Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Bird Counts

Christmas count Season:

Tis this season to be Merry and count birds. The first Christmas Bird Counts were started in 1900, when twenty five were conducted. Last year, 2,160 counts were done on a national level. Here in New England the counts break down as follows….Massachusetts 33, Maine 29, Vermont 18, Rhode Island 4, New Hampshire 17, and 16 in Connecticut.

Locally, I participate on the Northampton and Quabbin counts, and added the Sturbridge count to my list of firsts. As mentioned, I did the Sturbridge count for the first time this year with my wife Valerie. Now, Valerie is a veteran of the Sturbridge count and has never missed one. This particular count is held on a week day, often making it difficult for me to break away from work. Our section of the count is called Elf Hill. This area is in the Brookfield’s. Our highlight of the day happened to be the second bird that we observed…..American Woodcock!! This was the first Woodcock I’ve ever come across on a Christmas Count. However, this was not a first for the Sturbridge count, there was a prior record! The day was cold with a noticeable breeze…making it real cold. It wasn’t a record count, but my recollection was around 73 species, making it a respectable count.

Northampton Count:

The Northampton count was held under ideal conditions on Sunday the 19th. I was joined again this year by James Smith of Gill. James and I started at 3AM in Amherst. I have a relatively small owling area, but it can be quite good. The Owling conditions were simply unbelievable…no wind, clear, but a little chilly. In two and a half hours of Owling, we had five species! Great Horned – 2, Eastern Screech Owl -3, Northern Saw-whet Owl -1, Barred Owl-1 and the gem of the morning was a calling Long-eared Owl. Our Barred Owl was brought in by a calling Screech Owl near Umass. That little owl made a vocalization just before the Barred Owl appeared, a sound that James or I had never heard before. Of course, if something were chasing and trying to eat us, I’m sure James and I would make a whole bunch of noises that that many of our friends have never heard us make before. We felt the little owl had a pretty good head start and that it probably eluded his uninvited guest.

The daylight portion of our count also proved to be quite productive. My area is along the river in Hadley, and I’ve covered this area since the early 80’s. We ended the day with 49 species, highlights…..Merlin, Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel, American Pipit-2, and 4 White-cr. Sparrows. Overall, the count did very well….an unofficial 87 species, just four shy of the record.

Next up….The Quabbin Count.

Merlin-  Above) This bird found by James Smith. This is the darkest appearing Merlin I've seen here in the Northeast.

White-crowned Sparrow (Imm) Two or four birds we had this day. Certainly the most I've ever had on the Northampton count.

White-crowned Sparrow- Imm. Hadley

Savannah Sparrow- This individual was on the pale side of the Savannah Sparrows we encountered.

American Woodcock- Sturbridge C.B.C. 12-14-10

Muskrat- Brookfield Area 12-14-10

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Odds & Ends...Photos from past weeks

I've posted some recent photos from trips close to home and up to the North Shore and Southern Maine.
Cattle Egret - Easier to find in the eastern part of the state than here in the west. Always nice to locate one. (Hellcat/Plum Is. Oct 31,2010)

Shorebirds on the move....Even though the Curlew Sandpiper hadn't been seen in four days prior to our trip, we headed out to Sandy Point. These Dunlin, Black-bellied Plovers and Sanderlings  were on the move...When looking for rare shorebirds, a Peregrine Falcon is not what you want.

Peregrine Falcon- A great bird, but not when scoping through large flocks of shorebirds.

Sandhill Crane- Bird of the day on October 31st....definitely a treat!

King Eider-young male in Ogunquit Maine. (Perkins Cove)

Perkins Cove- Ogunquit, Maine.

Gray Kingbird- 2nd State record for Maine. (Perkins Cove)

Fox Sparrow- Goodell Street Feeder.

White-throated Sparrow- Feeder.

Tundra Swans- Quabbin Res. This group of 19 was found by the Hampshire Bird Club (Tom Gagnon & Larry Therrien leading) Nov. 20, 2010

Cackling Goose- Umass Campus Pond/Amherst. 11-21-2010

Cackling Goose- Bird #2 at the Campus Pond.

