Wednesday, January 9, 2019

MA - Turner's Falls sector of the Greenfield CBC


Black-capped Chickadee - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.
One of 61 recorded inside our sector at Turner's Falls.

As well as final holiday celebrations, the end of the year has become synonymous (for me at least) with the Greenfield Christmas Bird Count and this year was no exception. Having still been with family in the UK on December 28th, I felt quite lucky to be back just in time for the count on December 30th and even luckier to be joined for the entire day by Brian Kane and Josh Layfield.

Josh Layfield and Brian Kane - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.
Checking the scrub for passerines under the power lines at Depot Street. 
This spot produced our only Golden-crowned Kinglet for the day.

Unlike last year's frigid count, the day was seasonably mild and pleasant throughout, so pleasant in fact that we had no real weather event to 'stir' things up for our benefit. That much said, for a rather banal day with seemingly little avian action we did well to find 48 different bird species and tallied some 1927 individual birds, all in the Turner's Falls sector of the count. Notable misses included Northern Flicker, Brown Creeper and Cedar Waxwing all of which can often be found around Turner's Falls in the winter months. And, given the frequency of irruptive finch reports in late fall and early winter, it was a major surprise to find only one 'winter finch' for the day - a single Common Redpoll flying over Unity Park.


Brian Kane trying to track down the only unidentified call of the day, a call which remained a mystery and eluded identification. 
Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.


Red-breasted Nuthatch - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.
A decent tally of four, all of them at the same spot. 


Bald Eagles (immature and adult) - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.
A great count with eleven seen, most of them in the afternoon when the sun came out and breeze picked up. 

On the other hand, highlights were many and included some good counts for Bald Eagle (11), Downy Woodpecker (16), White-breasted Nuthatch (18), Red-breasted Nuthatch (4), Black-capped Chickadee (61), Eastern Bluebird (16), and House Finch (82). Alas we didn't find anything truly rare but scarce, noteworthy species included Red-shouldered Hawk (1), Bufflehead (1), Lesser Black-backed Gull (1), and a Glaucous Gull picked out by Brian Kane late in the day. Particularly niggling misses included Cackling Goose and Lesser Scaup, both of which could be seen from Unity Park the previous day.

House Finches (males) - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.
A bumper crop of these with 82 for the day compared to 23 the previous year!


Cooper's Hawk (male) - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.
A fairly consistently seen raptor around Turner's Falls, we saw this particular male Cooper's in two different spots near Unity Park.


Brian Kane and Josh Layfield counting waterfowl from the bike path off Depot Street.
Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.

Glaucous Gull (first-winter) - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.
A nice reward for repeated checks of the gull flock from Unity Park. One of six species of the gull for the day.

Cackling Goose - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. December 29th, 2018.
We worked hard to pick out this bird on count day but couldn't find it anywhere!

White-breasted Nuthatch - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.
Surprisingly common around Turner's Falls with 18 recorded on count day.

Brian and Josh worked especially hard on this count and I'm very grateful to them for putting up with me for the day. We had loads of fun and look forward to doing it again!

Brian Kane and Josh Layfield scanning for a calling Red-shouldered Hawk off Depot Street.
Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.

View from the Rod and Gun Club - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.


Long shadows - scanning for 'the' Red-shouldered Hawk off Depot Street.
Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.

View from the Rod and Gun Club - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.


Barton Cove at dusk from Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 30th, 2018.
Home to a modest gull roost of six species including Glaucous, Iceland and Lesser Black-backed Gulls.







Sunday, December 16, 2018

MA - Common Yellowthroats, Lapland Longspur and more


Lapland Longspur - Montague, Franklin Co., MA. December 13th, 2018.

Passerines continued to capture most of my personal interest through to mid-December. To date (Dec 16th), Common Yellowthroats (1 - 2) are still present in the Northfield Meadows, seemingly happily foraging around a completely frozen cattail pond. How these birds will fair during the remainder of the month remains to be seen but for now it certainly looks like an attempt at over-wintering.

Common Yellowthroat (first-winter male) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. December 12th, 2018.

The excellent sequence of Franklin County Lapland Longspurs continued on Dec 13th with another found in a smallish flock of Horned Larks in Montague. Just outside of Franklin County, there was a super Northern Shrike at Whitingham, Vermont on Dec 16th just a few miles north-west of Colrain, Mass.

