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

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