Thursday, October 12, 2017

MA - Turner's migrant sparrows

Clay-colored Sparrow - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2017.

Finally a shift to cooler more autumn-like conditions bringing a crisp start to the day and some fresh arrivals. My early morning jog around Gill Elementary school produced a calling Swainson's Thrush in the predawn while the playing fields were evidently full of roosting Savannah Sparrows. A Greater Yellowlegs flying around calling at about 06:30 was far less usual, and slightly puzzling with no obvious wetlands close by.

After  making a quick stop at Turner's Falls airfield in mid-morning, I dropped down to the Rod and Gun Club finding three Green-winged Teal with the Canada Geese and a Greater Scaup out in the open channel. A fairly late Osprey was fishing on the Gill side of the river but it wasn't long before several foraging sparrows caught my attention including one small, pallid sandy-gray individual - a Clay-colored Sparrow!




Over the years I've had some luck with Clay-colored Sparrows in the Pioneer Valley but all of them have been in the Hadley floodplain in Hampshire County, including two on Christmas bird counts with Scott Surner. As far as I can remember, this is the first that I've actually seen in Franklin County and certainly my first at Turner's Falls. This particularly bird seemed content following the five or so juvenile White-crowned Sparrows present along with several Song and Swamp Sparrows





White-crowned Sparrows (first-winter) with Song Sparrow - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2017.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

MA/VT - Nate & Putney

Columbus Day was warm, soggy and very humid thanks to the remnants of Tropical Storm Nate passing through our region. Initially, the conditions looked promising but yielded little in the way of unexpected waterbirds around Turner's Falls, though a raft of 22 Common Mergansers was nice to see on the power canal, and Greater Scaup, Ring-necked Duck and American Wigeon were all found loafing with the Mallards at Unity Park on Monday evening (Oct 9th).

American Wigeon - female, Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2017.


Greater Scaup - non-breeding male, Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2017.



Ring-necked Duck - male, Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2017.


October 10th saw a clearance, and with light to moderate  North-westerlies in the forecast I headed up to Putney Mountain in southern Vermont. I arrived early to enjoy the passerines finding Black-throated Green and Blackpoll Warblers, Winter Wren (2), Rusty Blackbird (2) and Evening Grosbeak (2) before the raptors started in earnest just after 8am. From then on we pretty much had small numbers of raptors constantly on view from the hawkwatch site until I left at around 11:45 hours. The vast majority were Sharp-shinned Hawks (118) as birds 'peppered' the sky all morning, but there was also a nice variety of other species including Red-shouldered Hawks (3), Bald Eagle (2), Northern Harrier (1), Cooper's Hawk (4), American Kestrel (9), Merlin (5), and even a late Broad-winged Hawk. Of course, these numbers relate only to my personal tally for the morning. JoAnne Russo and the dedicated hawkwatchers at the site went onto record 241 Sharp-shinned Hawks for the day and have recorded well over 13,000 migrant raptors for the season thus far!

A hugely enjoyable morning, and certainly the best migration of Sharp-shinned Hawks that I've seen in our area. 


American Kestrel - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 

Bald Eagle - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 

Broad-winged Hawk (juvenile) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 

Merlin  (juvenile) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 


 Northern Harrier (juvenile) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 


Red-shouldered Hawk (adult) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 


 Red-shouldered Hawk (juvenile/imm) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 


Red-shouldered Hawk (juvenile) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 


Sharp-shinned Hawk (male) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 


Sharp-shinned/Cooper's Hawk (juvenile) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 


Winter Wren - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 


Black-throated Green Warbler - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 


Evening Grosbeak (fem/imm) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. October 10th, 2017. 


















Saturday, October 7, 2017

MA - October first week

Cape May Warbler - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 3rd, 2017.

October opened with an incredibly mild first week. Calm, foggy mornings would give way to beautiful warm, sunny autumnal days with winds usually in the southern quarter. The general Turner's Falls area was pretty quiet, at least for waterfowl, with a pair of Northern Pintail on Oct 6th being the only ducks of note that I could find plus up to 850 Canada Geese at the power canal, though again nothing unusual among them.

Cape May Warbler - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 3rd, 2017.

 Cape May Warbler - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 3rd, 2017.

Cape May Warbler - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 3rd, 2017.

Cape May Warbler - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 3rd, 2017.


But the week did provide some nice 'pocket's of late warblers and vireos, and ever increasing numbers of sparrows in the fields around Northfield, Gill and Montague. Aside from the usually obvious Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers I tend to struggle to find warblers locally in fall, but October 3rd stood out as being notably different when I found no less than six Cape May Warblers at Northfield Meadows in mid-morning. On a personal level, I only very rarely encounter Cape May Warblers in Franklin County (spring or fall) so to have six close together, including at least one adult male was completely unexpected. More warblers seen that morning included a Tennessee, a Wilson's, 3 Blackpoll and 22 Yellow-rumped (Myrtle) Warblers with a further 7 Blackpoll and a Black-throated Green feeding in the birches at our home in Northfield around noon. With them came the first major 'pulse' of Ruby-crowned Kinglets with at least 12 in Northfield Meadows.

TennesseeWarbler - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 3rd, 2017.

Red-eyed Vireo - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 3rd, 2017.

Ruby-crowned Kinglet - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 3rd, 2017.




Rusty Blackbirds  - also started to appear with 4 together at Arcadia Meadows, Easthampton on the 2nd and 5 together on Ben Hale Road, Gill on the 5th.  

Peregrine (adult) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 4th, 2017.


