Monday, November 30, 2009

North East Quabbin 11/29

Sunday morning, I was in a quandary of whether to head into Boston's Victory Garden or stay closer to home and visit the Quabbin Reservoir Watershead. The Boston trip would mean an almost certain life bird, a MacGillivray's Warbler (a western species that came east instead of south), while the Quabbin bird list would consist chickadees, nuthatches and perhaps an eagle or two. However, I was in the mood for solitude and a more wilderness like expirience, so I traveled west.

Its tough to "beat" the sight of Hooded Mergansers cruising across a secluded beaver pond.

My walk started out in Women's Federated State Forest in Petersham, where I walked West Road (or what once was West Rd.) toward Monson Turnpike Road. I did a little bush Whacking to a beaver pond where I found a few Canada Geese.

This one's ready to go!

Along the roads my spishing sounds were attracting juncos in good numbers, in a few spots the sound seemed to be sucking them out of the woods like a vaccum cleaner. Black-capped Chickadees, White and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Brown Creepers and Golden-crowned Kinglets were also well represented.

At the end of Monson Turpike Rd. I followed Old North Dana Road south to East Fever Brook, and the site of the former Doubleday Village. I don't know a whole lot about this former village, but this fine link tells a better story of this area than I ever could.

Remnants of the Doubleday Mill.
I "skirted" the beaver pond on East Fever Brook and found a modest assortment of waterfowl including handsome Hooded Mergansers , Black Ducks and a few Mallards. I spooked up a Ruffed Grouse along the pond's edge, and shortly after a Sharp-shinned Hawk came crashing in the woods, scattering the song birds I had just spished in.
Once passing the beaver dam I came across a nice log, where I sat for lunch while overlooking another, but very shallow, beaver pond. There were more Black Ducks and a few crows started squawking and an adult Bald Eagle flushed off a snag and headed toward the reservoir.

The view while eating lunch, would've been good shorebird habitat...two months ago.
Adjacent to the shallow pond was a wet meadow, likely from a long since "filled in" beaver pond, pictured below.
I found not a bird in these grasses.
Most of the bird activity was coming from areas of sappling white pines and nearly all the birds were Dark-eyed Juncos and a few White-throated Sparrows. In this thick cover I was likely only seeing a fraction of the birds present.

One of 9 Brown Creepers seen during the walk.
After returning to Old North Dana Road I headed back north, toward West Fever Brook, eventually I wanted to make it to the edge of the reservoir.

Looking onto Quabbin Reservoir from West Fever Brook.

Old North Dana Road

Despite the late season, there is still some green!

A Golden-crowned Kinglet flicking its wings.
Once I reached the main body of water I was able to find some Common Loons, Horned Grebes, Ring-billed Gulls and a single Common Goldeneye.

Looking north toward New Salem.

A Crayfish's exo-skeleton along the shore.
While scanning I noticed a distant adult Bald Eagle perched along the far shore (it may have been eating prey), and another perched atop a nearby tree. A immature Bald Eagle flew into to join the bird along the shoreline, the adult, perched in the tree, chased off the young bird and actually knocked it into the water. The youngster managed to pull itself off the water and made a hasty retreat, I watched it continuously flap low over the water for several minutes.

Looking south from Old North Dana Road.

The sun was down, but I still had another mile and a half to travel....unfortunately I did not have a light with me...fortunately the moon was 3/4 full....unfortunately the side road I took lead me into a beaver swamp....fortunately my GPS "said" I was close West Road. I "tip-toed" across the top of the beaver dam and managed bush whack my way to West Road which lead back to the car.
Despite not finding any "fancy" birds, this was the trip that I wanted for this day .... perhaps that MacGillivray's Warbler will stick around another week or two....if regrets.
The Bird List:
Canada Goose....7
American Black Duck....29
Common Goldeneye....1
Hooded Merganser....11
Ruffed Grouse....2
Common Loon....5
Horned Grebe....5
Bald Eagle....5
Sharp-shinned Hawk....1
Ring-billed Gull....12
Herring Gull....2
Downy Woodpecker....1
Hairy Woodpecker....1
Pileated Woodpecker....1
Blue Jay....12
American Crow....4
Black-capped Chickadee....31
Tufted Titmouse....2
Red-breasted Nuthatch....12
White-breasted Nuthatch....11
Brown Creeper....9
Golden-crowned Kinglet....17
White-throated Sparrow....28
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)....212
American Goldfinch....1

