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Participants: M. and K. Conway, A. Downey, M. Felix, D. and L. Haile, T. Skill, B. Spirito, J. Zepko, Ruth Green and Joseph Sefter, the last two being new members
In keeping with what has been typical this season, our Berkshire Lakes trip took place on a day that was mild for early November. The warmish weather has kept the ducks from moving south, but that did not dampen the enthusiasm of the eleven participants. The larger Cheshire Reservoir gave us more land birds than waterfowl (Cedar Waxwings, Red-winged Blackbirds, Pileated Woodpecker, among others) until we came to the "teal hole". There we found a pair of Bufflehead, a handful of Hooded Mergansers, and a female Lesser Scaup. At the causeway on Onota we found Wood Ducks as expected along with two Gadwall. There were Coot in one cove on Richmond Pond, but the first Coot of the day was spotted by Donna H. at the Pontoosuc causeway. She also located the last bird of the day, a Pied-billed Grebe in the Richmond marsh. With a total of 32 species, we ended the half-day trip enjoying cider donuts and other pastries at Bartlett's Orchard.
Pied-billed Grebe 1
Great Blue Heron 4
Turkey Vulture 1 or 2
Mute Swan 2
Wood Duck 12
Lesser Scaup 1
Hooded Merganser 7
Common Merganser 18
Bald Eagle 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
American Coot 6
Ring-billed Gull 91
Belted Kingfisher 1
Downy Woodpecker 2
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 1
Carolina Wren 2
Eastern Bluebird 5
Cedar Waxwing 25
Red-winged Blackbird 2
There were just three eager birders ready to start the New Year right, despite the new fallen snow and the frigid temperatures. We began the trip by taking a detour to New Bedford, where a rare Mandarin Duck was reported at The Sawmill at Acushnet River Preserve. The pond was partially frozen, but we found the graceful duck floating in the outflow river with Mallards, Black Ducks, Canada Geese and several domestic ducks and geese. The preserve is a lovely place, but the clock was already ticking, so we moved on to try for a Snowy Owl reported on the beach along the New Bedford Cove Walk. We did not find it, but did spot an array of waterfowl, including Red-throated Loon, Bufflehead, Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Scaup, Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Eider - and another life place!
Onward to the Cape, we picked up Turkey Vulture and seconds later Black Vulture from the moving car. We arrived at Siders Pond in Falmouth around 11:25 to find less birds than in previous years. We counted about a dozen each of Hooded Mergansers, Canada Geese and Mallards, and five Double-crested Cormorants. At nearby Salt Pond, there were less than a dozen Scaup, but two Great Blue Heron were hunting at the back edge of the water. Other birds were Bufflehead, Red-breasted and Hooded Mergansers, and a Belted Kingfisher. Off Surf Avenue there were 2 Red-throated Loon, 4 Common Loon, lots more Red-breasted Mergansers, a few Goldeneye and a Long-tailed Duck.
After a break, we headed to Flax Pond and found the reported Redhead Duck with some Canada Geese. While there we picked up few songbirds and a Flicker. Next stop was Ashumet Pond, where parking was difficult and most of the waterfowl were distant. There were Scaup, lots of Common Mergansers and Common Goldeneye, and with them was one male Barrow’s Goldeneye.
On to Marston’s Mills, where the newly frozen ice forced the ducks into an area where we could get good views. We picked out two male Pintail and a Green-winged Teal, as well as Hooded Mergansers, Blacks, Mallards, 5 Mute Swans, another Great Blue Heron and the always cheerful call of the Carolina Wren.
We accessed Mill Pond in West Barnstable by parking at the end of Gemini Road and walking down a snow and ice-covered trail. The Pond treated us to 50 Wood Ducks, 25 Canada Geese and two Great Horned Owls calling back and forth. On returning to the car, we spotted six Turkeys strolling in the neighbor’s yard.
It was after 4:00 by now and we still had much to do before sunset. We headed straight for Town Neck Rd, forgoing a quick look at the Sandwich marina, and parking at the usual spot, but the closed-down restaurant is now the new Tree House Brewing Co. Over the years, viewing the bay from this spot has given us wonderful close-up looks at hundreds, maybe thousands, of waterfowl and has been a good place to search for alcids, particularly Razorbills. We did pick up a few new birds for the day, 4 Black Scoter, a Great Black-backed Gull, and a Red-necked Grebe, but even with that and the four lovely Long-tailed Ducks, we were left wanting for alcids and Gannets.
On to Plymouth Wharf, where we hoped a new location would bring us luck. We quickly found 20 Surf Scoter, more Common Eiders, Bufflehead, Canada Geese and lots of Black Ducks.
It was late, so we rushed west to Cumberland Farms. Scanning there in the almost-dark, we spotted 3 Short-eared Owls flying together, weaving an imaginary web as they circled in figure eights with the crimson-colored sunset sky as a backdrop. The last bird to make itself known was a Great Horned Owl, perched high up in a deciduous tree on the back edge of the farm fields. After a few moments it began calling, too. It was a great end to our day’s adventure. We garnered a total of 54 species and added many birds to our new year lists.
Thirteen members gathered in Gloucester at the parking lot of Sweet Water Grille (the old Friendly’s) at Grant’s Circle. Right from the parking lot many members were treated to excellent views of the previously reported Wood Stork flying into the marsh. Also there were 6 Great Blue Herons, 50+ Bufflehead, 6 Black Ducks and a Carolina Wren. It was a great start to a very nice day of birding.
Jodrey’s Pier was next giving us 3 Long-tailed Ducks. Seth was not fond of this duck’s new name and continued to refer to them as Oldsquaw, not because he didn’t identify with the more politically correct name, but just because he was a poet and thought Oldsquaw was a more colorful and poetic name for the beautiful, graceful duck. Also there were Common Loon (2), DC Cormorant (15), C Eider (75), Surf Scoter (1), our three usual gulls, but no white-winged gulls. Someone mentioned that the warmer weather might have delayed their migration.
Rocky Neck added Red-breasted Merganser (35), Red-throated Loon (4) and Bufflehead (3), along with Mockingbird. Also present were C Loon (8), Surf Scoter (10), DC Cormorant (10) and hordes of European Starlings.
At Niles Beach, we added Bald Eagle (1), Black Scoter (1), and Catbird.
While Eastern Point gave some who ventured out to the rocky precipice two Black Guillemots, a Gannet and three Purple Sandpipers, those that stayed behind, mostly due to the limited parking, were still treated to crows mobbing a Bald Eagle, C Loon (6), Surf Scoter (25), Bufflehead (4), RB Merg, C Eider (75), Long-tailed Duck (15), and another Carolina Wren singing for all.
A brief stop at Niles Pond added Ring-necked Ducks (10). Also there were Bufflehead (10), RB Merg, Black Duck (12), Mallard (5), Great Blue Heron, Blue Jay and yet another Carolina Wren!
Next stop, and last before lunch, was the Elks Club, where more of us got views of Black Guillemot (3). This location added 6 Red-necked Grebes, 30 White-winged Scoters, and a Cooper’s Hawk. Other highlights were eight Purple Sandpipers just below us atop a rock near the water’s edge, three Gannets, six Surf Scoters, 18 Bufflehead and four Common Loons.
Our usual break for lunch at Stop and Shop gave us a Red-tailed Hawk perched in a tree, a Great Blue Heron, Mallards, a Blue Jay, and more Starlings.
The afternoon birding began at Loblolly Cove where we added Harlequin Duck (3). Other birds were Purple Sandpiper (3), Gannet (3), C Loon (4), RB Merg (6) and House Finch.
On to Granite Pier for our only Savannah Sparrow, who posed for a long time on a large rock lining the parking area. There were also three Song Sparrows, Gannet (3), Harlequin (4), C Loon (4), C Eider (5), Bufflehead (2), and DC Cormorant (3).
Cathedral Rocks did not add any new birds to our list, but did give us more Gannets (2), Harlequins (12), Buffleheads (6), C Eiders (15), C Loons (5), Surf Scoters (11), RB Mergs (2), DC Cormorants (2) and Herring Gulls.
Andrew’s Point has become a fussy place to park, with multiple “No Parking” signs along the side streets. We were able to park a couple of blocks away on a small town-owned parcel and walk to our usual birding spots. Along the walk we picked up Chickadee, Junco, Song Sparrow, House and Goldfinch, and Cardinal. The ocean gave us C Loon (6), RT Loon (1), C Eider (40), Harlequin (13), a very nice female Black Scoter, White-winged and Surf Scoters (3 each), and Long-tailed Duck (3), but no alcids.
Many of us ventured on to the last stop of the day at Halibut Point, where the only new bird was Downy Woodpecker. There were also Gannets (10), a male Black Scoter, C Eider (30), a flyby of two Brant and four Common Loons. The weather had become decidedly colder with a breeze keeping us clutching our coat collars on the walk back to the park area. All-in-all a wonderful day of coastal birding with a species total of 45!
Several members joined a group from the Southwick Public Library to enjoy nearly cloudless skies, apart from one enormous, but distant, cumulus cloud that hovered motionless for hours far to the east. Haze along the horizon made spotting a challenge at times. Everyone contributed valuable help with spotting the birds in a tough sky. The wind was light during the entire watch, initially NNE, shifting to E towards the end of the watch, with temperatures in the 70s F.
A total of 59 migrating raptors were counted: Osprey (1), Northern Harrier (1), Sharp-shinned Hawk (16), Cooper’s Hawk (3), Broad-winged Hawk (28), American Kestrel (9) and Merlin (1). Non-migrating raptors were Turkey Vultures (6), adult Bald Eagle, Cooper's Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk.
Other species noted were Mourning Dove, Northern Flicker, Pileated Woodpeckers (2), Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay (18 migrants), American Crow, Common Ravens (2), Black-capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch, Palm Warbler, Yellow-rumped Warbler. Non-avian species observed were eight Monarch butterflies and a particular highlight of the day, a bull moose on the cleared hill to the north. That was a sight we won’t soon forget!
There were 18 eager birders packed into five cars, ready to start the New Year right. We got to Siders Pond in Falmouth to find there was a distant flock of 200 Scaup at the far end along with a few Bufflehead. The flock of Scaup on nearby Salt Pond was smaller, but close enough to pick out a few Lesser Scaup in with the Greaters. Also with them were more Bufflehead, some Red-breasted and Hooded Mergansers, 5 Coot, 8 Goldeneye, and a Red-throated Loon. Off Surf Avenue there were 2 more Red-throated Loon, 2 Common Loon, a few Eiders and Goldeneyes, and Bonaparte’s Gulls feeding in flight. We drove north, then east to Crane WMA, where the Mountain Bluebird was on display with one Eastern Bluebird, several Meadowlarks, and a Pine Warbler.
After a break, we headed east to Marston’s Mills, where at first there was little visible except a Great Blue Heron resting in the same tree as it was a few weeks earlier. We walked the small path through the alder brush until we could see the back marsh where the dabblers were feeding. The light was perfect and the colors shone bright on every feather. We picked out two male and one female Eurasian Wigeon as well as a pair of Shovelers, some Gadwalls, American Wigeons, and Hooded Mergansers. We heard from a local birder about a Redhead at Flashy Pond, but returning there only gave us some Bufflehead and a female Ring-necked Duck. He also reported a King Eider in the canal below the RR bridge, but we only found 800 Common Eiders packed close and diving for food, a sight in itself. Nine Brant were also on the grass above them and a dozen cormorants were resting on the bank there.
At the other end of the canal in Sandwich we spotted a diving Razorbill, a few Common Loons, and a flyby Peregrine at the Visitor Center. From the end of Town Neck Road, we had good looks at distant flying Gannets, and nearby there were a hundred or more Eiders, a dozen or more Common Loons, plus Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, and Red-breasted Mergansers, 2 Greater Scaup and 3 Great Cormorant. It was late, so we rushed north to Plymouth Beach as the sun painted the western sky. Scanning there, we found Oldsquaw, as well as Red-breasted Mergansers, Common Loons, Surf Scoters, White-winged Scoters, Bufflehead, Eiders, and a Horned Grebe. It was the end of another terrific trip and the start of another great year of birding.
(Day 1) Four cars brought 12 birders from Ludlow Plaza to Watchemocket Cove in Rhode Island where over a 100 American Wigeon were assembled in the mostly ice-free waters. Also there were two Black-headed Gulls, one of which stayed and preened in the roosting gull flock, showing its head and black spots often. Other ducks among the many geese were a raft of Greater Scaup, along with a few Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, and Gadwall. We moved on to Turner Reservoir, which was mostly iced, but still held good numbers of Common and Hooded Mergansers.
We headed south to Seapowet Marsh in Tiverton on the east side of the bay, where the refuge field held a stately Sandhill Crane. It put on a great show of feeding and flying for the cameras. The cove across the street held Goldeneyes, Buffleheads, Horned Grebes, and Common Loons. Here we met Nick Russo, a fine, young birder and student at UConn, who joined the convoy for the rest of the day. At Nonquit Pond we added 3 Ruddy Ducks, and 4 Pintails. Then we headed back north, only pausing at Pardon Gray Preserve to scan the meadows and thickets, spotting Bluebirds and Meadowlarks. A Fish Crow also called there, and a few Turkey Vultures circled overhead.
At Nanaquaket Point we were engulfed by a huge flock of Robins and Starlings. We stopped for a noon break at Coastal Roasters, then crossed the bridge and headed south to St. Mary’s Pond, where a flock of Shovelers fed and flew before us, along with Ruddy Ducks, some Ring-necked Ducks, Gadwall, and Great Cormorants. From there we made our way to Third Beach, where the seabirds took over. Here in the broad bay were scattered Common Loons, Horned Grebes, Goldeneyes, Eiders, Red-breasted Mergansers, White-winged and Surf Scoters, Buffleheads, and Greater Scaup. Searching the beach before us for food were a hundred Sanderlings, and down the beach at the stony edge of Sachuest were a dozen Ruddy Turnstones. We moved to Gardiner Pond and had more Ruddy Ducks and two American Coots. Then it was time to walk the trails that looked down on the ledges and rocks of Sachuest Point. In a couple of hours we picked out Harlequin Ducks, Razorbills, Purple Sandpipers, and a Brant. With them were groups of Greater Scaups, Goldeneyes, and all three Scoters, plus smaller numbers of Red-throated and Common Loons, Horned Grebes, a Red-necked Grebe, Eiders, Buffleheads, Cormorants, and Red-breasted Mergansers. Harriers hunted the nearby marshes and the fields where deer grazed. The day ended with a get-together featuring snacks and refreshments, along with the bird tally and the telling of each observer’s best birds. For dinner, some chose Mexican, others chose Applebee’s.
