Monday, August 11, 2014

Westport and Acoaxet, Sunday August 10th

Yesterday we decided to get an early start and head to the coast.  It was a perfect beach day so we did have some reservations, but figured if we got to Gooseberry Neck before 7am it would probably be okay...and it was.  The first thing we noticed was that there were swallows moving...a sure sign that fall migration is just around the corner.

We hiked out to the end of the neck and found that shorebirds were starting to build up.  The lighting wasn't the best but we had a Black-bellied Plover, Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone all on the same rock.
We also had our first Semipalmated Plovers of the season....
...and some adult Least Sandpipers starting to move through.
 Some of the Rudy Turnstones were really sharp-looking in the early morning light.
And we started to see groups of Sanderlings all the way out at the end of the neck.  Seems like it was just a few short months since we had them heading north to breed...
 ..and here they are again on their return trip.
Some of the birds still had a bit of their breeding plumage left, although many were starting to molt into their winter plumage
Our major reason for walking out to the point was to get a better look at a rock off the end of Gooseberry Neck that had a number of cormorants on it.  Mark had picked out what he thought was a juvenile Great Cormorant and wanted to get a closer look.  I managed to get a couple of photos but they were quite a ways out and I could only enlarge them so far without totally losing clarity.  You can see how much larger the third bird from the left is compared to the Double-crested Cormorants.  In fact at one point we were wondering if we were looking at an immature Booby!
Both on the way out and on the way back I found two Primrose Moths sleeping in patches of Evening Primrose.  I can't believe I never saw them before this year....clearly I wasn't looking for them!  Now that I know this is their behavior, I check every patch of Evening Primrose I come across.
There was a woman hiking out behind us with a camera and I waited for her just so that I could show her the moth.  Clearly, she wasn't as excited as I was, but I did notice her checking other Evening Primrose blooms after I pointed the moth out to her.
 Back at the parking lot it was getting filled up with both fishermen and beach goers, so we decided to head off to Allen's Neck before that got crazy too.  But not before I took a photo of the Chickory.  I know it's just a weed to most folks, but I so love their blue color.
Full disclosure here.....the next couple of photos were not from yesterday's trip, but were from a trip we made to this area back on July 20th.  Since I never did a blog for that trip I thought I would include a couple of the photos here....like this Common Eider with ducklings.  There were actually 7 ducklings (3 are hiding on the back side of the rock) when we got to Gooseberry Neck on that trip.
And while we still had Black Scoters hanging around off the causeway near the big rock, there were so many bicyclists, pedestrians and cars, that I couldn't stop for a photo.
So I'm including these shots from the July trip as well.
Our walk out at Allen's Neck was a good one.  The tides were very high, so we didn't get good looks at any shorebirds, but we did have big numbers of both Snowy and Great Egrets sitting up in trees at the far side of the pond.  We also came across this pair of mating Blue Crabs right at the tidal inlet under the road.  We had hoped to find Seaside Dragonlets (a coastal specialty) but didn't see any.  We did, however, have a few Wandering Gliders working the fields of the sanctuary....unfortunately no photos were gotten.
We drove back up Rt. 88 to check the big marshes before heading off to Acoaxet.  The traffic was totally non-stop heading south to Horseneck Beach so we didn't really pull off at either the marsh nor the boat launch just south of the bridge.  We cut up Drift Road and headed through some back roads to Acoaxet.

Now for those of you who've read my blog, you know I'm totally fascinated by the big fork in the road just after you enter Acoaxet.  And I've posted pictures of the metal fork next to the road sign at least twice before (despite Mark's protests.)  Well when we were down here on our last trip (July 20th) there was obviously an event happening nearby and somebody had added a meatball with spaghetti to the fork!  I can only assume this was done with the artist's permission, since clearly the meatball was made of a suitable material to adorn the fork.  Alas, when we passed the fork yesterday, there was no food of any kind.  
We made our usual stop to check on the status of Zabulon's Skipper and sure enough we found one butterfly moving around in the exact same bushes where we've found him every year for the last six years.
Usually we see this guy in August and early September, but we also had one flying in June this year.
We made followed our usual route down Brayton Point Road and found that the huge old redone house that we both would love to own is for sale.  How exciting.....I wonder if we could afford it...hahahaha! Unfortunately the asking price is just over $2.8 MILLION.....which is just a wee bit outside of our budget.  Oh well maybe in my next life.

