Saturday, October 31, 2009

MA - Amherst notes - 10/31

American Robin - 200 plus feeding on fruiting trees and shrubs on North Whitney Street, Amherst, Hampshire Co., MA. Quite some variation in plumage and between the sexes. The male above was one of the darkest, recalling the Atlantic Canadian form T. m. nigrideus. Some more variation shown below.

October ends in balmy fashion with warm south-westerlies bringing cloud rain and showers for much of the day. It was pleasantly warm all day. I didn't get out for any 'real' birding but was impressed by the birds I came across locally beginning with a pre-dawn run this morning - a couple of Great Horned Owls, 4 - 5 American Woodcocks, tens of White-throated Sparrows and a Hermit Thrush, all heard or seen along North-East Street, Amherst.

Fruiting trees near our home on North Whitney Street are currently hosting large numbers of American Robins and Cedar Waxwings, with some Dark-eyed Juncos and White-throated Sparrow. The last couple of days have also seen several Yellow-rumped Warblers and Golden-crowned Kinglets, and there was an Eastern Phoebe yesterday.
Also today, a couple of Northern Harriers, one over the Umass playing fields, and another quartering fields along South Maple Street.

With a clearance forecast for tomorrow and a return to cooler north-westerly winds, many birders will likely be hitting the coast in search of Cave Swallows, formerly a great rarity in the north-east but now perhaps anticpated under the right conditions. November is 'the' month to see them with small flocks be found in recent years. Check out this post from Nick Bonomo in CT from November last year. Without the concentraing effect of the coast, finding a Cave Swallow in the Pioneer Valley will be a real challenge - but maybe this will be the year!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

MA - Cackling Geese, Hadley - 10/29

(Richardson's) Cackling Goose - Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. October 29th, 2009. One of two birds present. Overall tiny, with small, short bill and distinctly cold gray cast to much of the plumage.

(Richardson's) Cackling Goose - Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. October 29th, 2009. Size difference and slender wings often striking in flight but very easily lost within large flocks of Canada Geese.

Large flock of Canada Geese at the junction of South Maple Street and East Hadley Road, Hadley contained two really nice examples of Richardson's Cackling Goose, the birds closely associating with each other and probably from the same family. About 500 Canada Geese in all, feeding on a very wet empty corn field. Also, a bewildering number (15+) of relatively small-bodied, relatively small-billed Canada Geese that I left unidentified. I'm quite certain that most were not Cacklers but will be looking into the possibility that some may have Lesser Canada Geese (B.c. parvipes). I'll be taking a cautious approach as I've never knowingly seen that form in New England but have some experience from Arizona winter. More to follow.

Monday, October 26, 2009

MA - Tennessee Warbler - 10/26

Not really a birding day as such, but a few opportunities arose as the day evolved. Groff Park off Mill Lane in Amherst, beautiful as this time of year, had a few migrants filtering through most notably Hermit Thrush, (Eastern) Palm Warbler, and a fairly late Tennessee Warbler. The latter picked up on call as it flew in gave pretty good looks until I wanted to take a few digibin shots! Then it slipped away, but I was pleased with the views and see very October Tennessee Warblers in the 'valley'. Other birds of note included 6 Eastern Bluebirds and a fly-over American Pipit.

(Eastern) Palm Warbler - Groff Park, Amherst, Hampshire Co., MA. October 26th, 2009. All the local Palm Warblers that I've managed to identify to race this month have been yellow or Eastern Palm (hypochrysea) much like this bird.

Tennessee Warbler - Groff Park, Amherst, Hampshire Co., MA. October 26th, 2009. Not really identifable from these shaky digibin shots but showing a nice yellow wash around the face and upper breast fading towards a whitish lower belly and (importantly) white undertail coverts.

In late afternoon, a very brief look at Barton Cove from Riverview drive in Gill produced 3 Black Scoter, 2 American Wigeon and an adult Bald Eagle.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

MA - Short-eared Owl plus - 10/25

Short-eared Owl - being mobbed by American Crows. Seen from Hadley but actually over Hatfield. Extreme 'digiscope shots of bird about 1.5 miles to the North. Watched for about 8 minutes from 0915hrs, then last seen heading North.

Had another fine morning in Hadley, spending the entire time in the vicinity of the transfer station. In some respects it was a tad frustrating that most of today's birds were in flight and often going away from me! Even so, I had a great selection for the local area, especially between 09:00hrs and 10:00hrs when I found myself glued to one spot in the same field and picking up one good bird after the other.

Highlights included;
Mute Swan
- 3 (2 ads,1 juv) heading north at 09:25hrs, carefully checked for Tundra Swan.
Cackling Goose - 1 flying South with a small group of Canada Geese at 09:05hrs.
Canada Goose
- c.1000, many flocks in the air all morning, most (c.750) rising up from Hatfield and heading West towards Northampton.

Gadwall - 1 male, seemed to get up from the CT River, and then headed south towards Hadley Cove.

Northern Harrier - 2 lone passing migrants heading south.

American Golden Plover - 1 flying North at about 1040hrs.
Short-eared Owl
- 1, in the air being mobbed by crows on the Hatfield side of the the CT River and rather distant. Eventually got rid of the crows by gaining height and drifting North.

Lapland Longspur
- 2 singles, one of which was male. Both were calling birds in flight.

Snow Bunting
-1, calling bird heading SE.