(Day 2) After a fine breakfast at the Blue Plate Diner, we arrived at Beavertail on Jamestown Island at 8:30 a.m. and were faced with strong winds on the west side of the refuge. The east side was better, but we still took shelter behind the buildings on the point. A big surprise was the more than 75 Razorbills on the water and flying past the point into the wind. We picked out several Gannets streaming with them. Also unexpected were the numbers of passing and feeding Bonaparte’s Gulls. There were rafts of Eiders and over a hundred Black Scoters with a few Surf and White-winged Scoters. Red-throated outnumbered Common Loons. Harlequin Ducks were feeding close to shore and Purple Sandpipers were feeding on the ledges or flying around. As we drove out through the thickets and woods along the road, we came upon a large flock of Cedar Waxwings. Then a stop at the marsh by Zeek’s Bait & Tackle produced Great Blue Herons and a Kingfisher. At Point Judith there were more Bonaparte’s Gulls, scoters, loons and grebes among the surfers. The Galilee area at high tide had a raft of Red-breasted Mergansers, some Bufflehead, and a few Common Loons, but few gulls. Sunset Farm featured a huge flock of Starlings and Cowbirds, plus a Grackle and two Redwings.
We continued west to the Trustom Pond area, where we studied the feeder birds, which included a Rusty Blackbird. At the end of a long walk to Osprey Point, the open water had only a few ducks, though one was a male Barrow’s Goldeneye. We checked the roads in the area and managed to find another Northern Harrier. Our last stop was at Perry’s Mill Pond, a small pond next to a home, where a Redhead had been reported. Instead we got fine views of one male Eurasian Wigeon with the American Wigeons, plus some Ring-necked Ducks and Green-winged Teal. Also, a nice variety of landbirds was found there, including two Brown Creepers. We finally broke up and headed home with 83 species on our Blitz list.
It was 2:30 when the group met at the Northampton commuter lot. Five cars and 14 people drove to Turners Falls, finding many roadside Redtails along the way and an early Turkey Vulture circling over Deerfield. Even before we set up our scopes at the Unity Park, someone drove in, coming from the larger parking lot a little upstream. He told us that this group was looking at the hotline bird in a big flock of gulls standing on the ice at the edge of Barton Cove. We loaded our gear and drove there quickly finding the Yellow-legged Gull with some help from Bob Stymeist and Geoff LeBaron. It was slightly larger than the many Herring Gulls, sporting a clean white head, a large red spot on its bill, the darker wings, and the yellow legs. A little more scoping also gave us looks at a Lesser Black-backed Gull and 2 American Wigeon. Bald Eagles were coasting around and spooked the gulls twice, first down to another patch of ice near dam and then later back to the cove ice. In the meantime we spotted 2 Goldeneye, a male Green-winged Teal, a female Lesser Scaup, a Ring-necked Duck, and 2 male Bufflehead. A walk along the power canal produced 3 Goldeneye and 2 Common Merganser. After so much success, being too late to see the Short-eared Owls in the Arcadia Meadows of Northampton was only a minor disappointment.
Day 1 - Four cars met at Gloucester on a cold, windy day under cloudy skies. However, we reminded ourselves of what we were NOT experiencing since the trip had been postponed from Valentine’s Day weekend (when the forecast was anything but lovable!). We stopped briefly at Annisquam, finding a couple of accipiters and glimpsing only a very few ducks. The wind was strong and cold, but the offshore storm also sent huge waves crashing on the shoreline. We stopped at the cemetery and found a Screech Owl hidden deeply in the hole of a lower branch. Folly Cove had Harlequins, Scoters and Eiders and nearby Halibut shore had mostly a strong headwind and tremendous surf. Andrews Point had a flock of Common Eiders, but we could not spot the young King Eiders, though a flock of Purple Sandpipers sped past. Nearby Cathedral Rocks and Granite Pier were less wild with Common Loons, Eiders, Bufflehead, and another Purple Sandpiper flock. After lunch we hit the more protected east side of Rockport facing into the open ocean. Even so, there were only a few Harlequins and Eiders at Straitsmouth Cove and a few more at Loblolly Cove. Looking south from Penzance Road we had good looks at Loons, Goldeneyes, Bufflehead, and Eiders, plus Great Cormorants were roosting on Milk Island.
Arriving in Gloucester, we were greeted by a Harrier at Good Harbor Beach and a Peregrine on Salt Island. We stopped at the Elks Lodge, but there was no sign of the adult King Eider. Instead it was Buffleheads, Goldeneyes, and Scoters, plus a flock of Purple Sandpipers and a Horned Grebe. Brace Cove had a flying Razorbill, two floating Black Guillemots, plus Scoters, Loons, Goldeneyes and Mergansers. At Eastern Point the harbor was much calmer and we had good looks at an Iceland Gull. Also there were Oldsquaw, Eiders, Red-breasted Mergansers, Bufflehead, Goldeneye, and Surf Scoter. Niles Pond was glassy calm, with great views of 2 Redheads, Gadwalls, Ring-necked Ducks, and a big flock of 65 Red-br Mergansers. A Lesser Scaup hid at the edge of the cattails. The stop at Jodrey Pier had no alcids (a Murre had been reported), but plenty of regular gulls and some Eiders plus a few each of Common and Red-throated Loon, Oldsquaw, Surf Scoter and Red-br Merganser, and one seal near the pier. Saturday ended with 51 species and awesome views of sun “haloes.”
Day 2 - We arrived on time at the usual breakfast place in Rowley, and then we returned to Ipswich to bird Argilla Road, which had hundreds of Canada Geese, plus four Snow Geese and a few Killdeer. After that we did Town Farm Road, where we found two Redtails at a nest, and Pineswamp Road for Brown Creeper and the usual land birds. Back in Rowley, Stackyard Road had a few Robins, but little else. From the kayak shop parking lot, we had two Cooper’s Hawks crossing the river, 3 Oldsquaw and some Bufflehead. Just before turning onto Rolfes Lane a pair of Cooper’s Hawks was spotted on a nest in a small grove next to the road. The Joppa Flats visitor center had welcome bathrooms and a huge flock of geese. A bonus here was 3 Pintail and some Cedar Waxwings.
We arrived at Lot 1 at 11:30 to find the surf again high and noisy but giving views of an alcid, a Loon, and some White-winged Scoters. The salt pannes were mostly frozen over with 4 Gadwall among a hundred Black Ducks. Another walk to oceanside at Lot 3 got us all the scoters and a big flock of shorebirds flying past. We noted a few hawks at the Wardens, including 2 Harriers heading south. Hellcat was also mostly frozen, but we found more Harriers, including an adult male. At Cross Farm Hill one of us spied a Snowy Owl half hidden by a small bramble bush. While watching it a Rough-legged Hawk began hunting the north side of the hill, putting on a show for quite a while. Others driving by stopped for the owl and we told other birders about it. We went on to Lot 7, where we found more sea ducks and spotted the big flock of shorebirds resting on and working the rocks. They were mostly Dunlin, but some Sanderlings were also in the flock. From the tower a flock of 40 Pintails were visible in the Stage Island Pool. Next we drove upriver to Cashman Park, where there were Bufflehead, Goldeneyes, Red-br mergansers, and Oldsquaws, as well as a Great Blue Heron on the far shore. Last stop was Salisbury Beach, where the tide was low and there were many resting and feeding Eiders and White-winged Scoters, plus a few Gadwall and Loons. The seals basking on the exposed rocks were also a treat. We called it a weekend very pleased, with 71 species, despite the cold and wind, and a few “misses".
It was a day of daring, as six birders ventured out on the long drive and two-mile walk to this wild beach at the edge of civilization. We took the inland route, walking through a pitch pine forest, across the dike through the Hatches Harbor marshes and over the dunes to the edge of the Atlantic. There were a few Horned Larks on the sand among the sparse grasses. One vehicle was there and a small group of watchers, all seeking the rare seabirds. With their help, it was not long before the Yellow-billed Loon came into view for us in the heaving waves close to shore. The bill was dull but huge and so was the body. The water surface was strewn with Red-throated Loons and a few Common Loons. The scoters, Eiders and Razorbills were mostly flying by, but some were on the water. The most abundant bird was the Red-breasted Merganser. A flock of gulls went up and down just off the beach, swarming at the water’s surface above schools of fish and shrimp.
Other birders had seen the Common (Mew) Gull on the beach earlier with other gulls, but it was some time, before we picked it out in the swarm that moved back and forth along the beach. A dozen or more Iceland Gulls were haunting the area along with a few Herring Gulls, one or two Glaucous Gulls, and Great Black-backed Gulls, and many Ring-billed Gulls. Farther out many alcids were flying past in flocks, almost all Razorbills. The reported Common Murres eluded our efforts to find them. One Oldsquaw and one Horned Grebe were noted and three Gannets sailed past. Two Right Whales were noticed working their way back and forth, most often beneath the surface, but occasionally rising above for a moment or two. In the search and discovery for the rarer species, we were helped by the birders that were there when we arrived, and we in turn helped those who arrived after us.
Seven students and a new family of four joined eight members for the trip to Turners Falls. A third Bald Eagle joined the nesting pair as almost constant companions during our stay at Barton Cove. On the water from three viewpoints we found 12 Ring-necked Duck, 4 Mute Swan, 3 Hooded Merganser, 85 Tree Swallows. Two flocks of Cedar Waxwings numbered more than 200, one group mostly seen on the ground beneath a fruiting tree at close range. The Conte Power Canal had only a few Mallards, but a Turkey flushed from a pine tree overlooking the main river. Upriver, the Rod and Gun Club had 2 male Bufflehead, 12 Common Mergansers, 3 Hooded Mergansers, 2 Mute Swans, and 3 Wood Ducks. The nearby airport had a Kestrel fly overhead and a Killdeer that posed near the parking lot. A luncheon at the China Gourmet in Greenfield followed the morning’s birding.
There were 15 participants on the trip to Longmeadow and Agawam. Pynchon Point had pair of Wood Ducks going to a nesting hole in a big tree where they had nested many years ago. Bondi’s Island had a few Ring-billed Gulls. Mute Swans were nesting on Emerson Pond near the road and another single was at Pondside. Also there was a pair of Ring-necked Ducks and a few Tree Swallows. A bluebird was seen and heard singing from Tina Lane. We walked into Bark Haul and found two adult Red-headed Woodpeckers and a pair of Bluebirds together. On the way some of us glimpsed a Pied-billed Grebe in the pond along the road.
Ten participants were treated to watching evening American Woodcock courtship display!. There were a grand total of six woodcocks. Other birds of note were a Hermit Thrush, five American Robins, and one Great Horned Owl.
Only six came to the scrumptious breakfast at Sylvester’s, and the first birding idea was to check out the Wilson’s Snipe behind one of the malls in Hadley. We parked and walked along a wet gully until the birds jumped and flew farther along one at a time, with five seen. Also there was a Killdeer. A run through the Honeypot on the way to Rte. 91 north got us only a singing Brown Thrasher. We met up with two more people at Riverview Road, where the sun off the water at Barton Cove was blinding. We still managed to note three Double-crested Cormorants and a few Mute Swans. A small group of Tree and Rough-winged Swallows circled low over our heads. From Barton Cove we spotted a pair of Ring-necked Ducks, more swans, and better looks at the eagle on its nest. We drove to the Rod and Gun Club to find more swans and some circling Turkey Vultures. The airport had two Kestrels, a Bluebird, and 2 singing Field Sparrows. On the Power Canal there was only a female Bufflehead diving constantly, and in the trees overhead a singing Pine Warbler.
The morning walk at Longmeadow Flats was attended by nine birders who saw 31 species. We began the walk under overcast skies and the light was not great for birding. It cleared up within an hour and we started seeing a good number of “first of the year” birds. There were two Yellow Warblers, a Gnatcatcher, at least seven Palm Warblers, and two Towhees, the last at close range. We found two Red-headed Woodpeckers in the usual area, one of which was persistently checking out a nest hole. The Tree swallows put on an aerial show for us and a Rough-winged Swallow joined in as well. We counted seven Great Blue Herons, four of them hanging around together near the woodpeckers. The most common bird was the Yellow-rumped Warbler - at least a dozen. It was a nice beginning to the spring migration.
With two birders coming later, the roster held 17 for the cold, breezy walk into Ashley. Brown Creepers and Pine Warblers greeted us with their delicate notes, and then showed off for us quite close. A Wood Duck was in the gate cove, and three more landed on the far side of the main pond. A Ring-necked Duck pair lurked at the edge of the south pool. Overhead an Osprey appeared and put on a show, followed by a Broad-winged Hawk that slowly circled up to migrate farther north. Migrant landbirds were gathered in the trees at the west end of the pond. First there were two Gnatcatchers, then some Yellow-rumped Warblers followed by a Black-and-white. Then a Northern Waterthrush surprised us singing in the swamp next to the tracks. We crossed the tracks and headed down the dirt road, hearing a Louisiana Waterthrush a few minutes later. A Hermit Thrush was in the road here and earlier before arriving at the main pond.
Bright sunshine warmed 22 birders as we gathered to start the first of the series of Wednesday morning walks. Before even leaving the parking area, the first of the new arrivals was heard and later seen - Warbling Vireo. Along Bark Haul we listened to scolding Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and began to see the first of many Yellow-rumps. Everyone got to see Ruby-crowned Kinglets flutter about in the grapevines. We stopped for a quick "fix" of Red-headed Woodpeckers and then continued on the Natti Trail for Blue-headed Vireos, Eastern Towhees, Hermit Thrushes, a Black-and-white Warbler, a pair of Ravens and the flash of a Great Horned Owl. It seemed as though every thicket held a singing Yellow Warbler. Just before emerging onto Tina Lane, we stopped to admire a flock of Cedar Waxwings that perched before us at eye level - always so elegant. Before crossing the railroad tracks, we stopped for Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers and then looked up to see an Osprey fly overhead carrying a fish in his talons. Flying in the opposite direction was an immature Bald Eagle. Pondside Road yielded a newly arrived Eastern Kingbird as well as a small group of Chimney Swifts that circling above our heads. The walk totaled 50 species and the opportunity to connect with many fellow birders.
