Wednesday, October 13, 2010

MA - a little Big Sit in Gill - 10/10/10

Sunrise over the fog. Looking towards the Connecticut River, Gill, MA. October 10th, 2010.

October 10th was the 16th Annual Big Sit hosted by Birdwatchers Digest and sponsored Swarovski Optik. I wasn't sure about committing myself to a team but felt sufficiently intrigued by the concept to have a sort trial run on my new local patch in Gill. Having spent many ten of hours counting visible migration from fixed positions in the UK and in Israel I felt well prepared for what was about to come. By way of experiment I decided to stay local, very local in fact, and just walked across the street to our neighbors property and counted from the hill above their house. The site lies about half a mile South West of Gill Center, and is located in a field of rough pasture. Most of the horizon to the North and North-west is obscured by woodland, but the panorama to the East and South offers views overlooking some very rural countryside. The Connecticut River lies about 1.5 miles to the East but can't be seen from the count circle.
Cedar Waxwings in the mist - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Canada Geese - migration over the count circle, Gill, Franklin Co. MA. October 10th, 2010.

Since we'd already been invited to a Wedding in the afternoon, I focused on a half day effort beginning at 6am and closing at 12 noon. Susannah and Matan visited the count circle in mid-morning but otherwise I counted alone. I didn't hear any owls or nocturnal migrants pre-dawn and the first bird of the day was a calling White-throated Sparrow at 06:15hrs whilst the last new bird to be logged was an American Kestrel at 11:42hrs. Overall, it was an immaculate fall day though in terms of the species total, mist and fog hampered observations between 07:20 and 08:50hrs and probably cost the circle a few birds.The breeze was also out of the South-west for much of the morning, not quite ideal for migration here as I think a North-westerly would have been better.

Mourning Dove - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Even so, I was very impressed with an overall tally of 59 species, especially coming from a circle with no visible open water. Surprising and perhaps painful misses included Bald Eagle (4 from the same spot on Oct 16th), Cooper's Hawk, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Common Raven (3 from the same spot on Oct 16th), whilst 'hoped-for' but not seen were species such as Red-winged and Rusty Blackbirds.

Here's the species tally pretty much in the order in which they appeared;

1) White-throated Sparrow
2) Savannah Sparrow - 3+
3) Eastern Towhee - 2+ seen/heard
4) Hermit Thrush - 4
5) Song Sparrow
6) American Robin - 20+ mostly moving SW
7) Dark-eyed Junco - 10+
8) American Crow - 100+
9) Blue Jay - some migrant groups from mid-morning; 45 SW
10) Wood Duck - 1 over the circle at 06:24hrs, first surprise of the day.
11) Yellow-rumped Warbler - migrant groups moving SW all morning totaling 120 birds.
12) Carolina Wren - 2
13) White-breasted Nuthatch
14) Northern Cardinal
15) Red-bellied Woodpecker - 2+
16) Downy Woodpecker - 5+
17) Wild Turkey - 35, local flock stopping the traffic to cross the main road.
18) Black-capped Chickadee - 15+
19) Red-tailed Hawk - 15 in total with up to 7 in the air at any one time probably indicating a few migrants moving through.
20) Purple Finch - 3 local, plus 13 moving SW.
21) Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 4
22) Cedar Waxwing - 42
23) Blue-headed Vireo - 1 singing
24) American Goldfinch - 3 local, 8 moving SW
25) Canada Goose - 232, mostly migrants moving SW. Smaller groups of 4 and 6 moving between local fields. Total doubtless affected by early morning fog.
26) Northern Flicker - 5
27) Palm Warbler - 9 (birds identified to race were all Eastern/yellow)
28) Brown Creeper - 1
29) Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
30) Horned Lark - 3 moving SW.
31) Hairy Woodpecker - 3
32) Blackpoll Warbler - 11 all filtering through SW.
33) Tufted Titmouse - 6
34) Indigo Bunting - 1 (last species to be added before sunrise at 07:11hrs).
35) Eastern Phoebe - 3
36) House Sparrow - flock heard from the farm down the road. Not especially common here.
37) Pileated Woodpecker - 4 birds calling all morning plus one close to the circle by Main Road.
38) European Starling
39) Chipping Sparrow - 2
40) Northern Mockingbird - 1
41) Lincoln's Sparrow - 1
42) Swamp Sparrow - 3+
43) Great Blue Heron - 1, another nice surprise. Flew into the brook in the middle of the sedge meadow to the SE of the circle.
44) Sharp-shinned Hawk - No actual migration until 09:15hrs then scattered birds throughout the morning - 22 SW.
45) Red-eyed Vireo - 1
46) White-crowned Sparrow - 1, nice adult.
47) Eastern Bluebird - 3
48) Mourning Dove - 3
49) Feral Rock Dove - 3
50) Pine Siskin - 2 calling as they flew SW.
51) Turkey Vulture - up to 8 from 09:24hrs.
52) Ring-billed Gull - 5 moving along course of the CT River.
53) American Herring Gull - 1 juv. trailing the the Ring-billed Gulls.
54) American Black Duck - 1 moving South along CT River.
55) Gray-cheeked Thrush - calling bird present from the previous day.
56) Northern Harrier - 1 moving South at 10:00hrs.
57) Common Yellowthroat - 1
58) Gray Catbird - 1
59) American Kestrel - 1 moving SW at 11:42hrs. Only my 2nd locally.

Purple Finch - Nice male, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Red-tailed Hawk - juvenile passing the count circle, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Fog rolling in at 8 am, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Looking SE from the count circle, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Susannah and Matan trying to add to the tally, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Overall I was quietly impressed with this total and will be seriously considering a more extended effort for next year. Gracious thanks to Dick and Emily for allowing the count to take place on their land.


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