Saturday, April 26, 2008

Westminster Birds 4/26/08

Even though I haven't written much here recently, I have been birding a lot locally. I wanted to extend my human powered birding range ,so last week a bought a Trek mountain bike so I have been peddling around town.
One of the benifits of birding from the bike is that it gives one an excuse to stop on uphill climbs! Rather than looking like a complete "wuss" you can rationalize, that sounded like a Ruffed Grouse (actually it just my pulse rate going through the roof) stop, scan and look like you have a purpose and of course rest. But, seriously this is a great way to bird locally and not miss too much while in route from one place to another.

The spill way of Round Meadow Pond, in Westminster, this morning

This morning I biked just under 17 miles between 6:00 and 10:15 AM to Trophet Swamp and then up to High Ridge Wildlife Management Area. I struck out on marsh birds at Trophet and High Ridge, warbler activity was sparse but the numbers of White-throated Sparrows and House Wrens are on the increase. Purple Finches continue to show very well in the area, with several pockets of 4-10 birds, many are feeding on the flowering maples.

A Red-bellied Woodpecker has been territorial not far from my apartment

High Ridge was a busy place this morning, the radio controled aircraft folks were flying their aircraft, a "missing persons" drill was starting up about 9AM and retreiver field trials were in process, complete with live gun fire.

Yellow-rumped Warbler from Overlook Road in Westminster

Hilights included a fly over Merlin that was quickly swarmed by Tree Swallows and my first Black-throated Green Warbler of the year. I have still yet to come up with an Evening Grosbeak for the year, much of my winter was spent concentrating on moving and I haven't really targeted this species.

Hairy Woodpecker recent digi-binned from my yard
Currently my human powered year list stands at 92 species (88 which I've seen or heard in April) and as spring progesses I should be able to add a good deal of birds to this list.

This moring's list:
Canada Goose...22
Wood Duck...5
Hooded Merganser...4
Double-crested Cormorant...5
Great Blue Heron...1
Broad-winged Hawk...1
Rock Pigeon...4
Mourning Dove...10
Belted Kingfisher...2
Red-bellied Woodpecker...1
Downy Woodpecker...5
Hairy Woodpecker...4
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)...3
Pileated Woodpecker...1
Eastern Phoebe...4
Blue-headed Vireo...6
Blue Jay...32
American Crow...12
Tree Swallow...41
Black-capped Chickadee...45
Tufted Titmouse...26
Red-breasted Nuthatch...1
White-breasted Nuthatch...9
Brown Creeper...2
House Wren...3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet...1
Eastern Bluebird...2
American Robin...79
European Starling...16
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)...11
Black-throated Green Warbler...1
Pine Warbler...5
Palm Warbler (Yellow)...1
Eastern Towhee...2
Chipping Sparrow...59
Song Sparrow...23
Swamp Sparrow...9
White-throated Sparrow...14
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)...1
Northern Cardinal...14
Red-winged Blackbird...40
Common Grackle...50
Brown-headed Cowbird...11
Purple Finch...34
House Finch...14
American Goldfinch...20
House Sparrow...29

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Bohemian Waxwings 4/7 and 4/8

Most birders, in New England, know we are in the mist of one of the, perhaps THE, best Bohemian Waxwing invasion in recorded history for Massachusetts. There was the huge numbers reported from Cape Ann and Cape Cod during the later half of the Christmas Bird Count period, but then they sort of evaporated! In past few weeks they've reemerged and appear to be wide spread across the state.

Sunday morning Chuck Caron found a flock of 122 in Fitchburg at the junction of Rtes 2A and 31, which happens to be only 3 miles from my apartment and right on my commute to work. I missed them on the drive Monday morning, but about 3 mile further on Rte 2A I saw a flock of 42, and one Cedar, right down town. On my return trip I found "Chuck's" birds, about 120, gorging on crabapples in front of a printing company(Boutwell-Ownes) at 31/2A junction.

When I got home I thought of walking back, to add them to my human powered bird list for 2008. It being late in the day I decided against it and went for a walk in the neighborhood. Not 50 feet from the end of my drive way I could sworn I heard a Bohemian call...but it was very windy. Then again....and they were... 3 BOWA's right in front of. I proceeded back in the yard, to add them the yard list, and continued with the walk!

