Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Westminster CBC 12/26

Ernie Leblanc joined me, to help out with covering the Gardner portion of this year's Westminster Christmas Bird Count. I began before sunrise to try for owls for an hour or so, and completely struck out! After meeting at Mount Wachusett Community College at 6:45AM our first stop was Chapel Street, to try our luck for the Townsend's Solitaire. I had not been there to check since finding it on 12/23, but other birders did see it on 12/24 but no reports had been received from 12/25.One of the new wind turbines at MWCC.

We birded that area from 7:00AM until about 8:15, and saw no sign of the bird. However we did have a few other nice birds for the count, such as Carolina Wren, 3 Common Redpolls, a Raven and a Flicker. After hitting a few more spots we returned briefly and Jeff Johnstone and company had arrived. Ernie and I continued on to cover our territory and "annexed" Jeff and friends into covering for the solitaire. While that prize bird never resurfaced, despite considerable effort by us and others, that spot turned up a few good birds. One being the flicker, very uncommon on this count and later John Williams had an immature Bald Eagle pass overhead, a first (and over due) for the Westminster CBC.

Carolina Wren at Jackson Park in Gardner.
Over the course of the morning we managed 10 more Common Redpolls, a Pine Siskin, 39 Wild Turkeys and a dozen Cedar Waxings. To get better coverage of the area, Enrie and I split our effort during the afternoon, within 45 minutes Enrie called me after finding 175 Cedar Waxwings and a single Bohemian Waxwing (not a solitaire but a real prize!). Karin had joined me for the afternoon so we headed right over and by the time we arrived another Bohemian had joined in. These were my first Bohemian Waxwings for the year and another (and likely my last) "year bird" for Worcester County!

Cedar Waxwing from 12/28 at High Ridge WMA in Westminster.
The afternoon was a little slow on the birding front, but at least the storm held off until after dark. I finished the last 40 mintues on Chapel Street hoping that solitaire might show itself again, it did not and likely has moved along or at least changed it habits for the time being.

Mourning Dove off Overlook Road, in Westminster 12/28.
The list from our section of the count only:
Black Duck... 4
Mallard... 30
Wild Turkey... 39
Cooper's Hawk ...1
Red-tailed Hawk... 2
R.B. Gull ...18
Herring Gull... 5
Rock Pigeon... 55
Mourning Dove ...27
Common Flicker...1

Downy Woodpecker... 21
Hairy Woodpecker... 5
Blue Jay ...31
Am. Crow ...20
C. Raven ...3
BC Chickadee ...143
T. Titmouse ...13
RB Nuthatch ...4
WB Nuthatch... 26
B. Creeper... 4
Carolina Wren... 3
Am. Robin ...10
N. Mockingbird... 1
E. Starling... 47
Bohemian Waxwing... 2
C. Waxwing... 190
Tree Sparrow... 7
Song Sparrow ...2
WT Sparrow... 3
DE Junco... 42
N. Cardinal ...11
House Finch... 22
C. Redpoll... 36
Pine Siskin ...1
Am. Goldfinch ...18
House Sparrow... 39

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Townsend's Solitaire (Gardner, Ma.) 12/23

I was very fortunate, today, to find a Townsend's Solitaire in Gardner, Ma. just after lunch! I was coming back from an interview and didn't expect to bird much and left the camera at home. Fortunately, I did have my cell phone and got Chcuk Caron, who headed over. Unfortunately the bird had disappeared and it took some time before Chuck saw it perched low in the brush on the far side of the field.

With Chuck's camera I was able to get the following:

Side view with pesky vine in the way.
More front on with view of stubby bill and eye ring.

The bird was a the intersection of Carter and Chapel St. in Gardner, a few hundered yards west of the junction of Rte 140 and Rte 101.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Groton CBC 12/19

This was only the 2nd or 3rd time I have done the Groton CBC, but I am familar with the area as I had worked near Groton center for over 20 years. Many a lunch break was spent birding nearby locales, so while I had no recent scouting, I was hoping past history would be enough to make a decent contribution to the count.

I tried owling a bit before dawn but came up empty using recordings ...NOTE: the Barred Owl recording I was using has a Chuck-will's-widow calling in the background.... That can't help the cause :). However, just before sunrise on Fitch Bridge Road, under perfect listening conditions a pair of great Horned Owls could be heard dueting to the south; a single Great-horned was calling to north!
A beautiful start to the day, a stately Hickory, Venus to the right and 3 great Horned Owls were calling in the background!
Many Dark-eyed Juncos were flitting about before daylight as I walked the edge of the fields, the first "good" daytime birds were a flock of blackbirds, 22 Red-wings and a single Rusty Blackbird among them!

