Wednesday, March 1, 2017

MA - Barrow's and 'orange billed' Common Goldeneyes


Barrow's Goldeneye - female, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. February 27th, 2017.

Every once in a while a post to the Western Mass Birders  Facebook page captures my interest, so when Mark Taylor posted news of a female Barrow's Goldeneye at the Turner's Falls power canal I was especially keen to take a look. Recent winters have been very good for Barrow's Goldeneye at Turner's Falls but this winter has been inexplicably poor. In fact, despite checking the goldeneye roost on many evenings in Dec through Feb, I couldn't come up with a single Barrow's, male or female. The only certain local report that I knew of was from Eric Huston on January 22nd when he had a male at Bennett Meadow in Northfield. The situation had also been clouded by the presence of a couple of female Common Goldeneyes showing atypical bill coloration.


Common Goldeneye - female with abberrant dull orange bill, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. February 27th, 2017.


Common Goldeneyes - female with abberrant bill (left), Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. February 27th, 2017.
Potentially a pitfall for female Barrow's - can a hybrid could be excluded? I'm not sure.

Mark's post to WMB seemingly generated very little interest but had certainly intrigued me. When I arrived at the power canal the first female goldeneye that surfaced was a Common with a dull yellow-orange bill! But with over a dozen goldeneyes diving in front of me, I patiently went through them all. I knew Mark to be a careful local observer and thought it unlikely that he'd get turned around by a Common Goldeneye with an abberant bill. A few moments later, a goldeneye surfaced right next to the guard rail about 10 meters from where I was standing - it was a beautiful female Barrow's and the closest goldeneye to me. For a good fifteen minutes I was treated to point blank views in exactly the spot that Mark had described. In fact it was so close to the guard rail that I would surely have missed it had I stayed in the car.


Barrow's Goldeneye - female, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. February 27th, 2017.

A beautiful bird and the only Barrow's that I've seen at Turner's Falls the entire winter. Thanks to Mark Taylor for his post.

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