Monday, August 24, 2009

Whimbrel in Hatfield

Ruby-throated Hummingbird- One of four hummers coming to our feeders.

I spent the morning and early afternoon looking for shorebirds from Northfield south to Hatfield. I started off the morning at the same location as Saturday- the Turf Farm in Northfield. This farm has played host to some pretty impressive fallouts of shorebirds over the years. However, Saturday was not going to be one of those days... it was pretty quite with just two Least Sandpipers, a Solitary Sandpiper and about a dozen Killdeer. I was hoping that the bands of thunder storms that have been moving through our area would knock down a few birds as they made their way to the coast. So Sunday morning I decided to give it another try and headed back up to Northfield. Upon arrival, I was greeted by Jeff Johnstone, Mark Lynch and Sheila Carroll. They had been watching hundreds of Tree and Bank Swallows along a power line, a few Barns and a single Cliff Swallow added a little class to the motley bunch.

After a while we headed down the road to the Turf Farm (Jeff had already stopped by earlier with little success) to see if anything had put in. Jeff first got on a small flock of Least Sandpipers and then quickly announced that there was a Baird's Sandpiper in with the group. Mark just got on it when the flock flew slightly and came down more into the open- All of a sudden, there were Two!
Now a Baird’s Sandpiper anywhere in the state is good, but more than one is even sweeter. Besides the Least Sandpipers we picked out a Juvenile Semipalmated Sandpiper. Encouraged with our little win fall, Mark, Sheila and I headed south to the recently plowed fields of the Old Pilgrim Airport.

The Pilgrim Airport was once a grass strip airport, an old hanger sets well off the road and is now used to store farm equipment. Today the fields are used for growing various crops, and if plowed under at the right time- can lead to a shorebird bonanza. However, this day would only yield a decent number of Killdeer (57) and one Least Sandpiper. Mark and Sheila had to depart at this point and start to head back to Worcester.

I made my way down River Road- stopping briefly at the Brad Street Marsh, (3 Wood Ducks) and then proceeded down to the large potato fields near Cowbridge Road. I was immediately encouraged to see several large pools recently created by the heavy rains. A quick scan produced two Juvenile Greater Yellowlegs, not a bad start I thought. After I got the scope set up, the first bird that came into focus wasn’t a Greater Yellowlegs, but a Whimbrel!! Whimbrel’s are extremely scarce inland; in fact this one was only the third one I’ve seen in the valley in over thirty years of birding . I then made a number of phone calls to get the word out, after that I photographed the Whimbrel for the next thirty minutes. After about forty five minutes I decided to see what else I could find in this vast potato field. I drove down Cowbridge Road to get away from possibly flushing the Whimbrel.

I walked quite a way out into the muddy field trying to get the best vantage point on the other puddles created by the recent storms. About half way out a group of Least Sandpipers went up and settled down not to far from me. A quick scan found the Least’s plus a Semipalmated Sandpiper and another Baird’s Sandpiper! Another few minutes went by and I found myself searching the sky for an American Golden-Plover that was consistently calling- after a few moments I located the Plover and watched it land out in the field-only to never be seen again. Another nice surprise with the Golden Plover was a White-rumped Sandpiper. The White-rumped is not a bird one checks off their list each year out here in the valley, but like the Plover the White-rumped just disappeared into the potato field abyss. Another bird I heard was the Semipalmated Plover, but I was never able to see this bird.

Later in the Afternoon I received a call from Tom Gagnon, Tom called to report that not only he, but Bob Bieda and Harvey Allen had relocated the Whimbrel and found a Buff-breasted Sandpiper! Tom also reported that they had 8 Semipalmated Plovers (where were they?) And shorebird numbers were now up to 80 individuals. Like me, they were having some trouble relocating some of the birds once they landed… The Potato Field Abyss is real.
Not a bad day when you can come away with 10 plus species of shorebirds in the Connecticut River Valley.

