Thursday, January 3, 2013

VT - POCHARD to Gyrfalcon 01/02

A narrow time window saw me leaving Gill at 04:30hrs and head off for Lake Champlain in Addison County, Vermont. My motivation was a Common Pochard found the day before by Ron Payne and Ian Worley, subsequently identified from images by Jeremiah Trimble. Despite living in New England for almost ten years, I'd never heard mention of a Common Pochard turning up in any of the New England states. Moreover, I'd always been intrigued by the reports of large gatherings of diving ducks on Lake Champlain in the winter and so, with a male Tufted Duck as additional motivation, I headed north-west into Vermont with lots of anticipation for a great morning of birding. As it happened, the day eventually turned out to be a bit more chaotic than anticipated but was incredibly rewarding by day's end. 

My log of events unfolded as follows;

03:30hrs - Feeling restless, get up much earlier than planned.

04:30hrs - Scrape ice off car and head for Vermont.

07:15hrs - Drive through blizzards on Rt 125 via west Bridport, Addison County but encouraged to see flocks of Snow Buntings and some Lapland Longpsurs flying up from the edge of the road. Probably about 100 Snow Buntings and 7 Lapland Longspurs in total.

07:35hrs - Arrive at Chimney Point and find parking. Surprised to see only one other birder (Jim Mead) gearing up to go out. Heart sinks as most of the lake appears to be completely frozen!

07:45hrs - Jim finds large numbers of diving ducks concentrated in one ice-free area north of Champlain Bridge/Chimney Point. Viewing conditions difficult as snow continues.

Looking north from Champlain Bridge. 
From the outset, distance, cold and snow showers would make bird finding here challenging to say the least!

08:03hrs - Common Pochard found as poor weather hampers observation and digi-scoping attempts.  Bird is visible intermittently for the next 90 minutes or so. Impressive numbers of ducks foraging, though distant, but certainly thousands of birds involved - a real birding spectacle. 

Common Pochard (right) - male with Common Goldeneyes. Champlain Bridge/Chimney Point, Addison County, VT. January 2nd, 2013.

The Common Pochard inspires a modest 'twitch'. Birders looking north from Champlain Bridge. 

Common Pochard (center) - male, Champlain Bridge/Chimney Point, Addison County, VT. January 2nd, 2013.

09:25hrs - First sightings of male Tufted Duck feeding close to male and female Barrow's Goldeneyes. First-cycle Glaucous Gull present too.

Tufted Duck (center) - male just behind Ring-billed Gull, Champlain Bridge/Chimney Point, Addison County, VT. January 2nd, 2013.

09:45hrs - Snow becomes heavy, visibility decreases. Decide to call it a morning, but feel extremely pleased with the waterfowl viewing; Mallard, Black Duck, Northern Pintail (1 f), Gadwall ( 2 m), Common Pochard (1 m), Ring-necked Duck (2m), Tufted Duck (1 m), Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, White-winged Scoter (1 f), Common Goldeneye, Barrow's Goldeneye (2), and Common Merganser.

White-winged Scoter - female, Champlain Bridge/Chimney Point, Addison County, VT. January 2nd, 2013. 
Further rewards for diligently searching through the huge flocks. 

 Champlain Bridge/Chimney Point, Addison County, VT. January 2nd, 2013. Small portion of a real spectacle!

10:00hrs - Begin driving south through snow flurries finding a really smart dark-morph Rough-legged Hawk by the road (22A) in Shoreham.

Rough-legged Hawk (dark-morph) - Rt 22A, Shoreham, Addison County, VT. January 2nd, 2013.

12:15hrs - Susannah calls. Matan is sick and needs to be picked up from school.

13:00hrs - Arrive home with Matan. Red-breasted Nuthatch calling from the maples in the yard. Notice report of Gyrfalcon forwarded to Massbird from Jan 1st - try not to think about it too much!

14:30hrs - arrive at Umass-Amherst Health Services with Matan. Pine Grosbeak calling in the parking lot!

15:45hrs - Matan diagnosed with ear infection. Off to Greenfield to pick up meds.

16:00hrs - Swing by Hadley Honey Pot on way to I-91. Amazed to see light gray morph Gyrfalcon teed up in small copse north of Cemetery Road! Matan has life Gyr through scope from roadside. Suddenly become aware of other birders in area - unknown to me, the Gyr had been sought and seen by birders throughout most of the afternoon!

Gyrfalcon - probably first-winter, Hadley Honey Pot, Hampshire County, MA. January 2nd, 2013.

17:30hrs - Arrive home in Gill with Matan's meds. All is well. Incredible day!!!