Wednesday, January 23, 2019

MA - Glaucous Gulls a-plenty and January update

Glaucous Gulls (3) - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. January 22nd, 2019.

January 20th brought the first proper weather event of the winter depositing a wintery mix of snow, sleet and freezing rain to much of the north-east. In Franklin County we received about eight inches of fairly fresh, crisp snow which was a welcome relief as we seemed to skip the forecast ice accumulations. It finally felt like winter after a relatively comfortable start to the New Year. Although not obvious on the day of the storm, the impact of the Arctic blast was evident at Turner's Falls with the sudden arrival of three Glaucous Gulls at the power canal including a fine adult. Glaucous Gulls are not especially common in Franklin County and multiple arrivals even less so. To have three together from a modest total of just 55 gulls was even more impressive. The evening's tally also included a newly arrived first-cycle Iceland Gull and the long staying an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull - not too shabby!

Glaucous Gulls (2) - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. January 22nd, 2019.

Iceland (first-cycle) Glaucous Gull (second-cycle) - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. January 22nd, 2019.
Not a strong evening in terms of volume of roosting gulls but certainly high on quality. 

Aside from weather events, mid-winter does bring some stability to the local birding scene with relatively few changes taking place throughout the month. Waterfowl gathered in numbers where ever the Connecticut River remained ice free, most specifically at the Turner's Falls power canal and the fast flowing water below Vernon Dam in Vermont. Since each locations is less than 15 minutes drive from home in Northfield, I divided my birding between both. The diving duck situation below Vernon Dam was pretty sensational in mid-month with up 95 Common Goldeneyes, 25 Hooded and 15 Common Mergansers, a Bufflehead and no less than 3 Barrow's Goldeneyes on the 15th and 17th with the latter being composed of one adult male, one adult female and one first-winter male. In contrast, Turner's Falls, whilst hosting a couple of female-type Buffleheads has been notable by its lack of Barrow's Goldeneyes with none reported so far this winter. But, overall, the concentrations of waterfowl along the Turner's Falls power canal have been spectacular with up to 2400 Canada Geese, 540 Mallards, 33 American Black Ducks, 60 Common Mergansers 45 Common Goldeneyes, and 12 or so Hooded Mergansers. In addition, one or two Cackling Geese have been present (on and off) throughout January and are clearly attempting to winter in the area rather than push on further south.

Cackling Goose (center) - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. January 19th, 2019.

Barrow's Goldeneye (male) - with Common Goldeneyes, below Vernon Dam, Windham Co., VT. January 17th, 2019. 

Aside from the more recent Glaucous Gulls, two Lesser Black-backed Gulls, one adult and one third-cycle remained at Turner's Falls up to January 19th at least. Up to four Iceland Gulls on any given evening in January though plumage features suggested that there were certainly more than four different individuals involved. A Glaucous Gull, quite possibly the same first-cycle that we found on the Christmas Bird Count in late December, was present at Barton Cove, Gill through until January 5th at least.

Lesser Black-backed  Gull (third-cycle) - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. January 3rd, 2019.

Glaucous Gull (first-cycle) - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. January 3rd, 2019.

Common Yellowthroat - Northfield Meadows, Franklin Co., January 3rd, 2019.

Passerines included two species that I wouldn't normally expect in January with Common Yellowthroats continuing to hang on in Northfield Meadows. I had sightings of singles there on the 3rd and the 11th - I'm still having trouble coming to terms with the idea of wintering yellowthroats in Franklin County! Perhaps slightly more expected though still noteworthy for mid-winter, a Gray Catbird in the riverside thickets below Vernon Dam on January 15th. It's going to be interesting to see if either of these species survived the exceptionally cold snap around January 20th?

Gray Catbird - Vernon, Windham Co., VT. January 15th, 2019.

Hermit Thrush - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. January 10th, 2019.

Eastern Bluebird - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. January 10th, 2019.

Raptors were few during the first three weeks of the month though the impressive numbers of Barred Owls in our area provided some compensation. But an adult Red-shouldered Hawk in Turner's Falls on the 8th, a male Sharp-shinned Hawk on Ben Hale Road, Gill on the 10th and a Peregrine over the Turner's Falls power canal on the 21st were all noteworthy. 

Red-shouldered Hawk (adult) - Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. January 8th, 2019.

Peregrine - over Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. January 21st, 2019. 

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