I drove River Rd. South (Westmoreland) and River Rd. North (Walpole) to look for waterfowl, raptors and ground birds such as pipits, Horned Larks and Snow Bunting...and pretty much struck out. At the junction of rte 12 and 123, in Walpole, there were a few hundred Canada Geese on the Connecticut River and 6 Bohemian Waxwings that were sallying for insects from the tree tops.
Arriving in Hinsdale around 3PM I walked the rail-trail to the overlook, across the river from the Vernon Yankee Nuclear Power Plant. The out flow from the plant keeps the water open all winter and large concertrations of waterfowl gather here. Approximately 3,000 Canada Geese were present when I arrived and "I got to work" scanning through the "confusion". After 15 minutes I got lucky and spotted a Greater White-fronted Goose sleeping near the edge of the ice.
Another 15 minutes later a good candidate for Cackling Goose "popped" into view. I studied this bird for several minutes noting its small size (2/3 of most Canadas), lighter colored back (frosty looking), squarish/blocky looking head, steep forehead angle and short stubbyish bill. Though I must say, I have seen some with stubber bills than this one.
A digi-scope shot of the Cackling Goose on the water.
Two Snow Geese were also in the mix, making it a 4 goose day for me! I first spotted them on the ice and took the shot below through the binocular as they headed south.
A few other birders stopped by, Don and Martha, and another party of 3 with their very well behaved dogs. This Golden Retreaver, pictured below, despite remaining quite calm, gave the impression it would like to sink his teeth into some "fowl" .... might we suggest the Mute Swan.
For most of the time I was present, there were 2 Bald Eagles in the area, overlooking the waterfowl but, leaving them unmolested. Don, had told me their nest had fallen over in the past year and we notice the pair checking out what looks like a potential new nest site (on the NH side of the river). I seem to recall, from a previous visit, there was a Red-tailed Hawk nest where these birds seemed to show interest in the new "realestate".
Most of the geese left about an hour before sunset, headed south and seem to put down on the Vermont side of the river. About 45 minutes later they all returned "and then some". I looked hard for the previously reported Barrow's Goldeneyes but not could find them in 90+ Commons that were present.
Below is a list of birds from Hinsdale:
Greater White-fronted Goose....
Canada Goose....3000 +
American Black Duck....12