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Crystal Lake (Gardner) 11/28

I stopped by Crystal Lake this evening to check numbers of roosting gulls. The totals were well off from last month's high count on October 20th. A compartive between that peak and tonight's:

Species..............................10/20/2009...... 11/28/2009
Ring-billed Gull....................125...................... 62
Herring Gull..........................650..................... 24
Great Black-backed Gull......95...................... 10

There were also 2 wing tagged Ring-billed Gulls present, an adult #353 and a 2nd year bird with an obscurred tag (on the right wing) that I was unable to read. This bird was missing the tag on its left wing, I did get good looks at both sides of the bird. Yesterday, I saw an adult Ring-billed Gull on the athletic field of Monty Tech High School, in Westminster, sporting tag# 354. I will post capture information of these tagged birds, once I hear back from the DCR folks running the project.

#353 an adult Ring-billed with Adult Herring Gull in front, 2nd yr Herring Gull to back right and Ad. Ringer in front right.

Other species present included Black Duck 3, Mallard 3 , Mallard X Black Duck hybrid 1, Common Goldeneye 8 and Common Merganser 7.

Information on the above Gull #353, and #354 I had seen at Monty Tech on Friday 11/27 from K. MacKenzie:

Thanks again for the sighting and photo.
Here is some specific information on A353:
Captured 11/18/09 at the Upper Blackstone Water Treatment Facility, Millbury, MA
Map of capture sight: 42.21231, - 71.78614
Captured using a rocket net baited with crackers
Adult ring-billed gull
Florescent orange wing-tags: A353
federal band: 0994-03461
released on site

This is the first sighting of this gull. Thanks.

And info on R-B Gull #354

Here is some specific information on A354:
Captured 11/18/09 at the Upper Blackstone Water Treatment Facility, Millbury, MA
Map of capture sight: 42.21231, - 71.78614
Captured using a rocket net baited with crackers
Sub-adult ring-billed gull
Florescent orange wing-tags: A354
federal band: 0994-03463
released on site
This is the first sighting of this gull. Thanks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Dana 11/15

My friend Karin and I took a walk to Dana center, from gate 40, on Sunday afternoon, the temperature was very mild, warm, almost hot! ... well for November. I don't hear Fox Sparrows singing too often, occasionally during the spring. I was surprised to hear a strange song soon after we were under way, which sounded like a Fox Sparrow. I bush-whacked a hundred feet in through heavy White Pine saplings and made a spishing sound. Up Popped a "boat load" of Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows and 3 Fox Sparrows. While heading toward the center I heard 2 more Fox Sparrows sing a different spots, they must have been fairly wide spread in this area.

A poor and blurry digi-bin shot of a Fox Sparrow.

I scanned Pattapoag Pond, through the trees, and saw an assortment of waterfowl, which included Canada Geese, Black Ducks (no Mallards that I saw) and Ring-necked Ducks.

We inspected the old foundation (at Dana Center), made from smallish round stones, one would think were "harvested" from the Swift River. While most of the dramatic New England fall colors have passed, there are still some to be seen, you just have to look a little harder.

This "guy" was crossing the road, when placed the camera on the pavement, it looked up.

Some subtle colors near the road.

Christmas Count Season is coming!
On the walk out Karin noticed the marker on this old tree, about 1/2 to 3/4 of a mile from Gate 40.

The Tree

The Marker

Any of you "Quabbineers" know the significance of the tree and marker? Answer is below:

Good day Tom,
That is part of a UMass Arborist study on tree cavity use by birds in managed and unmanaged street trees. Looking to see the effect of pruning dead branches out of live trees has on nesting cavity production... I haven't heard the findings yet...