Below are some digi-bin photos from this morning, they were still in front of Boutwell-Owens in Fitchburg. While I was taking a walk during my break at work, this morning, 7 flew overhead calling in Groton, Ma.

"bottom feeding"

Perty sleek looking

Ready to swallow
Striking a rather portly pose and looking more like a penguin, but ready to pack another one down"!
Down it goes!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Keene to Charlestown, NH 4/5

Late afternoon I spent some time looking for waterfowl in Keene and then along the Connecticut River Valley in the towns of Westmoreland, Walpole, North Walpole and Charlestown.

The semi flooded corn fields on Krif Road, in Keene, provided a nice variety of puddle ducks and Wilson's Snipe. Many of the birds were relatively close to the road so the view of these birds was quite nice, such as the snipe and Blue-winged Teal below.

Wilson's Snipe at rest along Krif Road in Keene
Drake Blue-winged Teal in Keene

Birds seen and heard from Krif Road:

Canada Goose 22
Wood Duck 3
American Black Duck 4
Mallard 84
Blue-winged Teal 1
Northern Pintail 1
Green-winged Teal 6
Turkey Vulture 4
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Killdeer 5
Wilson's Snipe 17
Ring-billed Gull 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Eastern Phoebe 1
American Crow 25
Black-capped Chickadee 3
American Robin 10
European Starling 5
Red-winged Blackbird 3
Common Grackle 25
Brown-headed Cowbird 1

The next stop was in Westmoreland, along Chickering Road, the dairy farmer has done a nice job of spreading manure on his fields. In the past this is done while there is still snow on the ground and it attracts excellent numbers of ground birds such as Horned Lark and Snow Bunting. There was little snow cover on this field, making finds flocks of these birds difficult.

While I was looking through the geese, a handsome Northern Harrier passed, zigging and zagging over the field. If I had ever seen this many Horned Larks at once before, I can't remember, but had I ever seen that many, I guess I would have. I estimated at least 1500 larks flying about until the harrier moved on, I was able to pick at least 2 Snow Buntings as well. There was a nice variety of waterfowl including 47 Snow Geese.

Birds seen in Westmoreland:
Snow Goose 47
Canada Goose 450
Wood Duck 8
American Black Duck 16
Mallard 60
Northern Harrier 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
American Kestrel 1
Killdeer 12
Rock Pigeon 15
American Crow 100
Horned Lark 1500
American Robin 300
European Starling 50
Song Sparrow 1
Snow Bunting 2
Red-winged Blackbird 100
Common Grackle 50

Along North River Road in Walpole was more waterfowl, including over 60 Wood Ducks at one stop near a horse farm.

The Walpole List:
Snow Goose 3
Canada Goose 56
Wood Duck 76
American Black Duck 22
Mallard 56
Green-winged Teal 2
Killdeer 6
Mourning Dove 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
American Crow 4
Black-capped Chickadee 1
Tufted Titmouse 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
American Robin 562
European Starling 25
Song Sparrow 3
Red-winged Blackbird 100
Common Grackle 56
Brown-headed Cowbird 20

As I passed through North Walpole I notice 2 small fruit trees in a front yard and next door was a small flock of Bohemian Waxwings. I parked across the street, at the North Walpole Fire/Police station/Public Library (all in the same small building) to get a better look. A few of the waxwings landed in the fruit tree and I got a few digi-bin shots. Something spooked the birds and they headed toward me, I kid you not...I was nearly hit the face by them as I literally felt the breeze from their wings as they wizzed past, within a foot of my head!

Bohemian Waxwings in North Walpole

N. Walpole list:
Canada Goose 135
Wood Duck 25
American Black Duck 10
Mallard 90
Killdeer 6
Horned Lark 90
Bohemian Waxwing 8

Continuing north to Charlestown where big numbers of waterfowl have been reported recently, I was hoping for perhaps a Cackling Goose or some other fancy fowl. That would not be the case, but there was certainly good numbers of Canada Geese, a few Snows (including one Blue form of the Snow Goose), lots of Mallards and other dabblers. One oddly plumaged Canada Goose was present, having a normal neck and head but with a frosty white body (see the digi-scope photo below). There were a few mergansers along the river and I had a nice view of a River Otter eating a fish on the edge of the ice.