Eleven early birders gathered at the edge of the soccer fields of Wilbraham Middle School where an Eastern Towhee teased us, uttering only part of his song but we heard and saw several farther on. Red-winged Blackbirds had little competition for attention as we made our way around the swamp into the field. Then, at the far edge, a Brown Thrasher, dressed in his long-tailed rusty attire, allowed a good look before scurrying into the edge.
Hushed, we tiptoed down to the water and caught a few had brief glimpses of the bird who sang the song of the Northern Waterthrush. Keen eyes spied a Bluebird posing on a telephone pole. Hermit Thrushes were seen as we entered the woods and inched along the path where a Yellow-throated Vireo sang and flitted, an Ovenbird called, and a Great Crested Flycatcher seemed to enjoy our attention. An Eastern Kingbird, Pine and Yellow-rumped Warblers and Field Sparrows were seen along with year-round residents. Two hawks with long tails flew overhead. It was a perfect day to enjoy being together while birding.
On a cool cloudy day that threatened rain that never came, seven members were up for a walk at this new site. The bird numbers seemed to be down a little due to the weather but we managed a few nice birds. The first of note were some Field Sparrows that cued up and sang singing for us. While we watched them, the male Orchard Oriole showed up and stayed at the top of a small tree long enough for everyone to get a good look at him. This was followed pretty soon by Brown Thrashers who were very vocal on this cloudy day. We found four of them as we made our way around the old track. As we approached the track we heard Blue-winged Warblers singing. It took us a little while to actually spot them, but our patience was rewarded with good looks. These were the only warblers we came across this day, though Fort River is usually a good place to find warblers in spring. We ended the day with a bluebird cued up on a post, making a total of 29 species for the day. I added a group of Turkeys as I was leaving, as well as an Eastern Meadowlark sitting in a tree nearby.
Twelve birders met at the corner of Bark Haul and Pondside Roads in Longmeadow at 7:30 a.m. In the next three hours, they tallied 52 species of birds, including three vireos (Warbling, Red-eyed, and Blue-headed), six warblers (Yellow, Yellow-rump, Blue-wing, Black-throated Green, Black-and-white, and Palm Warbler), Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Green Herons and Great-blue Herons, and a Kingfisher. Two Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were found and Wood Thrushes were singing. The male Red-headed Woodpecker was seen in his usual spot. Flycatchers were returning and the group saw four Eastern Kingbirds and six Eastern Phoebes. Interesting sightings of common birds included a second year Red-tailed Hawk sitting on a stub while being mobbed by a Blue Jay and Red-winged Blackbirds; a White-breasted Nuthatch nest with both adults bringing food on Bark Haul at the north west corner of the pond; and, 15 goslings with 11 adult Canada Geese at Tina Lane. The temperature was between 48 and 51 degrees F, and it was overcast with light rain at the end.
For a bird trip in early May, the nine attendees had weather more appropriate for mid-April. The sky was overcast during the entire trip with temperatures ranging from the mid-40s to the low-50s with a constant, fairly brisk, wind coming off the reservoir. Despite these conditions, the walk along the paved path at Ludlow Reservoir is always an adventure. As soon as we had open views of the water hundreds of swallows of various types came into view. They were mostly Tree Swallows but there were also a good number of Barn Swallows. In addition, some of the group saw at least two Rough-winged Swallows and one Bank Swallow. The Phoebe was in its usual spot building a nest, flying in and out from underneath the fishing pier. We did miss the Yellow-throated Vireo, which has been in the same place for the past few years. In fact, we missed many birds we usually see on this trip, the most notable being the Baltimore Oriole. Normally we see and hear them throughout the walk. This year, however, we did not see any. Very disappointing!
The trip was supposed to have ended by 10:30 but by that time we were just getting started. We had only traveled a little more than a half mile to just past the fishing pier. We kept on going. The birding was slow but we did have good looks at most of the birds we did see. I wanted to go to a location further ahead with good views of the water since we were now walking through an area where trees blocked our view of the reservoir. At that point about half the group turned back due to other commitments. When we arrived at the water, we had an interesting treat awaiting us. The swallows (remember them), mostly tree swallows, hundreds of them, were flying very low to the water and in and around the remaining group who were congregated along the water, almost as if we were pylons for a rather interesting swallow flight competition. By that time it was close to 11:00 and we turned back to return to the cars.
We did see other interesting birds on the way back. We all had good looks, some through the scope, of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker. Before we arrived at the parking lot, we had another treat. There were three Bald Eagles interacting among themselves. Flying high then diving at each other. They were quite close so everyone could enjoy the show. In total we saw four eagles. We finally made it back to the parking lot just before noon. In total we had eight warblers (Ovenbird, Black-and-white, Common Yellowthroat, Redstart (more scope views), Parula, Pine Warbler (heard only), Yellowrump, and Palm) and a total count of 39 bird species. We were all a little chilled but everyone considered it another successful Allen Bird Club outing.
It was another cool and cloudy day with a few sprinkles of rain, but this impromptu trip attracted 21 viewers. We started by scanning the lake where there were Hooded Mergansers as well as Canada Geese with goslings and Wood Ducks with ducklings. We also got to scope a Kingfisher and Great Blue Herons, one of whom was sitting on a nest. It is the first time they have nested here in a couple of years. The lake had a large number of mostly Tree Swallows, with a few Rough-winged Swallows and a single Barn Swallow. As we got to the bridge heading into the woods on the west side of the lake, we spotted a Solitary Sandpiper out in the open on a log and a Pileated Woodpecker. We then worked our way through the woods in search of our target birds the Sora and the Virginia Rail. We heard both of them calling at various times from the middle of the reeds, but failed to see either one. On the way back to the parking area, we got good views of Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a number of bright Savannah Sparrows. On this trip our total was 37 species.
The birders did not quite number the Great Blue Heron nests (19) at the flooded beaver pond, but they all enjoyed that spectacle as well as the several Great Blues and a few Wood Ducks. Other birds of the woodland and wetland were three Blue-headed Vireo, many Gnatcatchers, some Ruby-crowned Kinglets, seven Wood Thrushes, Louisiana Waterthrush, and three Yellow-rumped Warblers. Of the 32 species noted, most unexpected was an Osprey that was hunting low over a second marsh.
It was our 65th year for a Mother’s Day excursion through Robinson State Park, a walk plagued by showers that eventually cut the trip short. It was also the earliest possible date and followed up a week of cold, wet weather. Still, over 20 walkers were not deterred, and we managed to find Blue-headed Vireo and Gnatcatchers, several Ovenbirds, and a loud Louisiana Waterthrush. Even louder was the Wood Thrush that sang as we entered the park, the first of several. Catbirds were chortling deep in the bushes and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were singing their sweet melody. Other warblers in the almost leafless trees were Black-and-white, Redstart, three Black-throated Blue, Yellowrumps and Black-throated Greens. A good show was put on by some Black-throated Blue Warblers. A couple of Scarlet Tanagers and Baltimore Orioles crowned our brief venture. When the rain got heavy, hosts Madeline Novak and Steve Perreault offered delicious goodies and warming coffee in their home beside the park. The Ruby-throated Hummingbird at the feeder there was an added feast for the eyes.
Twenty-five participants located 38 species of birds on the second Wednesday morning walk at Stebbins. Gone were the groups of early warblers, replaced by Yellowthroats, Redstarts, Wilson’s, and Yellow Warblers. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and Orioles were flashing their colors and singing emphatically. A group of 16 goslings followed a pair of Canada Geese. The biggest treats of the walk were a pair of Orchard Orioles and a Common Gallinule.
The stones were silent, but the trees and grounds were full of song and flight as nine participants enjoyed wonderful views of Flicker, Hummingbird, Kingbird, Barn Swallow, Mockingbird, Redstart, Baltimore Oriole and more. We counted a total of 28 species by the time our walk came to an end.
Over 20 birders turned out to walk along the rail trail near Station Road in Amherst. While scanning, we suddenly heard, then saw the elusive Virginia Rail ten feet in front of us dashing along the muddy shore. Another prize for the evening was a Woodcock with two young. Other sightings were a singing Orchard Oriole, Kingbird, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Yellowthroat, Catbird, and an eye-level look at a Pileated Woodpecker framed against the setting sun.
There were 14 teams and 28 observers out in the field the first evening and all the next day. Together they recorded 137 species, an astounding number in this limited area, but average over the last ten years, and three fewer than the total in 2015. As is typical, most common species were near their recent or long-term average, but some were noticeably high or low. There were especially high counts of Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, House Wren, Mockingbird, Northern Parula, Black-throated Blue and Black-throated Green Warblers, and Cowbird. Species found in notably low numbers were Wood Duck, Killdeer, Woodcock, Ring-billed Gull, Nighthawk, Chimney Swift, Willow Flycatcher, Red-eyed Vireo, Tree and Barn Swallow, Carolina Wren, Veery, Blackburnian, Yellow-rumped and Canada Warblers. Some easy reasons for the unusual totals are the cold early May weather delaying or holding up migration, high survival rates from a mostly mild, snow-free winter, and continued long term or recent increases or declines. There were 32 species on the uncommon or rare list (over last 46 years), notably Black Vulture (only 2015 and 2016), Hooded Warbler (5 times, last in 2007), Hooded Merganser (6 years), White-crowned Sparrow (20 years), Sapsucker (22 years), Horned Lark (24 years - first since 2010), and Raven (24 years, first in 1992). Thanks to all who spent many hours in the field, especially Steve Svec, whose 21 hours gave us most of our owl records. May next year give you all more time, more habitat, and more fun sightings.
Click below to view or download complete count results.
The walk was a huge success for nine participants who saw 29 species, including the target birds, Worm-eating and Cerulean Warblers! One Cerulean was very vocal with a textbook perfect song; the other rather abbreviated and laid back. We missed seeing the female Cerulean by minutes. Other highlights were at least three Scarlet Tanagers, some Baltimore Orioles and Indigo Buntings. A male Black-throated Blue Warbler also showed up for all the cameras that we birders had brought along to record what were life birds for quite a few. The wind was strong as we ascended the road, but nothing like the blasts that pelted us on the porch of Skinner House, reminding one of Mt. Washington. The descent was a happy and snappy walk after seeing such fine birds.
Eleven birders, including leaders, enjoyed our visit to this wetland area. As soon as we exited our vehicles, we were hearing the first of many Blue-winged Warblers. During the walk to the second entrance gate, birds seemed to be teed up everywhere - Field Sparrows, Song Sparrows, Baltimore Orioles, Catbirds, and Blue-gray Gnatcatchers belted out their songs. Perhaps the best sighting here, though, was a resting Common Nighthawk. It perched on a nearby sycamore limb completely oblivious to the onlookers. As we walked the trail down to the water and the loop by the marshes, everyone became very familiar with the sight and song of the Ovenbird, Woodthrush, and Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Several warblers - Black-and-white, Common Yellowthroat, Redstarts, and Yellow - added brief bits of color to our walk. Some in the group were able to hear the calls of a distant Black-billed Cuckoo and see a first of year/life Swainson's Thrush. We ended our morning with a count of 48 species.
The 20 participants were ready to go and the trip started off well at the spillway with a ravenous Raven (juvenile) being fed by an adult. Also there was a pair of perched Rough-winged Swallows at eye level. We soon saw the first of many Towhees, a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers, Chestnut-sided Warbler, Indigo Buntings and Ovenbird. A cooperative Swainson's Thrush approached our large group within 30 feet as we walked down to the water. It repeated its approach on our return, making us wonder who was studying whom. Heard but not seen were Black-billed and Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Least Flycatcher, Prairie Warbler and Wood Thrushes. It ended up being a five hour walk, but nobody seemed like quitting until our tally was 53 species and our batteries ran out. Thanks to Tim, Jan, Donna, Howard & Pete for all their help.
Six members of the Allen Bird Club traveled to Pomfret to enjoy a birding adventure at a new destination for our Club. The sky was cloudy and there were a few light showers, but the birds were there. As we crossed the meadow near the headquarters, a male Bobolink rose from the grasses and gave us a display. We heard two Black-billed and one Yellow-billed Cuckoo calling. There were five different flycatchers: Eastern Kingbirds, Eastern Phoebes, Willow Flycatcher, Least Flycatchers and Eastern Wood-Pewee. There were several Wood Thrushes and Veeries, but the best display was put on by several pairs of Eastern Bluebirds posing on their nest boxes. We found a nesting pair of Blue-winged Warblers as well as two singing males. In the woods along the ravine were a Scarlet Tanager and an Indigo Bunting. One curious sight was a female Tree Swallow trying to figure out how to get a long stick through the hole of her nest box. It took several tries, but she succeeded.
After we were done birding, three of us drove to the famous Vanilla Bean Café in downtown Pomfret for an al fresco lunch. We had left Ludlow at 7:00 in the morning and were back home by two in the afternoon.
This scheduled trip was moved up a week earlier to escape the holiday, but the forecast was rain by mid-morning in southern New Jersey, so a scant five of us decided to visit Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on Long Island. There were a few other birders around and one larger group. The West Pond trail was still blocked by a breach from Storm Sandy, so we took the shorter walk straight out along the open bay, where there were many distant shorebirds and some quite close, including one Pectoral Sandpiper and a few Oystercatchers. We turned to see a group of birders approach and noticed a Clapper Rail standing in the trail before it scampered across the causeway and into the reeds on the other side. We visited a Barn Owl nesting in a box at a blind where we could see the mother moving around through the hole and a little bit of fluff from the baby. At the East Pond we scanned for Shovelers, Coot, many Ruddy Ducks, and some Glossy Ibis.
The rain was heavy at times until we got to Brigantine, where it had let up to a drizzle, but with the wind still brisk. The south loop was open only to the tower and the tide was low. The ocean side channel mudflats were covered with mostly Semipalmated Sandpipers, but among them were good numbers of Dowitchers, Dunlin, Willets, Turnstones, and Semipalmated Plovers. Among the Forster’s Terns and Laughing Gulls were a hundred Black Skimmers, some feeding, but most huddled on a sandbar inside the dike. Other birds present were Glossy Ibis, Great and Snowy Egrets, Cormorants, an adult Bald Eagle, Ospreys, a Green-winged Teal, and swallows. At the end we found a big flock of 60 Whimbrels on a sandbar with some calling loudly.