Dave Small

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Middleboro 11/8

.....and the manure pit wins, by a nose. The Cumberland Farm Fields in Middleboro, Ma. has attracted some "awfully" nice birds this fall (acutally most years great stuff shows up there). First the "head spinning" Brown-chested Martin, then a LeConte's Sparrow and latest a Lark Bunting (today's target). I never had the chance to "get" the Martin, but made the trek last weekend for the LeConte's and got nice, yet brief, looks at it.

Not as picturesque as New Hampshire's White Mountains, but Lark Buntings are in short supply up north, in the "Whites".
There were many Song Sparrows along the walk in, but I didn't drive to Middleboro to see Song Sparrows. With the mild conditions many Song Sparrows were singing, poorly but singing.
The Cumberland Farm fields (aka Cumbies) encompasses a large area, I had a rough idea where it had been seen but knew little of this particular bird's habits. Upon arrival, at 9 AM, there were may cars, all with bird club stickers, so there would be plenty of help. While walking in I passed a few birders that had not seen the Lark Bunting, not great news. One contrast between "this" and hiking are the mountains are non-migratory and Lark Buntings are.
I took my time along the road, but kept "one eye" on the other birders' habits. As I approached what looked to be THE spot, I noticed Linda Pivecek and 3 other birders' attention was focused in the same direction...a good sign. I picked up the pace a bit and sure enough, they "had" the bird and a moment later so did I.

By the time the Lark Bunting settled to a perch (just above dead center) it was fairly distant, but I managed a few snap shots through the bins.
A bit closer but partially hidden.
After the bird "dove" back into the thicket, I walked around the manure pit area and was able get nice looks at a few White-crowned Sparrows, my first American Tree Sparrows of the fall and also many Savanah Sparrows, including one "Ipswich" . A subspecies which is very uncommon away from coastal sand dunes. Upon returning to the Lark Bunting spot, it perched up nicely allowing for better photos.
Lark Bunting with ts crown "slicked" back.

...with its crown feathers raised.

...another shot.
I took an indirect route home, stopping by state forest property, in Dracut, for previously reported Red-headed Woodpeckers. The directions were good and the woodpeckers were active, noisey and easy to find. A Belted Kingfisher was near by too.

A Male Belted Kingfisher.

An adult Red-headed Woodpecker in flight.

A distant shot, through the scope, of an adult.
I saw a least one adult and one immature (with a brown head), however other reporters have been of 2 adults and 1 immature. They mixed it up with near by Blue Jays and worked caching acorns into the dead snags in the wetland area. Perhaps they had bred in the area, which would be very good news. From this spot I heard and/or saw Pileated, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers as well as a Flicker.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hancock Mountain (North and South Peaks) 11/7

Saturday's weather looked fairly decent, so I squoze in a White Mountain hike, before the "real" winter arrives. The trail head , for the "Hancocks",is located at the hair-pin turn on the Kancamagus Highway, just outside of Lincoln, NH. The "game plan" was to follow the Hancock Notch Trail for 1.8 miles to the Cedar Cedar Brook Trail for 0.7 miles then join the Hancock Loop Trail. Its 1.1 miles on the "loop trail" until you actually get to the loop...the actual loop portion is 2.6 miles to cover both summits. I went counter clock-wise reaching the north peak first.

This maple posed nicely near the parking lot.
An excellent view of the Oceolas, the East Peak is to the far left (in the birches)..I was fortunate to find a pair of Black-backed Woodpeckers there in August.
The first 3 miles are fairly level and easy going, but there are five stream crossings along the Cedar Brook Trail ( key word "Brook Trail"). Fortunately, the water levels are low, otherwise this could be tricky during spring, but the temps were cold and there was some ice on the rocks.

The trail skirts the side of this slide (But I'm not sure which side).
Of course with all that easy flat walking early on, means you have a gain the elevation in a short but very steep distance.

A litte "break" on the steep climb to the north peak, looking back towards South Hancock.

