Wednesday, April 15, 2015

MA - Louisiana Waterthrush

If I was to nominate a 'bird-of-the-week' this week, it would have to be Louisiana Waterthrush. It's beautiful descending song is perhaps one of the most instantly recognizable bird sounds in the woodland around Franklin County and a sure sound of spring. In particular, the towns of Greenfield, Gill and Northfield seem to be especially good for them with most suitable wooded streams in those towns supporting one or more pairs. After hearing my first of the year on North Cross Road, Gill yesterday, they arrived en masse overnight - for example, three singing males along a one mile stretch of River Road in Gill this morning. They prefer fairly substantial fast flowing streams in mixed woodland dominated by Eastern  Hemlocks, a habitat shared by Winter Wren. Both species are shy and skulking, and much easier to hear than actually see. However, the canopy is still leafless at the moment and will be for a couple of weeks so the opportunity to is there to get out into the woods and get good views and audio of two of the more exciting species that we have in Western Massachusetts.

 Louisiana Waterthrush - River Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 15th, 2015.

 Winter Wren - River Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 15th, 2015.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

MA/NH - Bonaparte's Gulls

Bonaparte's Gull - adult, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2015.

Yet another fabulous day of spring migration in the Connecticut River Valley, full of diversity. The day got off to the best possible start with a singing Louisiana Waterthrush on North Cross Road in Gill, and actually a whole host of new songsters along that road including Winter Wren, Swamp and Chipping Sparrows as well as loads of Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers.

Canvasback - female, Hinsdale Bluffs, Cheshire Co., NH. April 14th, 2015.

After dropping Matan at school, I headed north to Hinsdale in New Hampshire and cycled out to the bluffs overlooking the Vernon Dam. I was hoping for a repeat of yesterday's raptor migration in Gill but as the wind swung around to the north-west it seemed to stifle any visual migration. However, the bluffs yielded some great new birds for this spring including five Long-tailed Ducks and 5 Bonaparte's Gulls, as well as a female Canvasback, the latter initially found by Dave Johnson who spotted it from the Vernon side of the river. Hundreds of swallows were in the area including my first Barn Swallows of the year and finally warblers in some numbers with Yellow-rumped, Palm and Pine Warblers all heard and seen around the bluffs. With them came quite good numbers Ruby-crowned Kinglets. Careful scanning also produced Greater and Lesser Scaups together, two Red-necked Grebes and a cracking female Barrow's Goldeneye. The latter could be my first April observation of a Barrow's anywhere in the valley. As usual, I wrestled with distance at Hinsdale so apologies for the heavily cropped images.

Barrow's Goldeneye (right) - female with female Common Goldeneye, Hinsdale Bluffs, Cheshire Co., NH. April 14th, 2015.

A quick stop at Barton Cove in the evening produced nice views of two Bonaparte's Gulls, possibly the same 'hooded' gulls reported on the Western Mass Birders Facebook page earlier in the day. A Wilson's Snipe on Ben Hale Road in Gill was a nice surprise and a great way to end another very interesting day in our area.

MA - Purple Finch bonanza!

I must confess that I'm not a big fan of feeder watching - I'd much rather be out in the field somewhere rather than looking at birds through the kitchen window but periodically I'm just blown away the sudden appearance of certain species at our feeders, especially when there's no indication that anything cool is about to happen. Early this afternoon, our near-empty feeders attracted four Purple Finches which I found especially remarkable because it seems to have been a relatively poor late winter/early spring for them in Gill/Northfield. I can only recall hearing one other Purple Finch this spring and that was on North Cross Road, Gill in late March.

 This female-type was the first to arrive with the males below arriving as a group of three about an hour later.
These birds didn't stay long either but I did manage to get these pics through a rather grimy kitchen window!

Purple Finches - Northfield yard, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2015.

Monday, April 13, 2015

MA - floodgates opening

Red-shouldered Hawk - displaying, Barney Hale Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 13th, 2015.

This morning I headed for Barton Cove with the specific intention of watching for the visual migration of soaring birds. I had a taste of migration yesterday at Hinsdale Bluffs in New Hampshire and with the winds still in the southern quarter, I thought my chances of seeing a few raptors moving over Gill would be good. My start was a late one as I had to take Matan to a dental appointment but I got settled in at the boat ramp by 10am and watched for raptors lifting up over the trees to the south of Barton Cove. The first bird I had was a Red-shouldered Hawk, a good start, and from then on, a steady stream of single migrant raptors passed over the cove on a fairly broad front. Over the next 75 minutes I tallied;

15 Broad-winged Hawk - all adults, FOY. Mostly singles but one 'kettle' of three.
6 Osprey
5 Red-shouldered Hawk
3 Sharp-shinned Hawk
1 Cooper's Hawk
1 Merlin - possibly local.
1 Peregrine - possibly local
5 Turkey Vulture - local
1 Bald Eagle - local
6 Red-tailed Hawk - local

Also involved, 5 Double-crested Cormorants and a 'heard-only' Sandhill Crane. The latter was calling high above the boat ramp but frustration set in as I scanned the clear blue skies without success. I'm not surprised by this. I've had similar experiences with heard-only Common Cranes migrating above the desert in southern Israel with the birds clearly audible but almost impossible to find in a cloudless sky. The Sandhill Crane was heard passing overhead at about 10;40hrs.

