Tuesday, May 2, 2017

MA - grand fall-out of migrating waterbirds at Turner's Falls!

Black Tern - adult, Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  

May 2nd: Overnight thunderstorms and very heavy rain persisted through to dawn. I decided to trade my early morning bike ride for a quick visit to Barton Cove, Gill and arrived at the public boat ramp at 06:22 hrs. Within minutes I was looking a some good waterbirds with clear indications of an overnight arrival: two Bufflehead, a Long-tailed Duck, two Common Loons, a Horned Grebe (in near full breeding plumage), five Northern Shoveler and a flock of 36 Green-winged Teal - not too shabby for starters! Scanning through the swallows, I came across several Cliff Swallows when Eric Huston called with news of a 'hooded' gull from the Turner's Falls Rod & Gun club. He was understandably cautious, as the previous day I'd seen a summer plumaged Bonaparte's Gull at the same spot, but he seemed pretty confident that his distant bird was a Laughing Gull - exceedingly rare for interior Massachusetts. 

Laughing Gull - adult in breeding plumage with Ring-billed and Herring Gulls, Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  The dark hooded, dark mantled gull in the center of the island. Distant but readily identifiable through a spotting scope. A good find for Eric Huston, only the second documented record for Franklin County. 

Long-tailed Duck - male-breeding, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.
One of four Long-tailed Ducks today. 


Northern Shovelers - five, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.


  Red-breasted and Common Mergansers - Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  
Common Merganser flanked by two Red-breasted Mergansers.


Bonaparte's Gull - adult-breeding, Turner's Falls Rod  & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 1st, 2017.  


Five minutes later I was fortunate to find Eric and the Laughing Gull still present at the Rod & Gun club. It was distant and resting on a small island which's only exposed when water levels (controlled upstream) are low. Around the same island, 3 female Red-breasted Mergansers and a first-summer Common Tern......wow!

Eric had to leave for work but I had enough time to linger for another ten minutes or so and could hardly believe my luck when a Black Tern in breeding plumage flew through my field of view as I watched the Common Tern. 

Black Tern - adult, Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  


With brightening skies, I returned to the Rod & Gun club after dropping Matan at school, hopeful of improving on the documentation shots of the Laughing Gull. Alas, the favored island was already underwater and all the birds that it had been holding had moved on. It later transpired that Josh Rose and Bill Lafley had seen and reported the Laughing Gull at Barton Cove, just a little downriver from the Rod and Gun Club. However, the latter site still held 3 Long-tailed Ducks, a Horned Grebe, a Common Loon and 2 Red-breasted Mergansers as well as Great Crested Flycatcher, Black-throated Blue Warbler and Northern Parula and no less than 10 Cliff Swallows. Shorebirds included 2 Greater and 1 Lesser Yellowlegs, Solitary Sandpiper, 2 Least Sandpipers and plenty of Spotted Sandpipers.

Lesser Yellowlegs - Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  




Cliff and Barn Swallows - Turner's Falls Rod & Gun Club, Franklin Co., MA. May 2nd, 2017.  

By 09:15 activity seemed to be tapering and the Laughing Gull had already moved on from Barton Cove by the time that I arrived back at the boat ramp. Other than a singing Northern Waterthrush, I didn't really add anything new to the species haul in the few minutes that I spent there. Even so, by local standards this was a pretty thrilling morning to be out.