American robin and Winter berry

Monday, November 1, 2010

Chasing the Curlew Sandpiper....

Curlew Sandpiper- Juv
Curlew Sandpipers are not very common migrant in the state, if fact you could make a reasonable case that they are down right...rare. However- It seems one or two get found every year, but usually adults. This bird that was found by Suzanne Sullivan in early October was a juvenile, a plumage that I've never encountered before. So I headed out early Saturday morning on  the 23rd and headed directly to the south end of Plum Island to Sandy Point. The tide was on the rise and I first came upon the Curlew out of the mud flats. After photographing the bird for a while, I move towards the beach where I relocated it roosting with White-rumped Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers in the dunes. I was pretty impressed that this bird hung around for as long as it did, the last report on October 28th. 

From Plum Island, I headed to Concord to take in the Barnacle Goose that had been recently found by David Sibley. I arrived in the late afternoon and was please to find the bird with a flock of Canada Geese.

Curlew Sandpiper

Dunlin- Sandy Point

Semipalmated Plover

White-rumped Sandpiper
This napping Raccoon was right next to the main road at the Plum Island airport.
Barnacle Goose- Concord.

Berkshire Lakes

It's been a few weeks since I've been able to update my blog, and during that time I've had the opportunity to visit the Berkshire Lakes region as well as Plum Island on the North Shore. I headed up to the Pittsfield area on October 17th to take in the fall colors and locate some waterfowl on the various Lakes and Reservoirs. Ian Davies and I departed early from Amherst and made it to Windsor just at dawn. Although we had quietly hoped for an early Northern Shrike or perhaps a Northern Goshawk, (denied on both accounts) we had a nice dawn movement of birds. (American Robins 1500, Sharp-shinned Hawk (14), Common Raven 4, American Pipit 3, Palm Warbler 6, Field sparrow 2, Lincolns Sparrow 1, Eastern Meadowlark 1, Rusty Blackbird 1, Purple Finch 8, Pine Siskins 3)

From windsor, we headed to Cheshire Reservoir and the large lakes around the Pittsfield area. Both Chershire and Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield would be the most productive bodies of water this day.(variety) Some of the highlights...(Gadwall 2, American wigeon 1, Northern Pintail 1, Green-winged Teal 6, Ring-necked duck 1, Greater Scaup 2, Black Scoter 5, Red-breasted Merganser 5, Pied-billed Grebes 4, American Coot 6 ) Our last stop at Mud Pond yielded a good number of Ring-necked Ducks (610) and one Ruddy Duck.
Black Scoter- Cheshire Reservoir

Canada Geese...coming in
Another perfect landing with fall colors
American Coot

Fall New England in the fall.

Next.....Plum Island area

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Redheads- Turners Falls Canal

Redhead Ducks and one Lesser Scaup.

I read James Smith's post the other day on Massbird, and was pleased to hear the Redhead Ducks were still present at the Power Canal in Turner's Falls. So late Saturday afternoon I headed up hoping these elusive ducks would still be around. After a sort walk down the road, I came upon a decent gathering of waterfowl, which included the six Redheads. Redhead Ducks in the valley are by no means an annual visitor, in fact, an active birder could easily miss this species several years in a row. So the six birds in Turner's Falls was really nice to see. Besides the Redheads, a Northern Shoveler, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon, Lesser Scaup and Common Mergansers put of a nice late afternoon show.                                                                                        American Wigeon
American Wigeon in flight. 
Redhead -airborne
Northern Shoveler-  
Common Merganser-female

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hampshire Bird Club - Cape Cod

Palm Warbler- Middleboro. One of the few brave birds that teed -up in the wind.

