Thursday, October 22, 2009

Indian Summer 10/22

After last weekend's snow and frigid temperatures the weather has gotten quite comfortable for the past 2 days. Yesterday a post came across MASSBIRD about a Scissor-tailed Flycatcher at the Orange Airport, found by Jeff Johnstone. I just happen to have today off to trim shrubs at my folk's house in Leominster. But, I figured it might be best to let the folks "sleep in" and make the trip to Orange first thing....I'm so thoughful....
After approximately a 1/2 hour of waiting the bird showed up near the airport parking area and was enjoyed by a dozen folks from various corners of the state. Here are a few digi-scope shots:

A "simple pose"

..........Rumor has it the Athol Bird and Nature Club is holding an emergency meeting of the board of directors this evening.....scheming a way to make it "stick" until the Christmas Count! .... its thought :-)

After the Leominstah "trimming festivities", I did some birding in the Sterling/Wachusett Reservoir area. Most note-able was a very tame Ruffed Grouse. I was able to sit down and watch if forage, for 20 minutes a mere 15 feet in front of me, like a barn-yard chicken. While not quite as "tame" or should I say as "friendly" as one that followed me through the woods (in Groton) for 30 minutes back in 1997...this was special. It was tough to photo as darkness approached, but I managed a few shots though the bins.

Just under the cedars near the Rte 12 causeway at Wachusett Reservior.

...Who the #%^@ put the stick in the way!

I actually have a photo, I took of the "1997 Grouse" that is just as close as this one, except in that case I used a 50MM lens on my old Pentax SLR.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Scoter Day" 10/14

A few times each fall Scoters (Blacks being the most common) put in a brief appearance on Central Massachusetts lakes. I have always had good luck on Crystal Lake in Gardner, mostly because I've checked often "on" strong cold fronts and/or fowl weather. This evening I checked Lake Wompanoag, from the Gardner side off Raymond Street, and was fortunate to find the tightly packed raft of ~2 dozen, pictured below. All were adult males with the exception of one that appeared to be an adult female or immature male.
A few dozen +/- Black Scoters on Lake Wompanoag, in a tightly packed raft (typical behavior of this species).
After spending 20 minutes at Wompanoag, I moved to Crystal Lake for the gull roost and to check for waterfowl. I found a small group of 7 drake Black Scoters, not too far out and snapped the photo below through the scope, in very poor light and with the camera's ISO set to 1600. Also on the lake were ~225 gulls that had come in to roost, those being Herring (135), Ring-billed (75) and Great Black-backed (16). Well after dusk, in the dark, the puddle ducks arrived in numbers, approx. 350 +/- nearly all being Mallards as best I could tell.
7 Black Scoters on Crystal Lake, in Gardner.
At lunch break today, I digi-binned this Great Blue Heron at Surrenden Farm, in Groton. Yesterday I had counted 66 Killdeer and ~100 American Pipits (flushed by an immature Cooper's Hawk) in the area. Today neither were observed.

Immature Great Blue Heron

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Wonalancet, NH 10/4

After sticking close to home for some great birding on Saturday, I left home at 5AM for Wonalancet, NH to hike Mt. Whiteface and Mt. Passaconanway, in the Sandwich Range of the White Mountain National Forest.
I had hoped to be on the trail by 8:30, but I made a few quick stops, one to photo 3 horses in Sandwich, the moment I stopped the friendly trio came right to me. A few miles later, I stopped along a wetland to scan for birds and wildlife, there were Chipping, Song, Swamp and White-throated Sparrows, along with a few Yellow-rumped Warblers, Eastern Phoebes and Blue-headed Vireo.
Some nice color along Rte 113 in Sandwich, NH.

"You gonna eat those carrots"?
Upon arriving at Wonalancet, which consists of a picturesque meeting house and hay fields, I noticed 3 American Kestrels perched on the wires., I heard a "ki-ki-ki" call from behind and out came a Sharp-shinned hawk, which briefly tangled with one of the kestrels and took a swipe at a Flicker a moment later.

There is not much in Wonalancet, I suspect that is exactly how the locals like it!