Red-winged Blackbird - male singing and displaying, Ben Hale Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 5th, 2017.


Savannah Sparrow - South Ferry Road, Montague, Franklin Co., MA. October 6th, 2017. 



Sunday, October 1, 2017

MA/VT - late September migrants

It feels good to be back in the Pioneer Valley after returning from California on Sep 26th. Absurdly warm temperatures and muggy conditions greeted my arrival and continued to dominate until a cold front swept through on the 28th producing more autumnal like conditions.

 Peregrine (juv) and Turkey Vulture (juv) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. September 28th, 2017. 
and same Peregrine below. 

A personal highlight was seeing a Bobcat on my early morning run on North Cross Road, Gill on the 27th but the birding really started in earnest when I headed up to Putney Mountain, Vermont for the passage of the cold front on the 28th. Numbers of raptors were not huge but pretty constant with Peregrines, Ospreys, American Kestrels and Sharp-shinned Hawks filtering through in singles. The real event of the morning, at least from my perspective, was witnessing the first large scale southbound migration of Canada Geese of the fall. Between 09:30 and 11:30 we logged almost 2000 geese heading south and I understand that the tally for day was close to 5500 birds! Most were distant and often in poor light, but I did manage to scope a Cackling Goose in one of the smaller flocks that passed relatively close to the top of the mountain.

Osprey (in migration) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. September 28th, 2017. 


Common Loon - (in migration) - Putney Mountain Hawkwatch, Windham Co., VT. September 28th, 2017. 

The following day I had a quick spin around Northfield, west of the Connecticut River finding a nice selection of typical later season migrants: Blue-headed Vireos, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Eastern Phoebes, Yellow-rumped Warblers and a single Indigo Bunting and Lincoln's Sparrow.

 Blue-headed Vireo - Satan's Kingdom, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 29th, 2017. 

Indigo Bunting (juv) - Caldwell Road fields, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 29th, 2017. 

 Lincoln's Sparrow - Caldwell Road fields, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 29th, 2017. 

The last day of the month brought light North-easterlies and some locally heavy rain, enough to bring a nice adult Bonaparte's Gull to Turner's Falls along with a light smattering of waterfowl with singles of Gadwall, Northern Pintail and American Wigeon.

Bonaparte's Gull - adult in non-breeding plumage foraging in heavy rain, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. September 30th, 2017. 

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

MA - more golden plovers in Northfield

Pectoral Sandpiper (center) flanked by American Golden Plovers - Four Star Farms, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 6th, 2017. 

Yet more storm activity overnight bringing heavy to torrential rain throughout the morning, plus one or two power outages in our area. Again I checked a few likely spots for shorebirds and found the Northfield sod farms to be the most productive with 4 American Golden Plovers and a Pectoral Sandpiper in mid-morning, along with at least a dozen Killdeer. The same site had been bereft of shorebirds the previous day so I assumed that all were fresh birds arriving on the current turbulent weather system. Turner's Falls airfield had a Killdeer and two shorebirds in flight that I'm pretty sure were Pectoral Sandpipers but couldn't quite confirm it in the height of the deluge. At Barton Cove, last weekend's Pied-billed Grebe had been joined by a second bird.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

MA - Dickcissel in Northfield

This morning I had a quick spin around a few sites in Northfield on the west side of the Connecticut River. It was warm and muggy with winds in the southern quarter. Generally, it was rather quiet but highlighted by calling Dickcissel that flew low to the east over Caldwell Road fields. Later I wrestled with an interesting calling 'warbler' that turned out to be a Northern Waterthrush and not the hoped-for Connecticut Warbler!

 Northern Waterthrush - Caldwell Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 5th, 2017.


 Black-throated Green Warbler - Satan's Kingdom, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 5th, 2017.


Red-eyed Vireo - Satan's Kingdom, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 5th, 2017.

Satan's Kingdom had two Least Sandpipers and an active feeding flock  of passerines that contained numerous Black-throated Green Warblers, Eastern Phoebes and Red-eyed Vireos and a calling Eastern Wood-Pewee.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

MA - Buff-breasted Sandpiper in Turner's Falls!

Buff-breasted Sandpiper - Turner's Falls airfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 3rd, 2017.

Steady to heavy rain for much of the day produced an excellent fall-out of shorebirds this afternoon. First stop was Four Star Farm in Northfield where an adult American Golden Plover joined the local Killdeers on the sod fields and closer inspection winkled out 3-5 Semi-palmated Plovers and at least 5 Least Sandpipers. With the deluge still pouring I moved onto Turner's Falls airfield and rolled up to find shorebirds all over the runway! Most were Killdeer (20+) but good numbers of Semi-palmated Plovers (8+) were also present along with 4 Least and 2 Semi-palmated Sandpipers - a rare gathering indeed for Turner's airfield. Despite the heavy rain I lingered for a while sensing that there was more to come. Within a few minutes I locked onto a beautiful Buff-breasted Sandpiper, a species I'd been wanting to find locally for some years. Conditions were awful for photography but I was pleased to come away with a handful of record shots.

 Buff-breasted Sandpiper (top left) with Killdeer - Turner's Falls airfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 3rd, 2017.



Semi-palmated Plovers (left) with Buff-breasted Sandpiper - Turner's Falls airfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 3rd, 2017.

Semi-palmated Sandpipers (left) with Killdeer - Turner's Falls airfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 3rd, 2017.


American Golden Plover with Killdeer - Four Star Farms, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 3rd, 2017.