The Hampshire Bird Club spent three days last weekend on Cape Cod. The trip started out in Middleboro at the Cumberland Farms fields, this area has a terrific track record of not only producing rare birds, but large numbers of birds. However, this area is less productive when the the winds are out of the southeast at 25mph. The remains of tropical storm Nicole were moving into the region as we began our trip. Despite the wind, we did manage to pull out a nice show of Northern Harriers, Tree Swallows and an Upland Sandpiper. Anytime one comes across an Upland Sandpiper away from an Air force Base nowadays is indeed a plus. On this day, landbirds were almost non-existant- just a few brave Catbirds, Boblinks and Palm Warblers were able to tee-up on a weedy stalk for a brief moment. The one bright spot, at least for a while...the heavy rains had not yet arrived.

With the strong southeasterly winds throughout the day and into the evening, I thought we might have a chance for a seabird show at First Encounter Beach in Eastham the next morning! So we got everyone to First Encounter by 6:45am and hoped for the best. The winds had shifted to the northwest and the skies were clear and blue. A quick scan and large numbers of Northern Gannets immediately came into view.
The next couple of hours were pretty good, large numbers of Gannets (400+) along with decent numbers Cory's and Great Shearwaters. A few distant Parasitic Jaegers, White-winged and Surf Scoters, Forster's Terns and an American Golden-Plover.
                                          The Moon at First Encounter Beach.......

Looking out at Cape Cod Bay.

Northern Gannets

Red-breasted Nuthatch- Beach Forest in Provincetown.

Forster's Tern- Wellfleet Harbor.

Peregrine Falcon (Imm) Wellfleet Bay

Red Squirrel- Wellfleet.

Summer Tanager- Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary- Mass Audubon.

Looking out from Hemenway Rd in Eastham. (Coast Guard Beach in background)

Black-crowned Night-Herons coming out.

Yellow-crowned Night-Heron- Imm.

Fort Hill in Eastham.

After First Encounter, we headed down to Provincetown to bird the Beach Forest. Land birding at the Beach Forest would not go down in history as one of those amazing moments, and basically set the theme for the rest of the weekend. By late afternoon we made our way to the Mass Audubon Sanctuary at Wellfleet, there had been a Dickcissel report fairly recently, but not that we could locate this day. After birding the grounds we were just about back to
the visitors center and we stopped back at a large thicket where we had had a Scarlet Tanager twenty minutes earlier. Now this thicket wasn't busting with birds, the Tanager, Catbird, Robin, a handful of Chickadees and some House Sparrows, and that was about it. But we stopped for a few moments when Marylou Splain got on the Tanager at the top of the thicket. It took what seemed like five minutes to get onto this bird because it was fairly well concealed, then I finally got it. Something about the color of this thing was not right, I kept slowly moving to the right, trying to get a better view....Hey, I think this is a Summer Tanager! ... and the bird just dropped right into the heart of the thicket. We spent the next 30 minutes just getting quick views of the bird until finally it popped out and all were able to get a quick but decent look at the Summer Tanager!!

After the Tanager, we headed to Hemenway Road in Eastham. This area is famous for watching the Night-Herons coming out of their daytime roost, and especially for the Yellow-crowned Night-heron. We ended up with (44) Black-crowned Night-Herons and (6) Yellow-crowned Night-Herons...Nice way to end the day.

Sunday brought more clouds, a steady north easterly wind and even less landbirds. We ended the trip at Cow Yard Lane in Chatham. In recent years this has become a fairly decent shorebird spot at low tide, we added Marbled Godwit (5), American Oystercatcher, Willets (Western race), Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin and over a hundred Gray Seals. We ended with 109 species, all in all a very nice weekend.

Trip list and weather:

Oct 1st, 2010 – Temp 75-82 degrees. A weakened tropical Storm (Nicole) passed through New England on Friday. The constant high winds (SE) 15-30mph made land birding very difficult. These winds would ultimately play a major role the next morning at First Encounter. The heavy rains that we dodge most of the day finally caught up with us by 2pm.

Oct 2nd, 2010 – We were met with clear skies, Northwesterly wind (5-20mph) and cooler temps 51-65.

Oct 3rd, 2010 – Temps 56-61, Cloudy with a noticeable 5-15mph Northeast wind.

Areas Covered:
Middleboro –Cumberland Farms Fields, Wareham (Tihonet Cranberry Bog), Sandy Neck Beach.

