Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mt. Holyoke

Mt. Holyoke.

Saturday May 15th, Incredible as it may sound, it didn’t rain today on the Spring Birding Class! The only thing we had to contend with was the wind….and it did blow hard at times. We arrived at the main entrance to Mt. Holyoke (Skinner State Park-So. Hadley, Mass) around 7:30AM, parked cars, grabbed our gear and headed up the road to the Summit House. The main gate we learned would remained close until Monday the 17th, however….in the grand scheme of things, it was much nicer not to constantly get out of the way of traffic heading up to the Summit house.

The walk up the road to the Summit House is really quite easy and the round trip is easily done in a half a day, with lots of stops along the way to look for birds. Our main goal was to locate two specific breeding warblers on Mt. Holyoke, Worm-eating and Cerulean Warblers. Ceruleans are the main attraction on Mt. Holyoke, while they breed in other locations in Massachusetts, (sparingly) the birds on Mt. Holyoke are the easiest to find.

Along the way up to the top, we encountered a beautiful Ovenbird that was singing his heart out, so much so, that he allowed all fifteen birders to get a look at him through the scope! About half an hour into to our walk we came upon our first target bird…Worm-eating Warbler. Once we located the bird, I set it up in the scope, and to my amazement it just stayed on the same branch, and again…everyone got to see it the scope!

Other species encountered on the way to the top….Winter Wren, Tennessee Warbler (singing) Bay-breasted Warbler, Scarlet Tanager, Eastern Wood-Pewee too mention a few. When we arrived at the lower parking lot at the Summit House, both Ceruleans were in full song and put on a very nice show. Other show stealers were two Indigo Buntings and a 1st year Red-tailed Hawk that gave us incredible views. We ended our trip up the mountain with forty eight species and despite the wind, were afforded some great looks at our target species.

Below our photos and trip list,

Good Birding,


Cerulean Warbler- Mt. Hoyoke
Cerulean Warbler

Indigo Bunting- Summit House- Mt. Holyoke.

Red-tailed Hawk.
Red-tailed Hawk- Up close & Personal.

Worm-eating Warbler- Mt. Holyoke.

Worm-eating Warbler- showing crown stripes.

As a foot note.....The Summit House will be closed for a while. The porches around the house need major repairs and that won't happen right away. On an up note.....The restrooms are still open!

Red-eyed Vireo- many seen and heard on the mountain.

On a completely different note- This Red-Headed Woodpecker was found by my friend James Smith while birding in Deerfield.  James posted directions on Massbird a few days ago, this bird was not vocal at all when Valerie and I tried for it this morning. (Sunday) Red-headed Woodpecker is now a rare breeder in the state. Hope it finds a mate!

Location: Skinner State Park
Observation date: 5/15/10
Number of species: 48

Turkey Vulture 3
Bald Eagle 1
Broad-winged Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Mourning Dove 2
Chimney Swift 6
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 1
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Eastern Wood-Pewee 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
Great Crested Flycatcher 1
Yellow-throated Vireo 1
Blue-headed Vireo 2
Red-eyed Vireo 17
Blue Jay 8
American Crow X
Common Raven 2
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Winter Wren 1
Veery 1
Hermit Thrush 1
Wood Thrush 6
American Robin 15
Gray Catbird 2
Tennessee Warbler 1
Chestnut-sided Warbler 1
Magnolia Warbler 3
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 2
Black-throated Green Warbler 4
Blackburnian Warbler 3
Bay-breasted Warbler 1
Cerulean Warbler 2
Black-and-white Warbler 4
American Redstart 6
Worm-eating Warbler 2
Ovenbird 7
Scarlet Tanager 4
Chipping Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak 4
Indigo Bunting 2
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
Baltimore Oriole 1
American Goldfinch 1

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Bony bonanza

The running joke with the Hitchcock Centers Spring Birding class is, if there’s going to be one raining day in seven…it will be on the day the class is scheduled to meet. Such was the case yesterday (May 8, 2010) morning when we headed out around 6:30am. I was awaken around 4:45am with the flash of lighting and thunder, lying in bed and wondering if the lighting would at least cease, because the forecast for the morning was for on and off downpours.

Our trip was originally schedule to go to Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, but the Boston area forecast was no better. So I decided to keep it local and perhaps the rains would put something down along the river. I arrive at the Hitchcock Center just after 6:30am and found three hardy veteran’s of the spring class, who knew there leader would go out in just about anything. We birded Larch Hill conservation area and had about 10 species of Warblers, Black-throated blue, Magnolia and Wilson’s gave us the best views.

We left the center and drove around the back roads of Hadley hoping for a Cattle Egret in one of the many fields, but this was not meant to be today. A quick stop at the Doughnut Man in Hadley, (Unofficial favorite pit stop of the spring birding class) and then onto the Oxbow in Northampton. The Oxbow had a nice gathering of Bank and Tree Swallows, a flyby Double-crested Cormorant and a distant belted kingfisher.

After the Oxbow, we made our way up to Stillwater Rd in Deerfield to check out what was left of a small pool and to see if any migrating shorebirds had settled in. Historically this “spring” pool has produced some good spring shorebirds, Red-necked Phalarope, White-rumped Sandpiper, Semipalmated Plover to mention a few. Helga’s sharp eye caught a Solitary Sandpiper; we enjoyed nice views in the scope as we huddled under the hatchback of the car, trying to keep some what dry.

