Monday, May 30, 2011

Worcester County Tour 5/28

Chuck, Paul and I birded from 2:15Am to 9Pm on Saturday for a Worcester County big day effort. While none of us had ever done a Worcester County "specific" big day before, we have enough long term knowledge of the area to "throw together" a decent route. Perhaps we will do a few more of these in the years to come and refine the process, perhaps others will do the same?

Wetland off Turnpike Road in Royalston.
Our first birds were Song Sparrow, Eastern Whip-poor-will and Barred Owl at Birch Hill Dam in South Royalston. We came up empty on a few other owling spots in the area, and continued on to Turnpike Road in Royaston, which abuts Priest Brook and some nice open marshy space. Key prizes in this area included American Bittern, Ruffed Grouse, Alder Flycatcher (many) and a nice assortment of warblers including Magnolia, Black-throated Green (and Blue), Nashville, Blackburnian and Northern Waterthrush along with Veery and Hermit Thrush. Next we headed to Royalston hoping for Evening Grosbeak and perhaps Pine Siskin, while we missed those; Blackpoll Warbler, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and Least Flycatcher were tallied.
Female Hooded Merganser in a backyard nest box, our only "hoodie" of the day!

Prospect Hill Road in Royalston, if Paul heads any further north he'll be in New Hampshire!

In route to the Gardner Airport we pickup Savannah Sparrow at the old Fernald School and a flyover female Common Merganser was a real bonus! At the airport our target Horned Lark was spotted on a runway, Prairie Warblers and Field Sparrows were heard but we missed Dark-eyed Junco. Onto the Ware River Water Shed, another key area were a very grudging Golden-crowned Kinglet finally sang, we added Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Canada and Blue-winged Warblers and Eastern Bluebird to name a few.

The Rte 56 overlook of the Worcester Airport yielded an Eastern Meadowlark, but no American Kestrel, two species that have declined in our area over the past few decades. After a "healthy" lunch at Hot Dog Annies we continued south into Chalton's "Water's Edge" were Louisiana Waterthrush, Wood Thrush and Indigo Bunting were added then a Yellow-throated Vireo at Oxford's "Greenbriar" and the off to Uxbridge for a Worm-eating Warbler. We missed both the Worm-eating Warbler and Orchard Oriole there but added Ring-billed Gull and a lingering Solitary Sandpiper.

We decided to avoid downtown Worcester for the nesting Peregrine Falcons and headed for Westboro's nesting Osprey and Mute Swans (which we still didn't have yet). On the way we picked up Grasshopper Sparrow and Northern Mockingbird in Sutton and a Great Black-backed Gull in Milbury, this a surprise as very few linger in Worcester County after their breeding season commences. In Westboro we'd get the Osprey and Mute Swans quickly, but a Herring Gull was a nice surprise, we'd only get one Herring and Black-backed Gull for the day!

We were now headed back north to Wachusett Reservoir were Bald Eagle, Common Loon, Spotted Sandpiper and a "bonus" Bonepart's Gull were added. Our total stood at 114 species, but daylight was getting short, but we still had Pine Hill Road in Lancaster and Bolton Flats were we expected to add a few species such as shorebirds, marsh birds and perhaps a surprise or two. We hit the Pine Hill Road WMA but the territorial Vesper Sparrows were not singing, so we quickly headed for Bolton Flats with the expectation of returning to Pine Hill right at dusk.

At Bolton we quickly added Bank Swallow, Amercian Black Duck, Northern Shoveler (a bonus) and Blue-winged Teal (another bonus)! A few Greater Yellowlegs, 1 Least Sandpiper, 2 Semipalmated Plovers and a calling Virginia Rail were added shortly after then we waded through some deeper water and found the Red-necked Phalarope that bart Kamp had mentioned (see previous post). Despite being on a big day effort we lingered to enjoy the handsome phalarope and shortly after picked up a Lesser Yellowlegs and lastly a Marsh Wren. The previously reported Common Moorhen nor the Sora called while we were present and as darkness was approaching we headed back to Pine Hill Road, only a short distance away.

The wind had subsided in the past few hours and listening conditions were perfect, the only noise we had to contend with were the buzzing blood-thirsty mosquitoes! Soon we heard American Woodcock calling, then Vesper Sparrow, soon the whip-poor-wills started up, further in Grasshopper Sparrows joined the chorus and not to be undone at least 2 Barred Owls called in the distance and our last new bird of the day would be a distant Great-horned Owl that answered a our imitation!
We'd "pack it in" about 9PM with 128 species for the day, we had looked for something in the 125 to 135 range, so we were very pleased with the effort and remain optimistic that higher totals are within reach with a little more route refinement and scouting of more key and uncommon species.

