Thursday, January 28, 2021

MA - Golden Eagle and other raptors in Buckland

Golden Eagle - juvenile, Buckland, Franklin Co., MA. January 27th, 2021.
At rest, quite a few things stood out on this bird, most strikingly the stark white tail with black tip, the uniform dark brown upperparts lacking any pale on the wing coverts or scapulars, and the light colored, golden-brown nape and crown. Perched fairly low with aesthetic proportions, and without other species close-by for comparison, it did not give the impression of being an especially large raptor at rest .  

As winter begins to tighten its grip on Western Massachusetts, fresh snow falls and this weekend's forecast for an Arctic blast have brought an abrupt end to the relatively calm, mild  days experienced in mid-January. While it may be pure coincidence, raptors and owls have become increasingly evident in Franklin County over the last week or so and yesterday afternoon, after dropping Matan for snowboarding at Berkshire East near Charlemont, I came across this stunning juvenile Golden Eagle

Golden Eagle - juvenile, Buckland, Franklin Co., MA. January 27th, 2021.

Bald Eagle (immature) and Golden Eagle  (juvenile) - Buckland, Franklin Co., MA. January 27th, 2021.

Initially found resting on a low beam, thanks mainly due to a couple of mobbing Common Ravens, it somehow managed to slip away unnoticed and I actually lost touch with it for a little while. Twenty minutes later I was back in business as it soared majestically above the tree tops drifting over the Buckland side of the Deerfield River. At one point it sparred with an immature Bald Eagle, a bird that I'd seen perched by the river a little while earlier. The Golden Eagle appeared several more times over the course of the next 90 minutes and remained active quite late into the evening until I last saw it drifting south towards Ashfield at 16:45 hours. 

Bald Eagle - immature, Deerfield River,  Charlemont, Franklin Co., MA. January 27th, 2021.

Bald Eagle - Deerfield River,  Charlemont, Franklin Co., MA. January 27th, 2021.
The last raptor of the day and still in the air at 16:50 hours.

Golden Eagle is not a common bird in Franklin County. Looking back on my records, I've had very little luck with the species and I believe this is only the third that I've seen in the county since 2005! Fortunately, I've managed to photograph all three but yesterday's bird was especially sweet since it was a pristine juvenile, and in the air for some time. The same overlook by the Deerfield River seems to be becoming something of a sweet spot for raptors with Red-shouldered Hawk, Merlin, Cooper's and Sharp-shinned Hawks, as well the ubiquitous local Red-tailed Hawks and Bald Eagles, all being seen over the last two weeks including this close encounter with a Rough-legged Hawk on January 8th

Rural farmland - Buckland, Franklin Co., MA. January 26th, 2021.

Looking towards Buckland from the Deerfield River, Franklin Co., MA. January 26th, 2021.

Approximate location for the Deerfield River overlook along the Mohawk Trail (Rt 2).

It should be interesting to see if this young Golden Eagle sticks around or whether it was simply moving ahead of the extremely cold weather front forecast for the next  2 - 3 days. Still with the raptor theme I had good views of a Northern Harrier in Whately on the 26th, a species not especially easy to find in Franklin County in mid-winter . 

Northern Harrier - fem/imm, Whately, Franklin Co., MA. January 26th, 2021.

Harlequin Duck - Millers River, Erving, Franklin Co., MA. January 28th, 2021.
Though getting far less attention nowadays, the Harlequin continues to show well on the Millers River 
as does the Barrow's Goldeneye at the Turner's Falls power canal. 


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