Monday, September 17, 2018

MA - Marsh Wren in Gill!

Marsh Wren - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. September 16th, 2018. 

September 16th and yet another morning shrouded in fog. I considered having an hour's birding before heading out for a mid-morning bike ride. Since it was a peaceful Sunday morning I decided to take my chances at Gill Elementary School and work the field edges adjacent to the school property. Despite the damp foggy start things looked promising and within minutes I was looking at Indigo Buntings and my first White-throated Sparrow of the fall. That was rapidly followed by a smart adult Cape May Warbler which put on a nice show feeding openly in the fields surrounded by Song Sparrows and Indigo Buntings! The morning was starting to 'feel' special when I came across a nice spot overlooking a scrub filled dell that was loaded with bird activity. A wren giving a quiet sub-song caught my attention and turned out to be a Marsh Wren which went on to sing and call for the next two hours - not only my first in Gill but a surprise Franklin County tick.

Marsh Wren - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. September 16th, 2018. 

White-throated Sparrow - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. September 16th, 2018. 

Cape May Warbler - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. September 16th, 2018. 

Cape May Warbler - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. September 16th, 2018. 

Pine Warbler - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. September 16th, 2018. 

Lincoln's Sparrow (above) with Song Sparrow - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. September 16th, 2018. 

After the Marsh Wren came Black-throated Green, Palm (yellow) and Pine Warblers, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Purple Finches, Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and many other nice species including my first Lincoln's Sparrows (3) of the fall.

Ruby-throated Hummingbird (female/juv) - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. September 16th, 2018. 

Eastern Wood-Pewee - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. September 16th, 2018. 

Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. September 16th, 2018. 

The 14th and 15th saw good migrations of Broad-winged Hawks at Putney Mountain, Vermont and on the afternoon of the 14th I tried a short migration watch from Apex Orchards in Shelburne Falls  which produced 78 Broad-winged Hawks, 3 Ospreys, a Merlin and my first American Pipit of the fall. Two Black Vultures also appeared over Apex Orchards but headed east, probably to roost in Greenfield with the local Turkey Vultures.

Black Vulture (one of two) - Apex Orchards, Shelburne Falls, Franklin Co., MA. September 14th, 2018.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

MA - noteworthy passerines

Aside from the Olive-sided Flycatcher at Hell's Kitchen, Northfield on the 11th mentioned in a previous post, other flycatchers of interest included a Great Crested on North Cross Road, Gill on the 6th, two Yellow-bellied at Hell's Kitchen on the 7th, and a Least on Riverview Drive, Gill on the 8th. And there was also 'getting late' singing Yellow-throated Vireo at Hell's Kitchen on the 12th.

Northern Parula - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. September 13th, 2018.

Yet more overnight rain on the 13th brought an obvious arrival of passerines to the area including our yard in Northfield at dawn with a calling Swainson's Thrush as well as a Wood Thrush. But it was a large flock of migrant warblers at Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club in mid-morning that really caught me off-guard. As I arrived, I heard several titmice and chickadees calling overhead and looked up to see numbers of warblers filtering through the oaks in a non-stop wave that lasted five minutes or so. The light was awkward and I had difficulty in getting my bins onto many of the birds passing through but I estimated that 70+ warblers were involved. Of those that I managed to identify Northern Parula (12+), Tennessee (7+), and Bay-breasted (4) were the most common with other notable species including Magnolia, Blackburnian, Cape May and my first Ruby-crowned Kinglet of the fall. And for the rest, who knows?!

Magnolia Warbler - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. September 13th, 2018.

Tennessee Warbler - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. September 13th, 2018.

Also of note on the 13th, quite a few raptors with 8+ American Kestrels scattered around the sod fields in Northfield, a migrant Osprey in Northfield, a Northern Harrier heading south through Gill and several juvenile Broad-winged Hawks seemingly waiting for the gloom to clear to start the southward migration. 

American Kestrel - Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 13th, 2018.

Heavy rain throughout most of the 12th created a number of fresh rain pools in the Northfield sod fields attracting five Killdeer and a Least Sandpiper, all of which had moved on by the next day.

Killdeer - River Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 12th, 2018.

