Friday, February 26, 2021

MA - White-winged Crossbills

 

White-winged Crossbill (male) - Montague Plains, Franklin Co., MA. February 25th, 2021. One of at least three males present. 

Of all the winter finches during the current 2020/21 irruption, I'd have to say that the White-winged Crossbill has given me the most grief. Aside from a few pesky flyover flocks in November and December I've actually done incredibly badly when it comes finding the species grounded and feeding. I don't have a clear explanation as to why my luck has been so poor but I am aware that many birders have met with success elsewhere with daily sightings coming from within a  50 - 60 miles radius of our home in Northfield. Reports from southern Vermont and southern New Hampshire have been especially prolific and, while certainly being tempted, I've managed to avoid chasing those flocks in favor of doggedly working the pine stands in Franklin County with the hope of finding a few my own. 




My luck finally changed on Feb 25th when a routine check on the Red Crossbill flocks in the Montague Plains produced at least three White-winged Crossbills, and I must say it was a real treat! I can't remember the last time I had such good, prolonged views of White-winged Crossbills anywhere in the US. 





White-winged Crossbills (males) - Montague Plains, Franklin Co., MA. February 25th, 2021. 

The overall experience was quite mesmerizing. Two mild, spring-like mornings in succession with over 65 calling/singing Red Crossbills scattered about the plains, easily the most abundant species present. I traded sound recordings for views and eventually focused on at least three male White-winged Crossbills that seemed to be working together as a loose flock in the Northern Red Oaks and Pitch Pines. As a general observation I hadn't quite appreciated just how easily overlooked White-winged Crossbills  could be when seen from below with the wing bars hidden from view. On the other hand, the heavy black markings on the undertail coverts, the grayish vent, the heavily streaked rear flanks and slender bill all stood out even when the wing bars couldn't be seen. Most of the birds I saw were males, possibly one full adult and two first-spring males plus I'm looking at (bad) photos of a possible streaked juvenile and another that may have been a female, so perhaps as many as five White-winged Crossbills in all. 



Montague Plains, Franklin County. February 25th, 2021.
Currently home to tens of Red Crossbills and a handful of White-winged Crossbills.




White-winged Crossbills (males) - Montague Plains, Franklin Co., MA. February 26th, 2021. 



Red Crossbills - Montague Plains, Franklin Co., MA. February 26th, 2021. 

After two mornings of excellent crossbill viewing, I was again reminded of just how fortunate we are to have such fantastic birding areas so close to home in Franklin County. 










Wednesday, February 24, 2021

NH - Hinsdale Rough-legged Hawk

 

Rough-legged Hawk (first-winter) - Patterson Farm, Hinsdale, Cheshire Co., NH. February 24th, 2021.

While running errands this morning I was more than happy to have five minutes of quality time with the Hinsdale Rough-legged Hawk just off Route 63. It looked healthy and settled, and even had a brief altercation with a young Red-tailed Hawk that had the nerve to take a vole from the Rough-leg's favored field at the Patterson Farm! I first noted this particular Rough-legged Hawk on Feb 22nd and fully expect it to stick around for a few more days at least. 





Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Costa Rica - Part IV

 

Band-backed Wrens - Helliconia Island, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. January 11th, 2020.

With winter dragging on and even deepening at times here in Massachusetts, again it feels like an appropriate time to reflect on the fabulous Costa Rica trip that I had with Naturalist Journeys in January 2020. 

Amazon Kingfisher - Sarapiqui River, from Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. January 10th, 2020.

Jan 10th - 12th; Turriabla, Guayabo NP, Sarapiqui. After a productive final morning at Rancho Naturalista we pressed on toward the humid, Caribbean lowlands via Guayabo National Monument where we treated to a fascinating tour with a National Park guide and Johan acting as translator. We packed a lot into that one day, skirting around the lower slopes of the Turrialba Volcano and eventually squeezing in a river cruise along the Rio Sarapiqui from Puerto Viejo. The final two nights of the tour were spent at the fabulous Sarapiqui Rainforest Lodge. As well as fantastic on-site birding within the grounds of the lodge, the last full day was spent at several locations within the greater Sarapiqui area including La Selva Biological Station and Helliconia  Island. The final morning brought an understandable element of sadness for those leaving Costa Rica while others in the group looked forward to the Pacific Coast extension. In between, Johan rustled up yet more magic with a short but ridiculously busy birding session (with refreshment) at the Cinchona Colibri Cafe, conveniently situated on the way to the International Airport. It was exactly the sort of send off that would leave any birder/naturalist with a longing to return to this fantastic country. 

Northern Emerald-Toucanet (Blue-throated) Cinchona Colibri Cafe, Costa Rica. January 12th, 2020.

Buff-fronted Quail-dove - Cinchona Colibri Cafe, Costa Rica. January 12th, 2020.