A digi-bin shot of the Rusty Blackbird in poor light.
Just after viewing the blackbirds, two small finches passed overhead, their indentity given away by their dry "rattle"chi-chi-chi-, Common Redpolls! Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins were also present, both these species would be seen thoughout the day.

These two Red-tailed Hawks were perched near the Rte 119 bridge, on the Groton side of the Nashua River.

Part of the group of 33 Rock Pigeons (aka "bridge falcons") were in the tree beside the two Red-tails.
While imitating a screech owl call, at the Groton boat ramp, a Pileated Woodpecker arrived from a distance...loudly calling...then a 2nd. One even "sat tight" long enough for me get the scope out, the camera and take sevral shots.

Pileated Woodpecker (always a spectaclar sighting) at the Groton Boat ramp off Rte 119.
Other woodpecker were fairly cooperative as well, Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied and even a few Northern Flickers. A five woodpecker CBC, and still several hours to go! Off Broad Meadow Road was nice flock of American Tree Sparrows and single a Field Sparrow made for another nice bonus.
Field Sparrow..blank face, no breast spot, pink bill and a beautiful white eye ring.
While scanning the fields at Gibbet Hill I found many Canada Geese but nothing more exotic was mixed in. Typically any medium sized black and gray bird, perched atop multiflora rose is a Mockingbird, but birders hope it'll be a shrike. There was a "mocker" on one rose thicket and 50 yards was a spiffy Northern Shrike..checked in scope and photographed!
A two shrike weekend!
Northern Shrike at Gibbet Hill.
Northern Mockingbird from another location during the day.
I had almost forgotten about Floyd Hill Road, a narrow little dead end road, that in past years has been very birdy! Fortunately things hadn't changed much, after "spishing away" a few minutes two female Purple Finches arrived, lots of Chickadees, Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Goldfinches, Robins everywhere along with Hairy, Downy and Red-bellied Woodpeckers.
One of two female Purple Finches.
A Pileated Woodpecker began to call took flight in the distance, a Red-tailed Hawk landed nearby and spooked it off... further up the road I heard heavy rapping there were two Pileateds, each working a tree (I assume one of these was the previously spooked bird). They were also very cooperative as I walk under one of those trees it was raining tree bark.
A digi-bin shot of one of the Floyd Hill pileateds.
But like an old Billy Mays infomercial...wait there is more....a few hundred feet up the road a smallish dusky looking woodpecker flew into my screech owl imitation.... Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. This species was nearly unheard of in winter a few years ago in Massachusetts, while still unusual they are becoming more frequent, particulaly to the south and coast. But Groton is neither, so this was a nice bonus...and my 6th woodpecker species of the day!

A shot of the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.

I enjoyed a nice sunset overlooking Surrenden Farm while I tallied the day's numbers.
The day's list, click to enlarge:
Page 1

Page 2

Athol CBC 12/18

Jonathan Center and I covered the Baldwinville section of the Athol Christmas Bird Count this past Saturday. I began solo, before dawn, owling for a few hours with the payoff being one Northern Saw-whet Owl, a pack of howling coyotes and a beautiful star lite sky!

Jonathan and I met up at 7am and began birding along the Otter River, both American Tree and Song Sparrows were plentiful and an uncommon winter Swamp Sparrow. It was only the 2nd time I've had Swamp Sparrow in this section of the count.It had been cold the past several nights and the slower sections of river were frozen.

An American Tree Sparrow in flight, this species "won" top honors (in our section)for individuals counted with 95.
Near the end of Pleasant street we found both Winter and Carolina Wren, Cedar Waxwings, White-throated Sparrows and a small flock of Canada Geese (7 ) passed overhead. While Canada Geese would appear to be no "great shakes", during a colder winters they nearly absent from this part of Massachusetts. With recent cold conditions....this was a true bonus.

All gray and black birds "Teed up" on tree tops are scrutinized for Northern Shrike, but this was obviously a Mockingbird (below)....but this species is not very common in these parts. Usually there are one or two in the village, but they can be overlooked, but two made onto this year's ledger.

Northern Mockingbird
Another nice addition was 2 Ruffed Grouse, one flushed while walking the woods and the other flushed from a thicket adjacent to the woods, while we scanned a feeding station. But, an embarassing miss for the morning was Mourning Dove, but we would return to the village to look again after we covered the Lake Dennison area.

It was too cold for swimming, actually one ice fisherman was on the lake, perhaps the nuthatch was looking to partake in the "above" portion of the signage!

