Sunday, December 16, 2007

Baldwinville/ Birch Hill WMA 12/15/2007 (Athol CBC)

Today's conditions were very fitting for a Christmas Count, cold 12f at dawn, a foot of new snow, beautiful winter scenery and winter finches!
My favorite place to begin this count is a small bluff that over looks a weedy marsh along the Otter River, that locals call the "back bay". Some years Canada Geese , Mallards and Black Ducks roost here, but with little open water there will be nothing with webbed feet in my area today! The first birds of the day, before dawn, are a few Song and dozens of American Tree Sparrows calling from the marsh. This area usually has a large flock of Tree Sparrows, being able to count or even estimate is difficult if they stay hunkerd down, but after sunrise I did see a large number flying just over the weeds, moving across the marsh, approx. 175!

The "back bay" at sunrise

Very little open water on the river

While keeping track of the sparrows, I heard a small flock of Common Redpolls and a few Evening Grosbeaks pass overhead..two distant Ravens are croaking. This is good! After bush-whacking along the edge of the marsh for an hour, I hear a few voices.... a few "hard core" duck hunters are out on the marsh. A few minutes later I hear more Redpolls then a big flock, a blizzard of birds, rises from the marsh over the trees and out of sight, I estimate approx. 250 birds by "blocking out" groups of 20, the largest group I've seen in over 10 years! This marsh contains a lot of seed bearing "weedy" plants to attract the usual sparrows and the Redpolls had joined in.

Some of the "back bay's" natural food

The next "good" bird is a Northern Shrike flying over the marsh and then perching atop a maple tree on the far side of the marsh. A few hours later I'll this (presumably the same) bird again, its an immature. The next good birds will be a small flock of 5 Eastern Bluebirds, not a common winter bird in this area, and a first (for this sector) since I began covering this area in 1993. I am unable to flush a grouse, in a usually reliable area and continue back to where I parked, but seeing I will be birding on foot nearly the whole day there is still hope. one of 5 Eastern Bluebirds, catching some early sunshine!

Another first for my area is a Hermit Thrush that responded well to my screech owl imitation, and it cooperates for a photo!

A cooperative Hermit Thrush

I am able to track down a few distant calls of Pine Grosbeaks to a crab apple tree on Memorial Street, this group of 20+ birds has a few adult males (see below). Some leave the tree and begin to gather grit at the end of the street and eventually 18 fly off and 12 stay behind in the tree. Male Pine Grosbeak working the fruit

Not to be completely out done, 45 minutes later, I find "the other" grosbeak, 2 dozen Evening Grosbeaks (a few streets over) in a maple tree and working a few nearby feeding stations. I got a few photos below.
A nice male Evening Grosbeak in a maple tree

Male and 2 female Evening grosbeaks

I finished birding the Baldwinville village area , 6 miles in 5 1/2 hours on foot, about noon and then hit a few spots from the car before heading up to the Birch hill area to snowshoe. I had 32 species on the "books", which is quite good for this area considering a complete lack of waterfowl! Adding new species in the afternoon will prove difficult, most of the roads in the WMA are now gated off and become snowmobile highways for the winter. I do "spish" in pods of Black-capped Chickadees, Red and White-breasted Nuthatches, an occasional Brown Creeper a few more Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers. The high lights from this area are 2 Ruffed Grouse and having a nice look a flock of 22 Common Redpolls eating birch catkins.

Hey, some one's gotta test the ice! (Lake Dennison)

Today's list:
Ruffed Grouse...2
Red-tailed Hawk...1
Rock Pigeon...14
Mourning Dove...3
Downy Woodpecker...12
Hairy Woodpecker...4
Northern Shrike...1
Blue Jay...58
American Crow...17
Common Raven...2
Black-capped Chickadee...127
Tufted Titmouse...11
Red-breasted Nuthatch...9
White-breasted Nuthatch...17
Brown Creeper...4
Carolina Wren...1
Eastern Bluebird...5
Hermit Thrush...1
American Robin...19
Northern Mockingbird...3
European Starling...2
Cedar Waxwing...120
American Tree Sparrow...193
Song Sparrow...15
White-throated Sparrow...2
Dark-eyed Junco...44
Northern Cardinal...13
Pine Grosbeak...30
House Finch...15
Common Redpoll...272
American Goldfinch...53
Evening Grosbeak...29
House Sparrow...


Larry said...

Holy smokes Tom! You are seeing some birds that I would really like to see such as the Grosbeaks and Redpolls.-I may take a ride in to Mass Christmas week unless more irruptive birds move in to CT by then.-Nice job getting photos too!

Anonymous said...

Tom, what a great CBC list! 272 Redpolls! Really nice photos too.

Tom Pirro said...

Thanks, this was a very good day. I wish big flock of redpolls had been perched and allowed study for a possible Hoary Redpoll...maybe another day. Larry email me if you end up coming this way to bird this winter.

Larry said...

O.K.-I may do that-thanks.

Tom Pirro said...

Also, Larry every one of the 8 teams doing the Westminster CBC had some Pine Grosbeaks, ranging from one group seeing 82 to a few groups that just had a few. Also, if you look at massbird, the Bohemian Waxwings hit Massachusetts in force yesterday with ~700 on the Cape CBC. One group on the Westminster CBC had a single bird, around the corner from my house.