Lapland Longspur -  with Horned Larks, Montague, Franklin Co., MA. December 13th, 2018.



 Northern Shrike - Whitingham, Windham Co., VT. December 16th, 2018.

Otherwise, a steady series of flyover Common Redpolls ( 1 - 5) and Evening Grosbeaks (1 -3) over several sites in Northfield, Gill and Turner's Falls during Dec 9th - 12th. 


Cackling Goose - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 12th, 2018.



Cackling Goose - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. December 10th, 2018.





(Greater) Snow Goose - adult, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 12th, 2018.

Water birding around Turner's Falls has been 'steady' with a Cackling Goose, quite possibly the same individual adult, being recorded at multiple sites from Northfield through to Turner's Falls between Dec 1st - 16th (multiple observers). A Greater Snow Goose spent all day loafing with Canada Geese off Unity Park before suddenly departing at dusk with the very first flock that decided it was time head south. Also of note, a Long-tailed Duck at Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club on Dec 4th, and a very late Double-crested Cormorant on Nov 29th. 

Long-tailed Duck - autumn male, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 4th, 2018.


Double-crested Cormorant - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 29th, 2018.

Gull watching at Turner's Falls was quite promising in early December with up 9 individual Iceland Gulls identified including three adults, and up to four Lesser Black-backed Gulls though numbers of both species had tapered towards the middle of the month.

Barred Owl - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. December 2nd, 2018.


Barred Owl - Montague, Franklin Co., MA. December 12th, 2018.
Image appears courtesy of Brian Kane.

Finally, Barred Owls continue to be heard and seen around much of Franklin County and it seems pretty clear that we have an incursion of birds from further north supplementing our resident population. Sadly, as with other incursion years, this has included a lot of road-killed Barred Owls.

Monday, December 10, 2018

NJ - Cape May - Day 5 October 14th


Yellow-billed Cuckoo - Higbee Beach, Cape May Island, NJ. October 14th, 2018.
Image appears courtesy of David Hughes. 

We started bright and early once more heading straight over to the Higbee Beach dike at first light. The morning was much calmer than the previous days with very little wind but rather cloudy. As a result many migrants were already quite high etched against complete cloud cover making them nearly impossible to identify to any level of satisfaction. Instead, we focused on the migrants feeding and resting along the dike and ended up having a nice, bird rich walk with good numbers of Yellow-billed Cuckoos (7-10), Black-throated Blue Warblers, Palm Warblers (both subspecies), White-crowned and Lincoln's Sparrows, Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Yellow-rumped and Blackpoll Warblers, and more Brown Creepers.

Lincoln's Sparrow - Higbee Beach, Cape May Island, NJ. October 14th, 2018.


Baltimore Oriole - Higbee Beach, Cape May Island, NJ. October 14th, 2018.


Pine Warbler - Higbee Beach, Cape May Island, NJ. October 14th, 2018.


Red-breasted Nuthatch - Higbee Beach, Cape May Island, NJ. October 14th, 2018.


Wood Ducks - Higbee Beach, Cape May Island, NJ. October 14th, 2018.


Yellow-billed Cuckoo - Higbee Beach dike, Cape May Island, NJ. October 14th, 2018.

A quick visit to the Hawkwatch platform at Cape May State Park was rather quiet where several small kettles of Broad-winged Hawks proved to be the highlight. Ducks on bunker pond included a clear influx of Gadwall and the continuing drake Eurasian Wigeon.



Black, Surf and White-winged Scoters - Avalon, Cape May Co., NJ. October 14th, 2018.

From there we headed north to the Avalon Seawatch which picked up towards the evening after a fairly slow start. Some 2000 scoters of all three expected species headed south with Red-throated and Common Loons, Northern Pintail, American Wigeon and American Black Duck all involved in the movement. We also enjoyed good numbers of Northern Gannets and a handful of Parasitic Jaegers. A Swamp Sparrow in the dunes behind the seawatch hut provided some entertainment during the quieter spells until David cranked it up a gear finding three American Oystercatchers, a Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Piping Plover in the final hour of daylight! The latter turned out to be the only Piping Plover of the entire trip - well done David!