 Broad-winged Hawk - heavy crop of distant adult, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 13th, 2015. 
A total of 17 for the day, with 15 over Barton Cove in the morning and two singles over Gill later in the day. 

 Common Loon - adult breeding, Hinsdale Bluffs, Cheshire Co., NH. April 12th, 2015. 
High flying adult, southbound.

 Double-crested Cormorants - five heading north, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 13th, 2015. 

 scaup sp., - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 13th, 2015. 
Initially thought to be Greater but wing pattern, seen briefly, more suggestive of Lesser.

 Red-breasted Mergansers - adult males, Hinsdale Bluffs, Cheshire Co., NH. April 12th, 2015. 
A bumper day for these at Hinsdale with Hector Galbraith recording an additional six birds. 

Common Goldeneye - immature male, Hinsdale Bluffs, Cheshire Co., NH. April 12th, 2015. 

The boat ramp area also produced three singing Pine Warblers, a drumming sapsucker, a singing Common Yellowthroat, a Savannah Sparrow and an intriguing scaup which I initially logged as a Greater Scaup but decided to leave it unidentified.

Earlier in the morning, I stopped on Barney Hale Road, Gill to watch a displaying Red-shouldered Hawk and heard my first singing Winter Wren and Hermit Thrush in the process.

After a lack-luster tail end to last week the pulse of visual migration this morning was immediate and obvious. And with winds in the southern quarter all day and forecast to go into tomorrow I think we can expect a rush of new year birds, and perhaps one or two rarities!!

Friday, April 10, 2015

MA - Pine Warbler - 04/10

Another dull, damp drizzly day so this Pine Warbler at Turner's Falls was especially welcome and enough to bring a splash of color to an otherwise pretty dull day. Again, Eastern Phoebes were a big feature along the Turner's Falls power canal and bike path, and I tallied about 30 on my ride today including two concentrations of four birds each. Golden-crowned Kinglets also featured with about five along the power canal and bike path.

Pine Warbler - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. April 10th, 2015.
An unusually bold bird and my first local one of the year. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

MA - Eastern Palm Warbler

(Eastern) Palm Warbler - Riverview Drive, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 9th, 2015.
Lovely bright male and my first local warbler of the year.

It wasn't much fun to wake up and find a 1/2 inch of fresh snow accumulation this morning. Early migrants much have shivered (or worse) but by the end of the day I'd noted some good diversity in our area with a nice bright eastern Palm Warbler leading the way. It was also a great day for sparrows with singing Fox Sparrows at Barton Cove and Pine Meadow Road (2), and the first Swamp and Savannah Sparrows of the spring. Indeed, Pine Meadow Road in Northfield proved to be today's sweet spot with Snow Goose, Northern Harrier (male) and Rusty Blackbird in addition to the sparrows mentioned above. By late afternoon, with temperatures rising to a balmy 35 deg F, some 20 Tree Swallows and 2 Northern Rough-winged Swallows were hawking above Barton Cove with an additional 10 Tree Swallows above the Turner's Falls power canal.

Swamp Sparrow - Riverview Drive, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 9th, 2015.

Savannah Sparrow - Pine Meadow Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 9th, 2015.
At least 6 feeding close to each other in this muddy, snow covered pasture.

American Robins - Pine Meadow Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 9th, 2015.
Still huge numbers of robins in the Gill/Northfield area.

Northern Harrier (male) - Pine Meadow Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 9th, 2015.

Killdeer - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 9th, 2015.

Snow Goose (imm) - Pine Meadow Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 9th, 2015.

The open water at Barton Cove, Gill remains full of diving ducks though a drake Northern Pintail was the only obvious new bird there today.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

MA - first Pied-billed Grebe - 04/08

Pied-billed Grebe - Old Vernon Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 8th, 2015. First of the season.

Yet another interesting day. Checked Barton Cove in the morning to find numbers of dabbling ducks greatly reduced with some species absent altogether. It's difficult to say whether they migrated out or perhaps just moved to another feeding spot further up river. However, I could only muster a handful of Mallards and a single Black Duck! The diving duck spectacle goes on with 350 Ring-necked Ducks, 15+ Buffleheads and 4 Lesser Scaup continuing among other species. A Merlin swept through as I was leaving, my second sighting here this month and likely the same bird.

