Tuesday, July 25, 2017

AK - Barrow

Red Phalarope - Barrow, Alaska. June 18th, 2017.

After meeting up in Anchorage on June 15th, the Birdfinders tour of  Alaska really got underway with a three day trip to Barrow. Some shorebirds, including Red Phalaropes and Pectoral Sandpipers appeared to be abundant in certain patches of wet tundra and a White-rumped Sandpiper in breeding plumage was a highlight for some. Tundra predators such as Snowy Owls and Long-tailed Jaegers were in short supply this year but, as usual, the eiders were very much the highlight of a visit to Barrow with Spectacled, Steller's and King Eiders all seen well along with larger numbers of Common Eiders migrating over the Chukchi Sea. Red-throated and Pacific Loons were also present in decent numbers and there was a fly-over Yellow-billed Loon for a lucky few within our group. Once again, Polar Bear eluded us, and we were shown crushing iphone shots of one of the ice near gas station taken just two days before we arrived!

Spectacled Eider (first-summer male) - Barrow, Alaska. June 18th, 2017.


Spectacled Eider (adult male) - Barrow, Alaska. June 17th, 2017. 


Spectacled Eider (adult male) - Barrow, Alaska. June 17th, 2017. 


Steller's Eider (adult male) - Barrow, Alaska. June 17th, 2017.  


Steller's Eider (adult female) - Barrow, Alaska. June 17th, 2017.


Common Eiders  - migrating over the Chukchi Sea, Barrow, Alaska. June 17th, 2017.  


Chukchi Sea looking towards Point Barrow - still iced up in mid-June. 



Overlooking the Chukchi Sea just south of Barrow.


Red throated Loon - Barrow, Alaska. June 18th, 2017.



Yellow-billed Loon - over Stevenston Street, Barrow, Alaska. June 16th, 2017.
One of the first loons of  the trip,  seen early on our first day in Barrow. Unfortunately this bird had passed quietly overhead before we realized that it had the potential to be a Yellow-billed. It appeared to be in active migration and turned out to the only the Yellow-billed Loon that we saw in Barrow. Those who missed it eventually caught up with a couple of first-summer Yellow-billed Loons on St.Paul Island much later in the tour.



Red Phalaropes - Barrow, Alaska. June 16th, 2017.


Long-billed Dowitcher - Barrow, Alaska. June 16th, 2017.


White-rumped Sandpiper - Barrow, Alaska. June 18th, 2017.
We enjoyed point-blank views of this bird courtesy of a High Lonesome/Rockjumper tour - thanks Stephan and Forrest!






Tuesday, July 18, 2017

AK - grouse on the Denali Highway

More highlights from the recent Birdfinders tour of Alaska. We had excellent luck with grouse on the Denali Highway seeing Spruce Grouse in two different spots and a family of Willow Ptarmigan on the highway near Cantwell. 


Willow Ptarmigan chick - Denali Highway, Alaska. June 25th, 2017. 


Spruce Grouse - Denali Highway, Alaska. June 23rd, 2017. 


Spruce Grouse -  female, Denali Highway, Alaska. June 23rd, 2017. 


Willow Ptarmigan pair - Denali Highway, Alaska. June 25th, 2017. 



Willow Ptarmigan male - Denali Highway, Alaska. June 25th, 2017. 


 Willow Ptarmigan female - Denali Highway, Alaska. June 25th, 2017. 


Saturday, July 15, 2017

AK - Fork-tailed Storm-petrel



Fork-tailed Storm-petrel - Webster Overlook, St. Paul Island, Alaska.

One of the highlights from the recent Alaska tour with Birdfinders. We discovered this bird just beyond the surf in the North-eastern part of St. Paul Island during an evening of westerlies. I've seen quite a few Fork-tailed Storm-petrels over the years but nothing quite so close as this one. We even had it flying over the beach!


















Friday, May 26, 2017

MA - good birding in 'the valley' in late May


Worm-eating Warbler - Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. May 25th, 2017.

Late May often produces some very good birding in the Pioneer Valley and this year was no exception. It's usually a good time to find 'boreal' migrants appearing alongside breeding birds, and we didn't have to look any further than our own yard in Northfield where Swainson's Thrush, Blackpoll and Mourning Warblers all appeared on the 20th. Indeed, the passage of Blackpoll Warblers continued through to the 26th at least with, for example, 18-20 singing males counted on a 14 mile bike ride between Greenfield and Northfield on the 24th. Brian Kane and friends also had a nice Olive-sided Flycatcher in Montague on the 21st. 