Prong-billed BarbetCinchona Colibri Cafe, Costa Rica. January 12th, 2020.


Red-headed Barbet (male) - Cinchona Colibri Cafe, Costa Rica. January 12th, 2020.


Crimson-collared Tanager (male) - Cinchona Colibri Cafe, Costa Rica. January 12th, 2020.


Grayish Saltator - Cinchona Colibri Cafe, Costa Rica. January 12th, 2020.


Double-toothed Kite - La Selva Biological Station, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. January 11th, 2020.


The last two days of the tour were centered around the humid lowlands close to La Selva Biological Station.


 Snowy Cotinga - La Selva Biological Station, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. January 11th, 2020.


Long-billed Hermit - La Selva Biological Station, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. January 11th, 2020.


Black and King Vultures - La Selva Biological Station, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. January 11th, 2020.


Our lovely, fun group at La Selva. January 11th, 2020. 


Rufous-tailed Jacamar - Helliconia Island, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. January 11th, 2020.


Long-tailed Tyrant - Helliconia Island, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. January 11th, 2020.


Hoffman's Two-toed Sloth - Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. January 10th, 2020.


Speckled Caiman - Sarapiqui River, Costa Rica. January 10th, 2020.

Gray Hawk - over the Sarapiqui River, Costa Rica. January 10th, 2020.


Green Honeycreeper - Sarapiqui Rainforest Lodge, Costa Rica. January 11th, 2020.


Great Green Macaws - Sarapiqui, Costa Rica. January 11th, 2020.


Guayabo National Monument. January 10th, 2020.


A cozy home for two nights at the fabulous Sarapiqui Rainforest Lodge. January 10th, 2020.




























Monday, February 22, 2021

NH - Rough-legged Hawk in Hinsdale

 

Rough-legged Hawk - first-winter, Hinsdale, Cheshire Co., NH. February 22nd, 2021.

The generally excellent run of good fortune with local Rough-legged Hawks continued today when I found this beauty hunting farmland just eight minutes north of my house in Northfield. Much like the two individuals along the Mohawk Trail in Charlemont, MA during Jan-Feb, this was another light morph but with notably thick black striations and a pretty extensive black-brown belly patch giving it an overall darker cast than the other light morphs that I've seen so far this winter. Fortunately there was enough snow-free verge to pull completely off Northfield Road and watch it hunt (successfully) from the roadside. Great views of my favorite North American buteo!




Rough-legged Hawk - first-winter, Hinsdale, Cheshire Co., NH. February 22nd, 2021.
Successfully caught a rodent!

Rough-legged Hawk - location relative to Hinsdale and Northfield, February 22nd, 2021.






Wednesday, February 17, 2021

MA - February notes on Redpolls 7 : more exilipes

 

1a. Hoary Redpoll - Whately, Franklin Co., MA. February 8th, 2021.
Perhaps it's a little bold calling a Hoary Redpoll in flight but I followed this one and it proved to be good. 
Unfortunately the perched shots are not worth sharing but a few more flight images of this bird can be seen below. 

A few more shots of Hoary Redpolls from Whately last week. As usual, at least some of them should be regarded as tentative identifications. It was extremely difficult getting close to these birds and often very tricky trying to follow a promising looking individual before it flushed. 


1b. Hoary Redpoll - Whately, Franklin Co., MA. February 8th, 2021.

1c. Hoary Redpoll - Whately, Franklin Co., MA. February 8th, 2021.
Nice lightweight flank streaks, very white undertail coverts, white rump and overall gray plumage on whitish ground color. 

1d. Hoary Redpoll - Whately, Franklin Co., MA. February 8th, 2021.
Images 1a through 1d are all of the same individual. 


2a. Hoary Redpoll (upper left) - Whately, Franklin Co., MA. February 9th, 2021.
With a tight group of Common Redpolls. Overall very white below with light flank streaking, one distinct streak on the undertail coverts, ochre-buff face 
color with only lightly streaked auricolor, and white fluffy 'baggy trousers'. 

3a. Hoary Redpoll - Whately, Franklin Co., MA. February 10th, 2021.

3b. Hoary Redpoll (top left) - Whately, Franklin Co., MA. February 10th, 2021.
At rest with a group of Common Redpolls.

3c. Hoary Redpoll - Whately, Franklin Co., MA. February 10th, 2021.
Pretty much a classic individual with small 'pushed-in' bill, lightly streaked auricolor and flank, very white appearance including rump and lightly streaked undertail coverts. However, the shot below does show exaggerated streaking on the undertail coverts during preening. Initially I was a little concerned by this but I do
think the overall suit of features shown by this individual point overwhelmingly to a Hoary Redpoll and not a pale Common Redpoll

3d. Hoary Redpoll - Whately, Franklin Co., MA. February 10tth, 2021.
All four images 3a through 3d show the same individual.