Friday, November 28, 2014

MA - nice mix for late Nov

Early this afternoon, again between chores, I checked a couple of local spots and came up with a nice range of species for late November. Today was pleasant enough but quite crisp and raw towards the end of the day with temperatures already below freezing around sunset. Winter certainly seems to have come early with about eight inches of fresh snow falling overnight on 26th/27th Nov.

First stop was Barton Cove in Gill where, to my delight, the five Canvasbacks continued along with a drake Ring-necked Duck. The Hooded Merganser show continues to impress and I counted 157 birds this afternoon.

Canvasbacks - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 28th, 2014.
Continuing group from Nov 26th. 

At the Turner's Falls power canal, finally a Kumlien's Iceland Gull turned up and, ironically, an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull with it. Hopefully this will be the start of better diversity within the local gull flock as the season has gotten off to a pretty slow start so far.


Kumlien's Iceland Gull - probably 2nd-cycle, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 28th, 2014.
A much belated first of the season.


Lesser Black-backed Gull (left) - adult, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 28th, 2014.

Seemingly at odds with the fresh snow and below-freezing temperatures, I again saw the Eastern Phoebe which I first noted on Nov 22nd. With Fahrenheit  temperatures forecast to get into the single digits tonight, it's going to be interesting to see if the phoebe sticks around......or survives.


Eastern PhoebeTurner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 28th, 2014.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

MA - Canvasbacks back on the cove - 11/26

This morning I was tempted by a quick drive down to Barton Cove. As I hit the road at 9am, the first specks of rain hit the windshield, the precursor to a major winter storm. By 10am heavy showers of sleet quickly followed by snow had reduced visibility considerably. I arrived at the cove at about 09:10 hours and my expectations were not high so I was absolutely delighted to find a group of five Canvasbacks associating with two Lesser Scaup and the continuing large numbers of Hooded Mergansers. There was also a drake Ring-necked Duck though all of the these birds remained distant from my chosen viewing points, hence the distant, grainy images. Canvasback was certainly not on my radar for this morning, nor did I expect to be given another chance at seeing them on the cove this year after such an excellent showing this last March.




Canvasbacks - two males, three females with two Lesser Scaup and several Hooded Mergansers.
Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 26th, 2014. 

Much of the rest of the day was dedicated to chores and appointments but a drive to the Turner's Falls power canal produced a late Yellow-rumped Warbler and 18 Common Goldeneye. 


Yellow-rumped Warbler - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 26th, 2014.
Getting late for Yellow-rumped Warblers.

Yesterday, I was frustrated by two passerines.The first could only have been a female Oregon Junco seen amid other juncos and American Tree Sparrows on the bike path by the Turner's Falls power canal at Depot Street. Unfortunately the views were just too brief to be sure but bright orange-buff flanks, reddish-brown back and sooty-gray hood sure looked like the ticket. The second passerine was a fly-over Lapland Longspur which appeared low and may even have come from the short grass at the side of the bike path also near Depot Street......that's the second time in less than a week that I've had a Lapland Longspur over the power canal, quite odd as the habitat hardly looks ideal. 


 Bald Eagle - juvenile/first-winter, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 25th, 2014.
Lots of eagle activity lately, both adults and immatures have been easy to see here and at Barton Cove.


 American Tree SparrowTurner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 25th, 2014.
Numbers starting to build with 15-20 along the bike path at Depot Street.


Cooper's Hawk - juvenile, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 25th, 2014.
Keeping watch over the passerine activity at the power canal. 
Good numbers of Eastern Bluebirds and American Goldfinches were feeding at this spot. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

MA - Northern Shrike 11/24

If I was to list the top ten birds that I have most pleasure in finding locally, Northern Shrike would be up there at the high end of the list. This morning I came a across a shrike in a field on Main Road, Gill that always looked like it should produce one, and this morning it finally happened. Unlike my typical experiences with Northern Shrikes in the Pioneer Valley, this one put on a fantastic show, perching up in the leafless shrubs and careening about the field like it owned the place. I watched it for a solid thirty minutes and even had it perched up in the maples hanging over Main Road. It struck me as being outstandingly pale with a broad, clean cut white rump and extensively broad white outer tail feathers.









 Northern Shrike - adult, Main Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 24th, 2014.