After checking for butterflies and odenates in the fields (had a Black Saddlebag and Common Green Darner (no photos), we did a quick check of Richmond Pond but didn't see any shorebirds.  We then decided it was time to start thinking about heading home since there were people everywhere.  When we made our last stop at the herring run in Acoaxet, I took this distant photo of the crowds on Horseneck Beach.  There's no way I want to be in their traffic at the end of a beautiful summer Sunday at the beach.
We did have a pair of Green Herons flying back and forth along the inlet and over to Cockeast Pond.  Since there were lots of fish running, they couldn't resist the area, even with all the boaters and Mark & I standing there with our scope.
This Great Egret was wary of us, but she never flew off and we got quite close poking around in the marsh grass looking for odenates.
We had a number of Big Bluets again...we first had them back in July when we were here.
And we finally found a female Seaside Dragonlet!  These guys are relatively small for a dragonfly and the male is pretty dark.  But the female is brightly patterned and reminds us of the coloration on a tiger with all that orange and black.  Just stunning!
Since it was almost noon we decided we really did need to leave so that we could beat the traffic, so we cut over through RI (getting an in-depth look at south New Bedford along the way) and we missed all the heavy traffic and were back in Worcester before 2 having had a great day birding in a beautiful area.

Enjoy....Sheila

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Sterling Peat, Lancaster & Wachusett

Now that my crazy July is behind me I'm going to do a bunch of blogs to catch up on trips we've made the last two months.  What follows is a series of photos from Wachusett Reservoir, Sterling Peat and Lancaster all within the last few weeks.  Hope you enjoy the tour!

You can't seem to stop anywhere at Wachusett these days without finding a Common Loon.  I think it's a bit too early to see migrants, but there are an awful lot of adult birds on the reservoir.  Each time we do a morning trip we usually find 5 to 7 adults and sometimes more.  BTW, the adult and young bird at Gate 17 (South Bay) continue and the young bird is growing larger every time we stop by.
Walking out Gate 37 is a new piece we've added several times a week....
 ...mostly to check on the breeding Eastern Meadowlarks.
And they seem to be doing fine.  As of this past Monday, they've mowed all the grass, but the birds are still hanging around.
We've also had Blue-fronted Dancers along the wide pathway just by the end of the forest edge.
Up on the dike at Gate 39 we finally saw our first immature Bald Eagle this past Monday....I was beginning to wonder since we hadn't seen an adult for months.
One of the joys for me was trying to photograph Chimney Swifts.   They seem to favor the dikes at Gate 36 and 39, flying with the swallows and some coming quite low in search of food.
Since you never get to see these birds sit still, I always feel great about getting a clear shot of them on the wing.
There's also been a nice show of  Butter-and-eggs at Gate 39.  This interesting member of the Snapdragon family has a orange path on the lower lip that leads to nectar and is call a "honey guide" for insects.
Mark continues to hike out to Scar Hill Bluffs on the east side of the reservoir and I usually poke around the cemetery after I park out on the road.  There were a family of crows under the pines and this crow allowed me to add to my "photos of birds of gravestones" collection.
One of the more interesting sights we've had on two different trips was a swarm of Eastern Cicada Killers.
I have to admit I normally don't like to get to close to bees, wasps, hornets and the like so when I saw this one VERY LARGE wasp I was a little reluctant to get too close.  But I did want a photo since it was quite unusual looking.  Suddenly I heard buzzing over the my should and turned around to see 25-30 of these digger wasps moving over a grassy knoll among the gravestones.  So I decided I'd wait for Mark to finish his hike and we could do this together.
It was Mark who immediately identified it as a Cicada Killer and when we researched it back at home we found that colonies of these solitary wasps can number over 100 and they dig their nest hole up to four feet deep.  I certainly hope that the cemetery workers don't have any graves to dig in this particular area!
At Gate 17 the Familiar Bluets were still flying -- always cheery
 A quick run out to check water levels at Bolton Flats, allowed us to check on the land clearing that's been done at that small conversation area at the end of Pine Hill Road in Lancaster.  We did have one Vesper Sparrow and it appears that Kestrels bred successfully there.  Field Sparrows seems to be doing quite well and we watched this parent still feeding a young bird who seemed perfectly capable of feeding itself.
We also found a Streaked Tussock Moth, but couldn't tell whether it was dead or alive.  We did move it off the road just in case.
And in the open area we had a few butterflies....including this Viceroy
and this Eastern Comma.
We had received a call from fellow birder Bart Kamp that there was a Glossy Ibis out at Sterling Peat, so we decided to check and see if it was still there the next day....and it was.  It's always nice to see such a typical coastal species so far inland.  We watched it feed for a while at the far end of the marsh and then it flew up into the big dead tree where you often see herons roosting and preened for a few minutes and then tucked his bill over his back and promptly went to sleep.
There were some shorebirds starting to build (oh, no it's fall migration)!  We had several Solitary and Least Sandpipers, along with Spotted and Killdeer...the latter two are likely breeders.  We also had a good number of Green Heron fishing in the dwindling pools.  And I saw my first Halloween Pennant of the season.  These are one of my favorite late summer dragonflies.
And for the second time this summer, I've managed to find a Primrose Moth sleeping in Evening Primrose.  Obviously with a close photo of the flower you can see the moth pretty clearly, but it's amazing how they look like a reddish part of the flower from further away.  You can see that in this photo of the flower stem just underneath and to the left of the yellow Evening Primrose.
Here's a side view so you can get a good sense of what the moth actually looks like as well.
So even when things start to quiet down a bit during summer, there's always plenty to see...and all so close to us in Central MA.