As an extra…I’ve added an email that Peter Vickery posted on the Maine List serve about a story of a whimbrel named Hope. The email explains a tracking and monitoring program of Whimbrel’s. Hope you enjoy it!



Date: August 17, 2009 7:59:42 AM EDT
Subject: Fwd: Satellite-Tagged Whimbrel on 3,000+ mile flight

Begin forwarded message:
From: "Charles Duncan" <>
Date: August 15, 2009 10:18:10 AM EDT
To: "Jewel Suchecki" <>, <>
Cc: <>
Subject: FW: Satellite-Tagged Whimbrel on 3,000+ mile flight

Dear Julie and Eric--

I think the story below from Mike Wilson will interest Maine birders! It concerns a Whimbrel that Passed over our coast recently in her non-stop flight toward her wintering grounds.

All the best,

--Charles Duncan
Director, Shorebird Recovery Project

Flight of Hope
(Williamsburg, VA)---Hope, a whimbrel carrying a satellite transmitter,
is far out to sea flying south over the Atlantic toward her wintering
grounds in South America. The bird had been staging (building up energy
reserves in preparation for a migratory flight) on Southampton Island in the
Northern reach of Hudson Bay since 15 July before leaving on a non-stop flight
South on 10 August. The bird flew south over Hudson Bay, crossed the interior
Of Canada and New England to emerge from the coast of Maine and out over
The open ocean. Flying more than 1,600 kilometers (1000 miles) out over the
ocean and east of Bermuda, Hope then turned south and is now moving
toward the Caribbean. She has already flown non-stop for more than 5,100
kilometers (3,200 miles) but is still 400 kilometers (250 miles) from
the nearest land in the Virgin Islands. So far, Hope has been on the wing
for 4 days with an average flight speed of 60 kilometers/hour (37 miles/hour).

Hope was originally captured and fitted with a satellite transmitter
On 19 May, 2009 while staging on the Delmarva Peninsula of Virginia. She
Left Virginia on 26 May and flew to the western shore of James Bay in Canada.
She staged on James Bay for 3 weeks before flying to the MacKenzie River
near Alaska and then on to the Beaufort Sea where she staged for more
than 2 weeks before flying back to Hudson Bay. Hope has traveled more than
13,000 kilometers (8,000 miles) since late May.

Hope is one of several birds that have been fitted with state of the
Art 9.5-gram, satellite transmitters in a collaborative effort by the Center
For Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary - Virginia
Commonwealth University and the Virginia Chapter of the Nature
Conservancy to discover migratory routes that connect breeding and winter areas and
To identify en route migratory staging areas that are critical to the
conservation of this declining species. Updated tracking maps may be viewed online.


The whimbrel is a large, holarctic, highly migratory shorebird. The
North American race includes two disjunct breeding populations both of
Which winter primarily in Central and South America. The western population
breeds in Alaska and the Northwest Territories of Canada. The eastern
population breeds south and west of Hudson Bay in Manitoba and Ontario.
Both populations are of high conservation concern due to dramatic
Declines in recent decades.

Satellite tracking represents only one aspect of a broader,
Integrated investigation of whimbrel migration. During the past 2 years, the
Center for Conservation in partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service has used conventional transmitters to examine
Stop over duration, conducted aerial surveys to estimate seasonal
Numbers collected feather samples to locate summer and winter areas through
stable-isotope analysis, and has initiated a whimbrel watch program.
Continued research is planned to further link populations across
staging, breeding, and wintering areas and to determine the ecological
requirements of whimbrels staging along the peninsula.

Media Contacts: Bryan Watts, Executive Director, Center for Conservation
Biology, College of William and Mary & Virginia Commonwealth University,
Williamsburg, VA. Phone 757-221-2247, email
Barry Truit, Chief Conservation Scientist, The Nature Conservancy,
Virginia Coast Reserve Program. Phone 757-442-3049, email

Here's an update on Hope, the Whimbrel, forwarded from the WaterbirdsNetwork list serve.

