Monday, June 15, 2015

MA - ibis, orioles and Fish Crows aplenty

Apologies for the lack of posts lately. I've been busy with fieldwork in the Pioneer Valley so had little time for blogging. That much said there's been plenty going on in Gill and surroundings and the normally 'quiet' mid-June period has yielded a number of incidental surprises, not least of which was a dark (Plegadis) ibis heading north over West Gill Road on Sunday  morning (06/14). No pics unfortunately, not even any bins as I was riding my bike at the time but it was almost certainly a Glossy Ibis. On the other hand, White-faced Ibis is occurring with increasing frequency in Massachusetts and has even been found breeding in the state and I don't think can be ruled out on a fly-by.

Another surprise this week has been the number of Orchard Orioles on territory in Gill. This is my fourth spring in the area and the month of June normally yields one or two singing males, especially along River Road but over this last weekend I had singing males on North Cross Road, Main Road (3) and at Gill Elementary School and I haven't even checked River Road where this male (below) was singing in late May.

Orchard Oriole - singing male, River Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. late May 2015.

On Sunday afternoon we had a family bike ride in Turner's Falls and heard and saw a Fish Crow calling at last year's breeding site just south-east of the 11th Street bridge. This is now the third year in a row that I've had them here in summer and it appears to be a traditional breeding spot. Later the same afternoon, I photographed this family group of calling birds on the powerline cut above Greenfield's Stop n' Shop supermarket. And then, returning to Turner's Falls, had another family group of Fish Crows flyover the 11th Street bridge. I love hearing their nasal calls and they certainly seemed to be established as summer breeders in the Turner's Falls/Greenfield area.

Fish Crows - vocalizing birds, Stop n' Shop, Greenfield, Franklin Co., MA. June 14th, 2015. 
Three of four present around the supermarket parking lot on a hot Sunday afternoon. 

Since I was in Turner's Falls, I spent a bit of time looking at the local Turkey Vultures hoping for a return of last months Black Vultures. No such luck with the Black Vultures but it was nice to see a Peregrine sparring with the vultures for a few seconds before it moved over the town.

Turkey Vulture - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. June 14th, 2015.
One of about 15 roosting around the Turner's Falls bridge. No sign of any Black Vultures today.

Friday, May 29, 2015

MA - good birds in Gill

The last few days have continued to be warm and muggy but the woods, fields and wetlands around Gill have just been a 'wall of sound' lately. In particular, Wood Thrush, Pine Warbler, Louisiana Waterthrush, Ovenbird, Yellow-throated Vireo, Willow Flycatcher and Indigo Bunting seem to be especially abundant in our area this year.

Yesterday evening 14 Double-crested Cormorants dropped into Barton Cove to join a lingering, and very late, drake Bufflehead.

Bufflehead - drake, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 28th, 2015.

Double-crested Cormorants - some of the 14 individuals, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 28th, 2015.
All appeared to be first-summer birds. 

 Yellow-billed Cuckoo - River Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 29th, 2015.

Orchard Oriole - male, River Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 29th, 2015.

Willow Flycatcher - River Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 29th, 2015.
Many singing birds along River Road this morning.

Spotted Sandpiper - River Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 29th, 2015.

The singing Kentucky Warbler continues to hold territory for it's third straight day and this morning I had my first local Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Orchard Oriole of the season making for some great birding just a few minutes from home.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

MA - Kentucky Gill!

Kentucky Warbler - singing male, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 27th, 2015. 

Found as a 'heard only' during my early morning bike ride, this Kentucky Warbler was still singing in the same spot when I returned with bins and camera a couple of hours later. Perhaps the result of the latest spell of very warm southerlies, this bird behaved in a territorial manner in what looked (to me at least) to be suitable breeding habitat. Unfortunately the site is on private rather than public land. The bird was easy enough to hear but very difficult to see as it chose five or six different song posts, often remaining surprisingly high in the canopy. Though not great, I was pretty happy to come away with these unambiguous record shots. 

Kentucky Warbler is one of several 'southern' warblers that I've been hoping to come across in Franklin County this year and, as far as I'm aware, this bird has the potential to be a county 'first'. 

A fine local morning for warblers was rounded off with a singing Worm-eating Warbler, again in suitable breeding habitat, on Ben Hale Road, Gill. Unfortunately, that bird was far less co-operative for the camera but I may try the site again in a couple of day's time.......bird on!

 Kentucky Warbler - male, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 27th, 2015. 

Monday, May 25, 2015

MA - local Black last!