Next on the hit parade was the Deerfield Marsh, I played Virginia and Sora Rail recordings, but to my disappointment nobody called back. We just started driving out into the Deerfield Meadows when I noticed a smaller gull standing next to the ring-billed Gull- “Bonaparte’s” I said. A beautiful breeding plumaged bird that gave us a beyond believable looks at this very uncommon bird. Bonaparte’s are reported each spring, but one can easily go a few springs without encountering one. Although we didn’t know it at the time, this would be the first of seven that we would see in the next hour.

After Deerfield, we drove straight to Barton’s Cove in Turner’s Falls hoping for more storm related birds. Our first stop at the cove produced (2) Lesser Scaup, (4) Ring-necked Ducks and (6) Double-crested Cormorants, in the distance I could seen more Bonaparte’s Gulls on the nearby boat docks. We drove to this private marina and had great looks at (5) more Bonaparte’s Gulls! (3ad-2-1st yr) Certainly the most Bonaparte’s Gulls I’ve had at one time in many, many years of valley birding. From here we made our way back across the bridge to the Rod & Gun Club.

The Rod & Gun Club, although private has always allowed birders to visit and scan this section of the Connecticut River. We pulled up and had another Bonaparte’s Gull way out on a large dead stump on the other side of a tiny island. This made seven in less than an hour! But this outbreak was not just confined to the Franklin county area of Massachusetts. Later in the evening I read on Massbird that other inland sightings of Bonaparte’s Gulls had occurred in Worcester County and even in inland Connecticut.

Despite my excitement with the gulls, the best bird of the day was the breeding plumage White-winged Scoter we also came across at the Rod & Gun Club. For me at least, I’ve had less than five spring sightings of White-winged Scoter over the last thirty plus years of birding in the valley. Well, it was getting towards the end of the trip and we were just a stones throw from the Turner’s Falls Airport, so I said, lets see if the Grasshopper Sparrows had come back. Now, I wasn’t particularly hopeful, on – off rain, not real warm, but what the hell, were here! We pulled up to the gate, got out of the car and it’s teed up and singing his little heart out. Put it in the scope, stayed there until everyone had a killer look.

Ended the day on a high note……

Bonaparte's Gull- Deerfield Meadows

The Group @ Barton's Cove- Turner's Falls

Double-crested Cormorants- Barton's Cove.
Bonaparte's Gulls- Barton's Cove.
White-winged Scoter- Rod & Gun club/Turner's Falls.
Grasshopper Sparrow- Turner's Falls Airport.
Brown Thrasher- Montague Plains
Closer to home- Red-bellied Woodpecker.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak-female.
Rose-breasted Grosbeak- feeder.
Trying to get the perfect head shot....
Rainy Day Dreamer
Wild Turkey- Quabbin Park.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Quabbin Trip - May 1st.

May 1st- Quabbin Reservoir.

Headed out this morning with the Hitchcock birding class to the Quabbin Reservoir, our goal was finding our first warbler wave of the season. While we did encounter eight species of Warblers, the numbers were pretty thin and song was almost non-existent. However, we had nice looks at a Prairie and Black-White Warblers, a brilliant Male Scarlet Tanager is always a crowd pleaser, but the show stealer was the Common Ravens nesting at the Spillway. With a scope we were able to detect 3 young at the nest and one of the adults seem to stand guard near the nest allowing for extended scope views and photos. The adult also made an array of calls and noises you would have trouble describing.

Later at Larch Hill in Amherst (Hitchcock Center) I had my first Hermit Thrush of the year, along with a Black-throated green Warbler, Northern Parula and a stealthy Swamp Sparrow. All in all a nice day with 11 species of warblers.

Trip list below....


Common Raven- Quabbin.
Black & White Warbler-Male. Quabbin
Pine Warbler-Female. Larch Hill- Amherst.

Turkey Vulture - Quabbin.

Quabbin Reservoir--Park HQ.

Observation date: 5/1/10
Number of species: 51

Canada Goose 8
Mallard 1
Wild Turkey 11
Common Loon 1
Double-crested Cormorant 9
Turkey Vulture 2
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Broad-winged Hawk 11
Spotted Sandpiper 2
Mourning Dove X
Chimney Swift 6
Red-bellied Woodpecker 3
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 2
Blue-headed Vireo 1
Warbling Vireo 1
Blue Jay 15
American Crow X
Common Raven 5
Barn Swallow 1
Black-capped Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
House Wren 1
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 3
American Robin X
Gray Catbird 1
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling X
Nashville Warbler 2
Northern Parula 1
Black-throated Blue Warbler 1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) 8
Pine Warbler 18
Prairie Warbler 1
Black-and-white Warbler 3
American Redstart 1
Scarlet Tanager 2
Eastern Towhee 4
Chipping Sparrow 25
Field Sparrow 1
Savannah Sparrow 2
Song Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 15
Northern Cardinal 5
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X
Brown-headed Cowbird 12
Baltimore Oriole 2
American Goldfinch X