Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Athol CBC (Baldwinville/Birch Hill) 12/17

Coverage of the Baldwinville/ Winchendon section of the Athol Christmas Bird Count began at 5am on Saturday with a clear sky and "dead calm". The weather was cold enough so the dirt roads of Otter River State Forest and Birch Hill Wildlife Managment Area were firm enough for 2-wheele drive travel. The first 3 stops got no responses for Saw-whet Owl, but one answered my calls from a stand of young White Pine a few stops later, another returned a call. Nothing else responded before dawn, but this was a fine start.
The back roads of Birch hill WMA
Gail and Jay joined me for the morning portion of the count and we walked the edge of the "back bay" marsh and several village streets in our section. We did well on Canada Geese and a few Mallards along the river, unfortunately the number of sparrows were "off" along the marsh's edge this year. Slowly, we began to gather a decent list of the regulars, and also added new species for this portion of the count (an over due one that), Red-bellied Woodpecker. Purple Finches (5) were also a nice addition. Most years there is a Northern Mockingbird in the neighborhood and some years I have to nearly go "door to door" to find it, about 9am one perched atop a large spruce tree, later another was found. "Mockers" are not common up this way, so it was good to get these tallied early in the day.

The "mocker" dropping from its perch.
Of course a some of the so called "undesirables" were added to the list, a 150+ European Starlings, a small flock of Rock Pigeons, House Finches and House them the "filthy four", actually this year it was the "filthy five" as 4 Ring-necked Pheasants were tallied late in the day.
While scouting a few days before I had found a Chipping Sparrow in the area, we tried 2 times in the morning, after Gail and Jay departed I tried twice more...nothing.... ditto for a few Carolina Wren spots. Finally at 3:30, on the 5th visit, the "little chippy" popped out of the thicket. Of course these 4 re-visits to score the "chippy", cost addition stops at additonal survey areas....always a delema whether to try for an uncommon scouted species or just run the route.

A handsome male Red-breasted Nuthatch, 14 for the day.

Not even photo documentation got this guy on the list!

Every one knows where these came from....but they go on the list.
"I say...I say... boy you help get us outta here and we're as listable as those clowns above".
One of two Common Mergansers found on the back side of birch hill dam.
When it was all said and done the total species count was 33 (yes...including the Ring-necked Pheasants) which was above the average of 30 species for this area as was the 876 individuals over an average of 724. The number of introduced individuals was 260 vs. an avg of 212, but was the highest since 1998. When I began covering this section of the count in 1993 there was a higher number of Rock Pigeons and European Starlings, perhaps the dismantling of the Temple-Stuart manufacturing complex provides less roosting "habitat" for these two species.

Canada Goose209
Common Merganser2
Ring-necked Pheasant4
Sharp-shinned Hawk1
Rock Pigeon14
Mourning Dove9
Northern Saw-whet Owl2
Red-bellied Woodpecker3
Downy Woodpecker10
Hairy Woodpecker6
Blue Jay63
American Crow6
Black-capped Chickadee64
Tufted Titmouse11
Red-breasted Nuthatch14
White-breasted Nuthatch16
Brown Creeper2
American Robin44
Northern Mockingbird2
European Starling160
Cedar Waxwing11
American Tree Sparrow13
Chipping Sparrow1
Song Sparrow3
White-throated Sparrow13
Dark-eyed Junco53
Northern Cardinal12
Purple Finch5
House Finch13
American Goldfinch28
House Sparrow73
Golden-crowned Kinglet             7

Monday, December 5, 2011

Essex County 12/3

 Karin and I drove up to West Newbury, Salisbury and Rowely on Saturday 12/3. The first stop was the Cherry Hill Reservoir area. The Cassin's Kingbird, that has been frequenting the reservoir area, was the first target. Upon arrival five birders were seen across the wet field, each busy looking through their optics in the same direction. A certain sign the target bird was currently in view, after a quick dash across the field I was afforded nice views of the bird.

Best of the Cassin's Kingbird, it was about 100 meters away, note the gray breast and white throat/chin area.
On the water was a drake Canvasback, which showed nicely along with several Ruddy Ducks, Common Mergansers, a few Buffleheads and Common Goldeneye.
A handsome Canvasback, it seems this species' numbers in Massachusetts, have declined in recent years.
On the way home we "swung" through Rowely and were fortunate the previously reported Sandhill Cranes were in view. The pair stayed in close proximety to each other, strutting through shallow water of a wetland right off rte 1A.
Sandhill Crane sightings have increased in recent years, with a pair recently breeding in western Massachusett and more than one pair breeding in Maine, seems I recall of breedig season reports from New Hampshire or Vermont (or both).