Tuesday, October 19, 2010

MA - Great Egret and Snipe at Turner's - 10/18

Great Egret - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 18th, 2010. This bird, along with the snipe featured below, provided two site 'firsts' for me in one evening!

Bald Eagle - juv/imm, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 18th, 2010.

Redheads - still present a week after they were found. Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 18th, 2010.

Wilson's Snipe - digi-bin shot of 8 birds together, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 18th, 2010.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

MA - Redheads and other wildfowl - 10/14-15

Redhead - drake with female Mallard, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 15th, 2010.

Redheads - with female-type Lesser Scaup (center), Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 15th, 2010.

Redheads - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 15th, 2010.

Northern Shoveler with drake Mallard - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 14th, 2010.

Late afternoon visits to Barton Cove and Turner's Falls found most birds on the power canal
once again, though curiously some of the Canada Goose flock (c.400) have been hanging out off Riverview Drive in Gill. The six Redheads were again present on the power canal and have been joined by a female-type Lesser Scaup (my first of the fall here). Indeed, the power canal was packed with ducks with a distinct improvement in diversity including; Wood Duck (6), Northern Pintail (3 plus 2 more at Barton Cove), Green-winged Teal (2 plus 1 at Barton Cove), Northern Shoveler (1 and my first of the fall here), American Wigeon (6), Redhead (6), Lesser Scaup (1) and plenty of Mallard and American Black Duck.

The overnight North-easterly storm with rain on the 15th seemed to produce little (if any) change with the exception being the departure of the Northern Pintail and the Green-winged Teal. Surprisingly, no obvious storm driven birds could be found.

Also of note on the 15th, a beautiful adult White-crowned Sparrow in the yard with the White-throats and juncos.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

MA - a little Big Sit in Gill - 10/10/10

Sunrise over the fog. Looking towards the Connecticut River, Gill, MA. October 10th, 2010.

October 10th was the 16th Annual Big Sit hosted by Birdwatchers Digest and sponsored Swarovski Optik. I wasn't sure about committing myself to a team but felt sufficiently intrigued by the concept to have a sort trial run on my new local patch in Gill. Having spent many ten of hours counting visible migration from fixed positions in the UK and in Israel I felt well prepared for what was about to come. By way of experiment I decided to stay local, very local in fact, and just walked across the street to our neighbors property and counted from the hill above their house. The site lies about half a mile South West of Gill Center, and is located in a field of rough pasture. Most of the horizon to the North and North-west is obscured by woodland, but the panorama to the East and South offers views overlooking some very rural countryside. The Connecticut River lies about 1.5 miles to the East but can't be seen from the count circle.
Cedar Waxwings in the mist - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Canada Geese - migration over the count circle, Gill, Franklin Co. MA. October 10th, 2010.

Since we'd already been invited to a Wedding in the afternoon, I focused on a half day effort beginning at 6am and closing at 12 noon. Susannah and Matan visited the count circle in mid-morning but otherwise I counted alone. I didn't hear any owls or nocturnal migrants pre-dawn and the first bird of the day was a calling White-throated Sparrow at 06:15hrs whilst the last new bird to be logged was an American Kestrel at 11:42hrs. Overall, it was an immaculate fall day though in terms of the species total, mist and fog hampered observations between 07:20 and 08:50hrs and probably cost the circle a few birds.The breeze was also out of the South-west for much of the morning, not quite ideal for migration here as I think a North-westerly would have been better.

Mourning Dove - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Even so, I was very impressed with an overall tally of 59 species, especially coming from a circle with no visible open water. Surprising and perhaps painful misses included Bald Eagle (4 from the same spot on Oct 16th), Cooper's Hawk, Red-breasted Nuthatch and Common Raven (3 from the same spot on Oct 16th), whilst 'hoped-for' but not seen were species such as Red-winged and Rusty Blackbirds.

