Tuesday, November 19, 2013

MA - puzzling adult gull at Turner's - 11/17

Looking through the gloom of a wet, dank Sunday afternoon I wasn't really expecting to find much on the power canal at Turner's Falls. The light was beginning to go andI contemplated my options for the final thirty minutes of daylight. I was just about to leave when four female Goldeneyes flew in, one of which was a first-winter female Barrow's - my first of the season.

A small gull flock contained a handful of Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls, but with no Lesser Black-backed or Kumlien's Gulls present I focused on trying to get an image of the Barrow's Goldeneye. When I looked at the gulls again the numbers had swollen slightly. With them came the beauty featured below - but what is it? Before giving a few more details from notes taken at the scene, I want to circulate the images first. Just to be clear, distance and gloom prevented me from establishing two important characters;

1) I could not define the color of the orbital ring with any clarity.

2) Because the bird was swimming during the whole observation, I could not establish the leg color with certainty but from what I saw of the tibia (during preening) the upper legs may have been pale yellowish-green.

Here's a few digiscoped images taken in the fading light;
unidentified gull (left) - with Great Black-backed (rear) and American Herring Gulls (right).
Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 17th, 2013.


Friday, November 15, 2013

MA - more kumlieni - 11/14

 As usual, I'm impressed by the show of Kumlien's (Iceland) Gulls at Barton Cove. Overall, numbers of large gulls remain low with just 10 American Herring and 2 Great Black-backed Gulls present this evening, but three Kumlien's Gulls was most welcome and proportionately high. One particularly dusky bird was especially bold, waiting for hand-outs with the Ring-billed Gulls around the picnic tables.

Matan gets his life Kumlien's Gull up close as it flattens a young Ring-billed Gull right in
front of him! Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 14th, 2013.

 Kumlien's (Iceland) Gull - first-cycle, dusky brown individual with primaries darker than the rest of the upper parts, mostly dark bill and slight 'mask' around the eye and ear coverts giving it a Thayer's-like feel. Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 14th, 2013.

Kumlien's (Iceland) Gull - first-cycle. another dusky looking bird but primaries lighter 
than the previous bird. This bird was far more wary and never came in close. 
Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 14th, 2013.

Kumlien's (Iceland) Gull - first-cycle. Pale bird with even paler primaries and clearly on 
the small side, scarcely bigger than a Ring-billed Gill. This bird showed a reddish-pink base 
to the bill with an obvious diffuse blackish tip.  Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 14th, 2013.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

MA - recents - 11/12

November 12th.....most definitely the coldest day of the fall thus far. Light snow showers around dawn and a brutal north-western wind all day resulting in a small fall-out of Bufflehead to Barton Cove (one raft of 56!) and Turner's Falls (14 on the power canal). And yet I didn't record any at all on my rounds the previous day. With them came 3 Lesser Scaup, 3 Ring-necked Ducks, 8 Green-winged Teal and 2 Long-tailed Ducks. The power canal continued to host an American Coot and a drake Gadwall, where the previous day I saw 10 Gadwall (one flock of nine) and 5 Hermit Thrushes together (under the powerline). Both of the latter struck me as high totals and the Gadwalls in particular could be the most I've ever seen at one location in Franklin County.

Buffleheads - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA.
November 12th, 2013.

Buffleheads - part of a raft of 56 birds with two Long-tailed Ducks (center-left)
Barton Cove, Franklin Co., MA.November 12th, 2013.

 Fox Sparrow - Gill yard, Franklin Co., MA. November 8th, 2013.
One of up to five continuing to grace our yard.

Fox Sparrow - Gill yard, Franklin Co., MA. November 12th, 2013.
This particular bird is quite a bit grayer than the other four present.

 Fox Sparrows - four together (top, extreme left, lower left and far right),
Gill yard, Franklin Co., MA. November 8th, 2013.


Barred Owl - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 9th, 2013.
The (local) gull numbers have been very slow to build so far this fall but it seems like this last weekend brought the first significant change in diversity when Brian Kane informed me of two first year Kumlien's Gulls with the Ring-billed Gulls at Unity Park. Present each day since, they already seem accustomed to their new surroundings and readily take bread from the folks coming to feed the ducks and geese. They're quite possibly the most approachable Kumlein's Gulls I've seen......anywhere!

Kumlien's Gull - Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA.
November 12th, 2013.


MA - Kumlien's Gulls - 11/12

Kumlien's Gulls - Unity Park, Tuner's Falls, Franklin Co. MA
November 12th, 2013. Two cracking first years strutting around
the grass and bike path with the Ring-billed Gulls at Unity Park.


Friday, November 8, 2013

MA - local shrike and coot - 11/08

A raw day with light snow flurries at dawn and, as such, couldn't be more contrasting to yesterday's balmy south-westerlies. My first major stop was the bluebird 'hotspot' at Turner's Falls Airfield. No bluebirds were present but teed up high in a maple, and quite literally the first bird I saw, my first Northern Shrike of the fall. Like most of the shrikes I've seen locally it was fast moving and didn't linger at all - it was present for all of two minutes! I did what I could for record shots as it 'swept' from perch to perch before it moved off down the runway of the airfield.