Sunday, November 23, 2014

MA - late Phoebe 11/22

Had a quick drive down to the power canal with Matan in late afternoon. Still very cold with showers of ice pellets. Upwards of a thousand Canada Geese present with some flocks departing for evening feeding, but again, I couldn't find anything interesting among them.

Less usual species present included a Gadwall, 2 American Wigeon and an increase in American Black Ducks with about a dozen present. These in turn were being spooked and pursued by a fine adult Peregrine. Towards dusk, a phoebe-like "chip" call caught my attention revealing an 'actual' Eastern Phoebe foraging in the woodland along the side of the road. I've seen a few November phoebes in Amherst, especially around the UMass campus but I don't recall anything quite as late as this, especially given the frigid week that just passed.

Eastern Phoebe - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 22nd, 2014. 
Record shot taken in woodland at dusk. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

MA - biggest and best yard visitor 11/21



Pileated Woodpecker - our yard, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. November 21st, 2014.

Not especially rare but always a thrill to see. The woodland along the Connecticut River in Franklin County seems to be especially good for them. This brute turned up in our yard on a frigid afternoon. The Canon 400mm prime came into its own here, the bird was about 35 meters away and the shots taken through the kitchen window!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

MA - American Wigeon 11/20

No real time for birding today but a couple of stops between errands produced a whopping 110 Hooded Mergansers at Barton Cove just before noon, and later, 5 American Wigeon and 2 Green-winged Teal at the Turner's Fall power canal. At least 900 Canada Geese were present on the power canal as well, but despite a good effort, I couldn't find any scarce geese among them.


 American Wigeon - tight group of five, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 20th, 2014.


Green-winged Teal (females) -  with female Mallard. Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 20th, 2014.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

MA - frigid day and a Red-necked Grebe 11/19

It really was cold today, temperatures at freezing or below almost all of the day along with a savage westerly wind creating wind chills that made it feel even colder. It felt much more like a day in mid-winter rather than mid-November. I checked a couple of areas for waterbirds finding impressive numbers of Hooded Mergansers (64) at Barton Cove along with a drake Bufflehead. Then onto Gate 35 at the North end of the Quabbin, my first visit this fall. The highlight was a Red-necked Grebe still retaining much of its juvenile head pattern. Though it wasn't especially close, I did manage to get a record shot. Otherwise, three Common Loons and three Hooded Mergansers were the only waterbirds present though the brutal conditions hampered more thorough checking. 

Red-necked Grebe - juvenile, Gate 35, North Quabbin, Franklin Co., MA. November 19th, 2014.
Distant but evidently still retaining juvenile head pattern well into November.


Common Loon - juvenile, Gate 35, North Quabbin, Franklin Co., MA. November 19th, 2014.
Distant, and as with the grebe above, quite tough to get to close to water birds at the Quabbin.


Sharp-shinned Hawk - juvenile male, Gate 35, North Quabbin, Franklin Co., MA. November 19th, 2014.
Flicked across the powerline cut with rapid, passerine-like wingbeats. Tiny male.



Hooded Mergansers - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 19th, 2014.
Impressive gatherings at Barton Cove lately, peaking with 64 birds today.....along with a drake Bufflehead.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

MA - Cackling Goose 11/18

A Cackling Goose on the Turner's Falls power canal at noon was my first there in well over a week. It was close to the road but neatly hidden in among c.800 Canada Geese and especially difficult to find since it was sleeping most of the time. Beyond that, it's been relatively quiet locally though 12 Ring-necked Ducks at Barton Cove on the 17th were new, and up 40 Hooded Mergansers continue there.

 Cackling Goose (center) - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 18th, 2014.
My first at the power canal since about Nov 8th and likely a new individual. 


 Bonaparte's Gull - first winter, Turner's Falls Rod and Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. November 13th, 2014. 
The only Bonaparte's that I've seen in the 'valley' this fall and a nice find for Josh Rosh - thanks Josh!


 Snow Bunting with Horned Larks - Orange Municipal Airport, Franklin Co., MA. November 13th, 2014. 
Horrible, distant crop of  a single way out over the airstrip.


 American Pipit - Orange Municipal Airport, Franklin Co., MA. November 13th, 2014. 

A smattering of single Snow Buntings continue to show up in odd places including a single on the small lawn right outside Gill Fire Station on Main Road! Sadly I was doing a three mile run at the time so had no chance for pictures.

