August 15th brought a cool, north-easterly airflow and a welcome end to a prolonged spell of heat and humidity. It really felt like fall had started and there were even small kettles of Turkey Vultures and Broad-winged Hawks, as well as a juvenile Merlin to be seen at Turner's Falls Airfield that day. The 16th was equally cool and comfortable and Hell's Kitchen supported a small but enticing selection of shorebirds including 5 Least and 1 Solitary Sandpiper, a Lesser Yellowlegs and at least 12 Killdeer. A post breeding flock of at least 15 Killdeer continued to linger at Turner's Falls Airfield as well.
But the real story revolved around the build up of several irruptive species throughout northern Franklin County, especially Red Crossbills. I've now heard and seen crossbills every day since July 31st. Sightings appear to be completely random and almost always involve flyovers will a general movement toward the SW. Flock sizes have not been large ranging from two to nine birds and actually involving quite a lot of singles. Since August 8th I've found them at numerous sites in Gill, plus Hell's Kitchen in Northfield, Millers Falls, Sunderland, Montague and Wendell. Sound recordings from about 15 observations and all have been identified as 'Type 10' by Tim Spahr and Matt Young after analysis of the 'kip-kip' flight calls. It's fantastic having these birds in our area, especially so early in the fall, and with no signs of the influx slowing down it seems that we have plenty to look forward to in the coming weeks.
Mid-August also produced an especially noteworthy wave of Red-breasted Nuthatches with small numbers and singles occurring just about anywhere, and larger concentrations at Hell's Kitchen (15+) and North Cross Road, Gill (7+) over the 16th and 17th, and Highland Park, Greenfield (16) on the 20th. Like the crossbills, I think we can look forward to more over the next few weeks with the potential for some quite spectacular movements and concentrations. By comparison, the SW movement of Purple Finches over Gill and Northfield has been more subtle involving fewer birds and they have not been daily. However, the indications are there for a stronger passage in late August and into September.
Gadwall - eclipse male, Unity Park, Turner's Falls, Franklin Co., MA. August 13th, 2015.
Historical image of what is presumably the same male back for another summer in 2020!
Ruby-throated Hummingbirds have graced our garden feeders in Northfield with up to eight in the yard at any one time, and on the 18th I noted four individual hummingbirds moving low over the water at Barton Cove heading in SW direction - those could well have been migrants. Barton Cove has also hosted several Great Egrets and, remarkably, what appears to be the same returning drake Gadwall back for another summer. It can usually be found loafing around with the Mallards off Unity Park and is likely to stick around for several weeks.