Here's the species tally pretty much in the order in which they appeared;

1) White-throated Sparrow
2) Savannah Sparrow - 3+
3) Eastern Towhee - 2+ seen/heard
4) Hermit Thrush - 4
5) Song Sparrow
6) American Robin - 20+ mostly moving SW
7) Dark-eyed Junco - 10+
8) American Crow - 100+
9) Blue Jay - some migrant groups from mid-morning; 45 SW
10) Wood Duck - 1 over the circle at 06:24hrs, first surprise of the day.
11) Yellow-rumped Warbler - migrant groups moving SW all morning totaling 120 birds.
12) Carolina Wren - 2
13) White-breasted Nuthatch
14) Northern Cardinal
15) Red-bellied Woodpecker - 2+
16) Downy Woodpecker - 5+
17) Wild Turkey - 35, local flock stopping the traffic to cross the main road.
18) Black-capped Chickadee - 15+
19) Red-tailed Hawk - 15 in total with up to 7 in the air at any one time probably indicating a few migrants moving through.
20) Purple Finch - 3 local, plus 13 moving SW.
21) Ruby-crowned Kinglet - 4
22) Cedar Waxwing - 42
23) Blue-headed Vireo - 1 singing
24) American Goldfinch - 3 local, 8 moving SW
25) Canada Goose - 232, mostly migrants moving SW. Smaller groups of 4 and 6 moving between local fields. Total doubtless affected by early morning fog.
26) Northern Flicker - 5
27) Palm Warbler - 9 (birds identified to race were all Eastern/yellow)
28) Brown Creeper - 1
29) Golden-crowned Kinglet - 1
30) Horned Lark - 3 moving SW.
31) Hairy Woodpecker - 3
32) Blackpoll Warbler - 11 all filtering through SW.
33) Tufted Titmouse - 6
34) Indigo Bunting - 1 (last species to be added before sunrise at 07:11hrs).
35) Eastern Phoebe - 3
36) House Sparrow - flock heard from the farm down the road. Not especially common here.
37) Pileated Woodpecker - 4 birds calling all morning plus one close to the circle by Main Road.
38) European Starling
39) Chipping Sparrow - 2
40) Northern Mockingbird - 1
41) Lincoln's Sparrow - 1
42) Swamp Sparrow - 3+
43) Great Blue Heron - 1, another nice surprise. Flew into the brook in the middle of the sedge meadow to the SE of the circle.
44) Sharp-shinned Hawk - No actual migration until 09:15hrs then scattered birds throughout the morning - 22 SW.
45) Red-eyed Vireo - 1
46) White-crowned Sparrow - 1, nice adult.
47) Eastern Bluebird - 3
48) Mourning Dove - 3
49) Feral Rock Dove - 3
50) Pine Siskin - 2 calling as they flew SW.
51) Turkey Vulture - up to 8 from 09:24hrs.
52) Ring-billed Gull - 5 moving along course of the CT River.
53) American Herring Gull - 1 juv. trailing the the Ring-billed Gulls.
54) American Black Duck - 1 moving South along CT River.
55) Gray-cheeked Thrush - calling bird present from the previous day.
56) Northern Harrier - 1 moving South at 10:00hrs.
57) Common Yellowthroat - 1
58) Gray Catbird - 1
59) American Kestrel - 1 moving SW at 11:42hrs. Only my 2nd locally.

Purple Finch - Nice male, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Red-tailed Hawk - juvenile passing the count circle, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Fog rolling in at 8 am, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Looking SE from the count circle, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Susannah and Matan trying to add to the tally, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 10th, 2010.

Overall I was quietly impressed with this total and will be seriously considering a more extended effort for next year. Gracious thanks to Dick and Emily for allowing the count to take place on their land.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

MA - probable Cackling Goose - 10/12

probable Cackling Goose (left) with Canada Goose - Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2010.

Probable - because I was a bit put off by the size of this bird, even though the basic proportions, and especially the head and bill shape looked very good for Richardson's Cackling Goose (B.h. hutchinsii). I came across this bird on my third scan of the Canada Goose flock (c.600) at Turner's Falls power canal. Geese were already departing Northward when I found it so I really didn't have too much time to work on it. Had it been smaller, I don't think I would have too much of a problem with it being a Cackling Goose but the size, I think, could be an issue. Even so, it retained its small billed appearance and 'blocky' head-shape at all times.

Large male Richardson's Cackling Goose perhaps?

Small-billed, with steep forehead flattish crown and relatively short, stubby neck. The Canada Goose on the right is probably a smallish example of the form B.c. interior.

When alert, the bill looked tiny compared to the Canada Goose (B.c. interior) associating with it.

MA - Turner's Redheads - 10/12

Redheads - party of six, Turner's Falls power canal, Franklin Co., MA. October 12th, 2010.

Had a short but enjoyable trip down to Barton Cove and Turner's Falls this evening. Barton Cove was relatively quiet except for a nice tally of five Pied-billed Grebes, but the Turner's Falls power canal was better with nearly 600 Canada Geese, 3 American Wigeon, 2 Wood Duck, and a party of no less than 6 Redheads. This was presumably the same party of Redheads reported by Mark Fairbrother at Barton Cove on the evening of the 11th when the flock contained five birds at that time - seems like they picked up a straggler overnight.

