Monday, April 14, 2014

CO - Greater Prairie Chickens - 04/10

From another extra-ordinary morning in Colorado, this time Greater Prairie Chickens on private ranch land near Wray, April 10th, 2014.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

CO - Sharp-tailed Grouse - 04/06

My personal highlight (hands-down actually) from the recent Birdfinders 'Grouse and Rosyfinches Tour' of Colorado. Posted in haste on my way to Texas for spring migration. 

 Sharp-tailed Grouse - at lek site, Hayden, Colorado, April 6th, 2014. 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

MA - a phoebe...finally! 04/01

It was really good to hear an Eastern Phoebe singing in the yard at dawn this morning. It sounded strong and I expected to hear it all morning but alas it didn't appear to stick around after sun up. We usually get phoebes well before the end of March and Susannah has had them as early as March 17th but I think this must be our latest first arrival date since we moved to Gill in 2010...'''but at least they're arriving!

Canvasback - long staying male, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 1st, 2014.

Despite a much milder weekend with some south in the wind, relatively little changed at  Barton Cove and the remarkable show of diving ducks continued unabated - Long-tailed Ducks, Canvasback, Red-breasted Merganser (displaying!) have all been present among the 140 Ring-necked Ducks with Greater and Lesser Scaups, Common and Hooded Mergansers and lots of Common Goldeneye. Gull numbers definitely seem to be dwindling as might be expected in late March but the fine show of Kumlien's Iceland Gulls continues with up five present through to the last day of March.

Long-tailed Ducks - pair, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. March 31st, 2014.

Red-breasted Merganser - male displaying, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 1st, 2014.

 Kumlien's (Iceland) Gulls - three first-cycle birds with American Herring and Great Black-backed Gulls, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. March 30th, 2014.

 Purple Finch - male, Gill yard, Franklin Co., MA. April 1st, 2014.

At the feeders in our yard, another or the same male Purple Finch showed up in the afternoon and looked pretty comfortable as it sat enjoying the sunshine on our most spring-like day so far this year. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

MA - yard harrier 03/29

On Saturday afternoon Susannah woke me up from a mid-afternoon doze with a sudden cry of "male harrier over the field". Sure enough, a beautiful male Northern Harrier was quartering over the meadow behind the house. It was our first in Gill this year, certainly a migrant, and present for just a few minutes before 'tanking' through the yard and heading straight through to the north-east......and that was it - all over in just a few minutes. About our 7th record since September 2010, most of which have been juveniles in autumn.

 Northern Harrier - male, Gill yard, Franklin Co., MA. March 29th, 2014.

Friday, March 28, 2014

MA - Pink-footed Goose

According to the weather forecast, I reckoned I'd have about 90 minutes for a short outing before the rain started in earnest around 10am, and that's pretty much how things worked out this morning. During the week I'd been impressed how local and visiting birders had kept tabs on the Pink-footed Goose found by Larry Therrien last Sunday (03/23). I dipped on Monday in a half-hearted effort in Hatfield but felt that my chances would be better this morning. Naturally, I was delighted to find a tiny group of birders already watching the bird in fields off Knightly Road when I arrived at about 09:10hrs. From that moment on I, and several local and visiting birders, had the bird in view for well over an hour. The best technique appeared to be pick a spot by the road and wait for the Pink-footed Goose to walk towards you because that's exactly what it did! At one point it was very nearly the closest goose to Knightly Road while the bulk of c.1200 Canada Geese foraged much farther out in the fields.

 True bill color often hidden by mud stains. 

 Hallux nicely intact. 

 Often aggressive towards neighboring Canada Geese. 

Pink-footed Goose - Knightly Road, Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. March 28th, 2014. Probably the bird found by Larry Therrien in Hatfield on March 23rd, though there was speculation at the scene today that as many as three Pink-footed Geese maybe in the Pioneer Valley between Hadley and Longmeadow. An ABA Code 4 species and about the 6th or 7th state record for Massachusetts. 

Also present, a minimum of three Cackling Geese, two of which were fairly classic hutchinsii (Richardson's) but another was more ambiguous and I thought looked better for taverneri (Taverner's). More on that later once I've been through my images.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Vermont Golden Eagle and more - 03/25

Yesterday provided a pleasant break from the norm when I was joined by visiting Belgian birder Martin Boer. Although we initially planned an owl/woodock start to the day, the frigid pre-dawn temperatures were enough to put us off and we met at the rather civilized hour of 06:30am. From there we scoured numerous sites along the Connecticut River Valley beginning at the Turner's Falls power canal, heading as far north as Vernon Dam, Vermont before returning to finish at Barton Cove, Gill. It turned out to be a fantastic day with large numbers of birds greeting us at almost every stop. In particular, Canada Geese featured throughout the day with the largest numbers at Vernon Dam and later, a huge flight of birds over Barton Cove heading for the Turner's Falls power canal. In West Northfield and Vernon it seemed like every patch of open grass was filled with American Robins and with them Brown-headed Cowbirds (and Starlings!). We also had great looks at Killdeers in West Northfield, Horned Larks in Vernon and all the continuing waterfowl at Barton Cove.

The day got off to a terrific start with six calling Fish Crows flying over the main parking lot at Turner's Falls power canal, only my third local record. Martin's sharp eyes soon picked out a drake Northern Pintail among the Mallards in the early morning gloom, and minutes later we were looking at three drakes together! But our personal highlights came later in the day with a Golden Eagle over the Connecticut River at Vernon, VT, and a drumming Pileated Woodpecker at Ben Hale Road in Gill. Ironically, we only found the Golden Eagle after Mike Resch gave us a spot to try for Carolina Wren. It was pretty astonishing to step out of the car hoping to hear a Carolina Wren singing only to be confronted by a Red-tailed Hawk mobbing a sub-adult Golden Eagle! Just a couple of hours before I'd read a post from Hector Galbraith describing a sub-adult Golden Eagle over Vernon Dam the previous evening but I really wasn't ready for the same bird to still be around on our day......amazing! Only my third Golden Eagle in the CT River Valley since 2005. Exciting though this was for me, Martin had seen Golden Eagles before and his big highlight came half an hour later with the Pileated Woodpecker. This bird had been on our minds all day after we heard, but did not see, a drumming Pileated at Turner's Falls first thing in the morning.

A brilliant day with great company ended on 43 species, all of which we saw fleeting glimpses or 'heard-only' birds for us!

Being mobbed by a local Red-tail. 

 The tree in the foreground in is Vermont and the woodland at the rear is New Hampshire - 
the eagle is over the CT River. 

Golden Eagle - from Stebbins Road, Vernon, Windham Co., VT. March 25th, 2014. 
Sub-adult, first seen by Hector Galbraith on March 24th, 2014.

 Fish Crow - Cherry Rum Plaza, Greenfield, Franklin Co., MA. March 26th, 2014. 
Could this bird be one of six seen dispersing from roost at Turner's Falls on March 25th?

 Hooded Merganser - male, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. March 25th, 2014.
Every stop on the Connecticut River produced this species. 

 Northern Pintail - male, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. March 25th, 2014.
A fine morning for these with four males seen on the power canal. 

Pileated Woodpecker - Ben Hale Road, Gill, MA. March 25th, 2014. 
Great spotting by Martin to pick up this drumming male. 

Brown-headed Cowbirds -  males, West Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. March 25th, 2014.

Canvasback (center) - male, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. March 25th, 2014. 
Extra-ordinary head and bill shape! Continuing from March 12th.