Late this morning while driving south with Matan across the Turner's Falls bridge I noticed a small gathering of roosting vultures atop a tower just west of the Great Falls Discovery Center. I regularly see Turkey Vultures in the area so wasn't over surprised to see them, but the opportunity to see them perched was a good one so I pulled up in the parking lot and made a quick binocular scan - Black Vulture! The left most bird in the group was a Black, careful scanning producing two more Blacks and nine Turkey Vultures. It did seem slightly odd to see them perched and roosting at midday but with complete cloud cover, light rain showers and no wind, the air must have been so lacking in thermals that the vultures just preferred to sit it out.

Black Vulture has become something of a nemesis for me in Massachusetts. I've never chased one preferring that my first should come to me instead. But even so it's been frustrating to hear of multiple reports this year coming from towns like Wendall, Turner's Falls, Greenfield and other sites in Franklin County with none of them coming my way until today! Reports from further south and west in Massachusetts have become well established and I think we can look forward to more Black Vultures joining the Turkey Vultures in Franklin County in the near future.

 Black Vulture - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. May 25th, 2015.  Upper bird in both images (with Turkey Vulture).

 Roosting Vultures - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. May 25th, 2015.  Left most bird is a Black Vulture.
Two other Black Vultures roosting atop the rail are hidden from view at this angle. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

MA - back from Kirtland's country

Back from a recent and very successful Birdfinders trip to Ohio and Michigan. As usual, it was absolutely superb for warblers with 31 species recorded matching our warbler tally from the 2013 and 2014 tours. In addition to breathtaking views of Kirtland's Warbler some of this year's highlights involved lingering winterers including an unprecedented Snowy Owl and a rather unexpected Rough-legged Hawk!

Kirtland's Warbler - male, near Grayling, Huron NF, MI. May 17th, 2015.

 Henslow's Sparrow - Ottawa NWR, OH. May 14th, 2015.

Mourning Warbler - Magee Marsh Wildlife Area, Oak Harbor, OH. May 16th, 2015.

Tennessee Warbler - male, Tawas Point SP, MI. May 18th, 2015.

 Blackburnian Warbler - male, Tawas Point SP, MI. May 19th, 2015.

Chestnut-sided Warbler - male, Tawas Point SP, MI. May 18th, 2015.

 Snowy Owl - male, Wurtsmith AFB, MI. May 17th, 2015.
Gracious thanks to Scott Surner and Val Miller for the tips on how to find this one!

Rough-legged Hawk - light morph, Tuttle Marsh National Wildlife Area, MI. May 18th, 2015.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

MA - Crossbills in the plains

This morning I took an impromptu bike ride around the Montague Sand Plains. I knew I'd find Prairie Warblers there but had a pretty open mind when it came to other species. I'd barely started my ride when I heard the classic 'gyp gyp' calls of Red Crossbills and quickly found a party of four (two male, two female) close to a huge power line cut running through the center of the plains.

I thoroughly enjoyed my ride finding many newly arrived summer migrants and local breeders such as Field Sparrows and Eastern Towhees. On the hand, it was a bit disappointing to find this beautiful and unique habitat used as a dumping ground. I counted 13 dumped sofas and 8 mattresses during a four mile ride and only scratched the surface of the whole area.

Red Crossbills - Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., May 5th, 2015.

Prairie Warbler -  male, Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., May 5th, 2015.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

MA - migrants arriving including first Yellow-throated Vireo in Gill

A better, calmer morning with temperatures looking set to rise nicely in the afternoon. Lots of birdsong around Gill this morning including a couple of year-firsts....a Yellow-throated Vireo singing just south of the intersection with North Cross and Main Roads, and a Black-throated Green Warbler down at Barton Cove where there was yet another new Louisiana Waterthrush to add to the relative abundance of the species in Gill.

Louisiana Waterthrush - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 29th, 2015. 

Waterbirds were few on the cove but a Common Goldeneye lingers along with a Common Loon and at least five Ring-necked Ducks.

Common Goldeneye - female, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 29th, 2015. 
Starting to get late for this species in Franklin County.

A bigger surprise, especially given the calm conditions, was the presence of at least 25 American Pipits in a pasture off North Cross Road and a Greater Yellowlegs foraging in a puddle off Main Road just north of the intersection with North Cross. Frustratingly, I didn't have time to bird this morning.....all of these were more or less incidental sightings but it sure looked like a good morning to be out.....wish I could have done more.

