Thursday, October 16, 2014

MA - late Mag

This morning I made a couple of brief stops in between errands. A warm frontal system brought heavy showers and rain, and I had a quick look at Barton Cove ever hopeful that the storm might produce something of interest. One Pied-billed Grebe continued but little else was present. The Turner's Falls power canal, or rather the wooded edges of the power canal, proved more interesting with a small flock of Yellow-rumped Warblers producing a 'getting late' Magnolia Warbler that appeared all too briefly....Eastern Phoebes and Gray Catbirds also associated with this flock.

Pied-billed Grebe in downpour - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 16th, 2014.

Magnolia Warbler - distant, out of focus and about to drop out of view....but still showing the unique tail and underside pattern with a thick black tip to the crisp white undertail, vent and lower belly combined with bright yellow flanks and belly, Can any other North American passerine match this pattern? By the way, I had clean looks at the bird before attempting to take a shot. It was about 25 meters away and the auto-focus picked up the foliage rather than the bird.....and then it was gone. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

MA - little 'Big Sit' in Gill - 10/12

October 12th: It's been a few years since I've had the opportunity to try a local 'Big Sit' but since  'Big Sit weekend' (organized by Birdwatcher's Digest) came around quickly, and I was in town, I wanted to have another go. The site for my 17 foot (diameter) circle was the playing fields at Gill Elementary School, a site inspired not just by the fact that my son attends first grade there but also by the recent efforts of parents to clear a previously established nature trail on the school property. The weather was not the best for bird counting from a fixed position. It was cool ( 36 deg F) with mist and fog until 10am after which it cleared dramatically into a beautiful autumnal day with light winds from the north. Once the fog cleared, the raptor list increased rapidly as did the volume of Canada Geese moving over the station. I was joined by Susannah and Matan around 10am, and Matan stayed with me until the end of the count at 12:15 pm. The tally compared favorably with my one and only previous attempt at a Big Sit in Gill on October 10th, 2010:

  Matan and Susannah arrive at the station - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
After a foggy start the day turned glorious - what a magical spot for a Big Sit!

Overall I was extremely impressed by the diversity of species at Gill Elementary, recording 58 species between 06:15 - 12:15 hours.

Cast (with numbers) in order of appearance;
1) Swainson's Thrush - 2 (nocturnal migrants heard calling at 06:15hrs and 06:17hrs)
2) Song Sparrow - 105 (first heard at 06:26hrs. The fields and scrubby-fringes south-east of the station were full of sparrows).
3) Black-capped Chickadee - 15 (including two small parties of high flying migrants).
4) White-throated Sparrow - 67
White-throated Sparrow - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.

5) American Woodcock - 1 (nice, close fly past of bird giving 'twitter' display flight at 06:33 hrs).
6) Chipping Sparrow - 62
7) Northern Cardinal - 6
8) Mourning Dove - 7
9) Hermit Thrush - 3
10) Blue Jay - 7 on site plus nice migration of small parties totaling 64 moving WSW after the fog cleared.
Blue Jay - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014. 
One of the many migrants passing over the station today.

11) American Goldfinch - 12
12) White-breasted Nuthatch - 3
13) Eastern Bluebird - 10
14) Barred Owl - 1 called at 06:47 hrs - giving single "whooo-aaw" call.
15) Yellow-rumped Warbler - 28
16) American Robin - 9
17) American Crow - 116
18) Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 5
19) Swamp Sparrow - 77
20) Canada Goose - 750 moving WSW after fog cleared. Likely heading for Turner's Falls.
21) Purple Finch - 19
22) Red-bellied Woodpecker - 1
23) Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - 2
 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
Juvenile in the willows close the station in the morning fog. 
A second completely different bird migrated past the station in late morning, featured below. 

24) Pine Siskin - 15
25) Downy Woodpecker - 2
26) Savannah Sparrow - 8
 Savannah Sparrows - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.
Upper bird photographed by the station, lower, distant bird in the early morning mist.