The next day was cloudy, with some rain showers, but we headed for the Belleplain State Forest, where we stopped to find birds still singing in profusion. We heard Yellow-throated Warbler right away, plus Acadian Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, and many familiar birds. At triangle we met up with another group from Westchester Bird Club in Pennsylvania who were very friendly and helpful with information and scopes. We heard a Worm-eating Warbler among the many Pine Warblers, and good looks at several Hooded Warblers. When we caught up to the other group, they were watching Summer Tanagers. One of the group told us about a Prothonotary Warbler at campsite 11, which we got to see well after some searching. After returning to Cape May for lunch, we returned north to Reeds Beach, where we found the spectacle of shorebirds and gulls as the tide started to fall. Laughing Gulls and Red Knots were in the thousands, starting right at our feet and the clamor was amazing. With them were many Turnstones and Dunlin and the odd Willet and Yellowlegs. The rain and wind got the back of our legs soaked, but it was worth it. Later at the Wetlands Institute there were much needed restrooms and a lot of people, but only a few Egrets, an Osprey nest, some Ibis and Plovers, mostly seen from the Observatory. We went south through Stone Harbor to Nummy’s Island, where we stayed in the cars and saw one Little Blue Heron.
We tried Higbee early in the morning, but it held mostly resident species, including many White-eyed Vireos singing. A bird perched on a small dead tree singing vigorously turned out to be an immature Blue Grosbeak. Then we went to Cape May Meadows, where we watched a reported Red-necked Phalarope male twirling at the back of the pond. Other birds there were egrets, terns, various expected shorebirds, Ibis, Oystercatchers, Killdeer, Green Heron in flight and Purple Martins. On our way north we stopped at Jake’s Landing, where the salt marsh was alive with Marsh Wrens singing and performing wild dances. Even better was a long, close look at singing Seaside Sparrows. We only heard one Sharp-tailed Sparrow sing, plus Virginia and Clapper Rail. There was plenty to remember on the long ride home.
Eight observers started out on a warm, summer-like day. It started hazy, but soon cleared at Laughing Brook, where the hoped-for Louisiana or Northern Waterthrush was neither seen nor heard. Some did see a Hummingbird and all saw two Bluebirds and heard a Black-billed Cuckoo as well as a Wood Pewee and a Black-throated Green Warbler. We drove to North Road, stopping at the crest to hear and see five Bobolinks, two Barn Swallows, and a Meadowlark in a farmer’s field. At Hollow Road we heard Towhee, Tanager, and a Great Crested Flycatcher and most of us got good looks at a Rose-breasted Grosbeak. At the end of South Road we got good looks at a female Redstart at its nest. We also saw two Chestnut-sided Warblers and heard a Blue-winged Warbler. Our species count was 43.
On a hot and humid Sunday morning, 11 members of the Allen Bird Club met at Meadowbrook School in East Longmeadow to explore some of the lesser known birding areas in that town. We began by walking the Jarvis Nature Sanctuary, an area of old fields and woods behind the school, where we found Yellow and Blue-winged Warblers, Common Yellowthroats, and an Ovenbird, as well as numerous Song Sparrows and a male Ruby-throated Hummingbird. From there, we drove to the Deer Park Industrial Park off of Shaker Road, parked at the cul-de-sac and walked in to Jawbuck Pond. Here we found an Indigo Bunting, a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a Magnolia Warbler, Wood Thrushes, Field Sparrows, and Northern Orioles. At the pond itself, there were Eastern Kingbirds, a Great Blue Heron, and Canada Geese. The real treat, however, was a pair of Osprey, one flying and the other sitting in a tree near the nest. This will be the first time Osprey will have nested in this area. The next stop was the Brown Farm on Hampden Road, where we walked into the woods and found more Wood Thrushes. The last stop was Hoover Quarry at the end of Fernglen Road. The trail was blocked by recently fallen trees, but there was an Oriole was singing right over the parked cars. The trip took three hours and we found a total of 46 species of birds.
The 10 participants of this trip promptly (well, mostly) met at 7:00 at our meeting place and quickly drove to the gate of Westover Air Reserve Base where we met another 34 people from two other clubs (Hampshire Bird Club & Brookline Bird Club). Unlike other years in which we were able to drive our own cars inside Westover to the birding location, this year was different. We were met by an Air Force bus which took us on our birding trip, first stopping for a bathroom break and informational talk by Frank Moriarty, our leader from Westover. The bus accomodations were more comfortable than I had initially thought. The seats were roomy and there was air-conditioning which came in handy later in the day when the temperatures and humidity rose. It was a little cool and somewhat foggy when we arrived at the birding field, but about an hour later the sun came out and the temperature started to rise along with the humididy. At first everybody walked down the gravel path together to view any birds that would show themselves. When we got to a side path that led off to the right, about a dozen people took that path and remained there for just about the entire trip. The rest of the group stayed spread out on the main path with some people walking quite a bit ahead of everyone else while others arranged themselves somewhere in between.
During the entire walk Bobolinks were flying all over the place. There was a tie for the next most abundant bird between Meadowlarks and Upland Sandpipers. It seemed as though there could have been many more Uplands than I counted only because once they landed in the tall grass they disappeared. When they flew again it was hard to determine if it was the same bird or a new one flying off. Since the grass was not as tall as last year the number of grasshopper sparrows, in my count, was not as high as in past years. In addition they were farther away sitting on whatever tall bushes they could find. In past years these tall bushes were adjacent to the path. After about 1 1/2 hours of walking through the field we were called back to the bus and taken to a wet area on a part of the base we had not previously visited. Since we had to walk through tall grass to get a good look at the small cattail marsh, my aversion to ticks kept me and quite a few other folks outside at the bus to see what showed up. We were rewarded with looks at a Kestrel and a pair of Bluebirds along with a few other common birds. Back on the bus we went and drove in air-conditioned comfort back to our cars waiting for us outside the gate. All three clubs, I'm sure, were very pleased with this trip and the target birds which we all saw in abundance. We'll have to wait for next year to do it again.
There were 8 teams and 14 observers in the field to count birds in the Little River Important Bird Area (IBA). This contiguous area encompasses the wild, sparsely populated parts of northern Granville, eastern Blandford, southern Russell and northwest Southwick. Together the counters recorded 113 species, slightly more than the 13 year average for the count. The 4,322 total individuals and the 57.8 average of individuals per hour were both well above average. Most of the average numbers per year of the 120 species recorded have been very consistent over the 13-year period and four stand out as most abundant; Red-eyed Vireo 328, Ovenbird 259, Veery 155, and Robin 146. The next 27 species average from 47 to 112 individuals per year. The next 33 species average from 10 to 40 per year. There are 56 more species with less than 10 individuals average per year. That adds up to 120 species recorded over the 13 years of counting. This year, high counts were set for Hummingbird (21), Phoebe (54), Tree Swallow (92), Rough-winged Swallow (10), Red-breasted Nuthatch (12), Eastern Bluebird (22), Gray Catbird (104), Louisiana Waterthrush (9), Pine Warbler (24), Prairie Warbler (15), Bobolink (96), Red-winged Blackbird (138), and Grackle (67). The Common Merganser, Bald Eagle, and American Kestrel were each found for only the 5th time, Brown Thrasher for the 4th time, Sora for the third time, and Hooded Warbler for the first time.
Click below to view or download complete count results.
Eleven people and 3 cars arrived in Lenox at Post Farm to find other birders led by Mass Audubon from the Worcester area. The most unusual sighting there was a pair of Virginia Rails, copulating while 3-4 young were nearby. There was no sign of Gallinule or Sora or Bittern, but Marsh Wrens and Alder Flycatchers were vocal. A chickadee was busy and noisy around its nest in a dead birch stub a few feet away from the bridge. Hummingbird and Kingbirds were also there. We stopped briefly at Woods Pond on the way out, getting Wood Ducks, a Kingfisher and many swallows. A Great Blue Heron flew over during the ride to Ice Glen in Stockbridge, where the Cliff Swallows were busy feeding young under the eaves of a large, red barn. In the marsh there were two Willow Flycatchers and an Alder calling constantly. We drove up the hill to look down on the main part of the marsh, but no Bittern caught our eye. Instead, an Olive-sided Flycatcher perched for perfect views in the top of a tree in front of a gated mansion. From the precarious side of a busy Route 7 we had another Marsh Wren and a Kingfisher. The first bird on Meadow Street in Tyringham was a flyby accipiter with prey in its clutches. At Breakneck Road and the Appalachian Trail we found three Willow Flycatchers, swallows and Bobolinks before the rain ended the trip just as we found another Chickadee nest with babies.
One new and eager birder joined me for a morning adventure in rural Williamsburg, exploring the Graves Farm Sanctuary and the unpaved section of Nash Hill Road. We found 36 species including Great Blue Herons on nest, a rattling Kingfisher, a pair of chanting Indigo Buntings, an active Yellow-bellied Sapsucker family, and many adult Bluebirds with young. Other highlight species were Bobolink and three kinds of swallows, notably Cliff Swallow. We heard the songs of sore-throated Scarlet Tanagers, melodious Baltimore Orioles, and six kinds of warbler. When we failed to see them, we talked about the tuxedo clothed Kingbird, the song of the Hermit Thrush, and the bouncing song of the Field Sparrow. We both learned a lot and it could not have been a more pleasant excursion.
This trip has been run bi-annually since 2008. The weather for the entire time this year was warm, sunny and only a bit breezy from time to time. Day one focused on several prime birding locations within the Connecticut River Valley as we made our way to the Northeast Kingdom. Our first stop at Allen Brothers Marsh in Winchester brought us a Green Heron that called out getting our attention, and then flew across the marsh for all to see. A pair of female Hooded Mergansers with two ducklings shared the marsh with several female Wood Ducks and their young. Kestrel, Kingfisher, and Purple Finch were also added to the list. Our next stops were the grasslands that surround the Windsor State Correctional Facility plus the extensive farm fields nearby. As we studied a close Wilson’s Snipe, we were all treated to what many felt was the most exciting part of the entire trip. An American Bittern flew from a distant portion of the farm fields into the reeds within 100 feet of our group. We admired and photographed the bird in its often seen, long necked "frozen" pose. What occurred next is not so common. A second bittern flew in and landed a short distance from the first bird. We were then treated to an apparent courtship activity as the first bird slowly strutted over towards the second bird proudly displaying its white shoulder patches for all to see. We left to continue our journey north quite, well pleased to have observed such a wonderful moment together. After several more stops, one including two Common Loons on Stiles Pond in Waterford, we arrived at our last major destination of the day, the "Blowdown" trail in Victory Bog. This is a well-known trail frequented by birders in search of a group of species collectively known as "Boreal Species". We did not locate any of the big four permanent residents, (Boreal Chickadee, Gray Jay, Black-backed Woodpecker or Spruce Grouse). We did however have excellent views of a Mourning Warbler. Northern Parula, Palm Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Golden-Crowned Kinglet, Winter Wren, White-throated Sparrow and Hermit Thrush were also heard or seen.
Day two brought a return to Victory Bog, and a two hour morning walk along the Rogers Brook/Lee's Hill trail that winds through beautiful boreal forest habitat. We were again in search of the "big four" boreal species. We were only able to get in "close proximity" to a Black-backed Woodpecker that was seen ever so briefly by several of our group, but we all heard the bird calling and briefly tapping. Other species added to our trip list were Swainson's Thrush, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Broad-winged Hawk and Red-shouldered Hawk. We next headed further north to walk the Moose Bog trail located in Ferdinand. This trail rivals Victory Bog as a choice for birders hoping to locate the "big four" boreal species. We found none! Roadside birding in the area added to the numbers of individuals for most of the northern breeding species noted above, but sadly we had no further sightings of the "big four".
Day three began at 5 am with a trip to the Barton Marsh in Newport. We walked the railroad bed that dissects the marsh affording wonderful views. The Marsh Wrens that maintain a significant population in the marsh sang constantly. Two American Bitterns flew past in the distance as did the only Black Duck of the trip. We were disappointed not to locate any of the Pied-billed Grebes known to breed in the marsh. After breakfast we began the 50 or so mile drive west to the Lake Champlain area. The next stop was one of the lesser known birding hotspots in Vermont; the Franklin Municipal Airport located on Route 78 just east of Swanton. It did not disappoint, as a drive along the perimeter road that encircles the airport gave us at least seven Vesper Sparrows and a like number of Grasshopper Sparrows and Savannah Sparrows. All three species often perched on the chain link fence that borders the airport, giving wonderful views. Many of the birds sang for us, adding to the experience. Not one airplane landed or took off during the hour we spent birding the airport grounds.
Our next stop would be the Missisquoi NWR, an extensive refuge on the northern end of Lake Champlain. A roadside stop along Route 78 in Swanton gave us at least six Black Terns, upwards of 10 Great Blue Herons, 2 Great Egrets, several Ospreys and a distant Bald Eagle. A stop at the visitor center located on Tabor Rd gave us close views of the dozens of Cliff Swallows that nest on the visitor center buildings. We drove up the road a mile or so to visit a large Purple Martin colony of at least 30 gourd nests where dozens of birds were seen. As we drove the back roads of Swanton, one more "special bird moment" occurred. Alongside the dirt road, we noticed a small puddle with exposed mud shoreline and we were treated to six or more Cliff Swallows plucking insects off the water just 30 feet away. A pair of Killdeer flew in to join the feast, and then a Wilson’s Snipe joined the party. We continued on to Mud Creek WMA and birded that beautiful wetland. On the way back to Massaschusetts, we stopped in Berlin at a large reservoir with an undeveloped shoreline and had one last birding memory. Two adult Common Loons were floating together in the center of reservoir. As we scoped the birds we noticed two little chicks swimming with the adults, multiple times mounting the backs of the adults then returning back to the water. Final species count for the three day trip - 113.
The birding began even before we reached Judy’s property. On way up South Central Street in Plainfield two Turkey Vultures were spotted in a field next to the road, then a Turkey with 5 chicks in another field, joined quickly by another adult with 9 young. Once the whole group was joined together, we took a more western trail through forest when a bridge was out, arriving at edge of the big marsh. A Creeper and 2 Pine Warblers were in a wet area, and Juncos and White-throated Sparrows were found along the trail. The ponds were low, but productive, with a flying Bittern. Many thought it the day’s best bird sighting. Also there were an Alder Flycatcher, 2 Kingbirds, 2 Swamp Sparrows and a Purple Finch. In the woods on way back there were 2 Blue-headed Vireo, 2 Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Hermit Thrush singing, more wood warblers and some Purple Finches. We relaxed on the porch with more refreshments than we earned, served with great hospitality by our host. There we waited in vain for Evening Grosbeaks, but still we were amused by purple finches at one feeder and a beautiful little hummingbird at another.