Olive-sided Flycatcher - Meadow Street, Montague, Franklin Co., MA. May 21st, 2017.
Image appears courtesy of Alan Snow. 

Ideal conditions (wind, rain and reduced water levels) at Barton Cove, Gill produced a nice arrival of Arctic-bound shorebirds on the 22nd/23rd and with 7 Black-bellied Plovers, 18+ Least Sandpipers and single Semi-palmated Sandpiper and Dunlin at the very least, and I am aware that birders reported more shorebirds from the Turner's Falls Rod & Gun club, a site which I couldn't visit on the 22nd. Also of interest on the 23rd (with Brian Kane), a Great Egret at the Rod & Gun Club and at least 3 Black Vultures over Rt 2 in Greenfield soaring with a handful of Turkey Vultures . 

Black-bellied Plovers - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 22nd, 2017. 
Four of the seven birds present on the 22nd. 

Mid to late May is also a fine time for seeking out relatively scarce Franklin County migrant breeders such as the following;

 Eastern Meadowlark - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 30th, 2017.


Purple Finch - male, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 23rd, 2017. 


Worm-eating Warbler - Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. May 25th, 2017.


Worm-eating Warbler - Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. May 25th, 2017.


Grasshopper Sparrow - Montague, Franklin Co., May 21st, 2017. 


Grasshopper Sparrow (with House Sparrow) - Montague, Franklin Co., May 23rd, 2017. 


Tuesday, May 2, 2017

MA - grand fall-out of migrating waterbirds at Turner's Falls!

Black Tern - adult, Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  

May 2nd: Overnight thunderstorms and very heavy rain persisted through to dawn. I decided to trade my early morning bike ride for a quick visit to Barton Cove, Gill and arrived at the public boat ramp at 06:22 hrs. Within minutes I was looking a some good waterbirds with clear indications of an overnight arrival: two Bufflehead, a Long-tailed Duck, two Common Loons, a Horned Grebe (in near full breeding plumage), five Northern Shoveler and a flock of 36 Green-winged Teal - not too shabby for starters! Scanning through the swallows, I came across several Cliff Swallows when Eric Huston called with news of a 'hooded' gull from the Turner's Falls Rod & Gun club. He was understandably cautious, as the previous day I'd seen a summer plumaged Bonaparte's Gull at the same spot, but he seemed pretty confident that his distant bird was a Laughing Gull - exceedingly rare for interior Massachusetts. 

Laughing Gull - adult in breeding plumage with Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  The dark hooded, dark mantled gull in the center of the island. Distant but readily identifiable through a spotting scope. A good find for Eric Huston, only the second documented record for Franklin County. 

Long-tailed Duck - male-breeding, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.
One of four Long-tailed Ducks today. 


Northern Shovelers - five, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.


  Red-breasted and Common Mergansers - Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  
Common Merganser flanked by two Red-breasted Mergansers.


Bonaparte's Gull - adult-breeding, Turner's Falls Rod  & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 1st, 2017.  


Five minutes later I was fortunate to find Eric and the Laughing Gull still present at the Rod & Gun club. It was distant and resting on a small island which's only exposed when water levels (controlled upstream) are low. Around the same island, 3 female Red-breasted Mergansers and a first-summer Common Tern......wow!

Eric had to leave for work but I had enough time to linger for another ten minutes or so and could hardly believe my luck when a Black Tern in breeding plumage flew through my field of view as I watched the Common Tern. 

Black Tern - adult, Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  


With brightening skies, I returned to the Rod & Gun club after dropping Matan at school, hopeful of improving on the documentation shots of the Laughing Gull. Alas, the favored island was already underwater and all the birds that it had been holding had moved on. It later transpired that Josh Rose and Bill Lafley had seen and reported the Laughing Gull at Barton Cove, just a little downriver from the Rod and Gun Club. However, the latter site still held 3 Long-tailed Ducks, a Horned Grebe, a Common Loon and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers as well as Great Crested Flycatcher, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Northern Parula and no less than 10 Cliff Swallows. Shorebirds included 2 Greater and 1 Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, 2 Least Sandpipers and plenty of Spotted Sandpipers.

Lesser Yellowlegs - Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  




Cliff and Barn Swallows - Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  

By 09:15 activity seemed to be tapering and the Laughing Gull had already moved on from Barton Cove by the time that I arrived back at the boat ramp. Other than a singing Northern Waterthrush, I didn't really add anything new to the species haul in the few minutes that I spent there. Even so, by local standards this was a pretty thrilling morning to be out.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

MA - migration surge at the end of April.

