Thursday, April 1, 2021

MA - White-winged Crossbills and an early Barn Swallow


White-winged Crossbill - female, Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., MA. April 1st, 2021.

The gradual warming trend experienced in the last few days of March came to an abrupt end this morning with sleet showers and a biting, blustery NW wind that remained in place all day. Indications of stalled migrants cropped up in many places with around 500 American Robins in the fields around Gill and a wide scatter of Eastern Phoebes searching for insects in the most sheltered nooks. Despite apparently favorable conditions, there was no obvious sign of a waterfowl arrival with 3 Lesser Scaup being the pick at Barton Cove. From there I headed (once more) for the Montague Plains and eventually found some Red Crossbills though they were quieter and fewer in number than in recent days. One flock was graced with an especially approachable female White-winged Crossbill and I must say it's fantastic to have these birds lingering into April. Other notables from the plains included nice daytime views of an American Woodcock and my first Palm Warbler of season, the nice bright yellow eastern form.

Red Crossbill - female, Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., MA. April 1st, 2021.

Barn Swallow - Barton Cove, Gill , Franklin Co., MA. April 1st, 2021. 

The raw, windy conditions persisted into early evening and a further check of Barton Cove produced a nice early Barn Swallow hawking around with seven or so Tree Swallows. With temperatures forecast to drop well below freezing tonight, I'm sure that bird will be shivering wherever it decides to roost! 

MA - March migration and yet more crossbills!


Bonaparte's Gulls - three of eight present, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. March 26th, 2021.

March 26th was one of those bigger migration days when warm conditions coupled with an occluded front brought rain, thunderstorms and a lot of avian action! Widespread arrivals of Eastern Phoebes and, to lesser degree, Tree Swallows occurred that day as well as 30 newly arrived Green-winged Teals at Barton Cove. Just upriver, Ted Gilliland was busy sorting through a smaller flock of 13 Green-winged Teal and ultimately found a nice example of the Eurasian sub-species, certainly the first that I've seen or even heard about in Franklin County! Later that day, eight Bonaparte's Gull graced Barton Cove, along with five (early) Double-crested Cormorants and a Common Loon in full breeding plumage. And....I would have loved to have seen the flock of five migrant Sandhill Cranes reported by Eric Huston migrating high over the cove a little earlier in the afternoon. Overall, that was a pretty decent haul of migrants for the 26th!

Bonaparte's Gulls - five of eight present, Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. March 26th, 2021.

Eurasian (Green-winged) Teal (left) - distant crop, taken from Barton Cove campground, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. March 26th, 2021.
Nice find by Ted Gilliland. First Franklin County record.

Barton Cove continued to host a fairly large flock of Ring-necked Ducks with over 100 present, often loafing around Barton Island and subsequently difficult to see at times. Up to two Lesser and seven Greater Scaup (on the 28th) were often present with or near the Ring-necked Ducks

White-winged Crossbills - Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., MA. March 29th & 30th, 2021.

Red Crossbills - Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., MA. March 29th & 30th, 2021.

Fox Sparrows - three of five in the Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., MA. March 19th, 2021.

Field Sparrow - Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., MA. March 29th, 2021.

Waterbirds aside, the incursion of winter finch species continued to be a major attraction for me and over the last month or so I've been very drawn to the Montague Plains which continues to host large numbers of Red Crossbills, the numbers of which appear to fluctuate on a day-to-day basis as the birds roam, presumably in search of the most productive feeding spots. Red Crossbills peaked at a whopping 360 birds on March 25th, a day which also saw 55 Pine Siskins and over 200 Dark-eyed Juncos and the first local Pine Grosbeak that I've seen for weeks. The day before saw 22 White-winged Crossbills in the plains with smaller numbers continuing through to the end of the month including 17 on the 31st. The Montague Plains have also proven to be a good spot for migrant Fox Sparrows with up to five present on the 19th, and the first territorial Field Sparrows started to appear for another breeding season from March 28th. 

Red-shouldered Hawk - one of two first-summer birds over the Montague Plains WMA, Franklin Co., MA. March 30th, 2021.
These birds flew off to the NW together and behaved like migrants.

Ring-necked Ducks and Double-crested Cormorants - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. March 31st, 2021.
A fairly typical early spring spring scene. 

The last two days of the month saw increasingly warm temperatures with first Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers and Pine Warblers in the Montague Plains as well as some odd migrants such as two immature Red-shouldered Hawks and 5 Rusty Blackbirds on the 30th, and a Belted Kingfisher heading north on the 31st. The latter date also saw a late afternoon arrival of 17 Double-crested Cormorants at Barton Cove.