Thursday, November 7, 2019

MA - Pacific-slope Flycatcher plus a stellar cast of locally rare passerines



Pacific-slope Flycatcher - Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. November 4th, 2019.

Pacific-slope Flycatcher - Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. November 4th, 2019.

Update November 11th; despite ever decreasing temperatures and the potential for snow in tomorrow's weather forecast, the Pacific-slope Flycatcher continues to put on quite the show in Hadley. This morning, Susannah, Matan and I joined not more than half-a-dozen birders patrolling the staked out area off Huntington Road. Initially, things seemed pretty quiet, very quiet in fact and several disappointed birders left the area without success. But around 11:30 hours one sharp-eyed gent kindly waived us over after he'd just had brief views of the flycatcher right off the main track. The bird was low, furtive and very, very difficult to see well but eventually we all had pretty good views over a thirty minute period as it worked up and down the low vegetation along the main pathway under the power lines. One week on from the really good views I had on November 4th, I can admit to being genuinely surprised that it's still hanging on so deep into the fall. 




 Pacific-slope Flycatcher - Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. November 11th, 2019.

In the mean time, while we were chasing the rarest of flycatchers in Hadley, Josh Layfield was busy finding his own birds in Deerfield and simultaneously came up with a Clay-colored Sparrow in the North Meadows! 

 Clay-colored Sparrow - Deerfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. November 11th, 2019.
Found and photographed by Josh Layfield. 

November 4th; A few years ago I ran into Frank Gallo at Hammonassett Beach State Park in Connecticut. It was a brisk November day and I was still relatively new to US birding, but one of Frank's comments from that day really stuck with me when he said, "anything that's green and yellow at this time of year has to be worth a closer look". How right he was. Here we are in early November 2019 being treated to a host of avian gems in the Pioneer Valley, brightly colored and relatively easy to pick out amid the denuded sumac thickets. Chief among these has to be the long staying Pacific-slope Flycatcher off Huntington Road in Hadley right along the eastern bank of the Connecticut River. First found by Joe Oliverio on October 23rd, this unexpected waif from the Pacific Northwest has both treated and frustrated hundreds of birders during its two week stay. It was even courteous enough to allow my UK tour group to catch up with it on October 28th, and stick around offering spectacular views on November 4th. Such rarities only come around once in a generation and this bird looks set to become the first state record for Massachusetts thanks to a wealth of sound recordings, photographs and expert opinion. Thanks go to all of those folks for being so keenly involved in the identification and for keeping tabs on the bird's movements. 




Pacific-slope Flycatcher - Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. November 4th, 2019.
Often flicked its tail upward when perched. 

Pacific-slope Flycatcher - Hadley, Hampshire Co., October 28th, 2019.

Continuing with the 'green and yellow' theme, and not to be outdone by the flycatcher, Brian Kane and Noel Watkins came up with a local rarity of their own in the form of a White-eyed Vireo in Montague on November 3rd. Only the third Franklin County record that I know of and fitting neatly into a concentrated pattern of late autumn occurrences as follows; Northfield Meadows on Nov 2nd 2013 (Eric Huston), Turner's Falls during Oct 26th - Nov 8th, 2017 (JPS), and now Montague Nov 3rd - 5th, 2019 (BK and NW). 


White-eyed Vireo - Montague, Franklin Co., MA. November 5th, 2019.
Showing characteristics of a first-winter individual and quite strikingly different 
to the Turner's Falls bird from 2017 featured below. 

White-eyed Vireo -  Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 1st, 2017.


Nashville Warbler - Deerfield Meadows, Franklin Co., MA. November 2nd, 2019.
Late, bright and unexpected. My personal latest in Massachusetts. 

Marsh Wren - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. November 5th, 2019.
Late, super skulking and again, unexpected. Only my second observation of Marsh Wren in Franklin County. 

Aside form the discovery of the Pacific-slope Flycatcher in Hadley, October produced a host of noteworthy grassland species many of which showed in the Deerfield area;

Le Conte's Sparrow - Mill Village Road, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. October 17th, 2019. 
Found by Chuck Caron on October 13th, 2019.

Le Conte's Sparrow - Mill Village Road, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. October 14th, 2019. 
Initially found by Chuck Caron on October 13th, 2019.

Blue Grosbeak (first-winter) - North Meadows, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. October 9th, 2019. 
Found by Aaron Hulsey and Joe Oliverio. 

Dickcissel - North Meadows, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. October 4th, 2019. 
A stellar month for this species with  1 - 4 irregularly in Deerfield Meadows between October 4th and 13th. 

Clay-colored Sparrow  - North Meadows, Deerfield, Franklin Co., MA. October 2nd, 2019. 
A fairly rare autumn migrant in Franklin County this being only my second record,  
with the first at Turner's Falls on October 12th, 2017. 

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