Sunday, December 9, 2018

MA - two, maybe three Common Yellowthroats in Northfield!

Common Yellowthroat (first-winter male) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. December 12th, 2018.
Still present in the favored patch of cattails this morning for the sixth straight day and distinctly feisty, 
this male being outwardly aggressive towards Savannah and American Tree Sparrows. Is this an attempt at over-wintering?



Common Yellowthroat (first-winter male) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. December 9th, 2018.

This morning I returned to the scene of the previous day's Common Yellowthroat sighting in Northfield Meadows. My expectations of a repeat performance were not high after another very cold night - it was 11 deg F in Northfield at dawn. It was very nearly birdless for a good twenty minutes or so until a small olive toned warbler caught my eye and I knew I had the Common Yellowthroat once more. As I settled down to try and get some record shots another Common Yellowthroat started calling about 12 feet away and it wasn't long before I was watching two Common Yellowthroats flitting through the cattails together. That just seemed crazy for a bitterly cold morning in December! I tracked them as best I could before eventually losing sight of them towards the back of the cattails. As I watched, a third bird started calling that might also have been a yellowthroat, but for now I'm erring on the side of caution and going with two birds - one (first-winter) male and one female. Update: at least one (first-winter male) still present on Dec 12th, with 2 on Dec 11th and 4 seen and heard on Dec 10th - remarkable!

Common Yellowthroat (female) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. December 9th, 2018.

Common Yellowthroat (first-winter male) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. December 9th, 2018.

Common Yellowthroat (first-winter male) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. December 8th, 2018.


Common Yellowthroat (first-winter male) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. December 8th, 2018.

Earlier, the day had gotten off to a terrific start with 5 Evening Grosbeaks and my first Common Redpoll  of the season flying over North Cross Road, Gill.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

MA - crossbills and other cool passerines in early December

Red Crossbill (male) - Montague Plains, Franklin County, MA. December 5th, 2018.
Identified as 'eastern' Type 10 after analysis of the sound recordings by Tim Spahr.

Passerines of interest this week included six Red Crossbills in the Montague Plains on Dec 5th, identified as 'eastern' Type 10 after analysis of sound recordings taken at the scene. The flock was skittish, mobile and difficult to pin down so I was quite happy to come away with a handful of shots and a decent recording. In the same area, a lose flock of some 15 - 20 Red-breasted Nuthatches was no less impressive. Evening Grosbeaks (1 - 3) flew over North Cross Road, Gill every morning during Dec 1st - 5th, with another 3 over Turner's Falls Airfield on Dec 5th. A wide scatter of wandering Snow Buntings with 25 on Upper Farms Road, Northfield on Nov 30th, 11 on River Road, Gill on Dec 2nd and a single (male) over North Cross Road, Gill on Dec 6th. Skulkers included a smart Winter Wren on Pine Meadow, Northfield on Nov 30th with two together in Northfield Meadows on Dec 7th, and another on North Cross Road, Gill on the 8th. Dawn Winkler and Harvey Allen found a late Gray Catbird at Bennett Meadow, Northfield on Dec 3rd, and a very late Common Yellowthroat showed up in Northfield Meadows on Dec 7th & 8th.

Red Crossbill (female) - Montague Plains, Franklin County, MA. December 5th, 2018.
Identified as 'eastern' Type 10 after analysis of the sound recordings by Tim Spahr.

Red Crossbill (male) - Montague Plains, Franklin County, MA. December 5th, 2018.
Identified as 'eastern' Type 10 after analysis of the sound recordings by Tim Spahr.

Red Crossbill (male) - Montague Plains, Franklin County, MA. December 5th, 2018.
Identified as 'eastern' Type 10 after analysis of the sound recordings by Tim Spahr.


Red-breasted Nuthatch - Montague Plains, Franklin County, MA. December 5th, 2018.


Red-breasted Nuthatch - Montague Plains, Franklin Co., MA. December 5th, 2018.


Winter Wren - Pine Meadow Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. November 30th, 2018.

Winter Wren - Pine Meadow Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. November 30th, 2018.

Gray Catbird - Bennett Meadow, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. December 3rd, 2018.
Image appears courtesy of Dawn Winkler.




Common Yellowthroat (first-winter male) - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. December 8th, 2018.