Wednesday, May 29, 2013

MA - Cerulean Warbler, Forster's Tern in Gill 05/29

After dropping Matan off at school I decided to have a quick spin around Gill, driving with the windows down as I often do at this time of year. The reward was hearing a fine male Cerulean Warbler holding territory at a private residence right next to one of the busiest roads in Gill! At one point I saw the male carrying food, perhaps suggesting breeding activity. By way of documentation, I obtained some nice sound recordings of the male's song and a couple of images, but for most of the observation the bird remained high in the canopy. Cerulean is something of a rarity for me in the Pioneer Valley and this is the first that I've recorded in Gill.

Cerulean Warbler - male in Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 29th, 2013.
Canon Powershot G10.

Down at Barton Cove the heavy overnight rain and dull drizzly conditions certainly seemed to have had an impact and produced one of the best collections of birds that I've ever seen there in spring. In fact, by recent standards the birds present provided a near-miraculous hour of birding! First to catch my attention was a migrant Common Loon. Closer inspection of the cove also produced a lone drake Gadwall which seemed odd for late May. An excellent selection of swallows hawked over the water composed mainly of Bank, North Rough-winged and Tree Swallows but also some Barn and a single Cliff Swallow. Although distant, the island across from the boat ramp had enough exposed shoreline to host 22 Semi-palmated and 3 Least Sandpipers, along with a single Semi-palmated Plover as the well as the local breeding Spotted Sandpipers. I also heard one or more of Black-bellied Plover(s) and Short-billed Dowitcher(s) fly over but had no chance of seeing them in the murky skies.

 Common Loon - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 29th, 2013.

Semi-palmated and Least Sandpipers - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 29th, 2013.

At about 09:45hrs, three terns arrived from the south and began calling and foraging around the cove. Two were fairly clear adult Common Terns but one looked much paler winged. Initial thoughts towards Arctic were soon dismissed as the bird looked large with a substantial orange-red bill that had a well defined black tip. Viewing conditions were far from easy and it wasn't until all three birds settled on a floating tire that I became 100% sure that I was looking at an adult Forster's Tern. Moreover, recent experience from Ohio proved invaluable in helping separate Common from Forster's, an identification which I don't find particularly easy in adult breeding plumage. But.......Forster's Tern is certainly a first for me in Gill - on reflection I don't recall ever hearing about a Forster's Tern in the Pioneer Valley since we first moved to Amherst back in 2005.

Forster's Tern - adult with Common Terns, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 29th, 2013.
In each of the three shots above, the Forster's is the larger, paler bird with pale primaries on the right side of the tire.
Digi-scoped at range using a Swarovski HD scope and Canon Powershot G10.

Forster's Tern - adult, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 29th, 2013.


Larry said...

Some really good stuff James! I was really hoping someone would be covering that area that morning as it seemed perfect for great birds (and was...had some great stuff at quabbin too). Only one other spring record for Forester's Tern in western Mass as far as I know...a great find!

James P. Smith said...

Thanks Larry. It was a pretty special morning by Barton Cove's normal standards. As you point out, lots of above average birds for Central and Western MA that day including a breeding plumage Franklin's Gull at Bolton Flats - not too shabby!

BTW - Can you point me toward the sole spring record of Forster's Tern for Western MA? I may have overlooked that one.



Larry said...

A great day indeed!

The only other inland spring record I could find was in "Birds of Massachusetts" (Veit and Petersen)- one in breeding plumage, May 13, 1990 in Northampton by Tom Gagnon (pg.240)

James P. Smith said...


Thanks for the Forster's Tern info. Puts some perspective on my bird and what an impressive day that was in Western MA.