Exciting stuff!!
All the best,--Charles Duncan, DirectorShorebird Recovery ProjectFlight of Hope

(Williamsburg, VA)---Hope, a whimbrel carrying a satellitetransmitter, has been observed foraging on Great Pond in the U.S. VirginIslands. Great Pond is a Birdlife International Important Bird Area onthe island of St. Croix known for White-crowned Pigeons, Green-throatedCaribs, and Antillean Crested Hummingbirds. site is a large pond fringed with black mangroves. Lisa Yntema hasmonitored the site for 5 years. She observed and photographed Hope on 20 August. Hope made landfall on St. Croix on the evening of 14 August aftercompleting an extraordinary 100 hour, 5,720 kilometer (3,500 mile) flight out overthe open ocean. She left South Hampton Island in upper Hudson Bay on 10August, flying south over Hudson Bay, crossed the interior or Canada and NewEngland to emerge from the coast of Maine and out over the open Atlantic. Sheflew east beyond Bermuda before turning south and down to St. Croix. We expect Hope to stage for a period of 2-3 weeks before making her way down tothe coast of South America for the winter.

Whimbrel- Hatfield, MA 8/23/09.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

HBC Trip-Yellowstone 2009

Hampshire Bird Club- Wyoming, Trip July 2009. Part two- Yellowstone.

We left Jackson Hole early on a raining Friday morning as we made our way towards Yellowstone National Park. We made a few stops along the way, but for the most part headed directly to the gates. The bottom line…Yellowstone was everything we thought it was going to be and more. The beauty of the Mammoth Hot Springs, (and smell) Old Faithful, Yellowstone Lake, Mt.Washburn, Lamar and Hayden Valley’s were simply spectacular. Hard to believe, but birds were not our only focus. Our group quickly got caught up in the hunt for large mammals around the park. Undoubtedly we were far better prepared than most of the other visitors to Yellowstone. With are high powered telescopes and binoculars we fast became a crowd favorite at certain roadside haunts.

Everyone in the group was on the constant lookout for the two most sought after mammals-Grizzly Bear and Wolves, and we were not going to be disappointed. In mid afternoon on day two in Yellowstone we found a fairly large Grizzly Bear in Lamar Valley. Although not close, we were afforded nice looks through are scopes and watched the bear for over fifteen minutes. A little further down the road a Black Bear made an appearance as it slowly worked its way through the field.

This of course was a birding trip….and we did have some interesting sightings. We had one of only ten Trumpeter Swans currently in Yellowstone in the summer. Close to 180 Barrow’s Goldeneye’s, Common Loon, American White Pelican, Swanson’s Hawk, Golden Eagle, American Kestrel’s (many-nice to see since they are becoming scare in New England) Prairie Falcon, Sora Rail, Sandhill Crane, White-throated Swift (3), Clark’s Nutcracker, American Dipper, Lazuli Bunting, Red Crossbill and abundant Pine Siskins.

Early Monday morning- it was decided not to head to Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge, but instead head to Hayden Valley and look for the Wolf Pack. We missed the Wolves by only 10 minutes the other day and wanted to give it one more shot before heading back to Jackson Hole. We made a beeline directly for Hayden Valley on Monday morning. After waiting for the road construction that was on going throughout the park we made it to the lookout…only to learn that we just missed the wolf pack by 10 seconds!!!! Quickly following the advice of one of the volunteer naturalists, we got back in the cars and back tracked a few hundred yards to the next turn out and waited.
The naturalists predicted the wolves would cross the road between the two pullouts to get to a recent carcass- BINGO!! Right on cue the wolf pack came out from the forest and cross about 200 yards in front of us. Plain and simply, it was just an amazing amount of luck. After the wolf encounter, we just worked are way back towards Jackson Hole and finish off our adventure with a trip up to Rendezvous Mountain and a rafting trip down the Snake River.

Next blog entry….HBC trip to South Beach.


Old Faithful


Elk- Along the West Entrance Road.


