning departure.

Lights on and ready to roll- waiting for one crew!

Sea Hag getting restless....

Fireworks signal the beginning of the 2009-2010 season.

Back at the Ice Pond...Sora Rail put on a nice two day show for most of the birders on the Island.

Red-eyed Vireos made their presents known during the least 40 a day.

Yellow-bellied sapsuckers- A late September/early October main Stay on Monhegan.

Blue-headed Vireo- Always a handful around.

Peregrine Falcon (Imm) Always a treat, but hard to get a handle on the numbers.

The many faces of the Yellow-rumped Warbler....What would a late September trip be to Monhegan Island without a billzillion of them.

Late afternoon- "Decking It"

Sunset over Manana- from the deck.

The return trip on Saturday to Port Clyde did get a little rough, but the highlight was the Cory's Shearwaters. We had a few individuals fly right in front of the boat, but a raft of thirty five was unexpected. Even though the weather was getting worse, huge flocks of Double-crested Cormorants were making their way south.

A great end to a great week!