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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Connecticut Lakes-Pittsburg, NH

Another spring has come to an end, and with that, the Hitchcock Center Spring Birding Class has come to a successful end. Our last trip of the spring season was spent up in Northern Vermont & New Hampshire.  We left the Hitchcock Center at 6AM (Friday June 12th)  and headed up Rte 91 to our first stop…The P&H Truck Stop in Wells River, VT. This Restaurant (Truck Stop) has become a class favorite over the past couple of years, and hasn’t disappointed us yet. From there we headed north to MOOSE BOG. This area is one of the more reliable locations for finding Spruce Grouse; unfortunately this was not the case this day. However, we managed nice views of Black-backed Woodpecker, Black-burnian Warbler, Ring-necked Duck and three singing Rusty Blackbirds.

We departed Moose Bog in mid-afternoon and headed to Colebrook, NH. Colebrook would be our home base for the next two days.  We had a nice dinner that evening, but would not look for Moose this evening because of the heavy rains that were rolling through the region that night. The next morning we were up early and headed north the Pittsburg, NH. During the twenty-five minute trip up to Pittsburg, we could see the effect the heavy rains had on the region…..streams, and the water fall on Rte 145 was spectacular.

Our first road we birded was East Inlet. This has always been a productive road over the years. We had several Gray Jays, Boreal Chickadees, Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, and several species of warblers including Bay-breasted, Northern Parula, Canada, Black-thr.Green, along with Winter Wrens,  Ruby-cr.Kinglets and Purple Finches.

That evening after dinner we headed up to Moose Ally (Rte 3) in hopes of locating a Large brown mammal. This would be a life mammal for a number of the group…I’m happy to report Moose Ally didn’t let us down….one young Bull Moose put on a nice show for all.

Our last day was spent birding Day Road in Pittsburg. Certainly more of the same cast of characters,  but a few new species for the trip….Olive-sided Flycatcher, Mourning Warbler, more Gray Jays and Boreal Chickadees.  We logged 674 miles during the trip, ended up with 78 species and a handful of mammals.
Nice thing about this trip…everyone got great looks at just about everything. Enjoy the photos

The Falls on Rte 145 between Colebrook & Pittsburg, NH

Gray Jay-Adult

Boreal Chickadee-Day Road, Pittsburg.

Black-throated Green Warbler-Day Road.

Cliff Swallow- Moose Ally Ice Cream Stand. Cliff Swallows have been nesting here for years, sadly a high count of 32 nests have dwindled down to only 2 nests now! The owners have been working with New Hampshire Audubon to try and bring back the colony -stay tuned. 

Common Loon on 1st Connecticut Lake

Gray Jay-Juv

Mourning Warbler-Day Road...put on a great show for the group.

Northern Parula- Day Road

Olive-sided Flycatcher- fairly distant...amazing how far their call carry's. 

Moose-young male. Locals say the Moose population is starting to do better in recent years. However, a ways to go from the time 15 years ago when we had 17 in one evening!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Magee Marsh to Grayling

Valerie and I recently went on the road to Ohio and Michigan to seek out a Kirtland’s Warbler in Grayling, Michigan and to witness the “Biggest Week in American Birding” at Magee Marsh.
Rather than driving non-stop to Port Clinton, OH, we decided to spend the first night in Erie, PA.
The next morning we birded Presque Isle State Park. This was a very nice and spacious park, and very birdy. We were both astounded by the number of Yellow Warblers at this park! We knew we had at least a few hundred and no doubt this figure was on the conservative side. At about mid-day we headed west to Port Clinton, this would be our base for the next few days.

The next morning we hit the boardwalk at Magee Marsh. The organizers of this 10 day festival bill this “The Biggest Week in American Birding” and they may be right.  The amount of birders visiting Magee Marsh was very impressive.. The birding at the Marsh was fabulous with many birds at or near eye level. We encountered 26  species of warblers at Magee, although we didn't get anything to unusual in the warbler department, we had wonderful looks at everything.  

The birding possibilities are not limited to Magee Marsh…..other areas we birded included Metzger Marsh, Ottawa N.W.R., Oak Openings near Toledo as well as the many farm fields around the region.  The amount of planning that goes on behind the scenes for the birding festival must be enormous, we were both very impressed.

From Magee Marsh we drove five hours north to Grayling, MI to hopefully encounter our main target bird for the trip “Kirtland’s Warbler” Thanks to James Smith for some excellent directions to an area he has birded several times…..we found a male Kirtland’s at about 7:55PM! .Certainly satisfied that we got our main bird, we were going back the next morning for more prolonged looks and to see what else we could add to our trip list. The area also held Clay-colored Sparrows, Vesper Sparrows, Nashville Warblers etc. We also hit Hartwick State Park, not a lot to see in late morning, but found Red-breasted Nuthatch and Evening Grosbeaks.

At about noontime we made our way towards Lake Huron for Tawas City. Seems Tawas City was also holding a 3 day birding festival. Tawas ended up beaning one of our favorite areas of the trip, and we’ll plan on at least two days in the area next time we go back. The state park has a Lighthouse that hooks out into the lake hauling in migrants as they head north. More of the same cast of characters as Magee Marsh, but even better looks and we wouldn’t have thought that would have been possible. We added our 28th specie of warbler for the trip (Orange-crowned) along with a few shorebird species, Olive-sided Flycatcher and just 30 minutes up the road was a late Snowy Owl.  

We made our way back to Magee Marsh for one last walk around the boardwalk before heading home the following day. All in all a very productive and fun trip…..we ended up with 180 species and 2,644 miles tacked onto my car. Below are a few photos from the trip……

Tennessee Warbler- Magee Marsh

Common Nighthawk- Ottawa NWR

Trumpeter Swan-Ottawa NWR.   The refuge and adjacent areas now host somewhere around 20 active nests. These endangered birds are not countable by listing standards,  but  were very cool to see flying around and even better to know their introduced population is doing well.  

Dunlin- Really good numbers and nice to see them acquiring breeding plumage. 

 This was kinda of strange! Herring Gulls building their nests in what appeared to be an abandon parking lot in downtown Port Clinton.

Clay-colored Sparrow-Grayling,MI

Orange-cr.Warbler-Tawas State Park. one of six.

Black-thr. Green Warbler

Mourning Warbler-Magee Marsh Boardwalk

White-faced Ibis- near Magee Marsh.

Pied-billed Grebe-Ottawa

Yellow Warbler-

Northern Parula- Tawas

Blue Jays coming off lake Huron-Tawas

American Redstart

Bay-breasted Warbler-Magee

Blackburnian Warbler

Scarlet Tanager-Magee

It was great to see Purple Martin colony's   

Purple Martin

American Woodcock-Magee

Yellow-rumped Warbler


Sandhill Crane-Ottawa

Cape May Warbler

Killdeer with young

Red-headed Woodpecker-Another bird that's become rare in New England, nice to see good numbers of them.

Kirtland's Warbler- Grayling