Thursday, January 4, 2018

MA - Turner's Falls sector of the Greenfield CBC


Connecticut River at Montague City/East Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017. 
A beautiful morning despite the freezing conditions. The mist hampered our search for goldeneyes but wasn't enough to stop Brian picking out the only Wood Duck of the day, a nice male. 

Sunday December 31st was extremely cold with temperatures ranging from minus 12 deg Fahrenheit (before dawn) to a high of about 15 deg Fahrenheit during the day. Despite the cold, the Greenfield Christmas Bird Count went ahead as planned and I was delighted to cover the Turner's Falls sector once again after missing out for the previous two years. The 'wee' hours were spent alone looking for owls and I came up with an impressive tally of nine Eastern Screech-Owls and then went on to meet Brian Kane and David Sibley at the power canal at first light. The atmosphere was eerily quiet throughout much of the day with few folks venturing out, even by car, and it felt like we had most of Turner's Falls to ourselves! 

Although I usually mention the highlights first, I would have to admit that the complete absence of Canada Goose and Ring-billed Gull for the overall list was a major disappointment, especially since both species had been present the evening before the count. But my field companions worked hard and together we amassed 46 species, well beyond my expectations for such a frigid day. Slightly less expected species included Wood Duck (male), Hermit Thrush (Rod  and Gun club) and Winter Wren (power canal) along with fairly high numbers for certain species - 120 Common Goldeneyes (power canal), 67 Common Mergansers (power canal), 9 Bald Eagles, 7 Red-tailed Hawks, 11 Eastern Screech-Owls (two more added during the daytime), 6 Pileated Woodpeckers, 17 White-breasted Nuthatches, 14 Horned Larks, 9 Golden-crowned Kinglets and 11 White-throated Sparrows.

Overall, a solid result for a day that held little promise with all of Barton Cove and most of the Turner's Falls power canal completely frozen restricting our opportunities for water birds. I'm very grateful to Brian Kane and David Sibley for helping out and making the day so enjoyable. 

Common Goldeneyes appearing out of the mist on the Connecticut River at Montague City, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.


Common Goldeneyes on the Connecticut River at Montague City, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.
Looking down on the flock from the bridge on the Canalside Rail Trail. In the afternoon after the mist had cleared.


Bald Eagle - adult, Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.


Bald Eagle - adult and sub-adult, Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.


Bald Eagle - immature, from the bridge at Montague City, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.


Cooper's Hawk - adult, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.
Another great spot by Brian Kane as we drove over the 11th street bridge. We think the prey item was a Feral Pigeon. 


Golden-crowned Kinglet - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.


White-breasted Nuthatch - Depot Street, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.
A remarkable day for this species with 17 counted, equaling our tally for Black-capped Chickadee.


Winter Wren - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.
One of the day's highlights, found in late afternoon and the 45th species for the day. 



White-throated Sparrow - Depot Street powerline cut, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.



Eastern Screech-Owl - male, red phase, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 31st, 2017.
A very impressive tally of 11 screech-owls for the count, and under difficult conditions. Makes me wonder how many are really out there?

Friday, December 22, 2017

MA - Northampton CBC Sector 8 - Hadley



Hadley Cove area at dawn, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
A beautiful hoar-frosted morning with our day starting at a chilly 9 degrees Fahrenheit. 


Last Sunday, December 17th, I was fortunate (once again) to join Scott Surner for the Hadley sector of the annual Northampton Christmas bird count. Brian Kane and JoAnne Russo joined the crew and after a fairly slow start we rallied to record 55 confirmed species for the day. For the most part it was a chilly day, though this year the weather remained favorable throughout. Of course, we had our share of niggling near-misses with Vesper Sparrow and Common Redpoll on the Aqua Vitae Road, and Barred Owl and Great Blue Heron off River Drive all of which fell just short being confirmed, and somehow Common Raven managed to elude us all day though I had one pursuing Feral Pigeons in the Hadley Honey Pot just two days later!

The day was really about the excellent bird finding from all of our team really beginning with a Lapland Longspur picked up by Brian in the Hadley Honey Pot. After that, we had a nice run of scarcer species with MerlinGray Catbird, Winter Wren and American Pipit all in the Honey Pot, a calling Red-shouldered Hawk off River Drive, and Snow Goose and Field Sparrow at the end of Meadow Street (restricted access). Locally high tallies for the day included five each of Belted Kingfisher and Pileated Woodpecker, and no less than three Eastern Screech-Owls!

Bird of the day would have to be American Tree Sparrow which greeted us in numbers at just about every stop we made. It was a fabulous day, and gracious thanks go to Scott, Brian and JoAnne for making it so enjoyable.


