Thursday, July 30, 2015

MA - Great Egrets aplenty

This morning I made a casual check of Barton Cove from the Turner's Falls side of the Connecticut River. Water levels (controlled) were nice and low and it seemed more than reasonable to hope for a few shorebirds. Alas no shorebirds could be found but that was more than compensated for by an actual flock of Great Egrets! Although late summer Great Egret sightings are not rare in Turner's Falls, all of my observations in recent years have been of singles so to have a flock of six was almost too good to be true! The birds spent time on the Turner's Falls side of the Connecticut River before a dog walker flushed them over to the Gill side where they landed on a fully exposed sand bar. It should be interesting to see how long they stick around, if at all.

Great Egrets - Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. July 30th, 2015.
First time I've seen an actual 'flock' of Great Egrets in Franklin County!

Also of interest this morning, several Yellow Warblers moving south over Barton Cove and at least 100 Chimney Swifts hawking of the residential areas of Turner's Falls.

Monday, July 27, 2015

MA - hello autumn

Signs of autumn are not always that easy to detect in my corner of the Pioneer Valley but one of the strongest indicators is the appearance of Yellow Warblers as they filter through the trees and bushes bordering the many fields in our area. I first noted them on July 9th and they've been a regular feature ever since most easily detected by their 'buzzy' flight calls. This is more likely to be post-breeding dispersal rather than true migration but the appearance of Yellow Warblers has always marked the tail end of the breeding season and the beginning of autumn migration for me.

Throughout June and into July, I had regularly seen single Green Herons flying back and forth over North Cross Road in Gill, quite scarce in the Gill area, and I strongly suspected that they were breeding locally. On Friday morning I had a high-flying small heron over North Cross road but this bird behaved differently gaining height and then flying around in at least four loops. It was a Green Heron but my photos revealed it to be a pristine plumaged juvenile, most likely relatively recently fledged and no doubt a result of local breeding.

Green Heron - juvenile, North Cross Road, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. July 24th, 2015.

Nowadays I see very few migrant shorebirds locally, so it was nice to come across two adult Least Sandpipers this morning (07/27) foraging at the edge of the Oxbow Marina in Northampton. These were certain migrants but 3-4 Spotted Sandpipers close by may have been local breeders. Hopefully I'll be blogging about more local shorebirds in the weeks to come. 

 Least Sandpipers - adults, Oxbow Marina, Northampton, Hampshire Co., MA. July 27th, 2015.

 Spotted Sandpiper - Oxbow Marina, Northampton, Hampshire Co., MA. July 27th, 2015.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

MA - Gloucester Whale Watch 07/25

Yesterday morning Brian Kane and I left Western Mass early to arrive at Cape Ann at 07:30hrs. Feeling the need to get out onto the ocean, we'd booked an outing with 7 Seven Seas Whale Watch, the first time we'd used this particular outfit. Conditions were perfect with overcast skies and a good northerly breeze keeping temperatures low and comfortable.

Humpback Whale - Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MA. July 25th, 2015.

It was a fabulous trip with plenty to see. We ended up at the SE corner of the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary where we treated to an amazing Humpback Whale that persistently breached around the boat for minutes on end.

Pelagic highlights included modest numbers of Great and Sooty Shearwaters, and my personal favorite, Cory's Shearwater which we saw throughout the day, and we saw them very well indeed. All of the Cory's identified to sub-species appeared to be borealis. Otherwise, just a smattering of Wilson's Storm-petrels and two Manx Shearwaters, along with a few Common Terns and Northern Gannets.

Cory's Shearwaters - five different individuals  showing characteristics of  C. d. borealis, Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MA. July 25th, 2015.

 Great Shearwaters - Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MA. July 25th, 2015.

Sooty Shearwaters Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MA. July 25th, 2015.

A few heart-pounding moments as Brian spotted something large, black and white sitting on the ocean as we steamed at speed toward the northern end of Stellwagen Bank - heart-pounding because we were both aware that an albatross sp. had been seen near Stellwagen Bank on July 12th. The ride out was so bouncy that it took these photos for us to be sure that we had been looking at an immature Northern Gannet!

 Wilson's Storm-petrels Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MA. July 25th, 2015.
Not a great day for looking at these with very few close to the boat, but nice to have them around all the same.

White-winged Scoter - adult male, Gloucester Harbor, MA. July 25th, 2015.
Very nice to see and not on my 'radar' for the day. 

Brian Kane in action Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary, MA. July 25th, 2015.
He never stopped looking all day!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

MA - cuckoos, swallows and a bear!

Mid-summer blog entries have been precious few lately but it's also perhaps my least active time of year for local birding. However, a few birds have caught my attention and there's certainly been plenty to see.  A Black-billed Cuckoo showed well in a roadside tree on Boyle Road, Gill yesterday (07/21) and I was surprised to hear one still singing as late as July 12th on North Cross Road, Gill. Cliff Swallows have showed up in a couple of less than expected spots recently with one over North Cross Road, Gill on June 22nd and  2-3 together over Newton Brook, Vernon, VT on July 18th. I only rarely encounter Cliff Swallows locally, most frequently at Barton Cove, Gill.

Fish Crows continue to turn up in family groups and this morning (07/22) I had one such group on Turner's Falls Road near the intersection with Edward Ave. I had another group down at Depot Street, Turner's Falls last week where there was also an immature Orchard Oriole.

Many species are still vocal despite the overwhelming sense that autumn is fast approaching. In particular, Indigo Buntings seem abundant in Gill while Winter Wrens have been surprisingly vocal recently on the wooded streams in Gill and Field Sparrows singing aplenty from the tree farms in the area.

Most of these observations have been made during my frequent bike rides in the area and last Sunday I had an early morning encounter with a youngish Black Bear that crossed West Gill Road just in front of me. It was all over seconds but luckily, it left some nice fresh, wet foot prints for me to record using my iphone. I'm always thrilled to find a bear in my local area and sadly see far fewer than I'd like.

Black Bear - fresh prints, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. July 19th, 2015. 
Photographed immediately after Black Bear crossed road at 06:40 am.