Our list for the day:
Common Loon
Double-crested Cormorant
American Bittern
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Wood Duck
American Black Duck
Blue-winged Teal
Northern Shoveler
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Bald Eagle
Broad-winged Hawk
Red-tailed Hawk
Grouse, Ruffed
Wild Turkey
Virginia Rail
Semipalmated Plover
Lesser Yellowlegs
Spotted Sandpiper
Least Sandpiper
Red-necked Phalarope
American Woodcock
Bonaparte’s Gull
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Dove
Mourning Dove
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Eastern Whip-poor-will
Chimney Swift
Ruby-throated Hummingbird
Belted Kingfisher
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Pileated Woodpecker
Eastern Wood-Pewee
Alder Flycatcher
Willow Flycatcher
Least Flycatcher
Eastern Phoebe
Great Crested Flycatcher
Eastern Kingbird
Blue-headed Vireo
Yellow-throated Vireo
Warbling Vireo
Red-eyed Vireo
Blue Jay
American Crow
Common Raven
Horned Horned
Tree Swallow
Northern Rough-winged Swallow
Bank Swallow
Barn Swallow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
Red-breasted Nuthatch
White-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Carolina Wren
House Wren
Marsh Wren
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Hermit Thrush
Wood Thrush
American Robin
Gray Catbird
Northern Mockingbird
European Starling
Cedar Waxwing
Blue-winged Warbler
Nashville Warbler
Yellow Warbler
Chestnut-sided Warbler
Magnolia Warbler
Black-throated Blue Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler
Blackburnian Warbler
Pine Warbler
Prairie Warbler
Blackpoll Warbler
Black-and-white Warbler
Redstart, American Warbler
Northern Waterthrush
Louisiana Waterthrush
Common Yellowthroat
Canada Warbler
Scarlet Tanager
Eastern Towhee
Chipping Sparrow
Field Sparrow
Vesper Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Grasshopper Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Northern Cardina
Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Indigo Bunting
Red-winged Blackbird
Eastern Meadowlark
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Baltimore Oriole
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Red-necked Phalarope (Bolton Flats 5/28)

Chuck Caron, Paul Meleski and I were concluding our Worcester County big day effort, at Bolton Flats last evening and crossed paths with Bart Kamp, as he was heading back to his car. What I thought a bit odd was he was not carrying a scope. The Mystery was soon solved, he'd left his scope in the field to get his phone (in his car), to notify a few local birders of a Red-necked Phalarope in the muddy corn fields. We continued in, and soon had the handsome phalarope in sight.
A few digi-scope shots:
Working between the corn stubble.

It moved into the open a bit...

Looking away

This was a Worcester County life bird for me and my 3rd species of phalarope for the county. Including the Wilson's, in Sterling, last summer and the "storm driven" Reds from mid May 2006, which included a "wreck" (a relative term) of 11 on Wachusett Reservoir on 5/13/2006.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mt Watatic, Bolton and Wachusett Reservoir...

Karin and I took a hike up Mt. Watatic Sunday, while the weather was dreary the rain held off and the short hike was very pleasant. Many of the spruce trees near the summit held a heavy load of new cones, so perhaps these might attract some crossbills, once they mature in the fall. abundant Red Spruce cones.

A close up...
Blueberry were flowering...time to pick in about 6 weeks!

Painted Trillium

A Willet was reported from Bolton Flats and while common on our coastal marshes, such as Plum Island they are exceedingly rare inland! Superbowl of Birding team mate, Rod Jenkins found it and to boot....he heard a King Rail at the same time!

I made a visit during the week, while I did not see the Willet nor hear the King Rail, there were other nice birds in the muddy fields. 14 Semipalmated Plovers, 5 Greater Yellowlegs, 3 Spotted Sandpipers, 22 Least Sandpipers and 2 Short-billed Dowitchers (originally found by Alan Marble) made a nice assortment of inland shorebirds.

One of 14 Semi Plovers ...

A very handsome Short-billed Dowitcher.

I hoped for a tern species at Wachusett Reservoir, Bart Kamp had two Black Terns recently, but none were to be seen. A large raft of tightly "packed" waterfowl in the distance turned out to be Brant! I estimated about 100, certainly one of the largest spring occurances of this species on record, for Worcester County! Bart Kamp had also seen them a little earlier and the birds took flight and set down again, while in flight he was able to get an accurate count of 133. Paul Meleski had seen the same group of birds and estimated 70-80, but they were so close together it was impossible to get an exact count.

