Horned Larks - Hadley Honey Pot, Hampshire Co., MA. December 19th, 2010. We found 67 of these handsome larks on our loop through Hadley. Despite much effort we couldn't find any Snow Buntings or Lapland Longspurs this year.
Once again I joined Scott Surner covering a couple of long established sections of the Northampton CBC. We began at 3am for owling in near perfect conditions - zero wind though a little bright with the moon at about 85% full. Scott's loop for owls is different to that of his daytime area and concentrates on the North-east corner of Amherst including some outlying areas on the Eastern side of the UMass campus. By 6am we'd recorded five species of owl, impressive by local standards, and highlighted by a Long-eared Owl calling spontaneously at about 4am. We also heard or saw 3 Eastern Screech-Owls, 2 Great Horned, 1 Barred and 1 Northern Saw-whet Owl. One of the screech-owls was being actively pursued by a Barred Owl, the second time this year that I've witnessed a Barred Owl hunting a small owl. Early in March, Brian Kane and I watched a Barred Owl stoop at a Northern Saw-whet which headed straight for a dense stand of White Pines!
I was hoping for more saw-whets than we had on the count, though witnessing a Barred Owl in action, combined with the very bright conditions, may have explained why we didn't do better with saw-whets. However, we had no complaints with a haul of five species! We also found a Porcupine at one of our stops.
The daytime count was spent working the floodplain along the Eastern edge of the Connecticut River between Hadley Cove and North Hadley. We had a steady stream of good birds though nothing quite as unusual as in past years. A female Northern Pintail on the CT River at North Hadley surprised me a little, as did a Merlin with prey near Hadley Cove but I think the most impressive thing for me would be the sheer numbers of sparrows still being found in the fields in mid-December. We logged no less than 302 American Tree Saprrows, plus 52 Song, 30 White-throated, 25 Savannah, 4 White-crowned and 2 Swamp Sparrows mostly in fallow Asparagus fields. The conditions looked favorable for the discovery of something good such as this Clay-colored Sparrow found on last year's count, and it would probably be worth a return visit within the next few weeks.
As usual, it was a thoroughly enjoyable day with Scott with special thanks to him for the planning and organization of another successful day. I'm sure I'll be back for more next year!
Black-capped Chickadee - Aqua Vitae Road, Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. December 19th, 2010. We counted 64 of these on our Hadley loop, most found responding to screech-owl imitations.
Northern Cardinal - Aqua Vitae Road, Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. December 19th, 2010. There's nothing quite like a fine male cardinal on a winter's morning.