Tuesday, October 7, 2014

MA - falcon morning

Started the day in the best possible manner with a couple of Barred Owls, both calling pre-dawn and both giving the single, loud "whoo-aw" call. One was on Main Road, Gill and audible from our yard and the other was at the powerline cut on Mountain Road, Gill.

Later I drifted toward Barton Cove wondering if the balmy, wet South-westerlies might have pushed something in overnight. Two Pied-billed Grebes, a Ring-necked Duck and a few DC Cormorants were all I could muster, all of which had been seen by Josh Rose by the time I got to them.

But there was some action away from the water. A nice male Merlin sat sentinel-like atop a spruce on Riverview Drive which seems to be a favorite observation post and has been so for the last three winters at least. He reluctantly left when a pair of hunting Peregrines swept low overhead stooping at the starlings and Blue Jays.

Merlin - male, Riverview Drive, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 7th, 2014. One of this male'sfavorite perching posts around Barton Cove. Now returning for his 4th successive winter though this year I saw Merlins in Turner's Falls in late May and early August which makes me wonder if they ever leave? June and July are the only months in which I haven't recorded this species at Turner's Falls/Barton Cove but these also happen to be my least active months for local birding. I've found Merlins breeding in suburban Keene, NH and have also heard of a breeding pair in Florence, Hampshire Co., MA. So I wonder, could Merlin be a breeding bird in the Turner's Falls area?

Peregrine - adult, Riverview Drive, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 7th, 2014. 

Peregrine - second adult of pair actively hunting together, 
Riverview Drive, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 7th, 2014. 

The bike path at Depot Road in Turner's Falls was again loaded with scads of sparrows including 10+ Field Sparrows, 30+ Chipping Sparrows, and countless White-throated and Song Sparrows. Indigo Buntings remain including a couple that even burst into song. The power canal was rather quiet aside from seven or so Ring-billed Gulls and a lone, nervous Black Duck. Throughout the morning small groups of Purple Finches headed SW.

Anas Sp. - male, Turner's Falls bike path at Depot Road, Franklin Co. MA. October 7th, 2014.
JoAnne Russo has correctly pointed out (thanks JoAnne) that the white borders to the speculum rule out this bird as a male American Black Duck. I'm hanging on to the identification until I've done a bit more work on this one but the very dark body contrasting with the pale gray face, the dark corner to the gape and the unmarked olive-yellow bill seem at odds with female Mallard to me. Hopefully, more on this to follow.  

 Chipping Sparrow - non-breeding plumage, Turner's Falls bike path at Depot Road, Franklin Co. MA. October 7th, 2014

Downy Woodpecker - male. Turner's Falls bike path at Depot Road, Franklin Co. MA. October 7th, 2014


Gerry Biron and JoAnne Russo said...

i think you mislabeled your mallard, white edges make it a female mallard.

James P. Smith said...

Greetings JoAnne. Thanks very much for your comments. Of course, you are absolutely right and this is rather sloppy on my part. It's an obvious mistake. I'd like to field a few more images of this bird in an additional post because it gave me some difficulty from the outset. It was very dark but with a contrasting pale face and dark corners to the gape. No sooner had I got interested in it than it took off flying past me allowing for only a few images to be taken at the scene. The dark body and gleaming white underwings along with the olive yellow bill pushed me toward Black Duck through the viewfinder. But you're right, a Black Duck cannot show a wing pattern like that. However, I don't see it as a normal female Mallard either which should be more uniform below with an orange (not olive-yellow) bill. Thanks for drawing my attention to this. I really appreciate it and will look into this a bit further, hopefully resulting in an updated blog feature soon.

Best Wishes,