Thursday, November 17, 2022

MA - a Rufous Hummingbird in Millers Falls


Rufous Hummingbird - Millers Falls, Franklin Co. MA. November 11th, 2022. 

Found by Bruce Kanash at his home, ID ultimately verified by Master bander Anthony Hill. 

November 10th was warm and breezy with winds in the southern quarter. Since I hadn't been out to the Quabbin for a few weeks I thought I'd give it a try feeling open minded but not overly optimistic. On arrival at Gate 35 a chance encounter with Jeff Johnstone ultimately led to an encounter with a Rufous Hummingbird in Millers Falls later the same morning! A Selaphorus hummingbird had been coming to a feeder at a residence close to Millers Falls center. As it turned out, Jeff and the home owner, Bruce Kanash, had been friends for years. Bruce had first noted the hummingbird at his feeders on October 8th and kudos to Jeff, together with Ernie LeBlanc and Bruce, who identified it as a Rufous/Allen's on November 8th. 

Rufous Hummingbird - Millers Falls, Franklin Co. MA. November 11th, 2022. 

Found by Bruce Kanash at his home, ID ultimately verified by Master bander Anthony Hill. 

Quite naturally I was interested in taking a look at such a rarity, especially since I pass through Millers Falls almost every day and Bruce's house happened to be on one of my regular biking riding routes! Bruce was extremely generous with his time which was fortunate because the bird itself proved to be rather skittish. In the event, I visited on Nov 10th and 11th but never saw the hummingbird whilst standing outside. At the time, it could only be viewed from inside Bruce's home but thanks to Bruce I managed nice views on both days and secured some shots of the spread tail on Nov 11th. Certainly the images of the spread tail showed a moderate notch in R2 pointing towards a Rufous Hummingbird and I messaged Bruce with my suspicions. A few days later, on the 14th, Bruce was courteous enough to call and let me know that Anthony Hill had just successfully caught and banded the bird and identified it as hatching-year Rufous. Moreover, the bird was in good condition weighing in at 4 grams and returned to the feeders straight after banding! As the weather worsens and night time temperatures drop to well below freezing, it should certainly be interesting to see how long the hummer sticks around at Bruce's home. On a personal level, I'm extremely grateful to Bruce for sharing his hummingbird, and his hospitality.  

Around 45 confirmed records of Rufous Hummingbird currently exist for Massachusetts with others pending. However, reports from Franklin County appear to be exceedingly rare with only one other verified record to date, a single bird that came to a feeder in Ashfield in Nov/Dec 2004. 

Red-throated Loons (3) - Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club, Franklin Co., MA. November 16th, 2022.

Red-necked Grebe (juvenile) - Lake Mattawa, Franklin Co., MA. November 16th, 2022.

November in the Pioneer Valley often has a treat or two in store aside from rarities. After a fairly low key migration of waterfowl through our area it was good to finally see some Red-throated Loons in Turner's Falls on the 16th, part of a mini fall-out and a result of inclement weather, with a wider spread arrival of Red-throated Loons in southern Vermont and the Berkshires. Many of these, much like the Turner's loons, moved on quickly as the weather conditions eased somewhat during mid-morning. The same day also saw 13 Buffleheads and a Surf Scoter (immature male) at Turner's Falls and a Red-necked Grebe at Lake Mattawa. 

In terms of passerines, well this does seem to have been a very good month locally for Winter Wrens with multiple sightings at Northfield (Caldwell Road), Gill (North Cross Road), Barton Cove, Turner's Falls and Montague at the very least. It's not a rare species but numbers of fall migrants do appear to fluctuate from year to year, and this seems to be a good late fall period for them.

Winter Wren - Barton Cove, Gill, Franklin Co., MA. November 17th. 2022.

Snow Buntings - Turner's Falls Rod and Gun club, Franklin Co., MA. November 16th, 2022.
Six in total and nice to see a few on the ground instead of the usual flyovers!

Barred Owl - with prey, possibly Eastern Chipmunk. Northfield, Franklin Co., MA. November 13th, 2022. 
Good numbers of Barred Owls in Gill/Northfield/Bernardston this fall including, sadly, several road killed on I-91 and Rt 10. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

MA - a Purple Gallinule in Longmeadow


Purple Gallinule (juvenile) - Longmeadow Flats. Hampden Co., MA. October 25th, 2022.

Late October often brings a really good, memorable bird to the Pioneer Valley and this year was no exception gifting a Purple Gallinule to the Fannie Stebbins Refuge at Longmeadow Flats. This fascinating record first came to light when Jean Langevin drew attention to it via Facebook on the Western Mass Photographers page. Though aloof at times it lingered for the best part of a week at one of the most heavily used public spots on the refuge allowing dozens of birders to catch up with this genuinely rare bird for the Pioneer Valley. It was juvenile much like a previous record from the same location and on remarkably similar dates, October 24th and 25th, 1978! I don't do a lot of bird chasing to the lower Pioneer Valley but the gallinule had some appeal and I managed to squeeze in ten minutes with the bird at the public gazebo on Pondside Road on October 25th. Having seen quite a few Purple Gallinules over the years, most recently on visits to Central America, I don't recall any of those birds being quite so fearless and showy as this smart, personable juvenile - I'm glad I made the trip!

Over the years we've had late October vagrants from all the points of the compass, some being state level rarities while others occur annually in coastal Massachusetts but are notably rare in the interior part of the state, for example the Purple Sandpiper found by Ted Gilliland at Holyoke Dam on Oct 30th, 2020. From the far west, the Pacific-slope Flycatcher in Hadley stood out as being exceptional. First found by Joe Olivero on Oct 23rd, 2019, this bright empid was courteous enough to stick around for over a month allowing hundreds of birders to catch up with an exciting state first. Another obliging flycatcher, a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, was found by Jeff Johnstone on Oct 22nd, 2009 at Orange Airport and stayed for several days to the delight of many, including me! And October 26th, 2011 brought a Pink-footed Goose to Turner's Falls. At the time it was only the fourth state record but of course that species has become much more frequent in Massachusetts since. 

Pacific-slope Flycatcher - Huntington Road, Hadley, Hampshire Co., MA. Nov 2019. 

New to Massachusetts found by Joe Olivero on Oct 23rd, 2019. 


Scissor-tailed Flycatcher - Orange Airport, Franklin Co., MA. October 22nd, 2009.  

Pink-footed Goose - Turner's Falls Power Canal, Franklin Co., MA. October 26th, 2011. 

The fourth record for Massachusetts. 


Purple Gallinule (juvenile) - Longmeadow Flats. Hampden Co., MA. October 25th, 2022.
First noted by Jean Langevin on October 21st, 2022.