27) Eastern Phoebe -1
28) Dark-eyed Junco - 1
29) Indigo Bunting -1
30) Cedar Waxwing - 11
31) Northern Flicker - 3
32) Palm Warbler - 5 (4 eastern, 1 western).

(Eastern) Palm Warblers - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.

33) Red-winged Blackbird - 8
34) House Finch - 6
35) Lincoln's Sparrow - 2
Lincoln's Sparrow - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.

36) Great Blue Heron - 1 foraging in corn field.
Great Blue Heron - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.

37) Belted Kingfisher - 1 in flight over woodland at 09:30hrs.
38) Rusty Blackbird - 2 (calling) moving WNW at 09:35hrs.
Rusty Blackbird - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014.

39) House Sparrow - 3
40) vireo sp.- Philadelphia?  Heard singing several times, sounded most like this species but given the late date, a visual would have been preferred for confirmation.
41) Tufted Titmouse - 2
42) Turkey Vulture - Up to 12 loafing around the valley once the fog cleared at 10am.
43) European Starling - 27
44) Red-tailed Hawk - 7 - possibly involving a few migrants.
Red-tailed Hawks - Gill Elementary School, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2014. Nice interaction right over the station!

45) Hairy Woodpecker - 2
46) Common Raven - 1 soaring with Bald Eagle at 10:52hrs.
47) Bald Eagle - 2 (immatures at 10:52 and 11:58hrs.)
48) Red-shouldered Hawk - 2 (adult moving W at 11:07hrs and another adult moving WSW at 12:14hrs.) One of  the highlights of the morning.
49) Merlin - 1 (juvenile/female moving W at 11:08hrs)
50) Cooper's Hawk - 2
51) American Kestrel - 1 (moving W at 11:10hrs).
52) Sharp-shinned Hawk - 7, all moving WSW.
53) Blue-headed Vireo - 1 giving 'rattle' calls at 11:44hrs.
54) Pileated Woodpecker - 1
55) White-crowned Sparrow - 1 singing within sparrow flock at 11:52hrs.
56) Feral Rock Dove - 1 (late appearance of just one bird!).
57) Brown-headed Cowbird - 3
58) Common Yellowthroat - 1 (the last 'new' bird of the morning).

Surprising misses included Mallard, Wild Turkey, Northern Mockingbird, Gray Catbird and Carolina Wren.....just to mention a few. With better weather and a few more eyes to help, a count of over 60 species might have been possible from this fantastic site.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

MA - Palm Warblers and Purple Finches

Oct 9th: Amazing morning in Northfield Meadows. Birds popping up everywhere along the weed-fringed tracks and fields. It's fair to say that I was a bit overwhelmed by the sheer numbers this morning, and failed to come up with anything unusual. Most abundant were Song, Savannah and White-throated Sparrows with good numbers of Chipping Sparrows and a couple of Lincoln's Sparrows. Indigo Buntings still very much present, along with a decent showing of Common Yellowthroats (10+) and Gray Catbirds (5+). As expected at this time of year, lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers plus a nice show of Palm Warblers with at least four (3 Eastern, 1 Western). Also about a dozen each of Eastern Bluebird and American Pipit (all overhead filtering southwards).

 Palm Warbler (Western) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2014. 

 Palm Warbler (Eastern) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2014. 

Lincoln's Sparrow - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2014. 

It was a fine morning for Purple Finch with birds first noted over our house in Gill at dawn with several parties moving SW. At Northfield Meadows lots more of them, about 35 in all, with a number of flyovers and nice looks at foraging birds in the shrubbery. Also, quite a few Pine Siskins moving over Gill and Northfield this morning probably totaling close to 20 birds.

 Purple Finch - female/first-winter, Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2014. 

 Purple Finch - male, Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2014. 

 Purple Finch - male, Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2014. 

 Purple Finch - female/first-winter, Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2014. 

Raptors included Merlin, American Kestrel and a single Osprey

Oct 8th: Had a quick look at the eastern edge of Turner's Falls airfield this morning. Lots of sparrows again, plus quite a few Gray Catbirds and a couple of skulkers - one House Wren (singing!) and one first-winter White-crowned Sparrow. A Merlin sparring with American Crows over the main runway put on quite a show.