Another Swamp Sparrow was added near Lake Dennison and a big surprise was a Great Blue Heron that flushed from a grove of pine tree beside the frozen lake! Toward Birch Hill Dam, we checked for waterfowl along this faster moving section of river and after walking and scanning for an hour we only had a single mallard to show for the effort. While I was complaining, aloud, a Northern Shrike flew past, and landed low in brush at the edge of a clear cut.
Northern Shrike (Juvenile), just left of center.

Frozen Beaver Pond to the south east of Birch hill Dam.

After the shrike, our only new addition to the list would be the previously missed Mourning Dove, we added 9 upon returning to the village at the end of the day.

Below is the complete list from the day (click on the image to enlarge):

Friday, December 17, 2010

Barred Owl DOR 12/17

Barred Owl Rte Gardner
While traveling east bound on Rte, in Gardner, today I noticed a dead bird on the side of the road. Upon stopping I discovered it was a Barred Owl. I recall the winter of 2007/2008 was a bad year for road kill Barred Owls. Birders were finding dead birds with a great deal of frequency. I recall in a few days time, during early March 2008, finding 3 along Rte 2 between Westminster and Gardner and seeing another further east, where it was not safe to stop.

a "head on " view
My three ended up with Natural Heritage and were eventually forwarded to Tufts U. for further study. It seemed likely that winter, there was a major influx of northern birds. My understanding, from speaking with Natural Heritage during a followup conversation, the birds had not staved to dead but likely were hunting near the roads and highways and were struck by traffic. Hopefully this coming season will not be a repeat!

Needle sharp talons!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Feeder Birds.....

While Pine Siskins continue to dominate the numbers of birds visiting the feeders on the deck, some of the year in year out "staple" birds have provided some nice photo opportunities. Here are a few recent photos of Black-capped Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse.

Black-capped Chickadee near the back deck.

Working over a black oil sunflower seed.

Tufted Titmouse with handsome "posture".

Buffeted by a stiff wind. Working a seed and hanging on.

Another cold gust of wind from behind made for a unique "pose" while exposing it's ear hole!

Below is a graph of Black-capped Chickadee and Tufted Titmouse per party hour from Massachusetts over the past 50 years. Its hard to believe the Tufted Titmouse was nearly non-existant in Massachuetts 50 years ago.

Retrived December 9, 2010 from http://web4.audubon.org/bird/cbc/hr/index.html

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pine Siskins 12/2

Pine Siskins continue to "show" strong at the feeding stations in my neighborhood, this morning a total of 30 decended on the deck. Thus far, the highest count I have seen this fall. Hopefully Common redpolls will soon follow. I have seen reports of redpolls from further north, and have read of a poor birch seed crop in parts of Canada...maybe by the first Christmas Bird Counts?

A recent backyard siskin.

Another nice surprise was a Northern Flicker that passed through the wood lot out back, generally an uncommon species this late in the fall.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Northern Cardinal (Female) and Gr. W-F Goose

An illuminated bill!
A few days ago I snapped a few shots of a female cardinal on the back deck. It was windy and her crest was being blown about, which made for one particular comical "pose".

Full "portrait".
a cropped "head shot".
There has been a Greater White-fronted Goose in Milbury for the past few weeks, yesterday I traveled down that way and was fortunate to have some nice views before it and its associates (Canada Geese) took flight.
" floating" with Canadas....
..."on the run"...

...nearly airborn".

Also, was an "oddball" goose, I thought perhaps a hybrid but others have thought a leucistic Canada. After viewing another birder's photo I am inclined to agree. It is a free flying bird that comes and goes with the flock of 175+ Canadas to roost each evening and leave in the morning for feeding grounds.

"My" shot is below.

Any other opinions of the above goose are always welcomed

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

MWCC Wind Turbine hits the sky in Gardner 11/23

Taken from Crystal Lake Cemetery.
I stopped by Mount Wachusett Community College, to pick some transcripts today, and saw one of the wind turbines being erected. A total of 2 turbines will be erected near the college, they are very similar in size to the pair just west of Mount Wachuestt and the single turbine at Narragansett Regional High School, in Templeton, Ma.

Here is link to a little more of this MWCC initiative.

Its nice to see efforts utilizing non petroleum based energy and I realize the effort isn't just about dollars and cents. However, I do wonder how fiscally viable these types of projects will be in the long run. Of course us bird people often are concerned about bird strike mortality, but there are certainly considerations of wildlife mortality from petro based energy. One such being the high concentration of methylmercury in the Common Loon population in the northeast USA.

Here are a few digiscope shots of the "head" of turbine #1 being lifted, taken from across Crystal Lake.

While looking through the scope I could make out a persons head in between the head and stanchion (the dark blob in middle of the space).

I understand Ashburnham is planning to install a similar sized wind turbine on Blood Hill, 2 miles south east of Mount Watatic in the near future.