As usual the mid-day walk before the picnic had plenty of good birds; Sapsucker, Wood Pewees, Indigo Buntings, a Hermit Thrush, two Blue-headed Vireos, two Bluebirds, and 2 Yellow-rumped Warblers. Barn Swallows were eating while we dined on our picnic lunch and Turkey Vultures were looking for food. In all, there were 22 species noted and lots of delicious food to go around while we enjoyed the view before us.
Only a handful of people showed any interest in the weekend Cape Cod trip due to the overnight cost and the expected crowds. Instead, we offered interested birders a five hour offshore trip for pelagic species a few miles off Chatham. We were accompanied in the small fishing boat by veteran pelagic expert and spotter Peter Flood. Before boarding for the afternoon we had time to visit Morris Island beach, where many hundreds of mostly gulls, terns and Cormorants were roosting on offshore sandbars at high tide. We walked the shoreline to find some shorebirds and a preening White-winged Scoter. The tide was falling as we waited to board at the Fish Pier, so we scanned the island in the bay for Red Knots, Oystercatchers, Turnstones, Greater Yellowlegs, Semi and Black-bellied Plovers, Least and Semi Sandpipers, and Piping Plovers. At first the captain warned us there was fog off shore, but we had come too far to let that deter us. The fog soon faded away, revealing a gently rolling sea with many close birds sitting on the water and in flight. Within a short time we had close looks at Great, Corey’s, Sooty, and Manx Shearwaters. Wilson’s Petrels were also numerous in most areas. Roseate and Common Terns were flying over chattering most of the time and several small flocks were on the water. We saw a Black Tern fly past, disappearing in the distance, and a group of seven Red-necked Phalaropes flew low past the boat. We headed north toward some whale activity getting good looks at 2-3 pods of 2-5 animals each. We spotted two single Parasitic Jaegers and one group of four. We stopped to chum for a while with fish parts thrown out by the captain. Hundreds of gulls came to feed with a bedlam of chatter, and with them were some incredibly close shearwaters. We returned in time to have a take-out meal at the fish pier before heading back to Western Mass.
At the meeting place, Pynchon Point in Agawam, two screaming Peregrine Falcons flew over us. One continued west and the other landed on the cell tower across the street, calling for a few minutes. Walking to the Point, we managed to find 2 Great Egrets, a Great Blue, and 3 Dc Cormorants. We drove to the Expo Lagoon and found 3 Great Blue Herons, 5 Green Herons, 2 Dc Cormorants, Great and Snowy Egrets, 2 immature Black-crown Night-herons, a Solitary Sandpiper, a Kingfisher, an Osprey perched, and a Killdeer heard only. On to Longmeadow, where Pondside gave us 11 Great Egrets, 3 Great Blues, 35 Wood Ducks, 7 Mute Swans, 40 Mallards, 4 Least Sandpipers, 3 Tree Swallows, 3 Orioles, and 3 Warbling Vireos. At the Island the water was too high for anything but one Spotted Sandpiper, 2 Great Egrets, 2 Dc Cormorants, a Bald Eagle close overhead, and a preening Peregrine Falcon perched atop dead driftwood on a reduced sandbar.
It started slow at the meeting place on Bark Haul and Pondside, but when we moved up to the parking area on Pondside across from Tina Lane about 6:45pm, the Nighthawks began to flow down over the ponds. At one point there were 35 swirling directly over our heads. We ended with 107 Common Nighthawks, and everyone had great looks. We also had about 75 Chimney Swifts, several Tree Swallows, a Barn Swallow and some Rough-winged Swallows. There were nine participants plus leaders, and we picked a good night. It was a nice evening and everyone seemed pleased with the number and the great views - lots of insects for sure - plus a nice sunset.
The first walk of the season in Longmeadow was extremely birdless. No robins or thrushes where expected or found. However, Al Richardson and I identified 2 Red-shouldered hawks on Pondside. One flew in with a flash of red on its wings. We studied it and when it flew to join another hawk, we got positive identification marks.
Despite being postponed one day, the prospect of finding owls was still enough to attract 23 people. We began at the Great Brook crossing to the transfer station and were rewarded with two Screech Owls, heard by everyone and seen by several. Our next targets were Barred Owls along Munn Brook at the foot of Drake Mountain. We got three of them to respond, two serenading closely together. It took more time, but we also got a Great Horned Owl to begin hooting in this area. It was a very successful prowl.
There were 14 folks in four cars on the trip to Plum Island, but the tide had not dropped enough to uncover Joppa, so we drove quickly down the island stopping or slowing briefly for looks at a Peregrine, a Harrier, 30 Great and 25 Snowy Egrets, a close Redtail on the ground, and some Cormorants. Stage Island pool looked very inviting, but we started at Sandy Point where there was still some room to park and the cove was already open. We walked out on the beach to the cove, getting a flock of Sanderlings, hunting Ospreys and a Harrier. With a little more scanning we added a Golden Plover alone, some Black-bellied Plovers, 3 Dunlin, Semipalmated and Piping Plovers, and a Red Knot. On the other side of the point at Emerson Rocks we had an Eider and a Common Loon. On our return, Stage Island was still busy with many yellowlegs, some peeps, Green-winged Teal, a Pintail, 5 Dunlin, a Pied-billed Grebe, 4 Snowy Egrets and a Great Egret. We drove without stopping much to the Forward Pool blind, finding the small parking lot full at first. Then the birders there left, saying a peregrine had spooked all the shorebirds. We still found some Dowitchers and yellowlegs, a few Snowy Egrets, and a flock of Green-winged Teal. From the main dike at Hellcat there were a few yellowlegs, Killdeer, and peeps. We skipped looking for Night-Herons at the roost, and only paused just briefly at the Wardens and Salt Pannes, hoping to get to Joppa before it was covered by the tide. We were still too late, so we ended the trip and headed home.
Up in time to reach Blueberry Hill at 7:30, but met only one birder there. We had nice walk, getting only Redstart and Yellowrump. It started to rain just as we got back to the cars. I returned at 11:30 and watched for 2 hours, with three migrants, Osprey and 2 Sharpshins. There was also one Bald Eagle.
Eleven people met at Fannie Stebbins to walk a portion of the Bark Haul Trail and along Pondside to see what the fall migration had brought. Before starting out, we heard the long absent song of a Warbling Vireo, and then another further down the trail. Red-eyed Vireos also made their presence known. Warblers did not show up in any large numbers, but we had good looks at Common Yellowthroat, Redstarts, a Magnolia, and a Northern Parula. Perhaps the biggest treat was seeing 2 Northern Waterthrush feeding among the muddy leaves in a dried-up pond near the railroad tracks. Pondside proved more productive, as we found Least Sandpipers in the mudflats near the culvert, and an Osprey and a calling Red-shouldered Hawk overhead. Everyone enjoyed the continuing extravaganza of the many Great Egrets (27) and Great Blue Herons (15) congregating in the shallow ponds. Green-wing Teal and Wood Ducks were in the northernmost pond, and a Green Heron also lurked in the buttonbush there, trying hard to keep out of our sight.
The hawkwatch and picnic on Blueberry Hill had 25 people, but only 32 migrants counted, thanks to the south winds and heavy air. The best migrants were a Merlin and a Harrier, but we did note a dozen high Broadwings and as many close Kestrels. There were only 2 Ospreys and 3 Sharpshins moving. Local raptors included a few Redtails, two Bald Eagles, and one Cooper’s Hawk. The wine and goodies improved our mood, but surprisingly not the flight. The handful of non-raptors included a Raven, a Pileated, 30 Cedar Waxwings, 2 Hummingbirds, and a Philadelphia Vireo.
The morning started out foggy, but cleared quickly with a slow warming and light winds for ten of us who stopped along Pondside Road and walked into the Bark Haul area. We counted an amazing 30 Great Egrets in one pool beside the road. More spread out were 24 Wood Duck, 15 Great Blue Heron and 2 Green Heron. A Kingfisher was working one pond and a Peregrine Falcon flashed past. Other highlights were Phoebes, Redstarts, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks as well as a single Red-breasted Nuthatch, a Red-eyed Vireo and 2 Magnolia Warblers. A small flock of Purple Finches also showed up, all part of 38 different species.
There were plenty of migrants and lingering species to see on this day for nine people. We started with Wood Ducks, Common Mergansers and a Green Heron in the wetland, where a Red-tailed Hawk was perched on a branch protruding from the surface. A Bald Eagle flew over as well as a falcon, too briefly and far away to identify. We enjoyed looks at two Phoebes, a Catbird, some Mockingbirds and six Flickers. A Black-and-white Warbler was added to the usual Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, while Savannah Sparrows lurked in the grasses and brush.
Five members joined me for the walk on the bike trail and we found 19 species, including the pair of resident Common Loons. Three Double-crested Cormorants were also on the water and a Belted Kingfisher was fishing the edges. The birds were not too active so soon after first light and fog hampered us at well. When the sun came up we noted some Golden-crowned Kinglets in the pines and four Phoebes in the brush along the shore.
The frigid, freezing weather kept numbers down to 7 people for this venture. At the main gate, the first of many Wood Ducks were studied in the thick lily pads that covered the shallow cove. Just across the road, beneath a high canopy of pines, was a hidden pond that held a big surprise, two ducks of different sizes, the smaller one a female Green-winged Teal and the other a female Northern Shoveler. They stuck together as if mated, but they were only temporary mates. The large coves farther along held mostly Wood Ducks and Mallards, but a little patient searching revealed a pair of Ring-necked Ducks, a Pintail, and a Pied-billed Grebe. A large flock of Yellowrumps and some Palm Warblers gathered seed at the edges of the pond and a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds stalked the muddy edges and the exposed lily pads. A Bald Eagle arrived as the fog finally cleared, and later it caught and ate a fish before our eyes. Other birds at the far end of the main pond were a single Rusty Blackbird, a lone Phoebe, a Merlin mobbed by a flock of crows, and a calling Killdeer.
Eight participants turned out for the trip through Quabbin Park, where we tallied 16 species on a clear, cool but blustery day. The only woodpecker was a Flicker and the only sparrows were a few flocks of Juncos. Whatever was there seemed to stay in the shelter of the bushes. We had a few Crows but no Ravens, the reverse of what we usually get at Quabbin. Goodnough Dike was the best spot for waterbirds - two Common Loons, four Surf Scoters and two close Horned Grebes around the corner at Gate 32. The water here didn't have the whitecaps that were on the rest of the reservoir and the wind didn't blow us over. We had three Bald Eagles, one adult right over us at Windsor Park and two just floating above us at Goodnough (an adult and a 4th year bird). These two seemed to kettle with five gulls, enjoying the wind. We had a nice look at an adult Red-tailed Hawk which landed about 100 feet away, and a Golden-crowned Kinglet also gave us a close view. The few birds we found were very nice and the scenery was great, bright multicolored trees and a blue sky with fast moving cotton ball clouds. The company was great too!
Clouds and comfortable conditions greeted the eight members for the first fall trip to Berkshire Lakes. It was a slow start at Laurel Lake with only Mallards in view, but Stockbridge Bowl had 6 Green-winged Teal and a Great Blue Heron in the marsh. We rode over Stockbridge Mountain to find 10 more Green-winged Teal in Fairfield Pond. Richmond had 3 Ravens and a Coot, in the marsh , while on the pond was a Red-breasted Merganser. Going overhead we noted a flock of a hundred Cedar Waxwings and four flocks of Bluebirds totaling about 50. The count of Ring-necked Ducks at Mud pond was a cool 1100. The south end of Onota Lake had a Common Loon and a Bonaparte’s Gull while the north end had 20 Hooded Mergansers, 8 Green-winged Teal, a Pied-billed Grebe, and another lone Coot. The northwest corner of Pontoosuc had small groups of Common and Hooded Mergansers, along with another Red-breasted Merganser. We were welcomed to Ann Connors house for views of a young White-crowned Sparrow and a Fox Sparrow. Northeast Pontoosuc had another Common Loon and a third Red-breasted Merganser, this one a young male.
The usual leaders of this weekend trip were in Africa, but ten intrepid members headed north to Dead Creek in Addison Vermont. Day 1 was a cool but windless morning that made the 2-3 thousand Snow Geese at the refuge a real treat as they rose with a clamor many times, especially when a Bald Eagle perched nearby turned its head. Dozens of Green-winged Teal were in the nearby marsh and we got spectacular views of raptors. Three Rough-legged Hawks hunted the meadows, a male Harrier joined them, and a Peregrine Falcon perched close by for several minutes before steaming its way across the meadows and spooking up a flock of Snow Buntings. Even a Cooper’s Hawk appeared, then dove inside an abandoned barn. We made our way over to Lake Champlain, where the water birds were scarce on the lake shore, but we managed close looks at Common Loons and Horned Grebes. The coves sheltered a few Bufflehead, a Black Scoter, and some Hooded and Common Mergansers.
The weather turned nasty the morning of Day 2, with strong, cold winds following a night of rain. We still found flocks of ducks on the inland side of Sandbar Park and some Black-bellied Plovers on the lake side. South Hero Island had only a few loons, a Black Scoter and a White-winged Scoter. At Isle La Motte, we found a few more loons on the water, but then lifted our eyes and looked west toward northern New York. The sky was full of thousands of Snow Geese rising from the lowlands. They first looked dark, but then glowed fiercely white as they rose higher into the sunlight against the distant backdrop of dark clouds. Some descended after circling for several minutes, but many skeins headed south. We returned to the eastern shore of the lake to find a flock of Dunlins and Plovers on the mudflats exposed by the low water level. There were more flocks of Buffleheads and Black Scoters here as well as farther south at St. Albans Bay. Also in the bay were hundreds of Ring-billed and Bonaparte’s Gulls loafing on the mudflats. Then we noticed the water farther out was covered with Common Loons, at least 120 of these regal birds.
