Tuesday, May 5, 2015

MA - Crossbills in the plains

This morning I took an impromptu bike ride around the Montague Sand Plains. I knew I'd find Prairie Warblers there but had a pretty open mind when it came to other species. I'd barely started my ride when I heard the classic 'gyp gyp' calls of Red Crossbills and quickly found a party of four (two male, two female) close to a huge power line cut running through the center of the plains.

I thoroughly enjoyed my ride finding many newly arrived summer migrants and local breeders such as Field Sparrows and Eastern Towhees. On the hand, it was a bit disappointing to find this beautiful and unique habitat used as a dumping ground. I counted 13 dumped sofas and 8 mattresses during a four mile ride and only scratched the surface of the whole area.




Red Crossbills - Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., May 5th, 2015.


Prairie Warbler -  male, Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., May 5th, 2015.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

MA - migrants arriving including first Yellow-throated Vireo in Gill

A better, calmer morning with temperatures looking set to rise nicely in the afternoon. Lots of birdsong around Gill this morning including a couple of year-firsts....a Yellow-throated Vireo singing just south of the intersection with North Cross and Main Roads, and a Black-throated Green Warbler down at Barton Cove where there was yet another new Louisiana Waterthrush to add to the relative abundance of the species in Gill.

Louisiana Waterthrush - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 29th, 2015. 

Waterbirds were few on the cove but a Common Goldeneye lingers along with a Common Loon and at least five Ring-necked Ducks.

Common Goldeneye - female, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 29th, 2015. 
Starting to get late for this species in Franklin County.

A bigger surprise, especially given the calm conditions, was the presence of at least 25 American Pipits in a pasture off North Cross Road and a Greater Yellowlegs foraging in a puddle off Main Road just north of the intersection with North Cross. Frustratingly, I didn't have time to bird this morning.....all of these were more or less incidental sightings but it sure looked like a good morning to be out.....wish I could have done more.

Greater Yellowlegs - Main Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 29th, 2015.
What I assume was the same bird was on the same pool on April 26th. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

MA - Northern Shovelers in Gill

Stopped by Barton Cove for ten minutes this morning on my way to an appointment. Nice to see Common Goldeneyes (2) and Ring-necked Ducks (10) lingering plus a continuing non-breeding Common Loon. Two Northern Shovelers and a male Green-winged Teal were more recent arrivals. There was also a lot of Pileated Woodpecker activity in the woods along the campground road and a singing vireo there which I'm pretty sure was a Blue-headed.


 Northern Shoveler - male and female, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 27th, 2015.


Common Goldeneye - two females with female Common Merganser, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. 
April 27th, 2015.

Other than that, the woods continue to be rather quiet as the constant northerlies do their worst.......I'd normally expect to be hearing Ovenbird, Black-throated Green Warbler and American Redstart in the woods by this time, though I did manage a FOY House Wren along the power canal yesterday. We could see some south-westerlies by Wednesday/Thursday which will hopefully bring warmer days and widespread arrivals of familiar summer migrants.



Pileated Woodpecker - male, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 27th, 2015.
Local Pileateds tend to be quite skittish but this bold male was rather approachable today. 


Thursday, April 23, 2015

MA - a couple more new arrivals

So we're back into cold northerlies and even had to endure snow flurries this afternoon! Migrants continue to trickle in with widespread arrivals of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Yellow-rumped Warblers. In Gill, I had my first Northern Waterthrush of the season on North Cross Road on the 22nd and Louisiana Waterthrushes continue to impress there with many territories, including one on the stream right behind the Gill Tavern!

This afternoon Matan and I headed up to Guildford in southern Vermont to look for salamanders only to encounter a blizzard when we got there! It was short lived though, and although I had few expectations bird-wise, Weatherhead Hollow Pond produced a few nice surprises namely a flock of about 25 Yellow-rumped Warblers and an eastern Palm Warbler along the shore, and my first local Green Heron of the year.

 Green Heron  - Weatherhead Hollow Pond, Windham Co., VT. April 23rd, 2015.


Yellow-rumped Warbler  -  male, Weatherhead Hollow Pond, Windham Co., VT. April 23rd, 2015.
One of a fairly large flock of about 25 males sitting out a snow storm!

Barton Cove in Gill was again rather quiet this morning but produced a 'new' non-breeding plumage Common Loon and a Greater Yellowlegs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

MA - Casper and Snapper



Caspian Tern - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 21st, 2015.
A scarce but perhaps expected migrant through the CT River Valley in late April/early May. 

