Friday, June 24, 2011

MA - more Orchard Orioles, plus Willow Flycatcher in Gill - 06/24

Orchard Oriole - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. June 24th, 2011. Male of a breeding pair close to the Connecticut River off River Road in Gill.

Willow Flycatcher - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. June 24th, 2011.

Virginia Rail - Gill, Franklin Co. MA. May 6th, 2011. One of four present on this date.

Aside from a few incidental observations, and feeling like I'd neglected local field birding this month, I decided to check a small cattail pond off River Road in Gill this morning. The pond held no less than 4 Virginia Rails on May 6th, so I returned with confidence hoping to at least hear a couple of rails, perhaps with a very long shot at Least Bittern. I came up empty on both species but the morning yielded a nice surprise in the form of a breeding pair of Orchard Orioles. The male showed best, occasionally bursting into song, the female being rather more shy and furtive. To add to the flavor of primarily south-eastern species, two Yellow-throated Vireos were singing along River Road as soon as I stopped the car.

I also enjoyed close views of a singing and calling Willow Flycatcher at the same spot whilst Red-tailed and Broad-winged Hawks soared overhead, along with numerous Turkey Vultures.
Back home in Gill, a Belted Kingfisher and a Louisiana Waterthrush were on the brook behind the house this morning.

Common Yellowthroat - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. June 24th, 2011.

Cedar Waxwing - Gill, Franklin Co., MA. June 24th, 2011. One of about a dozen feeding at the edge of the cattail pond.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

MA - Yellow-throated Vireo and Orchard Oriole - 06/20

Slightly belated post but still notable, concerning a couple of cool yard birds from our home in Gill on Monday June 20th. The first was a singing Yellow-throated Vireo high in the Sugar Maples in the morning, a nice compliment to the daily Red-eyed and Warbling Vireos which seem to go on singing all day long, rain or shine! Later in the afternoon, there was a brief but loud burst of Orchard Oriole song, the first I've heard since this bird visited our yard on June 7th. It's likely the same bird which may have set up a territory close to our yard.

Elsewhere, Willow Flycatchers continue to sing 'fitz-bew' from the sedge meadow to the SW of our yard, whilst the Alder Flycatchers seemed to have ceased singing but can still be located by their distinctive 'pip' calls.

Eastern Kingbirds, Eastern Bluebirds, Indigo Buntings and Baltimore Orioles remain extremely visible and audible members of our birding community. Less so is the Louisiana Waterthrush which is still present, but still extremely shy, on the brook that runs through our yard. Attempts (by me) to find a nest have failed so far. Still on the waterthrush theme, a run along Green River Road in Leyden on the same morning (June 20th) produced at least 15 Louisiana Waterthrushes, some still singing but most calling or seen along the river and adjacent streams. I heard a similar number of mostly singing birds here on the previous weekend of June 12th.

All in all, a pleasant but fairly stable period bird wise and yet, remarkably, we will soon see the first signs of fall migration as south-bound shorebirds, fresh back from the Arctic, will start to gather along the coast.


Friday, June 17, 2011

NC - Black-capped Petrels - 05/25-26/11

Black-capped Petrel - Off Hatteras inlet, c.30 miles offshore, Cape Hatteras, NC. May 25th, 2011. Distinctive, perhaps unmistakable (?), with black cap, broad white nape and broad white rump contrasting with uniform dark brown upperparts and tail. Listed as Endangered by Birdlife International.

Rarely has a bird inspired me as much as the Black-capped Petrel, a large Pterodroma or 'gadfly petrel' that is pretty much unmistakable given anything like a decent view. Chance encounters with this species well outside of its range (Caribbean and Gulf Stream off the south-eastern US) have twice given me some of the most exciting moments I've ever had in birding. The first was a multi-observer sighting from land within a feeding 'frenzy' of Black-vented Shearwaters off the Palos Verdes peninsula, Los Angeles County, CA back in September 2001. Quite naturally, with no other documented records from California or the Pacific, the record was rejected by the CBRC. The second, again a multi-observer record, was discovered on the BBC dedicated pelagic aboard the Helen H about 77 miles south of Martha's Vineyard. This bird was seen by all on board and photographed reasonably well. Some of my digi-bin shots can be seen here, and it's already been accepted by MARC constituting the 4th state record.