 House Wren - Turner's Falls airfield, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2014. 

White-crowned Sparrow - first-winter, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2014. 

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

MA - falcon morning

Started the day in the best possible manner with a couple of Barred Owls, both calling pre-dawn and both giving the single, loud "whoo-aw" call. One was on Main Road, Gill and audible from our yard and the other was at the powerline cut on Mountain Road, Gill.

Later I drifted toward Barton Cove wondering if the balmy, wet South-westerlies might have pushed something in overnight. Two Pied-billed Grebes, a Ring-necked Duck and a few DC Cormorants were all I could muster, all of which had been seen by Josh Rose by the time I got to them.

But there was some action away from the water. A nice male Merlin sat sentinel-like atop a spruce on Riverview Drive which seems to be a favorite observation post and has been so for the last three winters at least. He reluctantly left when a pair of hunting Peregrines swept low overhead stooping at the starlings and Blue Jays.

Merlin - male, Riverview Drive, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 7th, 2014. One of this male'sfavorite perching posts around Barton Cove. Now returning for his 4th successive winter though this year I saw Merlins in Turner's Falls in late May and early August which makes me wonder if they ever leave? June and July are the only months in which I haven't recorded this species at Turner's Falls/Barton Cove but these also happen to be my least active months for local birding. I've found Merlins breeding in suburban Keene, NH and have also heard of a breeding pair in Florence, Hampshire Co., MA. So I wonder, could Merlin be a breeding bird in the Turner's Falls area?

Peregrine - adult, Riverview Drive, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 7th, 2014. 

Peregrine - second adult of pair actively hunting together, 
Riverview Drive, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 7th, 2014. 

The bike path at Depot Road in Turner's Falls was again loaded with scads of sparrows including 10+ Field Sparrows, 30+ Chipping Sparrows, and countless White-throated and Song Sparrows. Indigo Buntings remain including a couple that even burst into song. The power canal was rather quiet aside from seven or so Ring-billed Gulls and a lone, nervous Black Duck. Throughout the morning small groups of Purple Finches headed SW.

Anas Sp. - male, Turner's Falls bike path at Depot Road, Franklin Co. MA. October 7th, 2014.
JoAnne Russo has correctly pointed out (thanks JoAnne) that the white borders to the speculum rule out this bird as a male American Black Duck. I'm hanging on to the identification until I've done a bit more work on this one but the very dark body contrasting with the pale gray face, the dark corner to the gape and the unmarked olive-yellow bill seem at odds with female Mallard to me. Hopefully, more on this to follow.  

 Chipping Sparrow - non-breeding plumage, Turner's Falls bike path at Depot Road, Franklin Co. MA. October 7th, 2014

Downy Woodpecker - male. Turner's Falls bike path at Depot Road, Franklin Co. MA. October 7th, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

MA - back to Stop & Shop

Hung around the Greenfield Stop & Shop parking lot on a cool, foggy morning optimistically hoping for Friday's Say's Phoebe to re-appear. Needless to say, it didn't and perhaps not too surprising since this species is apparently notorious for being a one-day-wonder in Massachusetts. Moreover, very few records come from the interior and I could only find one prior record for the Pioneer Valley - Northampton in 2002.

But, aside of waiting for the phoebe to re-appear, the wooded fringes of the parking lot were quite birdy with a few gems among the chickadee and titmouse flocks including Hermit Thrush, Magnolia Warbler, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Blue-headed Vireo. Fly-overs included Purple Finch, Yellow-rumped Warbler and a flock of 4 Pine Siskins.

Hermit Thrush - Greenfield, Franklin Co. MA. October 6th, 2014.

Magnolia Warbler - Greenfield, Franklin Co. MA. October 6th, 2014.

 Blue-headed Vireo - Greenfield, Franklin Co. MA. October 6th, 2014.