The last few days have been a bit lack-luster in the Gill/Northfield area. Even the passage of a front yesterday brought lots of moisture but little else. Today was a little different and I made four rather brief stops at Barton Cove during the day and came up with new birds on each visit. My first visit saw very low water levels at the cove with an exposed sand bar producing two Greater Yellowlegs. Close to them was a nice male Bufflehead. Just before noon in showery conditions, a nice a arrival of about a dozen breeding plumage Ring-billed Gulls and five American Herring Gulls. Riverview Drive also had a singing Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Black-and-white Warbler, both new for the year. In mid-afternoon, I was more focused on going for a bike ride than birding but stopped to check Barton Cove anyway and was glad I did. There, sat of one of the tires in the middle of the cove, was a fine adult Caspian Tern and Bill Lafley was already scoping the bird as I pulled up. Even more impressive was an absolutely massive Snapping Turtle making its way across Riverview Drive........slowly!


Snapping Turtle - huge specimen crossing Riverview Drive, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 21st, 2015.

On my way back through Gill in the evening, I stopped for a fourth and final time at Barton Cove. The Caspian Tern was still there, but impressively the Double-crested Cormorants had built up from two this morning to 16 by early evening. Overhead, actually quite high overhead, Broad-winged Hawks passed over on a broad front and I logged roughly 15 birds over the 20 minutes that I spent at the boat ramp.

Greater Yellowlegs - two, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 21st, 2015.
Distant shots but identified by diagnostic calls. 


 Common Loon - adult, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 20th, 2015. One of two present.


 Hermit Thrush - Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 19th, 2015.


Eastern Chipmunk - Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 19th, 2015.

Back in Gill/Northfield, a steady but notable increase in species such as Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush,  Louisiana Waterthrush, Pine Warbler, Field Sparrow and Purple Finch over the last few days and my first Blue-headed Vireos of the year in Bernardston and Northfield over the weekend (on the 19th).

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

MA - Louisiana Waterthrush

If I was to nominate a 'bird-of-the-week' this week, it would have to be Louisiana Waterthrush. It's beautiful descending song is perhaps one of the most instantly recognizable bird sounds in the woodland around Franklin County and a sure sound of spring. In particular, the towns of Greenfield, Gill and Northfield seem to be especially good for them with most suitable wooded streams in those towns supporting one or more pairs. After hearing my first of the year on North Cross Road, Gill yesterday, they arrived en masse overnight - for example, three singing males along a one mile stretch of River Road in Gill this morning. They prefer fairly substantial fast flowing streams in mixed woodland dominated by Eastern  Hemlocks, a habitat shared by Winter Wren. Both species are shy and skulking, and much easier to hear than actually see. However, the canopy is still leafless at the moment and will be for a couple of weeks so the opportunity to is there to get out into the woods and get good views and audio of two of the more exciting species that we have in Western Massachusetts.



 Louisiana Waterthrush - River Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 15th, 2015.


 Winter Wren - River Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 15th, 2015.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

MA/NH - Bonaparte's Gulls

Bonaparte's Gull - adult, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2015.

Yet another fabulous day of spring migration in the Connecticut River Valley, full of diversity. The day got off to the best possible start with a singing Louisiana Waterthrush on North Cross Road in Gill, and actually a whole host of new songsters along that road including Winter Wren, Swamp and Chipping Sparrows as well as loads of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.

Canvasback - female, Hinsdale Bluffs, Cheshire Co., NH. April 14th, 2015.

After dropping Matan at school, I headed north to Hinsdale in New Hampshire and cycled out to the bluffs overlooking the Vernon Dam. I was hoping for a repeat of yesterday's raptor migration in Gill but as the wind swung around to the north-west it seemed to stifle any visual migration. However, the bluffs yielded some great new birds for this spring including five Long-tailed Ducks and 5 Bonaparte's Gulls, as well as a female Canvasback, the latter initially found by Dave Johnson who spotted it from the Vernon side of the river. Hundreds of swallows were in the area including my first Barn Swallows of the year and finally warblers in some numbers with Yellow-rumped, Palm and Pine Warblers all heard and seen around the bluffs. With them came quite good numbers Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Careful scanning also produced Greater and Lesser Scaups together, two Red-necked Grebes and a cracking female Barrow's Goldeneye. The latter could be my first April observation of a Barrow's anywhere in the valley. As usual, I wrestled with distance at Hinsdale so apologies for the heavily cropped images.

Barrow's Goldeneye (right) - female with female Common Goldeneye, Hinsdale Bluffs, Cheshire Co., NH. April 14th, 2015.

