Monday, October 29, 2012

Quabbin Gate 35

I typically lead a Forbush Bird Club trip at Gate 35 each fall, unfortunately last year's trip was cancelled due to a severe early season blizzard. Fortunately this year's storm "Sandy", which is underway as I type, did not have an adverse effect on this year's trip. Before we left the parking area the double noted call of a Winter Wren was heard in the nearby hemlocks. The bird was coaxed into view with some spishing and screech owl imitations and the whole group of 6 had an excellent view of this little wren. Black-capped Chickadees, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, Golden-crowned Kinglets and a few Brown Creepers were seen as we made our way to the water's edge.

North Quabbin viewed from what was once Rte 21
Bald Eagles are always one of the target species for this trip and at least six were seen, including 4 adults in view during a single scan and two different immatures, which briefly skirmished with each other. Having 6 sets of eyes helped detect a movement of raptors, the following appeared to be migrating SW, Sharp-shinned Hawk 3, Red-shouldered Hawk 2, Red-tailed Hawk 15, Am. and Kestrel 2. Once distant Merlin was seen cruising over what is refered to as the "phragmities island".
Always a Quabbin highlight!
While walking the shoreline two Black-bellied Plovers were seen, a group member asked if we had reached the Worcester County border yet? We hadn't but as we moved south and plovers kept walking just ahead of us and after about 400 meters we were able to "tickem off" in in both Franklin and Worcester Counties! American Robins were migrating SW as well and we noted about 75 +/- as well as a few groups of Canada Geese and small number of Amercian Crows.
Both Black-bellied Plovers

With a decent movement of raptors this BB Plover was
 keeping and eye to the sky
A little hide and seek, or maybe just hide!
We also had a some nice water birds including 3 Red-breasted Mergansers and a single Common. Initially I/we settled on 4 RB Mergs but one was a bit puzzling and had a very limited amount of white under the chin, upon viewing some photos at home, that bird in question was a Common Merganser.
A Red-breasted Merganser and Common to the right.
Two Surf Scoters were nice finds and lingered for prolonged views by the group, a Horned Grebe also showed well along with several Common Loons. A flock of about 15 Snow Buntings quickly rose up on a distant island and just as quickly disappeared never to be seen again. A Greater Yellowlegs was also a good find, but most unusual, to me at least, had been two Rock Pigeons seen flying north. Pigeon is NOT a common bird species in the Quabbin, especially in this region of the watershed.

An accommodating Horned Grebe
 Just after discussing all the great birds we'd seen during the morning and the fact that the Rock Pigeons may have been the most uncommon species seen for the location we were birding, a large black and white duck was spotted in flight. It would be a drake Common Eider, a species that is abundant along the Massachusetts coast but exceedingly rare inland, the last (to my knowledge) Worcester County record being November, 2 1991 just after the infamous "perfect storm".

During the walk back we would enjoy mixed flock of chickadees, titmice, both nuthatch species, kinglets and also continued to scan the water for more waterfowl.

Our small group makes its way along the Quabbin shoreline.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Wompanoag Mass Audubon Sanctuary (Gardner) 10/13

Looking North West from the Wompanoag MAS
 I hawkwatched at the Wompanoag MAS in Gardner Saturday 10/13 from 9:15 to 2PM, the hawk flight was modest but there were plenty of other species on the move to keep me busy. While there were no clouds to help detect high flying raptors I was able to pick out a few as the strong cold wind fortunately kept some of the birds low!

The migrant hawk count for the day:
Turkey Vulture  8
Osprey  3
Northern Harrier 2 including one adult male
Sharp-shinned Hawk  20
Cooper's Hawk  3
Red-shouldered Hawk 5
Red-tailed Hawk 9
American Kestrel 6 (one passed within 10 feet of me at eye level!)
Merlin 3

There were a few "local" Red-tailed Hawks, including two that briefly locked talons and spiraled downward and another (or one of the same) that was being harrassed by a Northern Raven. I marvel at the obvious size difference between the two species, with the raven being the larger of the two!

This handsome Osprey passed by low and close!

This Osprey, a different bird, though not as close as the previous..still offered a great look.

Not to be out done this juv. Red-shouldered Hawk came in close for a photo
Canada Geese were moving and totaled just about 600, with the largest flock at about 100 birds and another just under 90. I picked up a skien of smaller waterfowl with quicker wing beats and a more dis-organized formation than the Canadas. My initial reaction was to lean toward Brant, and a few minutes later they flew overhead, very high but in good light. Their dark breasts, light bellies and whitish under tail coverts tipped the scales to Brant, my 4th record from this site.

These high flying Canada Geese numbered just under 90.

The Brant

Two USAF planes circled the general area several times.
On my way home, mid afternoon, I stopped by Crystal Lake to check for Scoters. Cold windy days in mid October can produce scoter flights, while I didn't see any during the day or on Lake Wompanoag, I did find 4 Red-necked Grebes on Crystal Lake. These were among the closest I have even seen the species, below is a digi-scope shot.
Two of the four Red-necked Grebes on Crystal Lake in Gardner.
Other species seen for the hawkwatch were 40 American pipits, 15+ Pine Sisikins, 3 Rusty Blackbirds, 3 Blue-headed Vireos, about 10 Palm Warblers and dozens of Yellow-rumped Warblers. A few American Crows appeared to migrating, over the next month much of the very northern most breeding crows will migrate through. Thom McCullough and I tallied 3500+ several years on Mt. Watatic we also had 131 Red-tails and 34 Red-shoulders that day, 10/28/2001.