Least Sandpiper - River Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 12th, 2018.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

MA - more from the Turner's Falls area

Greater Yellowlegs (juvenile) - Turner's Falls, Franklin County, MA. September 11th, 2018.

A cold front finally brought some welcome cooler air from September 8th. I was hoping for some dramatic changes locally, especially in terms of waterbirds, but surprisingly didn't find too much in the way of new birds. Things improved somewhat on September 10th with an American Wigeon (male) at the Turner's Falls power canal and a nice selection of species at the Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club with 4 Great Egrets, 2 Greater and 1 Lesser Yellowlegs together, a juvenile Northern Harrier, a Yellow Warbler and my first Herring Gull (juvenile) of the autumn. Rain throughout the afternoon of the 10th and into the 11th seemed to have little effect in grounding migrants but a juvenile Semi-palmated Sandpiper joined the small, regular flock of Least Sandpipers at Hell's Kitchen where an Olive-sided Flycatcher called for several minutes before moving on. A Greater Yellowlegs remained at the Rod and Gun club on the 11th, as did a Great Egret with the latter species continuing to impress with at least 8 frequenting the Connecticut River between the Rod and Gun club and the Turner's Falls power canal.

American Wigeon (male) - Turner's Falls, Franklin County, MA. September 10th, 2018.

Greater Yellowlegs (two lower birds) and Lesser Yellowlegs - Turner's Falls, Franklin County, MA. September 10th, 2018.

The widespread movement of Purple Finches in northern Franklin County continues and I'm still recording birds in almost all the locations I visit though not in large numbers with flock of 3 - 6 birds being the norm.

American Redstart (hatch-year) - Deerfield Meadows, Franklin County, MA. September 8th, 2018.

Friday, September 7, 2018

MA - bear, Boblinks and more in early September

Bobolinks - from a flock of 41 at Old Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 6th, 2018. 

Hot, humid and near windless conditions persisted throughout the first week of the month, hardly ideal conditions for spending time in the time field! Fluctuating water levels at Barton Cove in Gill brought especially large numbers of Mallards (up to 300) when the water was fully drawn down exposing wide mud bars. An early American Wigeon, an eclipse male, appeared on the 4th and was still present on the 5th when no less than five Great Egrets graced the cove increasing to six the following day. Three Green Herons were also to be seen foraging on the mudflats and a Merlin caught a swallow sp. in flight above the river. Despite the extensive mudflats, the only shorebird of note that I could find was a Solitary Sandpiper, that's aside from four Killdeer which may have been local breeders.

American Wigeon (right) - eclipse male, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. September 4th, 2018. 

Great Egrets - four of six, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. September 6th, 2018. 

Great Egret - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. September 4th, 2018. 

The evening of the 4th also saw two or three Common Nighthawks hawking low over the Cherry Rum Plaza in Greenfield at 17:20 hours. Nighthawks should still be possible on warm evenings deep into September but the bulk will have migrated through our area in late August.

Bobolinks - Old Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. September 6th, 2018. 

Passerines of note included near daily encounters with Purple Finches, Red-breasted Nuthatches and Boblinks around Gill and Turner's Falls, but it was especially nice to come across a flock of over 40 Bobolinks foraging with House Sparrows in Old Deerfield's north meadows on the 6th.

However, the highlight of the week, hands down actually, was seeing a good sized Black Bear, perhaps a young adult, amble across the road in front of me and my bicycle in Montague on the 5th. Alas, by the time I'd pulled over and wrestled with my cell phone the beast had wandered into the woods but the views were excellent and it looked totally at ease as it made its way across a traffic free road.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

MA - local Black-crowned Night Heron

 Black-crowned Night -Heron (immature) - Deerfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. August 28th, 2018.

Typically, I wouldn't be too interested in chasing a Black-crowned Night Heron but when Scott Surner found an immature in Deerfield Meadows on August 25th I became distinctly edgy. This particular species has, in my experience, been incredibly difficult to find in Franklin County with my only other observation coming from Unity Park, Turner's Falls on November 1st 2005. Fortunately, the Night-Heron was courteous enough to stick around until we returned from a family holiday on Cape Cod and was last seen on August 29th. 