Greater Yellowlegs - Main Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 29th, 2015.
What I assume was the same bird was on the same pool on April 26th. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

MA - Northern Shovelers in Gill

Stopped by Barton Cove for ten minutes this morning on my way to an appointment. Nice to see Common Goldeneyes (2) and Ring-necked Ducks (10) lingering plus a continuing non-breeding Common Loon. Two Northern Shovelers and a male Green-winged Teal were more recent arrivals. There was also a lot of Pileated Woodpecker activity in the woods along the campground road and a singing vireo there which I'm pretty sure was a Blue-headed.

 Northern Shoveler - male and female, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 27th, 2015.

Common Goldeneye - two females with female Common Merganser, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. 
April 27th, 2015.

Other than that, the woods continue to be rather quiet as the constant northerlies do their worst.......I'd normally expect to be hearing Ovenbird, Black-throated Green Warbler and American Redstart in the woods by this time, though I did manage a FOY House Wren along the power canal yesterday. We could see some south-westerlies by Wednesday/Thursday which will hopefully bring warmer days and widespread arrivals of familiar summer migrants.

Pileated Woodpecker - male, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 27th, 2015.
Local Pileateds tend to be quite skittish but this bold male was rather approachable today. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

MA - a couple more new arrivals

So we're back into cold northerlies and even had to endure snow flurries this afternoon! Migrants continue to trickle in with widespread arrivals of Ruby-crowned Kinglets, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and Yellow-rumped Warblers. In Gill, I had my first Northern Waterthrush of the season on North Cross Road on the 22nd and Louisiana Waterthrushes continue to impress there with many territories, including one on the stream right behind the Gill Tavern!

This afternoon Matan and I headed up to Guildford in southern Vermont to look for salamanders only to encounter a blizzard when we got there! It was short lived though, and although I had few expectations bird-wise, Weatherhead Hollow Pond produced a few nice surprises namely a flock of about 25 Yellow-rumped Warblers and an eastern Palm Warbler along the shore, and my first local Green Heron of the year.

 Green Heron  - Weatherhead Hollow Pond, Windham Co., VT. April 23rd, 2015.

Yellow-rumped Warbler  -  male, Weatherhead Hollow Pond, Windham Co., VT. April 23rd, 2015.
One of a fairly large flock of about 25 males sitting out a snow storm!

Barton Cove in Gill was again rather quiet this morning but produced a 'new' non-breeding plumage Common Loon and a Greater Yellowlegs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

MA - Casper and Snapper

Caspian Tern - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 21st, 2015.
A scarce but perhaps expected migrant through the CT River Valley in late April/early May. 

The last few days have been a bit lack-luster in the Gill/Northfield area. Even the passage of a front yesterday brought lots of moisture but little else. Today was a little different and I made four rather brief stops at Barton Cove during the day and came up with new birds on each visit. My first visit saw very low water levels at the cove with an exposed sand bar producing two Greater Yellowlegs. Close to them was a nice male Bufflehead. Just before noon in showery conditions, a nice a arrival of about a dozen breeding plumage Ring-billed Gulls and five American Herring Gulls. Riverview Drive also had a singing Blue-gray Gnatcatcher and a Black-and-white Warbler, both new for the year. In mid-afternoon, I was more focused on going for a bike ride than birding but stopped to check Barton Cove anyway and was glad I did. There, sat of one of the tires in the middle of the cove, was a fine adult Caspian Tern and Bill Lafley was already scoping the bird as I pulled up. Even more impressive was an absolutely massive Snapping Turtle making its way across Riverview Drive........slowly!

Snapping Turtle - huge specimen crossing Riverview Drive, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 21st, 2015.

On my way back through Gill in the evening, I stopped for a fourth and final time at Barton Cove. The Caspian Tern was still there, but impressively the Double-crested Cormorants had built up from two this morning to 16 by early evening. Overhead, actually quite high overhead, Broad-winged Hawks passed over on a broad front and I logged roughly 15 birds over the 20 minutes that I spent at the boat ramp.

Greater Yellowlegs - two, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 21st, 2015.
Distant shots but identified by diagnostic calls. 

 Common Loon - adult, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 20th, 2015. One of two present.

 Hermit Thrush - Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 19th, 2015.

Eastern Chipmunk - Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 19th, 2015.

Back in Gill/Northfield, a steady but notable increase in species such as Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Hermit Thrush,  Louisiana Waterthrush, Pine Warbler, Field Sparrow and Purple Finch over the last few days and my first Blue-headed Vireos of the year in Bernardston and Northfield over the weekend (on the 19th).