The scene on the walk from the parking area to the trail head.
I started out on the Blueberry Ledge Trail where some Juncos, Black-capped Chickadees and both Kinglets species were seen and heard. Shortly after I took the Blueberry Ledge Cut-off trail which lead to Dicey's Mill Trail and that to the steep Tom Wiggin Trail, which "climbs" 1450' in 1.1 miles before rejoining to the Blueberry Ledge trail. On the upper section of this trail I came across a Winter Wren, Blackpoll Warbler, Yellow-rumps, a few Blue-headed Vireos, a group of Boreal Chickadees and both species of Kinglets. Conditions were calm, insects were out, and I found pockets of birds throughout the hike.

The scene along the rugged Tom Wiggins Trail, "nothing but up".
Once rejoining the BB Ledge Trail there were a few scrambles over some ledge and some nice views. An imposing white dog (but friendly), followed 3 Virginia hikers (whom I met later) from the trailhead (nearly 4 miles), they named it "Whiteface". It couldn't make it up one of the steeper "scrambles" and quit following the "southern trio".

Looking east from the ledges below the summit of Whiteface.

"Whiteface" the dog.
While the actual summit of Whiteface is "treed in", there are several nice vistas nearby.
Looking west from the ledges of Whiteface.

Mt. Passaconaway from Mt. Whiteface, looking across the Research Bowl.

From the Whiteface summit I took the Rollings Trail which after a few miles connects with upper section of Dicey's Mill Trail, for a steep climb to the summit of Passaconaway.

While it didn't rain during the trip, there were a few gloomy moments.
Passaconaway is another summit with no view, BUT there are 2 nice "lookouts" close by and another, the North Vista, at the end of a 0.3 mile spur trail. Well....I could spent forever at this North Vista, I had it for myself for 20 minutes, during which time a Sharp-shinned Hawk and an American Kestrel passed. Judging by the bulge in the "shin's" throat, some careless songbird was making the south bound migration Rodney Dangerfield once said..."The hard way".
Eventually the "Virginia boys" showed and we all had a nice conversation, they being avid hikers, one had thru-hiked the "AT" a few years ago, another seemed to be working on every concievable "peak list" in the east, the 3rd was carrying a very large video camera to document their trip.
From the North Vista of Passaconaway , Church Pond to the left and signs of a previous clear cut just below the pond and logging roads, or prehaps the beginnings of mysterious "logger crop circles".

Looking North East, the rocky knob in the lower left is Hedgehog Mtn., I have never been there but I understand the views are great...of course the view from up here wasn't too bad either :-)

A "digi-bin" shot of Mt. Chorcura.

The afternoon was getting late and I'd now have to make "good" time to make back by dark, I had a little cushion of time but not having hiked these I trails I prefered not to resort to ending with the headlamp on.
After a short distance on the Walden trail, was a fine view to the south into the Lakes Region and the area between Passaconaway, Whiteface and Walden Mtns known as the "Reasearch Bowl" area that was suposedly never logged.
Looking down into the Research Bowl area, below the summit of Passaconaway, the NH Lakes Region is in the distance.
Mt. Wonalancet lower left, Winnipesaukee on the horizon.
I did end up missing a trail and had to go over Walden Mtn., but fortunately it only added a 1/2 mile and lead to the Old Mast Road Trail that lead right back to the car!

Looking at a "slide" on the west side Mt. Paugus.
The scene from along rte 113A just a mile from the trailhead, Mt. Whiteface (Left), Mt. Wonalancet (forground) and Passaconaway's peak is just ...well peeking...over a lower Mt. just above left of the barn.

A close up of Whiteface (left) and Wonalancet as fog rises from the hay and some nice splashes of color too. Last winter I had chased a Hawk owl and Hoary Redpoll in this general area and got a nice winter photo, from a different perspective, of Whiteface, Passaconaway and subordnate peaks HERE.
A Bird list from the hike (only), numbers are approximate:

Species....Number reported
Sharp-shinned Hawk...1
American Kestrel...1
Downy Woodpecker...1
Hairy Woodpecker...2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)...4
Blue-headed Vireo...5
Blue Jay...20
American Crow...4
Common Raven...2
Black-capped Chickadee...15
Boreal Chickadee...12
Red-breasted Nuthatch...5
White-breasted Nuthatch...1
Brown Creeper...1
Winter Wren...3
Golden-crowned Kinglet...20
Ruby-crowned Kinglet...15
Hermit Thrush...1
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)...15
Blackpoll Warbler....2
White-throated Sparrow....50
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)...20
American Goldfinch....2

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Neighborhood Walk 10/3

I didn't take my camera today, so here are a few photos, I took in March of 2008 of a home around the corner (a mile or so) from my apartment. My understanding was the art is painted onto panels and then fastened to the house.
This is quite impressive and the art is quite accurate, thats a big Blue Jay!