Our second fall visit here drew nine people, two of them very new. It was windy and cold, improving very slowly as the day wore on. A few Green-winged Teal were at Laurel Lake and Fairfield Pond, while Stockbridge Bowl gave us a Great Blue Heron in the marsh and a Bald Eagle that flew along the shore just above our heads. We found a distant Red-throated Loon at Richmond Pond and the usual horde of over a thousand Ring-necked Ducks at Mud Pond. Another eagle perched on the shore at Onota Lake, where many Hooded Mergansers and a Pied-billed Grebe dove for food close before us. We watched a Sharp-shinned Hawk hunt at the home of Ann Conners, then waited for the Fox Sparrows and a Red-breasted Nuthatch to return to the feeders. Nearby Pontoosuc had a big flock of Common Mergansers, some Buffleheads and Goldeneyes. At the last stop, a lingering Yellow-rumped Warbler appeared and a Red-tailed Hawk circled low over our heads.
I led trip to the north shore with 3 cars and 11 people. At Cape Ann the ocean swells were deep and the waves crashed wildly. At Jodrey Pier we found a few Eiders, Loons, and Cormorants plus a Peregrine perched on the light pole for a several minutes before streaking away. In the harbor at Rocky Neck were a few Loons, Horned Grebes, Buffleheads, about 20 Surf Scoters, a Black Scoter, and 10 Red-breasted Mergansers. Eastern Point had only 3 Gannets, some Loons, Buffleheads, Surf Scoters, Horned Grebe and a pair of Harlequins. Niles Pond had 2 Coot, 5 Bonaparte’s Gulls, 3 Pied-billed Grebes, and some Ring-necked Ducks. Bass Rocks had Buffleheads, Common Loons and scoters, a Red-necked Grebe, and more Gannets.
We moved north to Cathedral Rocks in Rockport and had 50 Harlequins and 30 Eiders, a few Loons, Gannets, and Scoters. Andrews Point had 30 Gannets soaring low past us and occasionally diving. There were 60 Harlequins, Scoters, and Loons. A Razorbill appeared and flew before us, dropping briefly to join two more. Then all three quickly took to the air and flew back and forth a bit before landing in the deep troughs for distant looks.
Clouds had cleared and the sun was bright when we reached the Salt Pannes at Plum Island , where we found Great Blue Heron, 3 Harriers, a dozen Black-bellied Plovers and 25 Dunlins. As we checked the first flocks of Black Ducks, we picked out a pair of Eurasian Wigeon and we had good enough light to see their colors. They swam about for 2-3 minutes before taking off to the north. At Lot 3 there were two more Harriers and some Greater Yellowlegs, plus a pair of American Wigeon.
At the Wardens area we had a pair of Oldsquaw, a Goldeneye and Buffleheads far out against the sun and a closer, clearer Red-throated Loon. A Bald Eagle perched at the top of a low, bushy evergreen, and two more Harriers bounced before us. We went on to Sandy Point where the waves were crashing, the tide was high, and the Emerson Rocks were invisible. There were rafts of 200 Red-breasted Mergansers with a few Eiders and Loons. Gannets were sailing past again and a flock of Black-bellied Plovers landed.
We hurried back north to Hellcat, past the flooded inland marshes. Viewers were few and the ducks were close, more than a dozen Pintail, 2 Shovelers, a male Gadwall, 2 Goldeneye and some Bufflehead. A flock of Dunlin was also present as was a young Red-tailed Hawk recovering from its attack of a duck that others had seen. It spread its wings and tail in the sedges, then perched in low trees for some time. Two more Harriers hunted in the area.
It was late afternoon when we joined other watchers at North Pool with many birders. There, a reported “Snowy Owl” sitting in the grass on the bank of the dike turned out to be a plastic water jug. The Short-eared Owl was real and it was seen circling and rising up over the dike in sweeping, intricate circles and dives before disappearing. A Rough-legged Hawk flew off from the dike and went steadily west toward the tree line. The Harriers included one or two males and numbered an amazing eight birds that hunted continuously over the north pool and dike. Also present was a Merlin perched for a short time in a tree along the road. As the day darkened, we headed home with 53 species, 39 water birds and 14 land birds.
On count day the snow started before first light and ended about noon, leaving ten inches on the ground. Only four teams ventured into the field during the morning and three important teams were unable to even reach their areas for the afternoon. That left a meager 17 birders in the field in 11 teams and 2 feeder watchers. Hours of coverage were 67, by far the fewest in the 37 years since 1980. Even the good food and warm fire at the home of George Kingston and Jean Delaney enticed few to brave the weather.
Team Members and Highlights
Longmeadow: Steve and Rachel Svec, 6 Hours, 35 species, 6 Mute Swan, 155 Mallard, 10 Wood Duck, 72 Black Duck, 4 Hooded and 25 Common Merganser, a Great Blue Heron, a Kingfisher, 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers, a Kestrel, a Bald Eagle, a Flicker, the only Pileated Woodpecker, 2 Sapsucker, 2 Raven, a Creeper, 2 Carolina Wren, a Winter Wren, 3 Golden-crowned Kinglet, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 24 Song Sparrows, 32 White-throated Sparrows.
Longmeadow: Jim Pfeifer, 3 hours, 20 species, Kestrel, 3 Turkey, a Fox Sparrow.
East Longmeadow: George Kingston and Jean Delaney, 8 hours, 22 species, a Cooper’s Hawk, 14 Turkey, a Great Horned Owl, a Carolina Wren.
Forest Park: Al and Lois Richardson, 4 Hours, 23 species, 305 Mallard, a Kingfisher, 261 Crow, a Winter Wren, 2 Robin, 34 Junco.
Springfield: Janet Orcutt, 4 Hours, 22 Species, a Herring Gull, 2 Peregrine, 6669 Crow, 2 Purple Finch.
Hampden and feeder: Mary Felix, 4 hours, 25 species, Carolina Wren, Fox Sparrow, 3 Purple Finch.
South Wilbraham: Tim Carter, 3 hours, 19 species, a Flicker, a Carolina Wren, 2 Mockingbird, 13 Cedar Waxwing.
Ludlow: Bill and Carol Platenik, 3 hours, 21 Species, 2 Hooded Merganser, a Common Merganser, a Cooper’s Hawk, 25 Turkey, a Robin.
Chicopee: Tom Swochak, 3.5 hours, 27 species, 8 Common Merganser, 4 Red-tailed Hawk, 3 Bald Eagle, 2 Kingfisher, 500 Crow, 13 Downy Woodpeckers, 325 Common Crow, a Carolina Wren, 4 Robin, 3 Mockingbird, a Catbird.
Agawam Southeast: Janice Zepko and Seth Kellogg, 8 hours, 39 species, 564 Canada Goose, 5 Wood Duck, 21 Black Duck, 3 Green-winged Teal, 3 Goldeneye, 10 Hooded and 72 Common Merganser, 11 Turkey, 2 Bald Eagle, 2 Sharp-shinned Hawk, 2 Cooper’s Hawk, 6 Red-tailed Hawk, 8 Turkey, a Screech Owl, a Kingfisher, a Flicker, 3 Carolina Wren, 48 Robin, a Red-winged Blackbird.
Agawam Robinson Park: Steve Perrault and Madeline Novak, 10.5 hours, 21 species, a Brown Creeper, a Sapsucker, 40 Junco.
Feeders: Bambi Kenney, 14 species; Barb Swan, 12 species
The 56 species recorded was 3 above the previous low of 2008 and 12 below the 1980-2015 average. Above average numbers were 50 Turkey, 6 Bald Eagle (lowest since 2008), 3 Sapsucker (every year since 2007), 2 Peregrine, and 2 Raven.
For the second year in a row, species were found in low numbers, this time due to the bad weather rather than the good weather of the previous year. Almost all common species were far below the average. Species rarely recorded were Green-winged Teal (7 years), catbird (17 years), and Purple Finch (18 years).
Other species, rare or uncommon in small numbers, were the following (with number of years found out of 35): Green-winged Teal 7, Wood Duck 23, Sharp-shinned Hawk 19, Red-shouldered Hawk 17, Raven 13, Sapsucker 16 (every year in last 10), Kestrel 13 (absent until 1997), Peregrine Falcon 16 (missed only in 3 years since 2002), Fox Sparrow 22, and Purple Finch 18.
Click below to view or download complete count results.
There were 10 teams and 20 observers in the field, near the average over the 26-year history of the count. Conditions and numbers were not quite ideal after a legacy of late December storms and cold snaps that probably drove a lot of wintering birds farther south. Skies were clear, but a brisk north wind blew with a layer of ice and snow still covering the ground. The 77 hours were well below last year’s coverage, but still close to average.
The White-fronted Goose was the only species new to the count. It was the sixth year for Common Goldeneye, the seventh year for Pintail, Greater Scaup, and Fox Sparrow, and the eighth year for Ring-necked Duck.
Teams and Highlights
Westfield: Joanne Fortin (mostly) and Elethea Goodkin, 23 species, 15 Turkey, 5 Red-tailed Hawk, a Pileated, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, Bluebird, and 66 Juncos.
Blandford and Westfield: Kathy and Myles Conway, 32 species, Mute Swan, 2 Hooded Merganser, Cooper’s Hawk, 24 Turkey, Flicker, 75 Chickadee, 15 Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, 2 Golden-crowned Kinglet, 21 Bluebird, 80 Robin, 15 Cedar Waxwing.
Russell and Westfield: Tom Swochak, 31 species, 500 Canada Goose, 35 Black Duck, 3 Hooded Merganser, Cooper’s Hawk, 3 Carolina Wren, 4 Bluebird, 20 White-throated Sparrow, 19 Cardinal.
North Granby and part of Granville: John Weeks, Chris Chinni, Scott Fowler, 29 species, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Great Horned Owl, 2 Barred Owl, Raven, Creeper, 2 Carolina Wren, 2 Golden-crowned Kinglet, Red-breasted Nuthatch.
East Granville: Mary Felix and Eve Waterman, Red-shouldered Hawk, 8 Bluebird, 8 Golden-crowned Kinglet, Cowbird.
Southwick: Janice Zepko and Seth Kellogg, 46 species, 300 Canada Goose, Greater White-fronted Goose, 2 Pintail, 4 Ring-necked Duck, 2 Greater Scaup, Hooded and Common Merganser, Bald Eagle, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk, Screech Owl, 4 Great Horned Owl, 2 Barred Owl, Kestrel, Pileated Woodpecker, 2 Raven, 2 Carolina Wren, 9 Bluebird, 3 Red-breasted Nuthatch, Fox Sparrow.
Westfield and Montgomery: Al and Lois Richardson, Bambi Kenney, 32 species, 12 Black Duck, Cooper’s Hawk, 72 Mourning Dove, Pileated Woodpecker, 3 Raven, Carolina Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, 21 Bluebird.
Westfield: Dave McLain, 43 species, 3 Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Cooper’s Hawk, 9 Screech Owl, Great Horned and Barred Owl, the only Kingfisher, Flicker, 50 Horned Lark, 2 Brown Creeper, 3 Carolina Wren, Winter Wren, 12 Cedar Waxwing.
Westfield: George Kingston, Jean Delaney, Janet Orcutt, 18 species, Pileated Woodpecker.
Southwick: Tim Carter, 28 species, 2 Pileated Woodpecker, Flicker, 3 Bluebird, 3 Cedar Waxwing, Catbird.
The 60 species recorded were below the 26-year average of 63 and the fewest since the start-up years of 1991-96. No species showed significantly high numbers. There were above average counts of Canada Goose, Black Duck, Turkey, Cooper’s Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Red-bellied, Hairy, and Pileated Woodpecker, Raven, Titmouse, and Red-breasted Nuthatch. The last was the fifth highest total ever.
Click below to view or download complete count results.
A coastal snowstorm caused us to cancel the trip to the south shore. In its place we were able to take a local morning trip in Agawam and Southwick with 3 cars and 9 people. We checked the river early, finding a mass of 2000+ geese packed at the north end of Long Meadow Island. Two Peregrines were active in the area along with an adult and an immature Bald Eagle. Scattered on the water were both Common Goldeneyes and Common Mergansers. The road where we parked had a nearby wooded area where we could hear Brown Creepers and a Golden-crowned Kinglet. Arriving at the Congamond Lakes, we found another thousand Canada Geese on the open water. Near them were two Greater Scaup, four Ring-necked Duck, and two Hooded Mergansers. In the nearby trees we spotted a Pileated Woodpecker and a Cooper’s Hawk. We stopped at the Southwick Wildlife Management Area and were thrilled by a Harrier hunting low over the grasslands. After a break of good coffee and delightful snacks at the Notch Visitor Center, we headed back to the river, spotting a Red-shouldered Hawk perched beside the road. The seven Turkeys that spent the winter at the landfill were the last birds spotted before snow began to fall.
Ten members toured the Hadley and Northampton meadows near the river, including the Honeypot, Aqua Vita, East Meadows, and Arcadia Meadows. We noted 25 species, including a male Pintail, a Bald Eagle, Raven, Flicker and Bluebird.
Ten eager birders reached Watchemocket Cove shortly after 8 in the morning, where a few immediately spotted the usual Black-headed Gull in brief flight. We enjoyed watching the American Wigeons, Buffleheads, Hooded Mergansers, a single Common Loon and a Kingfisher. A briefer stop at Turner Reservoir gave us looks at four Gadwall, along with as well as many Hooded and Common Mergansers. In Tiverton we walked through the Ruecker Sanctuary and had some good landbirds. In the open fields, the strong northwest wind made birds hard to find, but Seapowet Beach had 20 Brant. The stop at Pardon Gray gave us a hunting Harrier and four beautiful Meadowlarks. We crossed the bridge and drove south to St. Mary’s Pond, which was loaded with Hooded and Common Mergansers, but little else. A Bald Eagle flew in, but the only other water birds were three Great Cormorants, two Lesser Scaup, and a single Ruddy Duck. Green End Pond added 30 Greater Scaup and another Bald Eagle.
Things got better when we arrived in the Sachuest area at Gardiners Pond, where we panned for 80 Greater Scaup, ten Ruddy Duck, plus four Pintail, a Ring-necked Duck, three American Coot, some Great Cormorants, and a very close Red-throated Loon. Nearby, Third Beach offered 30 Surf Scoters, some Bufflehead, Common Goldeneyes, and Common Loons. Also there were shorebirds: 40 Sanderlings, four Ruddy Turnstones, and a Dunlin. A walk at low tide along the trail above the cliffs of Sachuest gave us 15 Brant, 20 Greater Scaup, good counts of all three scoters, a dozen Common Goldeneyes, some Harlequin Ducks, a cruising Gannet or two, and 15 Purple Sandpipers.