Eastern Phoebes seem to be well established, despite the continued cold temperatures and today's sleet showers. This morning I counted over 20 during a ten mile bike ride from Turner's Falls to East Deerfield and back.

Common Loon - adult, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 8th, 2015. Continuing from April 5th. 

Merlin - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 8th, 2015.

Kumlien's Iceland Gull -  continuing first-cycle, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 8th, 2015.

 Ring-necked Ducks - Old Vernon Road, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 8th, 2015. First of season.

Later in the day I checked a few small ponds near my home in Northfield finding Ring-necked Ducks, Hooded Mergansers and Wood Ducks, and a little surprisingly, my first local Pied-billed Grebe of the year. 

MA - first rough-wing - 04/07

More new birds today beginning with a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker visiting a yard feeder on North Cross Road, Gill and, later, another sapsucker giving territorial drumming close to the intersection of North Cross and Main Roads, Gill. Also of note in Gill, a calling Winter Wren in a wooded gully along Main Road, just south of Munn's Ferry Road.

As usual, it was my intention to have a relatively quick check of Barton Cove after dropping Matan at school. I arrived to find Josh Rose and Al Richards already scoping out the diving duck spectacle there. Josh had already counted 375 Ring-necked Ducks though I must admit, when an eagle flushed them onto the open water away from the ice, it looked like even more than that perhaps closer to 400 birds.

Lesser Scaup - new arrivals, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 7th, 2015.

New today were 4 Lesser Scaup and a slight increase to 6 American Wigeon but otherwise the numbers looked comparable to recent visits. There was some action above the water with a couple of Tree Swallows, the first Northern Rough-winged Swallow and at least 3 Belted Kingfishers. At least three Eastern Phoebes were also foraging and calling along our particular corner of Riverview Drive as well.

Northern Rough-winged Swallow - hawking over the water at Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA.
April 7th, 2015. First this year.

Kumlien's Iceland Gull - first-cycle, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 7th, 2015. 

Towards the end of our stint, a ringtail Northern Harrier drifted south above the tree line, yet another year first.

In the evening, a quick five minute check of Barton Cove revealed much the same as the morning but with the addition of the returning pristine adult Lesser Black-backed Gull first seen on April 3rd. The continuing first-cycle Kumlien's Iceland Gull was also still present. 

Lesser Black-backed Gull - adult, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 3rd, 2015. 
Same small adult seen this evening, April 7th, but mostly too obscured for photos. This shot is from April 3rd.

Monday, April 6, 2015

MA/VT - recent obs

Common Loon - adult breeding, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 5th, 2015.

As usual, I didn't get out to do a lot of birding over the weekend but I did have a few incidental observations of interest namely a Common Loon at Barton Cove, Gill, a northbound Cackling Goose over Turner's Falls with a small group of Canada Geese, and a concentration of a dozen Song Sparrows on the bike path, again at Turner's Falls. Sparrows proved to be an on-going theme with a newly arrived White-throated Sparrow in our yard on Sunday morning, then 2-3 singing Fox Sparrows on North Cross Road, Gill this morning along with 25+ Song Sparrows ground feeding by the roadside. Later in the morning I ventured up to Miller Farm fields in Vernon, Vermont where I found good numbers of Song Sparrows (45+) ground feeding along the fringes of the field.

Song SparrowsMiller Farm, Vernon, Windham Co., VT. April 6th, 2015. 

Miller Farm fields and overlook was good though I had high expectations of finding big concentrations of waterfowl on the CT river above Vernon Dam. The birds were there but distance made observations relatively difficult though there were a couple of nice surprises, most notably in the form of a pair of nesting Ospreys. Amazing to see how quickly they get on with the job of nesting building having only just arrived a few days ago.......and I still haven't seen a single migrant Osprey at Barton Cove this year!

Ospreys - Miller Farm, Vernon, Windham Co., VT. April 6th, 2015.

I also spotted a real odd-ball at Vernon on the CT river - a leucistic Canada Goose, essentially all creamy-white apart from a perfectly normal black neck-sock and white cheek. I've seen quite a few aberrant Canada Geese in the valley over the years but nothing quite like this one. Hector Galbraith independently found the same bird but was viewing from the the New Hampshire side of the river in Hinsdale.

leucistic Canada Goose (center) - from Miller Farm, Vernon, Windham Co., VT. April 6th, 2015.

Back in Gill, a very quick check of Barton Cove between errands revealed a few new birds, including four Double-crested Cormorants and two Northern Pintail but otherwise similar, or even slightly diminished numbers from recent visits. The Bald Eagles were also creating havoc among the gulls so nothing new to report there.

 Double-crested Cormorants - four fresh arrivals, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 6th, 2015.

Bald Eagle - juvenile/first-winter, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 6th, 2015.