Sunday, April 14, 2019

MA - waterbirds on the move part three; more Bonaparte's Gulls and Caspian Terns!

Caspian Tern - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2019.
Flying in from the east with Barton Island in the background.

The morning of April 10th found me back at Barton Cove hoping to catch up with even just a tiny fraction of the fall-out seen the on the previous evening. Despite squally rain showers and 100% cloud cover, it was fairly obvious a major clearance had taken place overnight....not a single Bonaparte's Gull was present at first light. As if to emphasize the general departure of waterbirds, 3 Red-breasted Mergansers (male and 2 females) lifted off the water, circled the cove and headed off high to the NW. But 6 Ruddy Ducks, 5 Greater Scaup, 2 Horned Grebes and a Pied-billed Grebe ended up staying through the day with a fine pair of Northern Pintail appearing with the Canada Goose flocks in the evening. A Snow Goose and 2 American Wigeon remained, both species being long stayers.

Ruddy Duck - male, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 10th, 2019.

Northern Harriers (2) - Turner's Falls Airfield, Franklin Co., MA. April 10th, 2019.
Two of a minimum of four seen within an hour at the airfield in mid-morning.

Clearing skies and a change to quite cold air coming from the north triggered a shift in focus and by mid-morning I was enjoying great views of a male Northern Harrier at Turner's Falls Airfield. Although I soon lost that particular male to view, a further two Northern Harriers dropped into the airfield together just as suddenly as the male had appeared. Both were 'female-like' in plumage but careful scrutiny showed them both to be young males, one of which lingered while with the other one departed fairly quickly to the NE. After 20 minutes or so, a fourth harrier dropped in, this one being a young female which spent a good 15 minutes quartering the rank grasses along the taxi-way. Spring harrier migration isn't a particularly easy event to see in Franklin County so to have four individuals within an hour at the same site was pretty remarkable. Moreover, David Sibley recorded three Northern Harriers (two adult male, one immature male) migrating through Hilltop Farm, Deerfield during the morning hours. In the evening Josh Layfield visited Turner's Falls Airfield finding two Northern Harriers (male, female-type) hunting, possibly lingerers from the morning, but it's equally possible that they were new migrants. Either way, April 10th was something of a stellar day for harrier migration in Franklin County.

Bonaparte's Gulls - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 12th, 2019.

The 11th was fairly quiet for new waterbird arrivals but the 12th was yet another fine day for Bonaparte's Gulls with the initial discovery of a tight flock of 17 at the Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club quickly followed by a further 5 at Barton Cove. By mid-morning both flocks had converged on Barton Cove while a brief check in the evening found seven birds present but included 3 first-cycle individuals not seen on the morning visit! So, an absolute minimum of 25 Bonaparte's Gulls passing through Barton Cove on April 12th. .

Overnight rain and warm southerlies brought yet more new arrivals on the 13th with some 55 Double-crested Cormorants between the Turner's Fall power canal and the Rod and Gun Club. New for the year was a Red-necked Grebe and a Spotted Sandpiper at Barton Cove (Josh Layfield), along with 4 Barn Swallows and a Bank Swallow at the Turner's Falls power canal. Scaup arrivals included 7 Lesser at the power canal, 7 Lesser at the Rod and Gun club and a further 7 Lesser joining the previously seen 5 Greater Scaup at Barton Cove. In the evening, 2 Black Vultures again appeared high over Barton Cove as they had done on the evening of the 11th.

Caspian Tern - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2019.

April 14th dawned mild and calm and I wasn't expecting too much in the way of grounded birds but I decided to check Barton Cove in any case. Initially, things seemed a little quiet and I couldn't find the previous day's Red-necked Grebe. In the distance a group of small group of 'gulls' resting on an exposed mud bar caught my attention. Instead of scoping them at range I drove around to Riverview Drive for a closer look and there sat with a few Herring and Ring-billed Gulls were 2 Caspian Terns. As I settled down to enjoy them, I could clearly hear the distinctive grating bark of one or more Caspian Terns in the fact there were 5 of them present together in the cove!! I last them heading towards Barton Campground at about 07:20 hours.

Caspian Tern - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2019.

Caspian Terns (5) - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. April 14th, 2019.

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