The next morning we drove east to Beavertail State Park, which was windy and cold, but had four Razorbills, Black Guillemot, 15 Red-throated and 20 Common Loons, as well as large flocks of Common Eiders. Also there were 35 Black Scoters, numerous Harlequin Ducks, some Horned Grebes and a Red-necked Grebe. Smaller seabird numbers were found at Point Judith while Scarborough Beach had Great Cormorants, a few Black Scoters, and 20 Sanderlings, plus a calling Fish Crow.
Trustom Pond was a fitting highlight and ending for the trip, with three large, active rafts of feeding water birds at the end of a long walk. In them we estimated at least six rare Redheads, a hard to spot Eurasian Wigeon, several Gadwall, 50 American Wigeon, and many Greater and Lesser Scaup. At the Moonstone end of the pond we finished with a gorgeous and unique Eurasian Green-winged Teal in the company of three American Green-winged Teal.
For Day 1 at Cape Ann there were 14 people on board. There was less wind than predicted at the start, but it got very strong by the afternoon. The Thick-billed Murre was sleeping not far out at Jodrey Pier and an Iceland Gull was present with a modest number of other gulls. At Eastern Point it was too windy to walk out to the jetty, so we walked around the lee side of the lighthouse. There we had only a few birds, but they included a Razorbill on the water and a flock of Purple Sandpipers flying past. Niles Pond was fairly calm, with a mixed flock of diving Greater and Lesser Scaup, a flock of Ring-necked Ducks, some Gadwall, Bufflehead, a few Goldeneye, and both Hooded and Red-breasted Merganser. From the Elks Club we had a breeding plumage Black Guillemot, some White-winged Scoters, Eiders, and the usual Bufflehead flock.
After lunch we visited Salt Island, where some got Sanderlings, but no one could find the King Eider. We headed north, wandering the side streets on the western shore of Rockport, finding only a small assortment of ducks. At the Granite Pier and at Andrews Point there were Harlequin Duck, Surf and Black Scoter, Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser plus Common Loon and Eider. We could not pick out the female King Eider reported here.
We headed north and found some geese in the Ipswich fields, but no Pink-footed. Two cars went north to Salisbury to hunt for Red Crossbills in vain. Instead they got 20 Gadwall, two American Wigeon, a few Eiders, and Red-breasted Merganser, some Oldsquaw and Goldeneye, a Red-throated and several Common Loons. Raptors present were a Harrier and 2 Bald Eagles, plus a close Snowy Owl just across from the boat ramp.
On Day 2 some took the ride down Plum Island, which was quite barren and very windy and cold. There were Harriers at the Wardens over the north pool, a flock of Brant, and regular ducks, mostly at Emerson Rocks where a flock of Dunlin were feeding. Also new were three Horned Grebes. The north end of Plum had more Brant and some ducks, Cashman Park had a few Goldeneye, and Salisbury had some ducks and loons. The owl was gone.
The usual crowded breakfast table had only five members, but the food was great. A very cold, blustery wind must have been the reason for low participation and species count. The river was filled with only the expected ducks. We stopped at Riverview and had a few close Ring-necked Ducks and Buffleheads greet us. It was too hard to focus on the distant flocks, so we drove to the cove. They were closer, but now the wind was in our faces. A few Greater Scaup were mingled in with a big flock of a hundred or more Ring-necked Ducks.
The woodcock event attracted just five participants, but those that braved the evening air got looks at 7 displaying male woodcock.
It was cloudy and cool for the walk in Longmeadow with seven companions. Best bird was a male Blue-winged Teal in the back marsh that Lois spotted after seeing it on previous days. Also good were 3 Rusty Blackbirds close and calling, 2 House Wrens singing, 3 Carolina Wrens, 10 Gnatcatchers, a Ruby-crowned Kinglet, 2 singing Bluebirds, 6 Palm Warblers, and 3 Yellow-rumped Warblers. The species total was 34.
Under drizzling skies, four birders joined Al and Lois Richardson for the first in the scheduled Wednesday walks. As worse weather threatened, two people left and the remaining intrepid birders walked to the T along the Bark Haul Trail. The skies opened and we returned to the parking area. This proved to be a passing shower and so we birded the meadow and found a newly returned Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Brown Thrasher, and several singing Yellow Warblers. Unfortunately, Pondside was devoid of any returning waders. A fly over Osprey, Double-crested Cormorant, and Great Blue Heron helped bring the trip list to a total of 29 species.
Eight birders, with Bobby Olsen as leader, walked the various habitats found in the area known as Alton's Way. Our three-mile walk took us down hedge rows, through open meadows, by white cedar swamps and groves of pine and hard wood. Highlights were a White-crowned Sparrow, a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers flying by us silently at eye level, two perched Broad-wing Hawks that took off on their northward flight giving their high-pitched call (we later saw another one circling overhead), and one of several Prairie Warblers that sat and belted out a song for several minutes nearly in front of us. These sightings more than made up for not finding or hearing a Northern Waterthrush in its usual spot. Total species count was 30.
It was a perfect warm morning with light winds from the south that had brought many migrants to the valley and a good group out to find them. An arriving Green Heron and two lingering Green-winged Teal were the first welcome sights. Great Blue Herons, Wood Ducks, and Spotted Sandpiper followed. The skies gave us three Broad-winged Hawks and we found all of the five regular woodpecker species. Flycatchers featured 4 Great Cresteds and two Kingbirds. In the woods were the usual Brown Creeper and a Hermit Thrush. Ten species of warbler went on the list, best being three Northern Parula. An Orchard Oriole made up for missing Baltimore Oriole. A species count of 53 was both pleasing and impressive.
The trip attracted 10 people and about half were potential new members. Though it was cloudy, cool, and had a few minutes of light drizzle, we managed to hit 37 species.
At 60 degrees, under cloudy skies, fifteen participants, including one visitor from Dublin Ireland, gathered on Pondside to revel in the many, recently-arrived spring migrants. There were Yellow, Black-and-White, and Black-throated-green Warblers, Redstart, Yellowthroat, Parula, Ovenbird, and Northern Waterthrush. We found Gnatchatchers flitting, Wood Thrush, and beautifully colored Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Bluebird, Scarlet Tanager and Baltimore Oriole. Extra special sightings included Great Egret, Orchard Oriole, and Rusty Blackbird. In all, 41 species counted and enjoyed.
We got lucky with the weather, since there was rain on either side of the Thursday of the trip. Nine members joined in to find a total of 40 species. It was a little cool in the morning and warmed up nicely towards the end of the trip. In addition to the expected birds, we found nine different warbler species and two Common Loons, who appeared to be a pair. Walking around the reservoir is so pleasant that this trip always lasts longer than the scheduled two hours. As usual, we had a very pleasant time along the reservoir with good friends who enjoyed each other’s company.
Thirteen participants were on our 2nd Wednesday walk at Stebbins Refuge. We tallied 35 species, including 7 warbler species. The dominant warbler was the Yellow. Good looks at 3 Solitary Sandpipers, a pair of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and a Great Crested Flycatcher were the highlights. Part of the group endeavored to find an elusive singing bird and stayed later. It was a learning curve to get a handle on the singing birds after a winter off.
Only a couple of members took advantage of a walk through Hillcrest Cemetery, finding a total of 22 species. The usual neighborhood birds were spotted, as well as a Yellow-rumped Warber and Yellow-throated Vireo, Chimney Swifts, and a Red-tailed Hawk. The highlight of the walk was the return of the Barn Swallows.
A good crowd of birders (~15) gathered at the Station Road entrance to the Norwottuck Rail Trail in Amherst to enjoy the birds of evening. They were rewarded with a Black-billed Cuckoo, a Virginia Rail seen well walking back and forth in the marsh in an exposed area, Bobolinks out in the field, a Grackle sitting on her nest very close to the path, two Woodcock, two Swamp Sparrows, two Orchard Orioles, any many other birds to delight.
Rainy weather canceled the walk up Mt. Holyoke though the leader and one intrepid birder showed up hoping to get glimpses of the Worm-eating and Cerulean Warblers.
A whopping number of birders, 25 in all, gathered to enjoy a total of 57 species in three hours of birding the refuge. Highlights included Common Nighthawk sleeping on a branch of a Maple tree, Red-shouldered Hawk, two Willow Flycatchers, and two Canada Warblers (unfortunately only seen by a few in the group). Only seven species of warbler were spotted, but other specialties made up for that disappointment.
The day started out cool at 7 a.m., but the birding turned hot by 8 a.m. Seven participants ended up seeing a total of 52 species, including the Green Heron and Eastern Kingbirds scouted out at the route 9 swamp.
Of the 8 warblers seen, a pair of Blackburnians at Windsor Park was heart stopping. The female dropped into the low trees in front of us and pulled material from the tent caterpillar nests. She proceeded to come back and forth in front of us while the male flew around. We walked down the road from Windsor Park to the culvert, getting a Bay-breasted Warbler, a Yellow-throated Vireo, an Indigo Bunting and a Sapsucker. It got quieter after that until a Ruby-throated Hummingbird buzzed the group, a mere 2 feet away, and a Chestnut-sided Warbler picked at nesting material close by. We walked down Gate 52. There we had a Gray-cheeked Thrush that seemed to have no knowledge of people. He hopped in the trees at the water's edge modeling his fine features as we watched him for at least 10 minutes. A Pewee had given us a similar show at the spillway. Birding as it should be!
Four members of the Allen Bird Club, George Kingston, Jean Delaney, Kathy and Myles Conway joined together to enjoy the birds at this lovely location. A total of 40 species were identified, highlights included, Black Vulture, Purple Martin, Bank Swallow, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Bobolink, Scarlet Tanager, Veery, Wood Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Black-throated Blue Warbler, Savannah Sparrow, Willow Flycatcher, Eastern Kingbird, Double-crested Cormorant, Raven and Turkey. We finished with lunch at the Vanilla Bean Café.
Eleven participants gathered to enjoy a sunny day of birding the Quabbin, It was cool and windy where we started our walk in the observation area right in front of the Quabbin Headquarters. There we were graced with a sighting of a flyover by a Bald Eagle. On the water we spotted many Ring-billed Gulls, Common Loons and Canada Geese. We then set off to the 2nd entrance of the Quabbin, where we encountered Crows, Ravens, multiple species of sparrows and more Blue Jays than we could count! Next stop was the tower area, and then on to Hanks Meadow, where we walked along the shore. Here we saw a pair of Horned Grebes, and three White-winged Scoters, along with some more Common Loons. All told we identified White-throated, White-crowned, Song, and Chipping Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, Goldfinches, Black-capped Chickadees, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatches, and Turkey Vultures, along with five species of woodpecker, Downy, Hairy, Red-bellied, Pileated and Northern Flicker. Special songbird highlights were Hermit Thrush, Ruby-crowned and Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Yellow-rumped Warblers. Our total for the four hours of birding was 31 species – a great day!
We set out at 8:00 am with six participants, two of which were brand new members. The weather was sunny, but cool with temps in the low 50s. We walked to the 1 ½ mile marker, and then headed back.
We counted a total on 17 species on the walk, with Blue Jay being the most plentiful bird of the day. Most exciting was the Common Loon family of three. Other birds on the water were Canada Geese, Double-crested Cormorants, a couple of Great Blue Herons, and a Belted Kingfisher. While walking we observed three different species of woodpecker, Red-bellied, Hairy and Pileated. There were also Golden-crowned Kinglets, White-breasted Nuthatches, Red-tailed Hawk, Blue-headed Vireo, and two species of warbler, American Redstart and Yellow-rumped Warbler.
Below is the list of birds seen on the trip. There were 12 participants.
Domesticated Duck (Swedish Blue)
Great Blue Heron
Mockingbird (Seen in the parking lot by Rachel and I as we were leaving)
There were eight members who braved the weather forecast to visit the Island this year, some staying at The Island Inn and others opting for the Shining Sail’s Fish and Maine location. We counted a total of 74 species over the weekend.
Day 1 - The ferry ride over to the island was a bit rough, but calmer than the usual morning departure would have been. On the way we spotted a Common Loon and some Black Guillemots. The Island Inn had their fireplace in the lobby going when we arrived, but the rooms upstairs were quite cold. We ventured out for a late afternoon walk, wandering to the little Ice Pond and then back to the Cove, hearing a Mourning Warbler that only gave us a glimpse. A few other warblers also only gave us brief looks, probably also due to the cold temperatures. A Sora was heard in the marsh and again many times each day. At the two ends of the small Island there were flocks of Guillemots with a total count of about 75. A Perergine was circling overhead, chased by Grackles.
Day 2 – Breakfast was good with variety and quality, and much appreciated after a short morning bird walk. Song-birds came out more easily as the day warmed. Some highlights were a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, a White-eyed Vireo, a Philadelphia Vireo, 2 Wilson’s Warblers, a Canada Warbler, and a Summer Tanager female that another group was looking at near the back of marsh on our return from an afternoon walk to the cliffs of Whitehead. Another big moment of the day was when the Mourning Warbler came out in the open to sing quite a few times. Two Cattle Egrets showed up browsing in the lawn across from the Monhegan House where we search and found the Orange-crowned Warbler with other groups.
Day 3 – The morning walk was on a trail to Burnt Head and back on the trail leading to a grassy hilltop overlooking town. It was our first experience with this trail. From the cliff heads our scoper had two Gannets going by, and 2 Razorbills, and elsewhere 5 Laughing Gulls and 5 Common Terns. A group of 5-6 Kingbirds and a Spotted Sandpiper were on rock levee behind Fish and Maine Inn. The most common songbirds of the trip were 6 Red-eyed Vireo, 20 Yellowthroats, 12 Redstarts, 12 Parula, 25 Yellow Warbler, 6 Magnolia, 8 Chestnut-sided, 20 Blackpoll, and 8 Black-throated Green. There were smaller numbers or singles of Black-billed Cuckoo (heard), Wood Pewee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, House Wren, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Swainson’s Thrush, Brown Thrasher, Northern Waterthrush, Black-and-White, Blackburnian, Black-throated Blue, and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak, Indigo Bunting, Towhee, Chipping and Savannah Sparrow, and Baltimore Oriole. We saw a Green Heron in the marsh and heard a Least Bittern call once.