Northern Shrike - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 8th, 2013.
Turner's Falls power canal had a nice gathering of Canada Geese (700+) and a drake Gadwall but little else until I noticed a cracking American Coot at my feet! I think I'd been so engrossed in scanning for raptors and going through the geese that I'd completely overlooked the closest bird to me. The American Coot was also my first (locally) of the fall.

Despite a decent amount of scanning this morning I couldn't dig up a Golden Eagle or Rough-legged Hawk but with raw winds in the northern quarter and squally showers, it certainly felt like a raptor of that ilk should have appeared.

 American Coot - Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. November 8th, 2013.




Thursday, November 7, 2013

MA - more yard Fox Sparrows - 11/07

It's often difficult to gauge how many individual birds visit our feeders on any given day but it becomes a little easier if the species in question happens to be a scarce visitor. Last week I was thrilled to see our first Fox Sparrow of the fall at the feeders. It was present the next day but I didn't see another until Nov 3rd leaving me to wonder whether the Nov 3rd bird could have been new. I wasn't expecting too many changes with today's wet, balmy south-westerlies but in the afternoon I looked out the window to see the ground carpeted with sparrows, including three Fox Sparrows together! A little more scanning produced two more birds, so we had at least five Fox Sparrows present simultaneously - not only a great tally for the yard, but on reflection probably my largest single gathering of Fox Sparrows in Massachusetts in recent years. They remained until dusk and, despite a very gloomy afternoon, I attempted to take a few pics.

Fox Sparrows - Gill yard, late afternoon, Franklin Co., MA.
November 7th, 2013. At least five present.
Eastern Gray Squirrel - Gill yard, Franklin Co., MA.
November 7th, 2013. Checking out the feeder action.
White-throated Sparrows - Gill yard, late afternoon, Franklin Co., MA.
November 7th, 2013. Up to 25 present in the yard at the moment.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

MA - Bluebirds - 11/06

Eastern Bluebird - male, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA.
Digiscoped using Canon Powershot G10 and Swarovski HD Scope.
Been enjoying bluebirds lately with lots of activity in our local area at the moment. We've had up to 13 in our yard, usually early in the morning and this morning I returned to Turner's Falls Airfield where I tallied 25 Eastern Bluebirds on Nov 4th. Today's numbers were smaller but the birds themselves were a lot more approachable, often sitting up 'chat-like' for extended periods. About seven were present, most of them males.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

MA - Scoters come to Gill - 11/03

Sunday (11/03) brought the first real taste of late fall with a blast of northern winds, some overnight rain and a cold, almost frigid start to the day. The result was a small but significant 'fall-out' of diving ducks at Barton Cove including a number of seasonal firsts. These included my first scoters of the fall, oddly enough, each and every one was a female - 6 Surf Scoters, and 14 Black Scoters. Six Lesser Scaup showed up with a drake Common Goldeneye in tow, and there was another drake Common Goldeneye on the Turner's Falls power canal. The fall-out was reflected state wide with many interior water bodies reporting scoters, Long-tailed Ducks and other diving ducks, sometimes in large concentrations. Other nice totals for Barton Cove on Sunday included 18 Buffleheads, 17 Hooded Mergansers and 3 Common Mergansers.

Surf and Black Scoters - females, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA
November 3rd, 2013. All my digiscopes were poor  today due mostly to glare and distance.

Lesser Scaups and Common Goldeneye (right) - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA
November 3rd, 2013.

Hooded Mergansers - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA
November 3rd, 2013.

At home we had a (getting-late) Gray Catbird in the yard all day, and a Fox Sparrow appeared at the feeders in late afternoon, possibly a different bird to that present on Oct 30th and 31st.

Monday, November 4, 2013

MA - Franklin County Rough-leg - 11/04

Yesterday's plunge of Arctic air brought some welcome relief from the balmy southerlies we experienced on Saturday. The day began with a frigid 23 deg F at home in Gill and I would have to admit that the birds of the north were very much on my mind when I set off to check some local sites this morning. I ended up at Turner's Falls Airfield, very much a 'feast or famine' site, and usually famine in my experience. But this morning was a little different and after picking up 25 Horned Larks, 19 American Pipits, a Snow Bunting and a Lapland Longspur, I began to feel a little better about my choice of location.

American Pipit - Turner's Falls Airfield, Franklin Co., MA.
Single from a flock of 19, settled for just a few minutes in the tundra-like habitat around the public viewing area. 

After about forty minutes of scanning I noticed a raptor 'kiting' at the eastern end of the runway and, after some befuddlement with my scope, I soon realized it was a light morph Rough-legged Hawk. Rather than migrating through the site, the bird began hunting, mostly over the NE corner of airfield and even alighted on a small oak alongside the runway. After a sparring match with a Common Raven it seemed to drift south and I didn't see it again. But.......the habitat around the airfield looks ideal for Rough-legged Hawk and it could easily return.

Although I've seen a handful of Rough-legs in the Pioneer Valley, all of them have been in the Hadley/Northampton area in Hampshire County and I'm pretty sure this was my first in Franklin County. The bird wasn't close but I did get a few record shots before it drifted south.

Rough-legged Hawk and Common Raven - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA.
Heavy crops from Canon Powershot G10.