Still very good numbers of sparrows around, especially Savannah (300), Song (50) and White-crowned Saprrows (7), plus Horned Larks (25), American Pipits (20+), Eastern Bluebirds, Eastern Phoebe, and Purple Finch (5).

Other raptors included at least ten Red-tailed Hawks and 5 Sharp-shinned Hawks.

All in all, a very nice morning in the field, and just ten minutes from home!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

MA - Black Scoters - 10/24

Black Scoters - 16, Quabbin Reservoir from Winsor Dam, Hampshire Co., MA. October 24th, 2009.

Cloud and heavy rain throughout much of the day. Matan and I 'escaped' during a brief respite in mid-morning. Conditions felt good for inland scoters, and Quabbin Park seemed like as good a place as any to try for them. Viewing from the admin buildings close to Winsor Dam we found a nice tight flock of 16 Black Scoters, most of them males. Otherwise, the reservoir seemed relatively devoid of waterfowl apart from about 5 Common Loons.

Checking various listserves, it appears that today produced at pretty good, broad arrival of passage scoters to many inland water bodies especially in Connecticut and to some extent New Hampshire.

On the same theme, here's a blog post from fall 2008 concerning passage Black Scoters at the Quabbin.

Friday, October 23, 2009

MA - Dickcissel - 10/23

Dickcissel. Aqua Vitae Road, Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. October 23rd, 2009.

Tried the Hadley fields once again this morning, this time at the Aqua Vitae Road. The cold front which moved in overnight was evident and it couldn't have been more contrasting to yesterday afternoon. It was certainly raw this morning.

Song Sparrow. Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. Over 100 in the fields on the Aqua Vitae Road, many of them quite large, cold-gray looking birds presumably from Northern populations.

The fields were typically heaving with sparrows almost entirely composed of Savannah, Song, Swamp and White-throated Sparrows with less diversity than the Honey Pot site. However, the morning was highlight by a Dickcissel
which flew low from a patch of rank vegetation, perched up briefly and then was seen no more.

Other birds of interest included 600 Common Grackles, 150 Brown-headed Cowbirds, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Pipit and 2 Horned Larks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

MA - Nelson's and Blackburnian - 10/22

Nelson's Sparrow. Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. October 22nd, 2009. Same individual as on 10/20/09. Tentative identification of Atlantic Coastal form subvirgatus supported independently by David Sibley, Scott Surner and Nick Bonomo, whilst Tom Johnson drew some very interesting (and underrated) comparisons between subvirgatus and dull examples of alterus. I'm hoping to expand on this discussion soon.

Blackburnian Warbler. Mt Warner Road, Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. October 22nd, 2009. Digibin shot of bird resting high in birch. Certainly late, my personal late date for the Pioneer Valley.

Quite the day locally starting in the best possible manner with a late Blackburnian Warbler, literally in the yard of Matan's day care center on Mt. Warner Road, Hadley. First detected high in a White Pine giving a repeated, slightly buzzy 'tzik'. It moved into a birch a few minutes later allowing better, prolonged views but always stayed high. Certainly a personal late date for me in the valley and possibly MA.

Also spent an hour with sparrows down in the Hadley Honey Pot and was really surprised to find the Nelson's Sparrow still present in the same spot. In fact, I detected very little change in species and numbers and also refound the
Grasshopper Sparrow from 10/20. Most obvious new birds were a Blue-headed Vireo, Eastern Meadowlark and 3 Chipping Sparrows. An American Kestrrel was also hunting the area.

Grasshopper Sparrow. Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. October 22nd, 2009.

In the afternoon, with birders returning positive news from Orange Airport, I headed North to chase the Scissor-tailed Flycatcher found by Jeff Johnstone on 10/21. Though aloof at times, the bird really showed well on what was forecast to be the last warm afternoon of the week. Another cold front is heading our way for Friday/Saturday.


Scissor-tailed Flycatcher. Orange Airport, Franklin County, MA. October 22nd, 2009.

Nice find for Jeff Johnstone on October 21st, this bird put on a fine display on a balmy afternoon around the hangers at Orange Airport. It was highly mobile and finding plenty to eat. Certainly my first locally, and a great bird to see just 30 minutes from home.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

MA - more Hadley sparrows - 10/20

Grasshopper Sparrow. Hadley Honey Pot, Hampshire Co., MA. October 20th, 2009.

White-throated Sparrow. Hadley Honey Pot, Hampshire Co., MA. October 20th, 2009.

Song Sparrow. Hadley Honey Pot, Hampshire Co., MA. October 20th, 2009.

Savannah Sparrow. Hadley Honey Pot, Hampshire Co., MA. October 20th, 2009.

White-crowned Sparrows. Hadley Honey Pot, Hampshire Co., MA. October 20th, 2009.

Lincoln's Sparrow. Hadley Honey Pot, Hampshire Co., MA. October 20th, 2009.

In addition to the previous post concerning the Nelson's Sparrow at Hadley this morning, I had quite a haul of other sparrows in the area including; 300 Savannah Sparrow, 60 Song Sparrow, 25 White-throated Sparrow, 8 White-crowned Sparrow, 1 Grasshopper Sparrow, and 1 Lincoln's Sparrow.

Other birds of interest included, 1 Bobolink (getting late), 1 Common Yellowthroat, 4 Eastern Bluebirds, 1 Eastern Phoebe, 35 American Pipits, 60 Horned Larks and 3 Purple Finches.