Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Plymouth County 5/15 + 5/16

I joined Chuck Caron for this year's Massachusetts Birdathon, were we covered some key habitats in Duxbury, Hingham, Mashfield, Plymouth and Middleboro. Chuck had done some scouting the previous week, with Charlie Nims (one of the local experts), so we were not completely clueless in our travels on Saturday....this was essentially new territory for both of us.

The main road leading south, along Duxbury Beach, to Gurnet Lighthouse and Fort Standish.

Friday evening (for the 6PM start), we joined Rick Bowes to bird Duxbury Beach, a long barrier beach with limited access. Fortunately, Rick conducts shore bird surveys of this area and knows "what is supposed to be where and when". Two big target birds were a lingering Snowy Owl and a rare spring-time American Golden Plover, unfortunately both "skipped town" and were no where to be found. Actually Rick had not seen them since early in the week.
We did enjoy a nice assortment of shorebirds highlighted by American Oystercatcher (6), Piping Plovers, Dunlin (~500) and Ruddy Turnstones.

Laughing Gulls where numerous.

Rick had told us the Oystercatchers (one is 2nd from left) tended to mix with Brant at this location, and they did!
A nice sunset.
We kept the birding "civil" and quit a little after dark and restarted at Wompatuck State Park at 4AM. Target species for this locale were Winter Wren, Acadian Flycatcher along with Cerulean, Hooded and Worm-eating Warbler. While the Hooded Warbler was not found we got the other targets fairly quickly.
The only shot I got of this Worm-eating Warbler.
We did not come across too many migrants at Wompatuck, but we got a lot of resident species "out of the way". Our next stop was World's End in Hingham, on the way out to the parking area we "scoped" a distant island with nesting egrets and night-herons. We saw a few Black-crowned Nightherons mixed in with Snowy and Great Egrets, soon after the island was swallowed in a dense fog.

The view toward Hull from World's End, in Hingham.
While walking the paths, at World's End, we picked up a few migrant warblers, Blackburnian, Magnolia and Blackpoll along with a White-crowned Sparrow.

Baltimore Orioles (above) were everywhere at World's end, we had a few Orchard Orioles too.

A Snowy Egret, feeding at World's End.
Our next stop was Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary (DWWS) in Marshfield, we had hoped for Kestrel and Meadowlark, but missed both. Purple Martins, a cooperative Little Blue Heron and Boblinks were nice additions...and no worries on missing Kestrel because Chuck had seen many at Plymouth Airport (one of our key stops) the week before, "had to beat them away with a stick" or something like that!
Bobolink at DWWS
After DWWS we were off to Brant Rock to scope for seabirds, but the fog had gotten so thick we couldn't even see the sea, but we did get House Sparrows and Starlings. A real disappointment but little could be done. We moved on quickly to the Plymouth Airport for key species like Horned Lark, Upland Sandpiper, Kestrel, Meadowlark and Vesper Sparrow. The viewing area was from the deck of the restaurant, so we each ordered a Thanksgiving Wrap..essentially a turkey dinner with all the fixings in a wrap. We got the larks, which sang constantly and one Upland Sandpiper but no meadowlark and all those kestrels...were gone! At the end of the runway we stood outside the fence and heard Prairie Warblers and Field Sparrows singing but no Vesper...Onto Plymouth beach.

Limited visibility all along the immediate coast.
The beach was "socked in" with fog but we managed to add some shorebirds to the day list, but most of those we'd seen the evening before, though a few Semipalmated Sandpipers were new for the contest. The fog cleared out a little, allowing a view of Manomet Point and a modest flock of Surf Scoters could be seen offshore, I also caught a glimpse of two birds that appeared to be shearwaters (probably Manx) but the scopes where at the car. We bumped into Eddie Giles and Susan Hedman in the parking area, Susan picked up 2 Manx Shearwaters in her scope, fortunately once we got back our car, and scopes, we were able to get another look at the 2 Manx Shearwaters.
Cumberland Farm Fields
Our last stop of the day was the Cumberland Farm Fields in Middleboro, were we took a long 2.5 hour walk to some back ponds. Most impressive here were the number of Solitary and Least Sandpipers and Bobolinks...but no Meadowlarks nor Kestrel! Least and Willow Flycatcher, Ring-necked Pheasant, Swamp Sparrow, Northern Harrier (a female) and an adult Bald Eagle were the last species to be added before the 6PM deadline. We ended with 128 species (and a Hybrid Mallard x Black Duck, so make it 128 1/2 species) from 6PM to 6Pm and 121 species for the Saturday's day total.
The clouds moved in late in the day and we had a little rain just before 6Pm...good timing.
As we were approaching Bolton Ma., on the drive home, we called in our results to Stickland Wheelock, who'd covered the Quabbin /Central Mass area for the contest. His grop's biggest surprise bird was a Sandhill Crane at Bolton Flats. Needless to say, we stopped, and were fortunate the bird was still present.

