With the previous day's report of an immature Slaty-backed Gull, at Barton's Cove on the Conn. River, it seemed prudent to take a morning trip west. I chose the "round-about" route stringing together a series of "north county" stops on way west.
The first stop west the Otter River, which forms the border of Gardner and Templeton, near the Gardner Waste Water Treatment Plant. Only a small number of waterfowl were present when I arrived, Mallards and Black Ducks. A single Red-winged Blackbird was singing beside the river and a male Belted Kingfisher was perched near the WWTP's effluent outlet (which keeps this section of river open through the winter).
Next stop was the Fernald School area on Church and Elliot Hills, in Templeton. Behind the cow barn I counted 128 Wild Turkey's, many "Toms" were displaying to females who seemed to "care less". There were no turkeys at the Elliot Hill cow barn, but 35 Snow Buntings passed over head and a nice adult Red-tailed Hawk was perched on a dead snag. I had also seen a few Red-winged Blackbirds in the general area, a "sure" sign we are only 2 or 3 "good" snow storms away from spring.
Part of the "fernald Turkey Fest"
Onto Royalston Center, I parked at the library and walked aound the center, which was infested with Blue Jays. Good numbers of American Goldfinches and Pine Siskins could be heard in the tree tops and I was able to pick out at least 2 Common Redpolls in the bunch. I proceeded toward North Fitzwilliam Rd. and heard Evening Grosbeaks calling and found a dozen, a few hundred yards up N. Fitz. Rd.. I could hear the strong drumming of a Pileated Woodpecker from woods and saw another flying past as I returned to my car.Male Evening Grosbeak
Another 4 Red-wing Blackbirds were visiting a feeder just over the Royalston/Athol town line. I heard a few turkeys gobble off in woods. I spoke briefly with the home owner, who was retreiving the morning paper, he said there are about 30 +/- Wild Turkeys that stop by his feeders from time to time.
At Riverview Drive in Gill, along the Conn. River, there was a 100 gulls on the Barton Cove side, all but a few were Ring-bills. A distant immature Bald Eagle was at the river's edge well up river and the waterfowl numbers and selection was slim.... 3 Ring-necked Ducks, a few Common and Hooded Mergansers and 3 Mute Swans. On the "bridge side " of Riverview were 100+ gulls about 100 Herring, 15 Great Black-backed and a few "Ringers". No white-winged gulls or other fancy species nor any winged tagged gulls.
On the Turners Falls side of the river I notice a large flock of small birds working some birches a the ground acoss the river. All seen within this flock had the dark forehead marking of redpolls, this was a long look and no chance of even considering picking a Hoary out of that flock of 100+/-. While the largest number I've seen in Massachusetts this year, 2 weeks ago Jeff Johnstone and I had a flock of 500 off Krif Road in Keene, NH (first reported by Lance Tanino).
I scoped out Sheila Carrol and Mark Lynch across the river and headed there I hopes they had better fortune with the Slaty-backed Gull. I also ran into Bob and Laura Bieda...neither they nor Carrol and Lynch had any luck. But, Sheila and Mark gave me directions to a field in Greenfield where they'd had 400+ large gulls earlier. I got to the Greenfield location and saw the gulls, after studying for 5 minutes a dog sprinted across the scaring off the gulls, which then landed ~600 yards away. It looked like "woofy" and gulls had played this game before, I was confident the "Slaty" was not in this group so the dog's actions hadn't done me any real harm.
Note: the Slaty-backed Gull was reported on 2/23/09