Great Egrets continued to be seen throughout August peaking at around eight birds early in the month. They were most obvious at the Turner's Falls power canal but also regular at Barton Cove, the Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club, and downstream towards Montague and Deerfield. 

Great Egret - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. August 28th, 2018.

Waterfowl diversity picked up slightly towards the end of August with two to three Blue-winged Teal at Barton Cove, Gill on the 29th and a Green-winged Teal with the Mallards at Turner's Falls power canal on the 31st. Aaron Hulsey also recorded a Semi-palmated Plover at Unity Park, Turner's Falls on the 29th but overall, the shorebird migration was fairly slow in August. 

Green-winged Teal - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. August 31st, 2018.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

MA - a Brown Booby in Berkshire County!

Brown Booby - Onota Lake, Pittsfield, Berkshire Co., MA. August 18th, 2018.

Rene Wendall posted welcome news of a Brown Booby at Onota Lake in Pittsfield on August 17th. The bird seemed settled and allowed plenty of local birders to catch up with it that day. The following morning, a window of time opened for me too and after a timely post from Jonathan Pierce I headed west embarking on the ninety minute drive from Northfield to Pittsfield. I needn't have rushed! After I arrived the bird sat quietly on the water for the best part of two hours before actively foraging around the north end of the lake off Burbank Bank. It was worth the wait, it looked so much better in flight careening over the water and plunge diving, successfully taking fish on multiple occasions.  Apparently, only the second for interior Massachusetts and fitting well within a pattern of recent inland freshwater occurrences with birds documented from Vermont and upstate New York in the last few years. On a personal level, this was my third Brown Booby in Massachusetts, the other two coming from Outer Cape Cod, both of those being in late August.

Gracious thanks to Rene Wendall for getting the word out and to Jonathan Pierce and Sheila Carroll for keeping us up to speed on the bird's presence via social media.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

MA - beginning of fall migration of shorebirds in Franklin County

Feeling the need to kick the mid-summer doldrums into touch I headed out into northern Franklin County yesterday evening in the hope of finding one or two migrants to signal the start of autumn migration. I wasn't disappointed! More than twenty four hours of warm, muggy southerlies had brought heavy rain and thunderstorms to our region resulting in a lot of standing water and multiple 'pockets' of migrating shorebirds, all adults in summer plumage. My tally for the evening of July 23rd included;

Least Sandpiper - 7 at Caldwell Road, Northfield, 1 at Satan's Kingdom.

Pectoral Sandpiper - 1 at Turner's Falls Airfield.

Semi-palmated Sandpiper - 3 at Satan's Kingdom.

Solitary Sandpiper - 1 at Satan's Kingdom.

In addition, small numbers of Killdeer at Caldwell Road, Satan's Kingdom and Turner's Falls Airfield and a Spotted Sandpiper at Satan's Kingdom were most likely local breeding birds. A Grasshopper Sparrow was singing out on the airfield at Turner's Falls with American Kestrels present there and at Caldwell Road, Northfield.  Indeed, the only disappointing site was Four Star Farms in Northfield which appeared to be completely devoid of shorebirds of any kind.

Great Blue Herons - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. July 23rd, 2018.

Towards the end of the evening I was intrigued to see and hear two Great Blue Herons moving north high over Barton Cove, Gill. The birds spent about three minutes circling high overhead before continuing north. I couldn't help but wonder why north? Post breeding dispersal perhaps?

Thursday, May 3, 2018

MA - more heat and more migrants

Baltimore Oriole - Barton Cove, Franklin Co., MA. May 3rd, 2018.
Other passerines in the boat ramp area included warbling and Red-eyed Vireos, and several White-throated Sparrows. 