The Sandhill Crane, sleeping at Bolton Flats 5/16 at 8PM.
Our list:
Common followed by Latin name
Common Loon Gavia immer
Manx Shearwater Puffinus puffinus
Double-crested Cormorant Phalacrocorax auritus
Great Blue Heron Ardea herodias
Great Egret Ardea alba
Snowy Egret Egretta thula
Little Blue Heron Egretta caerulea
Green Heron Butorides virescens
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
Turkey Vulture Cathartes aura
Canada Goose Branta canadensis
Brant Branta bernicla
Mute Swan (I) Cygnus olor
Wood Duck Aix sponsa
Mallard Anas platyrhynchos
Common Eider Somateria mollissima
Surf Scoter Melanitta perspicillata
White-winged Scoter Melanitta fusca
Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator
Osprey Pandion haliaetus
Bald Eagle Haliaeetus leucocephalus
Northern Harrier Circus cyaneus
Cooper's Hawk Accipiter cooperii
Red-tailed Hawk Buteo jamaicensis
Ring-necked Pheasant (I) Phasianus colchicus
Wild Turkey Meleagris gallopavo
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Semipalmated Plover Charadrius semipalmatus
Piping Plover Charadrius melodus
Killdeer Charadrius vociferus
American Oystercatcher Haematopus palliatus
Greater Yellowlegs Tringa melanoleuca
Solitary Sandpiper Tringa solitaria
Willet Catoptrophorus semipalmatus
Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia
Upland Sandpiper Bartramia longicauda
Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Sanderling Calidris alba
Semipalmated Sandpiper Calidris pusilla
Least Sandpiper Calidris minutilla
Dunlin Calidris alpina
American Woodcock Scolopax minor
Laughing Gull Larus atricilla
Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
Herring Gull Larus argentatus
Great Black-backed Gull Larus marinus
Common Tern Sterna hirundo
Least Tern Sterna antillarum
Rock Dove (I) Columba livia
Mourning Dove Zenaida macroura
Barred Owl Strix varia
Chimney Swift Chaetura pelagica
Ruby-throated Hummingbird Archilochus colubris
Red-bellied Woodpecker Melanerpes carolinus
Downy Woodpecker Picoides pubescens
Northern Flicker Colaptes auratus
Pileated Woodpecker Dryocopus pileatus
Acadian Flycatcher Empidonax virescens
Willow Flycatcher Empidonax traillii
Least Flycatcher Empidonax minimus
Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher Myiarchus crinitus
Eastern Kingbird Tyrannus tyrannus
Blue-headed Vireo Vireo solitarius
Warbling Vireo Vireo gilvus
Red-eyed Vireo Vireo olivaceus
Blue Jay Cyanocitta cristata
American Crow Corvus brachyrhynchos
Horned Lark Eremophila alpestris
Purple Martin Progne subis
Tree Swallow Tachycineta bicolor
Northern Rough-winged Swallow Stelgidopteryx serripennis
Bank Swallow Riparia riparia
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Black-capped Chickadee Poecile atricapillus
Tufted Titmouse Baeolophus bicolor
White-breasted Nuthatch Sitta carolinensis
Carolina Wren Thryothorus ludovicianus
House Wren Troglodytes aedon
Winter Wren Troglodytes troglodytes
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher Polioptila caerulea
Eastern Bluebird Sialia sialis
Veery Catharus fuscescens
Wood Thrush Catharus mustelinus
American Robin Turdus migratorius
Gray Catbird Dumetella carolinensis
Northern Mockingbird Mimus polyglottos
Brown Thrasher Toxostoma rufum
Cedar Waxwing Bombycilla cedrorum
Blue-winged Warbler Vermivora pinus
Northern Parula Parula americana
Yellow Warbler Dendroica petechia
Chestnut-sided Warbler Dendroica pensylvanica
Magnolia Warbler Dendroica magnolia
Black-throated Green Warbler Dendroica virens
Blackburnian Warbler Dendroica fusca
Pine Warbler Dendroica pinus
Prairie Warbler Dendroica discolor
Blackpoll Warbler Dendroica striata
Cerulean Warbler Dendroica cerulea
Black-and-white Warbler Mniotilta varia
American Redstart Setophaga ruticilla
Worm-eating Warbler Helmitheros vermivorus
Ovenbird Seiurus aurocapillus
Northern Waterthrush Seiurus noveboracensis
Common Yellowthroat Geothlypis trichas
Scarlet Tanager Piranga olivacea
Eastern Towhee Pipilo erythrophthalmus
Chipping Sparrow Spizella passerina
Field Sparrow Spizella pusilla
Savannah Sparrow Passerculus sandwichensis
Song Sparrow Melospiza melodia
Swamp Sparrow Melospiza georgiana
White-throated Sparrow Zonotrichia albicollis
White-crowned Sparrow Zonotrichia leucophrys
Northern Cardinal Cardinalis cardinalis
Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus
Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea
Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus
Red-winged Blackbird Agelaius phoeniceus
Common Grackle Quiscalus quiscula
Brown-headed Cowbird Molothrus ater
Orchard Oriole Icterus spurius
Baltimore Oriole Icterus galbula
House Finch Carpodacus mexicanus
Pine Siskin Carduelis pinus
American Goldfinch Carduelis tristis
House Sparrow (I) Passer domesticus


Kallen305 said...

That's a lot of birds for a great cause Tom!

I love the picture of the Oystercatcher mixed in w/ the Brants. At first glance the bird mixes right in with the flock.

Congrats on the Sandhill Crane. We tried to see it on Sunday afternoon but it was long gone by then.

Tom Pirro said...

There are a lot of ways of "playing the birding game", Chrismas Bird Counts, Breeding bird Atlas, breeding bird survey route and hawkwatching help for data collection and science, but these little 'free-for-alls" (which are about biologically useless) are fun to do a few times each year.

Oystercathers are great birds, my photos don't show the "killer" bright orangey-red eyes...they're usually noisy as heck too.

The Sandhill Crane was nice, I have be fortunate enough to see this species a few time in Massachusetts, including a group of 4 in West Townsend in 2007.