Upon reaching the summit (treed in without a view) I followed a short path to a wonderful vista, with a view of the Sandwich Range. The sunshine was warm, the breeze light and it was very comfortable, 4 hikers were enjoying the view and sunshine but along came another large group....I moved on away from the crowd. I later found out a Gray Jay had been present here, but with that many people (a dozenish) it would have been a circus.
The hike between the two summits was uneventful with no views, as the trail is hemmed in by thick Balsam Firs. One brief view, and very obstructed, of the Presidential Range was spectacular, but no photo "op" was possible through the thick evergreens.
South Hancock is also "treed in" but there is a limited vista about 30 yards from the summit, which I enjoyed (alone) for about 10 minutes. Then along came a two guys and we got to talking a bit, I mentioned Mount Watatic and one chimed in "I live near by, in Westminster", the two had graduated from high school (Oakmont) together...actually we'd graduated the same year but I was in Leominster...a town away.
Looking east from the S. Hancock Vista, Mt. Chorcura is the little "tooth" sticking up on the horizon.
I stayed at the vista a good long while to make up for the short visit at the previous one. Once under way there was a view to the west toward the Franconia Ridge, Mounts Lincoln and Lafayette. It was worth and short break to peek out through the firs.

Franconia Ridge.
Another shot of Franconia Ridge in the background and Hancock to the right.
Another..."Owl's Head Mountain" is the lower flat topped mtn below the frosty ridge.
Here is a "spy glass" look.
The next 3/4 mile was very steep along with the previous dusting of snow and cold temperatures made for a very slow and careful descent. Once at the lower elevation the footing was fine and the hike out went quickly. I bumped into my "neighbors" again and we chatted about north Central Mass., both had skiied at Mount Watatic back when there was a ski area on the north side of the hill.
As expected the bird life was very scarce and consisted of Brown Creeper(1), Golden-crowned Kinglet (2), Back-capped Chickadee (5-10), Boreal Chickadee (3) and Raven.

An end of day shot of the Osceolas, from near the parking lot.
Once back to the car, I contemplated finding a room and hiking more on Sunday............or..............visit a large manure-pit in south eastern Massachusetts. So...what will it be? Mountains or Manure Pit...Mountains or Manure....stay tuned!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Mount Watatic 11/6

Yesterday's weather forecast had looked excellent for hawkwatching today and I was able to get the day off. The hike, to the east summit, was very pleasant, but there was very little bird activity aside from Black-capped Chickadees, Juncos and Golden-crowned Kinglets. The first raptor of the day was a distant Peregrine Falcon (a nice surprise for November) and soon after a Red-tail was up and moving too...."things" were looking pretty good. Soon after an immature Red-shouldered Hawk pasted over head, three birds in just a few minutes.
Unfortunately, the day would pretty much go down hill, despite hard scanning it was difficult to find birds despite having nice cloud cover, for a "back ground". My friend Paul joined me later in the morning, apparently he wasn't packing the "luck" as the flight went from 13 birds in 2 hours to 3 birds in the next THREE hours. But so goes a late season hawkwatch in these parts. We "hung in" until 2:30 hoping one bird, such as a Rough-legged Hawk or a Golden Eagle would "save the day", that would not be the case.
All was not lost, the scenery was nice, the hike and Paul and I had nice conversation. A few Snow Bunting (and snow flurries) were nearby for a while. I was able to capture a few digi-bin photos of this cooperative bird:

So many times I see Snow Buntings from a distance, as they fly past over a large field or airport, but once ot twice a year, one or two will hang out near the hawkwatch. If I recall correctly, Snow Buntings "come into" their breeding plumage by the brownish tan portion feathers wearing off, down to white portion of the feathers below, as opposed to a molt.
Few Amercian Crows were moving, something I always look foreward to seeing this time of year, though the date maybe a bit past the peak.
The Hawk totals:
Cooper's Hawk 2
Red-shouldered Hawk 2
Red-Tailed Hawk 12
Peregrine Falcon 1