Red Fox - Hadley Cove, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
The first good spot of the day, JoAnne found this one in a backyard at dawn. 


Scott Surner and JoAnne Russo - Aqua Vitae Road, Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
Trying hard to pin down a Common Redpoll heard by me and seen briefly by JoAnne. 

Lapland Longpsur with Horned Larks - Hadley Honey pot, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
This bird marked a turning point in our the day. Remarkably, it was the only Lapland Longspur seen during the entire Northampton Count.


Gray Catbird - Hadley Honey pot, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
Showed well to all of our team, and one of only four to be recorded on the overall Northampton count.


Winter Wren - Hadley Honey pot, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
First picked up on call by Scott Surner, this turned out to be one of just two recorded for the whole count.



Pileated Woodpecker - Hadley Cove, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
First one of five seen/heard during the day. An excellent showing of this species for our sector along the Connecticut River.


Northern Harrier (juvenile) - Hadley Honey pot, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
The only harrier of the day for us.


Brian Kane - Hadley Honey pot, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
Working the fields for sparrows - fully committed! 


Black-capped Chickadee - Hadley Honey pot, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
I noticed this one taking Sumac fruit when I had a quiet moment away from my field companions.


Snow Buntings - Hadley Honey pot, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
A good day for this species with over 80 seen.

Merlin (male) - Hadley Honey pot, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 


Red-shouldered Hawk (juvenile) - River Drive, Hadley , Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
We had good views of this calling bird only realizing afterwards that it was mobbing something below it - Scott and JoAnne noticed 'something' slipping away underneath the hawk that was probably a Barred Owl! One of seven Red-shouldered Hawks recorded on the Northampton count, a surprisingly good tally and a new count high. 


Field Sparrow - Meadow Street, Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 
A great spot by Scott and the last good bird of the day. 
Like the longspur, it turned out to be the only one recorded on the entire Northampton count. 



American Tree Sparrow - Hadley Honey pot, Hampshire Co., MA. December 17th, 2017. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

MA - male Barrow's Goldeneye

Barrow's Goldeneye at dusk - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 5th, 2017.

A fine male Barrow's Goldeneye showed up at the Turner's Falls power canal on Dec 5th - a very wet, misty, gloomy evening, so misty in fact, that it was difficult to glean anything on the power canal without a high resolution scope. But I got lucky and found a raft of some 80 Common Goldeneyes and soon focused on the Barrow's after checking only five or six birds. It was a bold, perky male consorting with the displaying Common Goldeneyes and doing plenty of display of his own. The previous five winters have been pretty good for seeing male Barrow's Goldeneyes in the greater Turner's Falls area and it's difficult to say if this bird is a returning male, though it does seem rather likely.

Barrow's Goldeneye at dusk (second from left) - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 5th, 2017.


Barrow's Goldeneye at dusk (second from left) - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. December 5th, 2017.

December 5th also brought the first major Horned Lark (125) and Snow Bunting (42) flocks to northern Franklin County with both species staying all-too-briefly at the excellent Pauchaug WMA area in Northfield. Winter Wrens continue to show up in the mild conditions with birds at Gill Town Center (2), Gill Elementary School and Unity Park in Turner's Falls as well as continued birds along North Cross Road in Gill. 

Winter Wren - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. December 2nd, 2017.



Snow Buntings - Pauchaug Brook WMA, Northfield, Frnaklin Co., MA. December 5th, 2017.


Horned Larks - Pauchaug Brook WMA, Northfield, Frnaklin Co., MA. December 5th, 2017.

It's been another good week for owls locally with the discovery of a pair  Eastern Screech-Owls at a new site in Gill, and continuing vocal birds at traditional spots in Gill and two sites in Turner's Falls. Great Horned Owls can be heard on calm evenings around Gill Town Center and on December 5th, I chanced upon a roadside Barred Owl in the rain, again in Gill.

Barred Owl in the rain - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. December 5th, 2017.



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

MA - November fourth week

Winter Wren - North Cross Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 23rd, 2017. 

The last week of the month had a handful of surprises in store while other species showed consistently in the same areas with Hooded Mergansers present daily at Barton Cove, Gill and reaching triple digits on Nov 28th (110)! Indeed Barton Cove proved to be something of a 'sweet spot' with a Northern Shrike rather briefly on the 26th, four White-winged Scoters on the 27th and a Winter Wren on the 29th. Good numbers of Winter Wrens continued along North Cross Road, Gill with a minimum of five staging there though I'm expecting them to move on when the freeze starts in earnest. 


Winter Wren - Barton cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 28th, 2017. 