A couple of visits to Orange Municipal Airfield have been somewhat productive with up 75 Horned Larks and single American Pipits and Snow Buntings. The birding there can be frustrating with many of the birds off-limits inside the airport fence.

We're currently in the middle of a very cold spell, so it will be interesting to see if the latest arctic blast will bring an improvement to the local gull situation. So far, it's been the slowest start to the winter gull season that I can recall in the Pioneer Valley. No more than 20 large gulls have been present at Turner's Falls with no 'arctic' gulls of any kind among them, quite a different story to this time last year; http://pioneerbirding.blogspot.com/2013/11/ma-more-kumlieni-1114.html

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

MA - great day for Red-shouldered Hawks 11/12

Yet another interesting day, and yet again I'm caught off-guard by a really good local bird.

This morning, while driving Matan to school in Gill, I noticed a completely white bird fly across Main Road and away over the corn field at Upinngil. First thoughts concerning a white feral pigeon were quickly dismissed - it was too big with longish rounded wings, deep wing beats and black feet projecting well beyond a shortish, squared tail - CATTLE EGRET! It flew south, seemingly gaining height. I really had the impression it was leaving from Upinngil Farm which does have livestock so it could easily have been foraging there. Hopefully it will return and I'll be looking again tomorrow. Attempts at getting an image proved disastrous as the auto-focus on my lens simply refused to lock on a distant white again a flat, light gray sky - frustrating in the extreme because I could see the bird in the viewfinder!

A little later I tried 'Lover's Leap' over look in New Salem, inspired by Mark Lynch's reports of Golden Eagle and Northern Goshawk last week, the same day that he and Sheila found the Gray Jay at Gate 41. On arrival, the site appeared deathly quiet with nothing moving at all. After ten minutes all I had to show for my effort was 4 American Crows moving SW. However, at 10:30hrs, an adult Red-shouldered Hawk lifted out of the forest, hit a warm air thermal, gained height and flew off to the SW. Over the next 45 minutes I was treated to a fabulous display of migrating Red-shouldered Hawk as single after single lifted out of the North Quabbin woods and powered their way SW. By 11:15hrs, I'd tallied eight individuals, including three quite close. I see very few Red-shouldered Hawks locally so to have eight in 45 minutes was a little too good to be true! Oddly enough, that was the most common raptor of the morning. I didn't see a single Red-tail or Bald Eagle from this spot but I did have prolonged views of a distant adult Northern Goshawk, yet another scarce raptor and a species which I only see in the state two or three times per year. At one point a Sharp-shinned Hawk was soaring above the Goshawk offering a really nice size comparison.

Red-shouldered Hawk - adult, New Salem, Franklin Co., MA. November 12th, 2014.



Red-shouldered Hawk - adult, New Salem, Franklin Co., MA. November 12th, 2014.



Red-shouldered Hawk - adult, New Salem, Franklin Co., MA. November 12th, 2014.



Red-shouldered Hawk - juv/first-winter, New Salem, Franklin Co., MA. November 12th, 2014.


Red-shouldered Hawk - juv/first-winter, New Salem, Franklin Co., MA. November 12th, 2014.



Northern Goshawk - adult, New Salem, Franklin Co., MA. November 12th, 2014.
Very heavy crop of bird soaring about one mile distant. Scope views were much better!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

MA - Turner's Snow Goose 11/11

Haven't had too much time for birding since the weekend but this afternoon a quick pre-appointment visit to the Turner's Falls power canal produced a Snow Goose, only the second on I've seen here this fall. Some 700 Canada Geese were present but I couldn't find anything other than the Snow Goose among them.

Yesterday morning started with a Fox Sparrow in our yard in Northfield with another two at the eastern edge of Turner's Falls airfield. Elsewhere, exciting reports of migrant Snowy Owls turning up at two widespread sites in Western Massachusetts.......I'd love to find one of those locally!

Snow Goose (right) - first-winter, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 11th, 2014.


Fox Sparrow -  Turner's Falls airfield, Franklin Co., MA. November 10th, 2014.
One of two present, both of them real skulkers.


Fox Sparrow -  Northfield yard, Franklin Co., MA. November 10th, 2014.
Early morning record through the kitchen window.