Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hiking, birding etc. November

Despite the fact I haven't posted in a long while, I have been birding a fair amount. Mostly local stuff and little in the department of "human powered birding" (I will post a summary around the 1st of year, but the species count is modest at best).

Pine Siskins had been quite common a month ago, but my observations have shown fewer in the past two weeks. Perhaps they have moved on and/or have "settled" into prime a feeding stations, away from were I have birded. The good news is White-winged Crossbills are showing up in good numbers with reports coming in from the Berkshires to the coast.
The ski season is open at Wachusett Mtn ski area, but I was still doing a bit of late season hawkwatching.

I managed some good local birds during November, while hawkwatching at Mount Watatic (Ashburnham) on the 1st, I was fortunate to "catch" a view of migrating Snowy Owl! It was in view for a few minutes while it utilized thermal lift (soaring) and some flapping and gliding headed south. It was a good migration day and I was able to record 65 Snow Geese, 295 Canada Geese, 37 Red-tailed Hawks, 1634 migrating American Crows a few Snow Buntings and 50 Pine Siskins. Raptors weren't the only "game in town" and I enjoy the crow migration as much as the hawks.

On 11/9 I had an excellent view of a passing juvenile Golden Eagle on Watatic. So close, in fact, I was able to comment to a near by hiker... the exchange went sort of like this...."see that dark bird over there"?, he said, "ya, the one with the white tail, never saw one with those white patches on wings around here before?"...he had no binoculars..."ya, that's a Golden Eagle". 34 White-winged Crossbills and ~100 Pine Siskins also passed that day too.
On the 29th another close Golden passed Watatic, an adult, riding the wind current up the south side of the hill. RIGHT in front of a young girl who was busy fiddling with her cell phone, texting no doubt, and oblivious to the whole spectacle! Another interesting sighting was a couple walking their 2 pet goats, both leased and "decked out" in hunter orange!
The November, and season totals, hawkwatch summary and detail is HERE
The view, to the west, down the Holyole Range from Mt. Hitchcock

Laura and I hiked a bit of the Holyoke Range in Hadley on the 23rd, a 4.5 mile walk that took us up Bare Mt., from rte 116, over to Hitchcock Mt., down a trail on the south side and back. Not a lot of birds ,but great views of the Conn. Valley and an enjoyable hike. While I was spishing in chickadees, a flock of 12 White-winged Crossbills passed over head calling. The true highlight was a stop at Atkin's Farm, in Amherst, which has excellent pastry selection. A chocolate eclair, the size of a small Russian submarine, hit the spot!
"Moss" growth near an oak on the south side of Mt. Hitchcock.
Crystal Lake in Gardner was about 80% iced over but I found a nice assortment of waterfowl there on Sunday morning 11/30. Species included: Canada Goose ~175, Wood Duck 1, Mallard ~120, Black Duck 14, Mallard X Black Hybrid 2, Common Goldeneye 7, Common Mergaser 26 and Red-breasted Merganser 1. Only 6 gulls were present but one was carrying an orange wing marker # A31. (note on this bird: Ken MacKenzie, project leader for the gull tagging program, saw this bird (A31) on Wachusett Reservior the evening before)

Winter is settling in, most lakes, ponds and some moving water ( this is Priest Brook, the upper Miler's River watershed) was ice covered on 11/30 .

Red-breasted Merganser was at Crystal Lake in Gardner on 11/30 , present since 11/15.

Wood Duck on Crystal Lake in Gardner.


Sheila Carroll said...

Tom, I enjoy your posts so much since I never get up to Watatic...make sure you post more often! Sheila

Tom Pirro said...

Ya, I got lazy the last few months. Hope that Barnicle Goose sticks around for your CBC in Sturbridge. Still a lot of Canada Geese up my way...some years they are VERY scarce come CBC time. Last year we had ONE in the Westminster CBC!

Michelle said...

Plan on traveling to Kanka Hwy and do minor hiking with 13 & 8 yr old the first weekend of Nov 2009, (Nov 6th). Are the grounds or water already iced over by that time...usually ? Don't want to travel over 5 yrs and find we cannot do what we planned. We will layer clothes but I don't want to climb on iced grounds/rocks. THANKS !

Tom Pirro said...

Hi Michelle,
I haven't been to the Kancamagus Highway area in Novemeber, but I would assume there is a possibility of running into ice and even snow. I was just to the south Sunday 10/4/2009, in Wonalancet to hike Whiteface and Passaconaway. Conditions were fine, but 1 month can make a big difference up there. If you do go, check at the Mountain Wanderer Book Store, off the main drag in Lincoln. Whom ever is behind the counter will likely have some good recommendations. The owner has an excellent blog:
There s/b directions to his store from his blog. A friend and I spoke to him for a bit, while visiting his store on labor day, he is very knowledgeble and friendly. It is likely whom ever is "manning" the store will be very knowledgable and they have a nice assorment of maps.