May 3rd - another busy, interesting and extremely warm day. Most obvious was a broad wave of Wood Thrush arrivals in Gill with at least 12 males heard singing on my 5K run through the woods on North Cross Road this morning. Also strikingly obvious, many Blue-gray Gnatcatchers in all habitats with seemingly above average numbers of migrants for early May. With them came the first Black-throated Blue Warblers, Least and Great Crested Flycatchers. Two Solitary Sandpipers called overhead at 06:30, the birds seen heading west. Around that time Josh Layfield found a male White-winged Scoter at Barton Cove which had been joined by two Red-necked Grebes by the time I got there at around 11:00 hours, and the first Spotted Sandpiper of the year skimmed across the water. Fourteen Ring-billed Gulls were loafing around off the boat ramp at Barton Cove while overhead there was a light movement of Broad-winged Hawks (c.10) and a couple of Ospreys.

Red-necked Grebes and a White-winged Scoter (male) - Barton Cove, Franklin Co., MA. May 3rd, 2018.

Spotted Sandpiper - Barton Cove, Franklin Co., MA. May 3rd, 2018.

Early evening at Barton Cove saw the White-winged Scoter and Red-necked Grebes still present but an increase to 33 Double-crested Cormorants, and well over 30 Ring-billed Gulls most of which were hawking for insects high above the cove. An adult Herring Gull and a breeding plumage Common Loon also dropped in towards the end of the evening, and a Black Vulture headed west over Turner's Falls presumably to roost.

Double-crested Cormorants - Barton Cove, Franklin Co., MA. May 3rd, 2018.

Black Vulture - Barton Cove, Franklin Co., MA. May 3rd, 2018.

Elsewhere, Brian Kane noted the first Orchard Oriole of the season down in Montague.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

MA - Solitary Sandpiper and more in the first days of May

Solitary Sandpiper - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2018.

Fresh back from a wonderful grouse tour of Colorado and straight into a major wave of spring migration. The 1st brought two Cliff Swallows hawking over Barton Cove along with four other species of swallow. In the afternoon, some 26 Double-crested Cormorants dropped into Barton Cove along with a dozen Ring-billed Gulls, all of the latter being first and second summer birds.  A Winter Wren sang from a traditional territory on North Cross Road with Blue-headed Vireo, Brown Thrasher and Field Sparrow, Pine and Black-throated Green Warblers being among other noteworthy species.

Double-crested Cormorants - arriving at Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 1st, 2018.

The 2nd was always going to be a warm day, even from first light and temperatures soared to the mid-80s by late afternoon. The result was immediate with a broad wave of new birds for the year; House Wren, Yellow Warbler, Ovenbird, Eastern Kingbird, Baltimore Oriole and Chimney Swift all arrived in numbers. At Barton Cove, Black-throated Green, Pine and Magnolia Warbler foraged alongside a larger flock of 15-20 Yellow-rumped Warblers. They all fed around a roosting Barred Owl, seemingly oblivious to the action going on around it!

Exceedingly low water levels at Barton Cove saw the first notable shorebirds of the year with 3 Least Sandpipers and 2 Greater Yellowlegs and preceded earlier in the morning by a surprise Solitary Sandpiper in a small puddle off Main Road in Gill.  

Barred Owl - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2018.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

MA - Sandhill Cranes in Gill!

Sandhill Cranes - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2018.

A raw afternoon birding off Riverview Drive, Gill produced some nice sightings ahead of the forecast cold front promising freezing rain by dawn. A Bonaparte's Gull dropped in to join a small number of Ring-billed and Herring Gulls on the water, and nine Double-crested Cormorants headed south flying straight over the five cormorants already present on Barton Cove. Two Ospreys also arrived whilst I was there with at least 20 Tree Swallows and a couple of Northern Rough-winged Swallows foraging overhead.

Sandhill Cranes - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2018. In flight  directly above Main Road.

On the drive home, Matan and I noticed two very large birds flying along the route of Main Road in Gill. They were relatively low and any thoughts of Canada Geese were quickly dismissed as we realized almost immediately that they were Sandhill Cranes! They continued north-east passing right over Gill town hall and were obviously looking for a place to land. After a couple of minutes they landed in Upinngil's agricultural fields just west of Main Road, but surprisingly lifted up almost immediately and continued heading north-east where we lost them about a mile up the road.

Sandhill Cranes - Upinngil Fields, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2018.

This was just my second observation of Sandhill Crane in Gill (and Franklin County), the previous record being of one calling high above Barton Cove on April 13th, 2015.