A quick stop at Barton Cove in the evening produced nice views of two Bonaparte's Gulls, possibly the same 'hooded' gulls reported on the Western Mass Birders Facebook page earlier in the day. A Wilson's Snipe on Ben Hale Road in Gill was a nice surprise and a great way to end another very interesting day in our area.



MA - Purple Finch bonanza!

I must confess that I'm not a big fan of feeder watching - I'd much rather be out in the field somewhere rather than looking at birds through the kitchen window but periodically I'm just blown away the sudden appearance of certain species at our feeders, especially when there's no indication that anything cool is about to happen. Early this afternoon, our near-empty feeders attracted four Purple Finches which I found especially remarkable because it seems to have been a relatively poor late winter/early spring for them in Gill/Northfield. I can only recall hearing one other Purple Finch this spring and that was on North Cross Road, Gill in late March.

 This female-type was the first to arrive with the males below arriving as a group of three about an hour later.
These birds didn't stay long either but I did manage to get these pics through a rather grimy kitchen window!



Purple Finches - Northfield yard, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2015.


Monday, April 13, 2015

MA - floodgates opening

Red-shouldered Hawk - displaying, Barney Hale Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 13th, 2015.

This morning I headed for Barton Cove with the specific intention of watching for the visual migration of soaring birds. I had a taste of migration yesterday at Hinsdale Bluffs in New Hampshire and with the winds still in the southern quarter, I thought my chances of seeing a few raptors moving over Gill would be good. My start was a late one as I had to take Matan to a dental appointment but I got settled in at the boat ramp by 10am and watched for raptors lifting up over the trees to the south of Barton Cove. The first bird I had was a Red-shouldered Hawk, a good start, and from then on, a steady stream of single migrant raptors passed over the cove on a fairly broad front. Over the next 75 minutes I tallied;

15 Broad-winged Hawk - all adults, FOY. Mostly singles but one 'kettle' of three.
6 Osprey
5 Red-shouldered Hawk
3 Sharp-shinned Hawk
1 Cooper's Hawk
1 Merlin - possibly local.
1 Peregrine - possibly local
5 Turkey Vulture - local
1 Bald Eagle - local
6 Red-tailed Hawk - local

Also involved, 5 Double-crested Cormorants and a 'heard-only' Sandhill Crane. The latter was calling high above the boat ramp but frustration set in as I scanned the clear blue skies without success. I'm not surprised by this. I've had similar experiences with heard-only Common Cranes migrating above the desert in southern Israel with the birds clearly audible but almost impossible to find in a cloudless sky. The Sandhill Crane was heard passing overhead at about 10;40hrs.


 Broad-winged Hawk - heavy crop of distant adult, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 13th, 2015. 
A total of 17 for the day, with 15 over Barton Cove in the morning and two singles over Gill later in the day. 


 Common Loon - adult breeding, Hinsdale Bluffs, Cheshire Co., NH. April 12th, 2015. 
High flying adult, southbound.


 Double-crested Cormorants - five heading north, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 13th, 2015. 


 scaup sp., - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 13th, 2015. 
Initially thought to be Greater but wing pattern, seen briefly, more suggestive of Lesser.


 Red-breasted Mergansers - adult males, Hinsdale Bluffs, Cheshire Co., NH. April 12th, 2015. 
A bumper day for these at Hinsdale with Hector Galbraith recording an additional six birds. 


Common Goldeneye - immature male, Hinsdale Bluffs, Cheshire Co., NH. April 12th, 2015. 


The boat ramp area also produced three singing Pine Warblers, a drumming sapsucker, a singing Common Yellowthroat, a Savannah Sparrow and an intriguing scaup which I initially logged as a Greater Scaup but decided to leave it unidentified.

Earlier in the morning, I stopped on Barney Hale Road, Gill to watch a displaying Red-shouldered Hawk and heard my first singing Winter Wren and Hermit Thrush in the process.

After a lack-luster tail end to last week the pulse of visual migration this morning was immediate and obvious. And with winds in the southern quarter all day and forecast to go into tomorrow I think we can expect a rush of new year birds, and perhaps one or two rarities!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

MA - Pine Warbler - 04/10

Another dull, damp drizzly day so this Pine Warbler at Turner's Falls was especially welcome and enough to bring a splash of color to an otherwise pretty dull day. Again, Eastern Phoebes were a big feature along the Turner's Falls power canal and bike path, and I tallied about 30 on my ride today including two concentrations of four birds each. Golden-crowned Kinglets also featured with about five along the power canal and bike path.





Pine Warbler - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. April 10th, 2015.
An unusually bold bird and my first local one of the year.