This was anything but uncommon in Hayden Valley. On one occasion, the Buffalo caused a 45 minute delay. To move the herd along- The Park Rangers would drive up and down the road making some type of clicking sound over their PA system. This seem to work reasonably well.

The sign going into Teton N.P. said....Hitting a 2000 lbs Buffalo will ruin your day and your car.

Another Buffalo jam about to begin....

Buffalo coming out of the Snake River. These animals were very good swimmers.

Sandhill Crane in West Yellowstone, Montana.

White-throated Swift- Yellowstone. Not a great photo, but not bad considering the speed of these guys.

Mountain Bluebird- on top of Mt. Washburn.

River Otter- at the base of the Jackson Hole Dam.
American White Pelican- Hayden Valley.

Bald Eagle- This adult had a nest right along the West Entrance Rd into Yellowstone.

One of four wolves that made up the Hayden Valley Wolf Pack.

Wolf- Talk about luck...that guy in the first car had a look of a lifetime.

Just coming out of the forest.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jackson Hole/Grand Teton National Park

The Hampshire Bird Club trip to Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park was simply AWESOME! The flights to and from Jackson Hole, Wyoming couldn't have been better and the weather was outstanding. A total of 11 birders made the trek from western & central Massachusetts, and the leader was Tom Gagnon. Tom once worked for a few summers in Teton N.P. in the mid sixties and has been back a few times since then-his knowledge of the area was most impressive.

The trip was billed as a birding trip (of course) with an intense focus on Mammals! We came away with 118 species of birds (not bad-could have been a little better) and 23 species of mammals. We did very well with large mammals!! Buffalo, Pronghorn Antelope, Elk, Mule Deer, Moose, Big Horned, Sheep, Black Bear, Grizzly Bear, Coyote and 4 Wolves :)

As I mentioned, the weather was absolutely fantastic. Mornings started out anywhere from 39-48 degrees and climbed to mid 70"s, a couple of days made it to the low 90's. A few passing thunderstorms, (one with hail) and one foggy morning was the extent of the bad weather.

Some of the birding hightlights around Jackson Hole & Teton N.P. .......Trumpeter Swan (4), Dusky Grouse (7), White Pelican (2), Swainson's Hawk (8), Golden Eagle (2), Sora Rail, Sandhill Crane, Great Gray Owl (1), Calliope, Broad-tailed & Rufous Hummingbirds, Williamson's & Red-naped Sapsuckers, Lewis's Woodpecker (1), Dusky Flycatcher, Gray Jay (2), Clark's Nutcracker, Black-billed Magpie, Violet-green Swallows,
Mountain Chickadee, Mountain Bluebird, Sage Thrasher (2), Macgillivray's Warbler (9), Western Tanager, Green-tailed Towhee, Brewer's Sparrow, Lazuli Bunting (2), Western Meadowlark (6), Yellow-headed Blackbird, Brewer's Blackbird, Cassin's Finch, Red Crossbill and many Pine siskins. ( To enlarge the photos...just click on photo.)

Early morning view of the Tetons from signal Mt.

Dusky Grouse (female) Signal Mt. Parking lot.

Dusky Grouse (male)

Rainbow on Elk N.W.R. in Jackson Hole. After the roughly (7500) Elk depart the refuge in the spring, the Boy Scouts go out and collect all the Elk Antlers. At some point in time- they hold an auction somewhere around Jackson Hole and sell the Antlers....Last year they took in 98,000.00 of which half is theirs to keep. NOT A BAD FUND RAISER!!!

Scott & Valerie

Trumpeter Swans...Flat Creek at Elk N.W.R.

A huge surprise was this Lewis's Woodpecker! The Woodpecker was nesting in the park.
Swainson's Hawk

Green-tailed Towhee

Big Horned Sheep. We found a group of three just outside Jackson Hole, our only ones of the trip.

A view of the Tetons

Another great Surprise was this Great Gray Owl in Teton Park.


Western Tanager- Very common around the Tetons and Yellowstone.

Photos of Yellowstone will appear in the next few days,