A long range digi-scope photo of Brant on Wachusett Reservoir.

A few other "good" birds on Wachusett were a Horned Grebe (in breeding plumage) and 14 White-winged Scoters.

Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak digi-scoped from the deck at home.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Horned Grebe (Westminster) 5/10

While scanning Round Meadow Pond, in Westminster, for swallows late this afternoon, I notice a Horned Grebe in breeding plumage. It is not too often I have seen this species in breeding plumage at such close range. Some of the digi-scoped photos are below.

Also skimming the water were Barn (~10), Tree (~20), Northern Rough-winged (~5) and Bank Swallows (~40). Yesterday was the general arrival for Bank Swallows in my local patch, as I'd seen none (this year) before despite looking intently, but about 30 were feeding over the pond.

and a last shot of this little gem, compair with their none-breeding plumage from early November of 2009 at Quabbin Reservoir!

Also of note, one of the Bald Eagle pair (with a slight dark mask) was present this evening, a neighbor stopped by to let me know they were viewing the bird from their deck.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Lancaster/Bolton/Oxbow 5/7

I "hit" 3 key Worcester County birding habitats on Saturday morning: The "Lancaster Wild Life Management Area" (essentially an old sandpit) at the end of Pine Hill Road in Lancaster is a great spot for "scrub-shrub" like birds. An Eastern Whip-poor-will was calling at the gate when I arrived at 5AM and soon after walking into a more open area, along the dirt road, I could hear Field Sparrows calling, Eastern Towhees and way off in the distant an American Bittern. At first I thought the bittern was calling from an adjacent wetland to the west, but realized it must have been on Bolton Flats, 0.8 miles away (by measuring on a map).

Soon afterward, I would hear a Vesper Sparrow singing on territory and a few hundred yards was another. At the edge of a grassy area a Grasshopper Sparrow was singing and teed up on a sign post. There is great Grasshopper Sparrow habitat nearby, on the Devens military base (South Post), which is an active training area, fortunately at least a few Grasshopper Sparrows have defected to civilian territories. This bird had a metal band on its left leg, though no numbers could be read.

Arriving at Bolton Flats at 6AM, two American Bitterns could be heard calling and the spring shorebird show was nice with 9 species present including Killdeer (10+), Greater (18) and Lesser Yellowlegs (5), Solitary (15), Spotted (5), Least (2), Pectoral Sandpipers (3), Dunlin (4) and Wilson's Snipe (8).

A cryptic Wilson's Snipe
3 of 4 Dunlin and a Pectoral Sandpiper

One of many Solitary Sandpipers.

On the Marsh bird side of the equation, in addition to the bitterns was a Virgina Rail, in full view and two Marsh Wrens. I did not hear the previously reported Sora, but the two Green Herons flying overhead were my first of the year.

Virginia Rail.

Pectoral Sandpiper, from behind.

Another nice surprise was a Blackpoll Warbler, I usually don't expect them until about the 15th, so I was happy to "get one" a week earlier than normal. Blackpoll Warbler on Bolton Flats

Oxbow National Wildlife Refuge was fairly active with vireos with Yellow-throated (3), Red-eye Vireo (1), Blue-headed (1) and Warbling (7). A male Orchard Oriole was a nice addition to the 10+ Baltimores. While I walked the trail there were good numbers of Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Gray Catbird, Great-crested Flycatcher, and a dozen species of wood warblers including:

Nashville Warbler ...2
Yellow Warbler ...12
Northern Parula ...7
Chestnut-sided ...Warbler 1
Pine Warbler ...2
Blackburnian Warbler ...1
Yellow-rumped Warbler ...20+
Blackpoll Warbler ...1
Black and White Warbler ...7
American Redstart ...4
Ovenbird ...5
Common Yellowthroat ...15
Many digi-bin photo attempts turn out like the one above... a Green Heron

This gem stood out among the birds at Oxbow.

On the way home drove past the west side of Wachusett Mountain in Princeton

I see these turbines, on the flank of Wachusett Mountain, fairly often but never turning in unison at they were mid-day on Saturday.

Praire Warbler

Blackburian Warbler, every one oooh's and aaauh's about the males, but this female was looking pretty spiffy!