Friday, October 3, 2014

MA - Say's Phoebe but alas no pics

A frustrating morning in many respects but somewhat exciting in others. The fog was just about lifting as I walked out of the Stop & Shop in Greenfield. I heard a call that I knew well from many trips out West. It was the distinctive but plaintive 'pueeee' call of a Say's Phoebe. Initially I looked for a perched bird but it sounded mobile and I soon picked it up circling the parking lot calling constantly as it flew. It circled the lot about three times behaving as though it had just been flushed and wanted to re-settle. I last saw it heading toward Rt 2A and Silver Street. With my hands full of groceries I could only think about the images I could have taken with my Canon 7D and 400mm waiting to be used just meters away in my car!! The time was about 09:11hrs and the observation was over in just a few seconds though I may have heard it calling once more about 15 minutes later.

Further frustration came when I arrived at the fully drained Turner's Falls power canal only to hear and then see a Semi-palmated Plover departing south bound, a bird which I think had been flushed by the survey crew working inside the canal. However, the bike path side of the canal at Depot Street was full of birds including hordes of sparrows with as many as six Field Sparrows, along with Song, Savannah, White-throated, Swamp and Chipping Sparrows, Indigo Bunting, Eastern Towhee, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, Common Yellowthroat and at least half a dozen Gray Catbirds - very birdy indeed. I'm sure a more dedicated effort would have produced more.

Field Sparrow - Turner's Falls bike path at Depot Street. One of about six present.

 Eastern Phoebe - Turner's Falls bike path at Depot Street. If only this morning's Say's Phoebe had co-operated like this!

 Common Yellowthroat - Turner's Falls bike path at Depot Street. 

Common Merganser - juvenile, Turner's Falls bike path at Depot Street. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

NJ - Cape May week

Fresh back from a week in Cape May with Birdfinders. A tad slow migration wise, but certainly some nice highlights and good to reflect on some of those fast moving passerines zipping past the dike at Higbees Beach - a unique opportunity to observe migrants at eye-level. Our best day of the week was easily September 27th with a tally of over 800 warblers. Most of these pics are from the 27th.

 Yellow-rumped Warbler

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker - juv.

 Tennessee Warbler

 Cape May Warbler - first-winter

 Scarlet Tanager 

 Black-and-white Warbler

Northern Parula

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

TDF - Le Tour Yorkshire in Wincobank!

 Was it just a dream?

Is this really Alberto Contador leading Vincenzo Nibali and Chris Froome up Jenkin Road
 in the World's biggest bike race - in Wincobank?!!!

Jenkin Road, Wincobank, Sheffield, S. Yorks. About four hours before the lead riders arrive in
Stage 2 of the Tour De France, 2014.

Susannah and Matan walking across Newman Road, Wincobank, Sheffield, S.Yorks. 
Final kilometers of Stage 2 of the Tour De France, 2014. About a 1/2 mile from where I grew up
on Standon Road. Roughly five hours before the arrival of the leaders.

Hiking to the spectator park atop Wincobank Hill. Somebody knows he's in for a good day!

True to form, Matan picks a fine spot to view the riders climbing the 30% gradient on Jenkin Road.

Matan's view from the trees. Contador leading the best riders in the World up Jenkin Road.
Incredible scenes in Sheffield .......just amazing!!!

Vincenso Nibali (#41) climbing Jenkin Road just ahead of Michael Albasini (#182)
and Chris Froome. Moments later Froome launched an attack just before the summit of Jenkin
Road but Nibali was a comfortable winner of the stage, and ultimately the entire tour.

Chris Froome (#1), Jurgen Van den Broek (#131) and Tejay Van Garderen (#141)
powering up Jenkin Road with the lead group. Stage 2 of the Tour De France, July 6th, 2014.


Marcel Kittel in yellow the day after his victory on Stage 1. 
Jenkin Road, Wincobank, Sheffield, S. Yorks. Stage 2 of the Tour De France, July 6th, 2014.

Walking home down Wincobank Hill overlooking the Don Valley towards Rotherham.

Images by James P. Smith and Susannah B. Lerman with more to come.