Eastham – First Encounter Beach, Stump Dump, Hemingway Rd, Fort Hill, Coast Guard Beach.

Truro – High Head.

Provincetown – Herring Cove, Beach Forest

Wellfleet – Mass Audubon, Harbor

Chatham –Cow Yard Lane.

Canada Goose 12
Mute Swan- 4
Am. Black Duck 33
Mallard (1) chatham
Blue-winged Teal (10) Beach Forest
Common Eider (350+) most at First Encounter Beach.
Surf Scoter (8)
White-winged Scoter (9)
Wild Turkey (3)
Common Loon (9) First Encounter/Fort Hill/Sandy Neck
Cory’s Shearwater (50+) of the Shearwaters closest to the parking lot- Cory’s was the most common.
Great Shearwater (75+) Farther out.
Manx Shearwater (1) Scott.
Northern Gannet (400+) Best Looks from First Encounter.
Double-crested Cormorant (300+)
American Bittern (1) First Encounter. Scott
Great Blue Heron (15+)
Great Egret (9)
Snowy Egret (5)
Green Heron (1) Wellfleet
Black-crowned Night-Heron (42) Hemingway Rd-Eastham.
Yellow-crowned Night-Heron (6)
Turkey Vulture (15+)
Osprey (7)
Northern Harrier (6)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (3)
Cooper’s Hawk (3)
Red-tailed Hawk (3)
American Kestrel (3) Middleboro
Peregrine Falcon (2)
Black-bellied Plover (200+)
American Golden-Plover (1) First Encounter Flyby.
Semi Plover (20+)
American Oystercatcher (2) Cow Yard/Chatham.
Greater Yellowlegs (100)
Lesser Yellowlegs (5)
Solitary Sandpiper (2) Beach Forest
Willet-western race (6)
Upland Sandpiper (1) Middleboro
Whimbrel (2)
Marbled Godwit (5) Cow Yard Ln/Chatham.
Ruddy Turnstone (1) Cow Yard Ln. Chatham
Sanderling (100)
Semi Sandpiper (10+)
Dunlin (18)
Short-billed Dowitcher
Parasitic Jaeger (5)
Laughing Gull (80+)
Bonaparte’s Gull (3)
Ring-billed Gull (70+)
Herring Gull
Great black-backed Gull (80+)
Common Tern (300+)
Forster’s Tern (30)
Mourning Dove (15)
Belted Kingfisher (4)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (3)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (3)
Downy Woodpecker (4)
Northern Flicker (3)
Eastern Phoebe (2)
Blue-headed Vireo (1)
Red-eyed Vireo (1)
Blue Jay (18+)
American Crow (100+)
Fish Crow (1)
Horned Lark (8) Middleboro
Tree Swallow (4000+) Most at Sandy Neck.
Barn Swallow (15)
Black-capped Chickadee (60)
Tufted Titmouse (16)
Red-breasted Nuthatch (12)
White-breasted Nuthatch (2)
Carolina Wren (3)
House Wren (1)
Golden-crowned kinglet (7)
Ruby-crowned Kinglet (1)
Eastern Bluebird (4)
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird (2)
E. Starling
American Pipit (3)
Cedar Waxwing (32)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (10)
Pine Warbler (3)
Palm Warbler (14 Western/ 1 Eastern)
Blackpoll Warbler (1)
American Redstart (1)
Scarlet Tanager (1)
Summer Tanager (1) Wellfleet. Mass Audubon
Eastern Towhee (4)
Chipping Sparrow (5)
Field Sparrow (4)
Savannah Sparrow (4)
Song Sparrow (15)
Swamp Sparrow (3)
White-thr.Sparrow (6)
White-cr. Sparrow (1 Imm)
Dark-eyed Junco (1)
Northern Cardinal
Indigo Bunting (3) High Head- Truro
Bobolink (5) Middleboro
Common Grackle
Red-winged Blackbird
Purple Finch (4) 1-High Head 3- Fort Hill
House Finch (38)
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

109 Species