Leusistic Canada Goose in Charlestown, NH

The Charlestown list:

Snow Goose 6
Canada Goose 1600
Wood Duck 30
American Wigeon 4
American Black Duck 20
Mallard 125
Northern Pintail 1
Green-winged Teal 6
Hooded Merganser 14
Common Merganser 12
Great Blue Heron 3
Turkey Vulture 2
American Kestrel 1
Killdeer 6
Ring-billed Gull 20
Mourning Dove 1
American Crow 10
Common Raven 1
Horned Lark 20
American Robin 50
European Starling 25
Song Sparrow 5
Red-winged Blackbird 25
Common Grackle 25
Brown-headed Cowbird 1
House Sparrow 5

Sun-set along the Conn. River in Charlestown, NH.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Bolton Flats 4/03

Dirt road along the north side of Rte 117, along Bolton Flats

I had a nice walk at Bolton Flats located, in Bolton and Lancaster, Ma., the evening of 4/3. With recent rains and spring snow melt the "flats", a series of wetlands and corn fields along the Nashua River are partially flooded. This is one of the best locales for spring waterfowl and shorebirds in Worcester County, shin high boots are helpfull...hip boots even better!
Just on the south side of Rte 117 I counted nearly 200 Wood Ducks in one small area, I am convinced there were many more hidden in the portions of uncut corn stalks....quite a sight. Along with the Woodies were many Mallards, a few Black Ducks, 50+ Green-winged Teal, a dozen Northern Pintails and a pair of American Wigeon. I flushed an American Woodcock and saw a single Wilson's Snipe near the woodies.
On the north side of Rte 117, I had expected to see more Snipe, I saw none but a single of each Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs was very nice! Many Killdeer were moving about and calling and more Green-winged Teal were in the lower portions of the field. My first Blue-winged Teal of the year were nearly hidden behind thick brush as were a few Ring-necked Ducks in deeper water. I never made it into the pond, which is well hidden by brush and difficult to get to without hip boots....I had none and wanted to stay dry.
Steve Anderson was walking the dirt road and while we chatted, a Peregrine Falcon (which has been present for the past week or two) came "steaming" across the corn field causing a panic and took a quick swipe at a flushing American Robin. At first, I thought it caught one as something was dandling from its feet. This "item" did give an appearance of a thin piece of grass rather than a prey item. The bird perched, about 300-400 yards out, and fiddled with didn't seem to be eating. We scanned the area to see if a falconer might be in the area, as it occured to us this "dangling object" could be a jesse. With poor light and a distant bird we could not make out enough detail to solve the "mystery.

Looking west across the flooded corn field, nice spring waterfowl and shorebird habitat and not a bad sunset.

Attention was redirected to the Lesser Yellowlegs was "stretched" out in a horizontal posture trying to be "one with the water" and avoid being dinner. As Steve and I got back to the parking area, an other birder Chuck Johnson, had just seen the Peregrine perched close, but it took off before he could get his scope on it. The 3 of us chatted a bit and the Peregrine was seen again, this time passing directly overhead and low...and solving our mystery..while we didn't see the straps as it was nearly dark, were could hear the jiggling of bells coming from the passing bird ... and the erasing of Peregrine Falcon off my Worcester County year list.

The evening's bird list:
Canada Goose 40
Wood Duck 195
American Wigeon 2
American Black Duck 12
Mallard 125
Blue-winged Teal 3
Northern Pintail 12
Green-winged Teal (American) 120
Ring-necked Duck 2
Common Merganser 2
Great Blue Heron 1
Killdeer 20
Greater Yellowlegs 1
Lesser Yellowlegs 1
Wilson's Snipe 1
American Woodcock 2
Ring-billed Gull 15
Mourning Dove 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
American Crow 10
Tree Swallow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 3
Tufted Titmouse 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Eastern Bluebird 2
American Robin 75
American Tree Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 12
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 100
Common Grackle 2750
American Goldfinch 3