Friday, April 13, 2018

MA - bittern, rough-winged swallow and Bald Eagles aplenty!

American Robin - partially leucistic individual, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. April 6th, 2018.

Cold air persisted during 6th - 10th April with frequent snow showers and dawn temperatures often at freezing or below. Franklin County seemingly saw few new arrivals and indeed, the scene at Barton Cove was one of gradually reduced numbers of geese and gulls, though diving ducks continued to show in good numbers and included a fine male Red-breasted Merganser on the 10th.

Buffleheads - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 8th, 2018. 

 Common Mergansers - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 9th, 2018. 

Red-breasted Merganser - male with female Common Merganser, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 10th, 2018. 

But there have been a few highlights, the most significant of which was an American Bittern which totally caught me off-guard as I ran along North Cross Road, Gill early on the morning of the 6th. The bittern was already in flight when I saw it and had likely flushed from a small cattail marsh near the roadside before departing north below the tree line never to be seen again. Interestingly enough, that particular spot on North Cross Road has no history of herons of any kind which only added to my surprise in seeing a mid-size brown heron in flight over the cattails! Eric Huston and Marshall Iliff were kind enough to send me some ebird information on the status of the species in Franklin County as I felt sure that I hadn't seen an American Bittern any closer to home the than Keene, New Hamsphire. It turns out that American Bittern reports numbered only 1 - 6 per year between 2012-2017, and some of those involved the same bird reported by several different observers with most of the records concentrated around the north Quabbin region. I hadn't quite appreciated it was quite that rare (and difficult to see) in Franklin County.

Two Black Vultures showed among 20 or so Turkey Vultures in Shelbourne on the 9th, and the Bald Eagles at Barton Cove/Turner's Falls have been nothing short of spectacular with up to three adults and seven immatures in the air together at times, the immatures sparring a lot over the cove sometimes pursuing the flocks of waterfowl.

Bald Eagles - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 9th, 2018. 

The cold air understandably subdued passerine activity but Pine Warblers began to arrive in Gill in small numbers around the 8th and 9th, along with a few Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers, and a couple of Winter Wrens began to sing from traditional territories along North Cross Road, Gill. An American Pipit migrated north-west over Gill School on the 9th. Brown-headed Cowbirds arrived numbers around the 9th/10th with several large foraging flocks including 175 at Four Star Farms in Northfield with tens of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings ground feeding on fallen crab apples at the same location. 

American Robins and Cedar Waxwings, Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 10th, 2018. 

Red Crossbill - male, Montague Plains, Franklin Co., MA. April 6th, 2018. 
Up to five continuing to show well, though sometimes aloof.

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