As the sun began to set, most of the Canada Geese departed Northward from the power canal and so did the Redheads, taking one of the American Wigeons with them.

And here, six Redheads with an American Wigeon in the foreground.

Monday, October 11, 2010

MA - Curlew Sandpiper - 10/11

Curlew Sandpiper (rear center) - juvenile at rest with Semi-palmated Sandpipers. At rest, the vivid white rump was often visible and one of the better field marks to use when trying to locate the bird in the tide wrack. Sandy Point, Plum Island, Essex Co., MA. October 11th, 2010.

Curlew Sandpiper (right) - juvenile in flight with Semi-palmated Plovers. Again, the white rump facilitates identification in flight although the presence of White-rumped Sandpipers complicated matters at times.

Curlew Sandpiper (left) - juvenile with Semi-palmated and White-rumped Sandpipers and a Dunlin (right).

This Curlew Sandpiper was an excellent find for Suzanne Sullivan at Sandy Point, Plum Island on October 8th and provided a fine excuse for a family 'twitch' on Columbus Day. We first found the bird in flight over the dunes at Sandy Point with a small flock of Dunlin and Semi-palmated Plovers, when it was relatively to pick out due to its larger size and vivid white rump. Later we had prolonged views of the bird feeding at the edge of flats and at rest in the tide wrack.

Curlew Sandpipers are more or less annual in MA, but juveniles, such as this bird, are rare with only two listed in the Birds of Massachusetts (Veit & Petersen), and both of those from the month of the September (1985 & 1991). On personal level, this was my first Curlew Sand in the US since an adult in California in 2001, well before my digi-scoping days, so naturally I welcomed the opportunity to grab a few images of this smart, scaly juvenile.

Lots of other nice species present at Sandy Point too, including very close looks at White-rumped Sandpipers and American Pipits.


Friday, October 8, 2010

CA - Yosemite Great Gray - 09/14

Great Gray Owl - Yosemite National Park, Mariposa Co., CA. September 14th, 2010. All images taken using Canon Powershot A560 hand held through Swarovski HD telescope.

One of the highlights (The highlight for many) of a recent tour of California. Prolonged views of the Gray Ghost in late afternoon................


Thursday, October 7, 2010

MA - Gill migrants - 10/07

Since returning from Cape May on October 2nd, our yard in Gill has been receiving fresh migrants each day, especially around the period of unsettled weather during October 5th and 6th that brought heavy rain for most of the 6th.

Canada Geese
could be heard moving before dawn on the 3rd, a day which produced several Blackpoll Warblers and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. A Swainson's Thrush was bathing in the stream on the evening of the 4th with another (night migrant) heard calling as it flew south at about 10 pm. The same date also produced a Cooper's Hawk and 2 Ruby-crowned Kinglets. The latter have been present daily through to the 7th.

Showery North-easterlies on the 5th produced an influx of White-throated Sparrows, along with 3 Swamp Sparrows and 2 Song Sparrows but more impressive on the same date were 3 Palm Warblers (Yellow/Eastern birds), a male Eastern Towhee and a calling Bicknell's Thrush in the Alders. Late on the 6th, after a day of pretty much solid rain, I discovered a first-winter White-crowned Sparrow, not only the first of the fall but a classic
gambelli-type (bright orange-yellow bill and plain lores recalling Field Sparrow at first glance). On the 7th, in much improving weather conditions, there were many birds around with c.35 White-throated Sparrows, 25 Yellow-rumped Warblers and about 15 Palm Warblers, all of the latter being Yellow (Eastern) types. Also of note on the 7th, our first Red-bellied Woodpecker since early September.

Here's a digi-scope selection of the three most common migrants from October 7th

White-throated Sparrow - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 7th, 2010. Present in the yard since September 25th, with numbers increasing significantly from October 6th. Image taken using Canon Powershot A560 hand held through Swarovski HD telescope.

Yellow-rumped Warblers - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 7th, 2010. Major increase in numbers on October 7th with 25+ present. Image taken using Canon Powershot A560 hand held through Swarovski HD telescope.

(Yellow) Palm Warblers (D. p. hypochrysea) - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. October 7th, 2010. First recorded on October 5th with a major incursion on October 7th when 15+ present in late afternoon. Image taken using Canon Powershot A560 hand held through Swarovski HD telescope.