Enjoy.....Sheila

Monday, July 14, 2014

Wachusett Reservoir Highlights

Recently, we have been making some short forays into different gates at Wachusett Reservoir, especially when we have just a little bit of time in the morning to do some birding.  It's been great to watch the nesting loon at Gate 17A.  Last year we watched her for weeks and then the rains came and she lost the nest and the eggs.  This year however, she had two eggs; but we've only seen her with one young.   We've also had several Spotted Sandpipers in this area, including one we keep flushing out of the grass and finally we found some chicks.  Here are some photos of 3 different trips, mostly from Gates 17, 36 and 39.
We first saw the adult sitting on the nest on May 23rd.  We checked on and off for several weeks and first noticed her gone from the nest around the 4th of July.  We talked with a woman who had been watching the nest as well and that pretty much coincided with her records.  Here's a shot of the parent with the young loon on July 8th.
When we checked today we didn't see either bird, but they could just be off in a cove somewhere.  I believe Kevin Bourinot leading the Forbush Bird Club trip there this weekend had this young as well as another successful nest.  There are certainly good numbers of adult Common Loons on the reservoir.
Here are some shots of the adult male Spotted Sandpiper defending his nest....
 Remember in Spotteds the females leave the males to tend the young.
Here are the two chicks we found on July 5th....

And here's one of them on the 8th....seems to me like he's grown in just 3 days!
There are usually Great Blues flying around the coves at the southern end of the reservoir, and I worry that they'll see these little chicks and just gobble them up like popcorn.
After checking on the breeding Eastern Meadowlarks from the dike at Gate 36 today, we decided to walk into Gate 37 which comes out midway down the dike.  We had 5 meadowlarks, including some young birds.  It's great to see them breeding here and we've let Joan Walsh (at MAS in Lincoln) know so that she can work with DCR to save some of the area and not mow it while the birds are breeding.  Seems to have been successful this year.  We also had some nice odonates in the area, including this Familiar Bluet.  There's also breeding kestral in the area so I know they're getting plenty to eat with all the odes that are flying right now.
A regular stop is the overlook at Gate 39.  It's getting to be that time of the year when we can hope for a Black Tern to pass over.
 Just last week we had this nice American Cooper moving through....
 ...and the Calico Pennants are out in full force.  This is a brightly-colored male from this morning.
And it's always nice to catch a dragonfly in flights.  Finally, this morning I got my first definitive photo of a Prince Baskettail!  Very exciting....although we've seen them a number of other places, this was my first non-blurry photo.  It seems these guys never seem to put down...or at least not when we're there.
Mark did his usual walk out to Scar Hill bluffs where he had a couple of more loons, and I stayed in the cemetery and got some nice shots of this male American Goldfinch.
If you only have a little bit of time and are looking for some nice stops along the Wachusett Reservoir, maybe this will give you some incentive to get out and enjoy summer....before it's gone.

Enjoy.....Sheila