Four observers had a good, close sighting of a Mourning Warbler at Laughing Brook, where we also heard a Louisiana Waterthrush. Five male bobolinks were in the field at the top of North Road, while on Hollow Rd we heard a possible Worm-eating Warbler. We had good looks at a singing Alder Flycatcher, heard and observed several Chestnut-sided Warblers, Redstarts, and various other local species. One observer spotted a Black Vulture.
The weather was cloudy and cool, never making it out of the 50s, but that did not stop four participants from enjoying this hotspot birding trip. A total of 40 species were found. Highlights include, Raven, Turkey, Olive-sided, Alder and Willow Flycatchers, Kingbird, Wood-Pewee, Blue-headed Vireo, Solitary and Red-eyed Vireos, Field Sparrow, Towhee, Prairie, Blue-winged, Pine, and Yellow Warblers, Common Yellowthroat, and Gnatcatcher.
Eleven participants gathered to enjoy the grassland birds on the fields on Westover Air Reserve Base. They garnered a total of 41 species, with highlights including Upland Sandpiper, Meadowlark, Bobolink, Kestrel, Grasshopper and Savannah Sparrows. Just as happened last year, this trip was attended by three different bird clubs: Allen, Hampshire, and the BBC. Because Westover provides a bus for us to tour the grasslands, all 3 clubs were limited to about 13 participants. Since it has been hot on this trip in years past, an air-conditioned bus is quite welcome. We saw many of the grassland target birds we sought. These include VERY MANY Bobo links, Meadowlarks, Upland Sandpipers, and a few Grasshopper Sparrows. There appear to be less of this last species than we have seen in the past. Normally, we see them on tops of the tall grasses throughout the grassland. This year (due to grass cutting, perhaps) there was less tall grass for them to stand on and, therefore, less obvious sparrows to observe. Our hosts at Westover were very welcoming and seemed very enthusiastic to show us around. One surprise was that the previous person to lead this trip (now retired), who we all grew to admire very much, joined us on this trip.
Most field work for this 14th annual project was done during cool and breezy weather Friday evening and Saturday, with the compilation on Sunday evening, June 4 at the home of Joanne Fortin. There were 9 teams and 15 observers in the field covering hilly, wooded, and sparsely populated parts of Granville, Blandford, Westfield, Russell and Southwick. The counters recorded 115 species, the highest total since 2007. The 85 total hours of coverage was close to the highest ever in 2006 (88.25) and ten higher than the historical average. However, the 3776 total individuals and the 44.4 average of individuals per hour were both well below average.
Notably low species counts compared to average were for Red-eyed Vireo 258 (302), Ovenbird 203 (238), and Veery 121 (142). Other species also lower were Hermit Thrush 9 (24), Wood Thrush 34 (47), Yellow Warbler 34 (46), Yellowthroat 81 (102), Magnolia Warbler 11 (19), Black-throated Blue Warbler 55 (84), Yellow-rumped 9 (17), Black-throated Green 34 (59), and Rose-breasted Grosbeak 11 (16).
The next 27 species average from 47 to 112 individuals per year. The next 33 species average from 10 to 40 per year. There are 56 more species with less than 10 individuals average per year. That adds up to 120 species record-ed over the 13 years of counting. This year, high counts were set for Hummingbird (21), Phoebe (54), Tree Swallow (92), Rough-winged Swallow (10), Red-breasted Nuthatch (12), Eastern Bluebird (22), Gray Catbird (104), Louisiana Waterthrush (9), Pine Warbler (24), Prairie Warbler (15), Bobolink (96), Red-winged Blackbird (138), and Grackle (67). The Common Merganser, Bald Eagle, and American Kestrel were found for only the 5th time, Brown Thrasher for the 4th time, Sora for the third time, and Hooded Warbler for the first time.
Click below to view or download complete count results.
The trip to the Berkshire lowlands went with six people, and spent most of the time in Tyringham. There we had a Cooper’s Hawk fly over, a Kestrel in the east meadow along Appalachian Trail, many nesting Cliff Swallows on Breakneck Road along with a perched pair of Red-tailed hawks. A Meadowlark was calling at Meadow Road, where we spotted Great Blue Heron, 2 Wood Ducks, 2 Pileated Woodpeckers, many Bobolinks, Swamps Sparrows, Yellow, Yellowthroats, Blue-winged Warbler, Willow, Alder, and Least Flycatchers, Hummingbird, Bluebird, and 4 Kingbirds. We got good numbers of warblers and other forest birds on Fernside Road. No Bitterns answered the tape at any of our stops. We arrived in Stockbridge on Ice Glen Road, finding Hooded Merganser with one young, 2 Wood Duck, 2 Kingbirds, Yellow-throated Vireo, a Virginia Rail calling, 2 Marsh Wrens, and 2 Bluebirds. We then visited Post Farm in Lenox to watch an adult Virginia Rail foraging with 4-5 black young. We also had 2 Alder Flycatchers and 3 Marsh Wren there.
Favorable weather conditions, with clear, warm temperatures in the 80's and light to moderate winds, brought out six birders plus the trip leader. Roadside birding, focusing on stops at five upland marshes, yielded 72 species. The trip began at 6:45 a.m. at a large marsh adjacent to Fisk Road, located in the northeast section of Chester. An elevated woodland trail running the entire western edge of the marsh affords excellent views of the marsh. Two female Hooded Mergansers, several Wood Ducks, a Virginia Rail and a variety of other expected wetland species were observed. Unfortunately no American Bittern was located here or at the other marshes we visited.
Next, a leisurely three-mile drive down Kinnebrook Road yielded many of the expected upland species, including a nice view of a Ruffed Grouse. This narrow woodland road is unique in the lack of other vehicular traffic and a general quietness that's hard to find. It is easy to become lost in the overall beauty of the experience. One marsh along this road provided a somewhat uncommon occurrence of the upland Alder Flycatcher singing together with the lowland Willow Flycatcher, which is generally not found in the hills of Western Massachusetts.
Kinnebrook Road ends at the Littleville Fairgrounds where Kinne Brook intersects the Middle Branch of the Westfield River. From here we followed the Westfield River down to the boat launch at the north end of the Littleville Reservoir. Spotted Sandpipers, Yellow-throated Vireo, Warbling Vireo and several Indigo Buntings were added to the species list for the day.
Next, roadside birding along East River Road produced a singing Winter Wren, a Red-shouldered Hawk and a Broad-winged Hawk. Another female Hooded Merganser, this time with 4 young, was spotted during a quick stop at the Lyman Road marsh. A vibrant Bobolink population was observed at an active farm at the corner of East River Road and Skyline Drive. The trip ended at 11:30 a.m. after visiting one last marsh adjacent to Skyline Drive.
Six members headed to the Adirondacks for this year's Northern New England trip. Weather was predicted to be overcast and showery, but we enjoyed two full days of good weather (80's, hot, humid, sunny), and most of a third day before heavy rains fell. We visited some of the usual spots - Moose River Plain Road, Ferd's Bog, Raquette Lake marsh, and also added some new sites. We obtained permission from Nature Conservancy for access to Spring Pond Bog just outside of Tupper Lake, and found 3 Gray Jays there.
On a tip from a local birder that it was a good location for Black-backed Woodpecker, we visited the Northville/Lake Placid Trail outside of Long Lake. Though we failed to find a woodpecker, we did add two Merlins to the list there. At nearby Shaw Pond we had great looks at Virginia Rail and American Bittern. Later at Bloomingdale Bog we found Palm Warblers, and at Floodwood Road we found our family of Common Loons.
On the third day, since rain threatened, we took a shorter route to the grasslands in Fort Edward. We tried for Mourning Warbler on Cornell Road in Newcomb, without good result. Then we drove up Tahawus Road into more boreal territory, but did not find our targets. On our way to the grasslands we added Fish Crow as a first on these trips, and the grasslands themselves were productive, with Savannah Sparrows, Meadowlark, Harrier, and "best views ever" of Grasshopper Sparrow. Soon the heavens opened up, and we headed south to home. A Double-crested Cormorant was the last addition to end our list at a respectable 108 species. Since 113 is our high total for the 5 years we've led this trip, we were very satisfied and counted this as a very good trip.
The Plainfield trip only had 4 people plus Judy, and we had two Alder Flycatchers to start out from marshes on both sides of street and two Kingbirds. A Common Merganser flew overhead, before we plunged into the trail, over a new bridge, and through the evergreen woods to the pond. The woods had Red-breasted Nuthatch, Pine Warbler, and Brown Creeper, plus Bt Green, Bt Blue, Yellow-rumped, and Blackburnian Warblers. A Raven called somewhere close, but was never seen. At the pond a Broad-winged hawk circled, and then caught a young Kingbird, as we noted a parent in chase. Sapsuckers and Purple Finches and Rose-breasted Grosbeak called. Winter Wrens were at the waterfall and farther along the trail. Other birds on the walk back were Hermit Thrush, Blue-headed Vireo, and Veeries. At the house we had 2 Hummingbirds and more Purple Finches, plus good treats as always on the comfortable screened-in porch.
The Kayak trip down the Connecticut River in Sunderland had a third boat with Harvey’s nephew, who was a welcome companion. The water was high, so there was not much sandbar habitat or shorebirds. We had an Olive-sided Flycatcher, a flock of nine Common Merganser, only 3 Spotted Sandpipers, 2 Kingfishers, 4 Great Blue Herons, 2 Cormorants, 2 Ravens, 2 Pileated Woodpeckers, 3 Bald Eagle, and a young Peregrine Falcon. A flock of 150 swallows were on a high wire across the river, mostly Bank, but a few Tree and Barn. Feeding Cedar Waxwings were everywhere, launching out from trees on banks. There was no wind and a strong current, so effort was fairly modest until the last half mile when the water slowed and the wind picked up. We tallied 29 species, and also got a close, long study of a Greater Swallow-tailed Butterfly on the island where we stopped to eat and swim.
Only one car made the trip, others missing the rich early shorebird migration that passes over the island in August. The low tide kept shorebirds far out at Joppa Flats, but we still picked out a dozen Laughing Gulls among the hordes of peeps feeding in the mud with a few lesser Yellowlegs, Bb Plovers, an Osprey and a Snowy Egret. At this date and time, the island was not busy with people and cars, so we drove slowly and studied the marshes for the white egrets. First, we stopped at Lot One, still home to several Purple Martins. Here also were the visiting Tree Swallows perched by the hundreds on nearby brush, often surging into the air in clouds, eager for the day to warm and the insects to rise and offer themselves for food. The Salt Pannes had near and distant Great and Snowy Egrets, a surprise Little Blue Heron, plus a Great Blue Heron and hunting Osprey, Merlin, and Peregrine. The Wardens appeared quiet after an American Bittern and eight Glossy Ibis flew away at our arrival. Then we emerged from our car and were amazed to find 2 Least Bitterns hunting the muddy edge of the nearby pond. None of us had ever been able to study them so closely in the open, especially for so long.
We headed down the island, and the first look at the Hellcat Pool was from the blind, giving us looks at plenty of Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers, some Least Sandpipers, Black-bellied Plovers, Dowitchers, both Yellowlegs, a flock of 25 White-rumped Sandpipers, 2 Dunlin, a Killdeer, and 2 Gadwall with young. We paused for a short time along the main road beside Stage Island Pool and spotted a Black Tern flying past, plus some Least Terns, Yellowlegs, and more sandpipers. It was a short way to the parking lot at the point, where we walked to the beach behind the ropes that protected the Piping Plover and tern nesting area. Inside this area of young reeds, we could see flocks of Semi-palmated Plovers and Sandpipers circling and settling into the sparse dune grass to rest protected during high tide. Five Piping Plovers were there among the many Least and Common Terns, a few Ruddy Turnstones, and some Black-bellied Plovers. On the ocean’s edge there were Sanderling flocks feeding where the waves washed up their food. On the ocean side of the point, Emerson Rocks were covered by the high tide, leaving only a few Cormorants on the ocean’s surface and a few more Sanderlings on the beach. We left the point and headed back north to Hellcat, this time walking out on the dike, where we enjoyed closer looks at a few Pectoral and Spotted Sandpiper. In the Forward Pool behind the dikes there were even bigger flocks of the same species we watched from the blind on the opposite side. Also there, were 2 Least Terns and 4 Snowy Egrets. On our way out of the refuge we stopped at Lot one and walked down to the boat pullout, where we “pished” a bit to entice a Salt-Marsh Sparrow to fly out of hiding several times and close to us.
The trip had ten people, starting at Pynchon Point, where we found 2 Great Blue Heron and many Waxwings. At the Big E, we had Great Blue Heron and 2 Green Heron, 2 Cormorant, and a Kingfisher. Spotted and Solitary Sandpipers were in the western pool and many Geese and a Killdeer were in the field. The south pool had two Black-crowned Night-Herons, two Green Herons, and an Osprey. Up over the dike, the river was low with a large sandbar where we found a Great Egret, some Killdeer, a Lesser Yellowlegs, four Common Mergansers, and a Pileated Woodpecker. The wires over the dike had a family of three Kestrels dropping to the grass for prey. After a break we went to Longmeadow, where the large sandbar had Semi-palmated Plover, Least and Semi-palmated Sandpiper, two Fish Crows, and a big flock of Geese. The leader spotted a Baird’s Sandpiper briefly. Pondside had 10 Wood Ducks, two Great Blue Herons, 2 Green Herons, a Great Egret, and the Mute Swan family.
It was a poor nighthawk migration through the region overall, but a good group managed to count a flight of 91 Common Nighthawks. We would have had more if we had moved up to the Tina Lane intersection with Pondside earlier. Most of the nighthawks seemed to feed over the ponds there and then veer off toward the river.
Four eager birders arrived for the first fall walk at Stebbins Refuge and recorded 27 species. There was little migration and the trails were still wet from the earlier morning rain so we walked the length of Pondside Road. Best birds tallied there were Green-winged Teal, Gadwalls and a Belted Kingfisher. We did manage a pleasant walk along Tina Lane and down to the riverfront beyond the fields, and then the rains came. Thankfully it was warm, so getting drenched almost made us sing in the rain. We laughed it off and hoped the weather would bring in some migrants.