During late May 2011 I finally had an opportunity to travel south to North Carolina with my good friend Brian Kane to take part in the famous pelagics trips organized and led by Brian Patteson off Cape Hatteras. As might be expected, the trips were well organized and very professionally led. The boat, the Stormy Petrel II, left the dock at about 0530hrs and returned at around 1630hrs. We were scheduled for three consecutive days, but the first on May 24th was 'weathered out' due to high winds. My friend Brian had to miss the third trip on May 26th due to an unexpected stomach issue which may have been a nasty case of Cliff Bar revenge, though we'll never know for sure. Either way, it was disappointing to see him missing a pelagic trip especially since he'd done most of the organization of our tour as a whole. His absence was certainly felt that day, though fortunately for him he did get to see arguably the best bird of the two trips that we completed - a White-tailed Tropicbird on May 25th. On a personal level, the only disappointment or perhaps frustration, was watching a smallish, compact pterodroma with dark underwings tanking across the horizon at an incredible speed with fast, high arcs interspersed with fast glides - very exciting, but well beyond an acceptable level of identification. However, I do think there's a very good chance that this bird was a Fea's/Zino's Petrel, now being recorded annually off Hatteras thanks to Brian Patteson and his extensive Seabirding Pelagic Trips.

Black-capped Petrels are virtually guaranteed on Brian Patteson's excursions in late May and June and we were not disappointed. Over May 25th and 26th, we probably saw over 100 individuals with the most on the 25th. The following image selection shows a variety of individuals ranging from dark-types to really quite light birds, with some in various states of molt. All of these record shots were taken with a Canon Powershot A560 through Leica 8 x 42 binoculars over May 25th and 26th, 2011.

Black-capped Petrel with Wilson's Storm-petrel

Thursday, June 16, 2011

AZ - Elegant Trogon - 07/24/10

Elegant Trogon - male, Upper Madera Canyon, Santa Cruz Co., AZ. July 24th, 2010. Another one from last year's Arizona tour with Birdfinders. Much sought-after in the canyons of SE Arizona - when a bird looks like this is it any surprise? After an extended search along the Vault Mine Trail in Upper Madera Canyon, this stunning male posed for minutes quite unconcerned by our presence.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

AZ - Violet-crowned Hummingbird - 07/26/10

Violet-crowned Hummingbird - Paton's yard, Patagonia, Santa Cruz Co., AZ. July 26th, 2010. This famous yard must surely be the most consistent spot in the US to see this spectacular hummer? We were treated to two or three individuals on this date, this one being 'digi-scoped' using a Canon Powershot A560 through a Swarovski HD spotting scope.

AZ - Varied Bunting - 07/27/10

Varied Bunting - male, Kino Springs, Santa Cruz Co., AZ. July 27th, 2010. Another beauty from the Birdfinders' Arizona folder last year. This unusually approachable male was singing just a few miles from the border with Mexico at Kino Springs.'Digi-scoped' using a Canon Poweshot A560 through a Swarovski HD spotting scope.

AZ - White-eared Hummingbird - 07/28/10

White-eared Hummingbird - male, Beatty's Guest Ranch, Miller Canyon, Cochise Co., AZ. July 28th, 2010. With thoughts turning towards a forthcoming Arizona trip in late July, I came across these images of a smart male White-eared Hummingbird in my folder from last year's Birdfinders tour. I guess time just ran out on me to post them, but better late than never! The carefully placed feeders on Tom Beatty's property in beautiful Miller Canyon provide a unique opportunity to see some incredibly rare hummingbirds - this White-eared Hummingbird is an ABA Code 3 species and was 'digi-scoped' using a Canon Powershot A560 through a Swarovski HD spotting scope.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

MA - yard Blue-winged - 05/30

Blue-winged Warbler - singing male, Gill yard, Franklin Co., MA. May 30th, 2011.

Blue-winged Warbler
has long been a favorite wood-warbler of mine, so it's quite a treat to have this male holding territory, and very likely nesting, right in the yard. He was most vocal in the last few days of May and although song has subsided a little in June, recent behavior suggests that it might be paired and nesting in the Alder thicket lining the brook that runs through our yard.
Hopefully, I'll have more to report on this later in June.