Yellow Warbler - male, Turner's Falls Rod & Gun club, Franklin Co., MA. April 25th, 2017. 
My first of the year, but already widespread after the 26th. 


Unfortuanely, I haven't had a lot of time for blog posts this month but it's certainly been lively in Gill and the surrounding towns with widespread arrivals of American Kestrel, Hermit Thrush, Pine Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Brown Thrasher, Eastern Towhee, Field and Swamp Sparrows and Purple Finch. A broad 'wave' of Ruby-crowned Kinglets passed through Gill on th 17th - 19th and thier rapid-fire warbling songs were common sounds in the woods and yards. I estimated at least 30 in Gill alone on the 18th. With them came th first Blue-headed Vireos and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers.

Eastern Towhee - male, Montague, Franklin Co., MA. April 30th, 2017.


Solitary Sandpiper - Hell's Kitchen, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 30th, 2017. 
One of seven present, very good numbers for a single site in Franklin County, 

Louisiana Waterthrushes first returned on the 11th, earlier than my first last year, with singing males already widespread by the 14th/15th. Despite being absent through the fall and winter, it was really great to hear two Winter Wrens singing off North Cross Road throughout the first two weeks of the month, with another at the Turner's Falls Rod & Gun club on the 25th, and one off Hoe Shop Road on the 29th. A House Wren singing from a yard on Boyle Road, Gill on the 13th was also earlier than average.

Louisiana Waterthrush - male, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 11th, 2017. 
First of the year and quite early but more widespread from the 14th with 20+ singing male in the Gill area alone.

Other early migrants included Baltimore Orioles in Old Deerfield on the 24th and Gill Elementary on the 25th, plus a Yellow Warbler singing at the Turner's Falls Rod and Gun Club on the 25th, and a Black-and-White Warbler in Gill Center on the 26th. 

Barton Cove has been 'heaving' with migrant swallows on rainy or heavily overcast days with large numbers of Tree, Northern Rough-winged and Barn Swallows, with a few Bank Swallows appearing from the 25th. Similar conditions have also produced a few single Bonaparte's Gulls throughout the month plus pairs of Long-tailed Ducks on the 5th and 19th.

Bonaparte's Gull - first-summer, Turner's Falls Rod & Gun club, Franklin Co., MA. April 25th, 2017. 


Northern Rough-winged Swallows - Turner's Falls Rod & Gun club, Franklin Co., MA. April 25th, 2017. 


Warm muggy days, combined with fog and drizzle produced a strong push of migrants and summer breeders towards the end of the month:

27th; Least Flycatcher singing near West Gill Cemetery plus widespread influx of Black-and-White Warblers and House Wrens throughout Gill. Also of note, Barred Owl pair dueting for about two hours solid in Northfield from 21:00hrs.

Least Flycatcher - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 27th, 2017. 
Quite early with three more heard in Gill on the 29th. 

28th; Remarkable day - A Great Egret by the CT River in Gill. My first spring record. A Snowy Egret at Turner's Falls Road & Gun club, courtesy of a text from Eric Huston - my first ever in Franklin County since I began observations in 2005. Also four or five Virginia Rails in a small wetland in Gill and a slew of year-firsts including Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Wood Thrush, Common Yellowthroat, Northern Waterthrush and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Barred Owl calling throughout the morning on River Road, Gill. 

Great Egret - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 28th, 2017. 
Unusual in spring, more typically seen around Barton Cove in mid to late summer. 


Virginia Rail - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 28th, 2017. 
Not easy to find in Franklin County but probably overlooked. 

 Common Yellowthroat -  male, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 28th, 2017. 


 Great Blue Heron - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 28th, 2017. 

29th - Sudden mass arrival of Ovenbirds with 20+ heard on an 11 mile bike ride around Gill. Also, several Black-throated Green Warblers and a Warbling Vireo at Gill Elementary school. 

30th - Chimney Swifts arrive in numbers at Barton Cove. Eastern Kingbird and a very early Willow Flycatcher just east of Main Road, Gill at the NMH campus. Several Prairie Warblers and Red Crossbills at Monatgue Plains plus a very vocal Red-shouldered Hawk. Nice shorebird viewing at Hell's Kitchen in Northfield with 7 Solitary, 5 Spotted and 3 Least Sandpipers, 4 Killdeer and 2 Lesser Yellowlegs.....(courtesy of Eric Huston).