White-winged Scoters - Barton cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 27th, 2017. 

The Turner's Falls power canal has seen a continual build up of wintering waterfowl as birds fly into roost in the evenings. Numbers vary day by day but upwards of 1100 Canada Geese, 110 Common Mergansers, 75 Common Goldeneye and 175 Mallard have been resting on the canal in late evening, and two Green-winged Teal showed up there on the 30th.

Common Mergansers - some of the 98 birds counted at the Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 28th, 2017. 

Numbers of large gulls remained relatively stable with the only obvious new arrival being an Iceland Gull on the 28th. 

Iceland Gull (kumlieni) - first-cycle, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 28th, 2017. 

On the 28th I also had a brief view of an Oregon 'type' Junco at Gate 35 in the Quabbin watershed. I say Oregon 'type' because, while clearly hooded, the views were so poor that I couldn't rule out the hybrid form Cassiar Junco (J.h.cismontanus) which I have seen two or three times before in the Pioneer Valley. Away from feeders, viewing juncos well enough to see detail is pretty difficult in our area and I'm afraid that I'll have to let this one go. 


Oregon/Cassiar Junco - North Quabbin (Gate 35), Franklin Co., MA. November 28th, 2017.
Seen only very briefly but certainly appeared 'hooded' with light orange-buff flanks. 

The 28th also produced a 'new' site for Northern Saw-whet Owls in Gill when I had three birds calling at a spot that I'd previously scouted in daylight. I had a wonderful evening with three very vocal saw-whets though only had brief views of one. November also continued to produce an above average number of encounters with Eastern Screech-Owls in the Turner's Falls area.

Eastern Screech-Owl - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 30th, 2017.


Ring-necked Ducks (2) and Lesser Scaup (3) - Barton cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 27th, 2017. 


Mute Swans - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 28th, 2017. 


Peregrines - sparring at the Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 17th, 2017. 


Carolina Wren- Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 27th, 2017. 


Hermit Thrush - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 12th, 2017. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

MA - November third week


Lesser Black-backed Gull (juvenile, third from right) - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 16th, 2017. 

The last week has seen a mixed bag of falling temperatures, light snowfalls and occasionally blustery conditions. The high turnover birds experienced through the greater Turner's Falls area seems to have slowed right down with relatively few new birds arriving this week. However, the numbers and presence of large gulls has improved with up 65 Herring, 25 Great Black-backed, 2 - 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a single Iceland (adult) Gull showing up from the 15th, and up to 120 Ring-billed Gulls from the 19th.

Lesser Black-backed Gull (juvenile preening, third from right) - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 16th, 2017. 


Ring-billed Gulls - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 19th, 2017. 

With the exception of Common Mergansers (up to 65 on the power canal) and Hooded Mergansers (up to 65 on Barton Cove) waterfowl numbers have remained consistently low with 14 Ring-necked Ducks on the 19th being the only stand-out moment. Otherwise a Common Loon, 3 Lesser Scaup, 2 Common Goldeneye remained at Barton Cove to the 21st, and a Pied-billed Grebe was present there on the 20th.

Ring-necked Ducks - over Barton Cove from Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA . November 19th, 2017.

Bald Eagles have been present throughout and relatively active with five seen together at the Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club on the 19th, and a pair actively chasing the large gulls at Barton Cove also on the 19th. Similarly, Peregrines have been present in Gill, Northfield and Turner's Falls with two together sparring over the power canal on the 21st, and a juvenile hunting Hooded Mergansers also on the 21st. Eastern Screech-Owls surprised me twice with a nice red phase appearing at dusk at Turner's Falls on the 19th, and another calling from a new site (for me) at dawn on North Cross Road, Gill on the 20th. Also on the 20th, whilst on the way to the airport, I made a slight detour to look for a Snowy Owl being reported in Hadley and met with success though the bird looked totally out of place sat atop a heavily manicured evergreen hedgerow.

Eastern Screech-Owl - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 19th, 2017. 


Snowy Owl - Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. November 20th, 2017.


Bald Eagle - Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA . November 19th, 2017.


Merlin - Gill Riverside, Franklin Co., MA. November 17th, 2017.

The most interesting passerines of the week concern a smattering of flyover Snow Buntings and Purple Finches at several locations in Gill and Northfield, and gradually increasing numbers of American Tree Sparrows with eight on North Cross Road, Gill on the 21st, just by way of an example. We also had two Fox Sparrows in our yard in Northfield on the 18th and Winter Wrens have been frequent and easy to hear calling at dawn along North Cross Road, Gill with three or four individuals present.

Dark-eyed Junco - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 21st, 2017. 


American Tree Sparrow - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 21st, 2017.