Nothing is quite as satisfying as birding close to home, whether it be visitors to the your feeding station, a visit to one of your own local "hot spots" or looking for migrants around the neighborhood. Yesterday morning I heard several White-throated Sparrows calling from the power line cut adjacent to arrivals in the past few days.

Half way through coffee this morning, after rising rather late, I decided to check the edge of the yard, there was not too much present. So I continued down the street hearing a few chickadees, nuthatches, Hairy Woodpecker etc. At the junction of Barthirck Road I hit a little pocket of migrants, Blackburnian, Palm, Yellow-rumped and Nashville Warblers along with American Redstart...very nice. Also I spished in a 1/2 dozen Blue-headed Vireos. Continuing along Barthrick lead to more pockets of the migrants mixed in with resident chickadees, the next coup was a dozen of so Blackpoll Warblers,a few Black-throated Greens and more Blue-headed Vireos, clearly a nice variety of migrant songbirds had been grounded by the rainy weather. The fog was an issue as visibility was limited to a hundred feet or less, but not too unreasonable for "spishing" in pockets of songbirds.

Once about 2/3's along the 2.25 mile loop I reached Round Meadow Pond, not much to see here as the fog was still thick, but a few Mallards and a Spotted Sandpiper could be seen along the spillway. My stomach was telling me to head on home to finish the coffee and have a bite to eat, but "bird sense" was telling me to head up Battle Road and take the Mid-state Trail to an old gravel pit/dirt raod. To the pit.........

This was a good idea, near the pit was a nice group of White-throated Sparrows, Blackpoll Warblers, a few Nashvilles and more Blue-headed Vireos. It seemed like every "pod" of songbirds contained a few of these handsome vireos. This sandpit area is heavily overgrown around the edges with Birch and Poplar saplings along with an abundance of Autumn Olive. Warbler activity was very nice for early October, Northern Parula, Nashville, Magnolia, Black-throated Green, Yellow-rumped, Palm and Pine Warblers were present. The highlight was a "killer" look at an Orange-crowned Warbler. Sparrows were also well represented with lots of White-throats, Song, Savanah, Swamp, Chipping and single Field and Lincoln's Sparrow. Gray Catbirds, Indigo Buntings and House Wrens were also present and will likely be clearing out of town very soon.

With all this "dickey bird" activity finally a raptor put in an appearance, a Merlin "blasted" past me, while I walked along the dirt road though the sandpit. It "swung" around me and then settled back down 2 feet over the road and motored at full speed for the next hundred yards and curved out of sight!

Once "canvasing" the sandpit I headed back home, about 4 1/2 hours and 5 miles had passed before I got back to coffee.

The list:
Spotted Sandpiper...1
Mourning Dove...2
Red-bellied Woodpecker...2
Downy Woodpecker...8
Hairy Woodpecker...1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)...2
Eastern Phoebe...5
Blue-headed Vireo....29
Blue Jay...25
American Crow...3
Common Raven...1
Black-capped Chickadee....30
Tufted Titmouse....12
White-breasted Nuthatch...6
Brown Creeper...1
House Wren...5
Ruby-crowned Kinglet...9
American Robin...10
Gray Catbird...9
Orange-crowned Warbler...1
Nashville Warbler...9
Northern Parula...12
Magnolia Warbler...4
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)...25
Black-throated Green Warbler...12
Blackburnian Warbler...2
Pine Warbler...4
Prairie Warbler...1
Palm Warbler (Yellow)...18
Blackpoll Warbler...22
Black-and-white Warbler...1
American Redstart...1
Common Yellowthroat...12
Eastern Towhee...3
Chipping Sparrow...30
Field Sparrow...1
Savannah Sparrow...13
Song Sparrow...14
Lincoln's Sparrow...1
Swamp Sparrow...4
White-throated Sparrow...35
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)...1
Northern Cardinal...4
Indigo Bunting...3
House Finch...3
American Goldfinch...1
House Sparrow....6