Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Quabbin Gate 35 11/1

Sunday morning, I lead a Forbush Bird Club walk along the north east shore of Quabbin Reservoir, in the towns of New Salem and Petersham. After looking at very "dicey" weather forecasts all week, the weather couldn't have been better with a north wind 5-10 MPH, temperature about 50 and mostly sunny skies. Starting from the gate (35) at the end of Old North Dana Road we traveled through mixed forest, a power line cut for 1/2 mile and then along the east shore line for about 2 1/2 miles.
To many, this defines the Quabbin Watershed.

No trip into The Quabbin is complete without a sighting of a Bald Eagle or two. While this species is much more common than a few decades ago, its still special to see these birds in the "wilderness" of Quabbin.
While passing along brushy areas near a powerline cut we had good numbers of Dark-eyed Juncos, White-throated Sparrows and a few Song Sparrows. Most warbler species are gone and we only had a single Yellow-rumped Warbler.

There is not much of Autumn left in North Central Massachusetts.
Once we reached the water Common Loons were found rather quickly, a few gave their "alarm" tremolo call and "our" first Bald Eagle of the day was seen passing overhead. This bird stooped toward the water, dipped its talons and then perched atop a tree (the photo above). Loons can be "taken" by eagles, often if an eagle is within striking distance the loons will be nervous and give their tremolo call.
There was a little bit of shoreline exposed, we left the road (briefly) to walk a bit of the shore and stumbled upon a small "flock" of shorebirds, a nice surprise. While only only 5 birds were present, there were 3 species including Black-bellied Plover, Greater Yellowlegs and Dunlin, in the mix. They lingered at "point blank range" before flying off to the south.
The view looking south toward Mount "L".
A good deal of time is spent scanning the water for gulls and waterfowl. The predominate gull species is Ring-billed, but we managed to pick out 2 Bonepart's Gulls in the distance, never a common bird away from the coast.
A few target waterbirds are Common Loon, Horned and Red-necked Grebes....we missed Red-necked Grebe this year but had some "stellar" views of Horned Grebes and Common Loons.

Not many mergansers were present, but the 2 Red-breasted Mergansers, below, were close and were very cooperative. The Common mergs (also below) kind of snuck up on us and flushed, I managed one obstructed digi-bin shot of them flying off through some phragmities.
Female Red-breasted Mergansers, the bird to the left must be paddling to beat of War's.. "Low Ry-dah".

Horned Grebes at close range, the one to the left "hamming it up".

Female Common Mergansers in flight, after the leader (that would be me), accidentally spooked them.

Last year we had nice looks at a flock of Pine Siskins, but there has been few reports of these finches this fall. The the only finches seen were a few American Goldfinches at the beginning of the walk. The initial winter finch "forecast", based on food availability from up north, indicates a sparse incursion this winter....lets hope they experts are wrong!

These two deer were at the north end of Mount L (a large island), a few years ago we had a great look at a large point buck at the very same spot.

American Crows were migrating, and a few flocks were seen passing overhead, often times when these migrants pass a thermal they will circle to gain altitude. However, they do not soar like raptors or ravens, but circle and flap and gain a little altitude then continue south west. With the passage of a cold front hundreds or even thousands can be seen from hawkwatch sites in New England and the Great Lakes region, as crows vacate the northern most portion of their range.

An animated flight shot of a Black-capped Chickadee.

With the few surprise birds we ended up with a "trip count" of 37 species, where as typically we get between 20 and 30 species on this walk. Here is are the trip totals:

American Black Duck...3
White-winged Scoter...1
Common Merganser...10
Red-breasted Merganser...2
Common Loon...14
Horned Grebe...7
Bald Eagle...3
Ruffed Grouse...1 heard drumming
Sharp-shinned Hawk...1
Cooper’s Hawk...1
Red-tailed Hawk...7
Black-bellied Plover...2
Greater Yellowlegs...1
Bonaparte's Gull...2
Ring-billed Gull...30
Downy Woodpecker...2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)...1
Pileated Woodpecker...1
Eastern Phoebe...1
Blue Jay...10
American Crow...192
Black-capped Chickadee...18
Tufted Titmouse...2
Red-breasted Nuthatch...1
White-breasted Nuthatch...2
Brown Creeper...2
Golden-crowned Kinglet...8
Ruby-crowned Kinglet...2
American Robin...15
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)...1
Song Sparrow...3
White-throated Sparrow...63
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)...68
American Goldfinch...8


Kim said...

Great Common Merganser shot there Tom. ;-) and LOL on the Hooded Merg to the left of your photo. Love the chickadee shot too. Thanks again for the great trip!

Hilke Breder said...

Just want to let you know, I really enjoy following your blog. There is always something of interest.

Tom Pirro said...

Glad you both enjoyed the post. Regardless of the season, or number of bird species seen it is always an enjoyable walk along this section of shoreline. Kim, I was surprised the Common Mergs came out in focus after I spooked them...BTW the "Low rider" merg was a Red-necked...though in that photo the head does resemble a Hoody's head.

I always enjoy leading this walk.