The Lancaster/Bolton Flats/Oxbow area produced 100 species and an aditional 10 were added on the drive back to Westminster, via Wachusett Reservoir and the west side of Princeton, ending in the early afternoon with a very welcomed nap.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Forbush Annual East Quabbin Trip 5/1

11 members of the Forbush Bird Club enjoyed perfect spring weather, this past Sunday, while "touring" East Quabbin, in the area that was once part of the townships of Greenwich and Dana.
Beaver ponds in the back woods of Quabbin are always a highlight, we had nice looks at Hooded Mergansers, a drake Common Merg., Wood Ducks, Eastern Kingbirds, Tree Swallows, Yellow Warblers, Least Flycatchers and diplaying Red-winged Blackbirds, but no Yellow-throated or Warbling Vireos this on this year's trip.
A secluded beaver pond, well inside of gate 45.
Red-winged Blackbird in full display.
14 species of wood warblers were seen and/or heard but the only vireo species was Blue-headed, we missed Baltimore Oriole for the first time in several years. a handsome Blue-headed Vireo (formerly known as Solitary Vireo).
A few Least Flycatchers were present, such as the bird above.
One of two Porcupines that were certainly crowd pleasers, a bit slower than warblers allowed protracted viewing!
While watching one of the Porcupines, two immature Bald Eagles passed over head one just above the other. They "locked" talons and began a spectacular descent spiraling downward toward the earth, after "pin-wheeling" about 6 revolutions they separated, and moved off in different directions.
Bald Eagles locked together.
... just after breaking apart.

This Chestnut-sided Warbler showed nicely.

A non avian highlight is lunch at Dana Common, we usually linger on the common for about 45 minutes for lunch, conversation and birding. A few American Redstarts were found here, we only had a few during the day. Our trip is a bit on the early side of May, so we miss or only encounter a few of species such as Red-eyed vireo and American Redstart. By late-May these two species will be among the most abunbant species in the east Quabbin, likely neither would ever be out of hearing range.

Club members enjoy luch on Dana Common.

Toward the end of the day we had a nice surprise of 4 breeding plumaged Horned Grebes, while this species is an uncommon but annual "pass-through" migrant in Central Massachusetts, seeing them in breeding plumage made it even more special! Another nice bonus was two female Red-breasted Mergansers just before leaving the water's edge near gate 35. These like the Horned Grebes are easily found on coastal Massachusetts during the winter, but they are also very uncoommon away from the coast.

A happy "clan", after great weather, birding and company!

The complete trip list:

Canada Goose ...16
Wood Duck ...5
American Black Duck ...2
Mallard ...4
Green-winged Teal (American) ...7
Hooded Merganser ...4
Red-breasted Merganser ...2
Common Merganser ...1
Ruffed Grouse ...3
Common Loon ...6
Horned Grebe ...4
Double-crested Cormorant ...1
Great Blue Heron ...3
Turkey Vulture ...12
Bald Eagle ...5
Northern Harrier ...1
Broad-winged Hawk ...2
Red-tailed Hawk ...1
Merlin ...1
Ring-billed Gull ...3
Mourning Dove ...4
Red-bellied Woodpecker ...1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker ...13
Downy Woodpecker 2
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) ...3
Pileated Woodpecker ...6
Least Flycatcher ...5
Eastern Phoebe ...3
Eastern Kingbird ...2
Blue-headed Vireo ...6
Blue Jay ...12
American Crow ...14
Tree Swallow ...53
Black-capped Chickadee ...12
Tufted Titmouse ...4
Red-breasted Nuthatch ...3
White-breasted Nuthatch ...3
Brown Creeper ...3
House Wren ...1
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher ...4
Ruby-crowned Kinglet ...1
American Robin ...15
Gray Catbird ...3
Northern Parula ...1
Yellow Warbler ...6
Chestnut-sided Warbler ...10
Magnolia Warbler ...1
Black-throated Blue Warbler ...12
Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) ...40
Black-throated Green Warbler ...10
Blackburnian Warbler ...3
Pine Warbler ...42
Palm Warbler (Yellow) ...3
Black-and-white Warbler ...10
American Redstart ...3
Ovenbird ...15
Common Yellowthroat ...6
Eastern Towhee ...39
Chipping Sparrow ...26
Song Sparrow ...6
Swamp Sparrow ...3
White-throated Sparrow ...10
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) ...6
Scarlet Tanager ...1
Northern Cardinal ...2
Rose-breasted Grosbeak ...3
Red-winged Blackbird ...12
Common Grackle ...10
Brown-headed Cowbird ...16
Purple Finch ...2
American Goldfinch ...4