Saturday, December 27, 2008

CBC No. 4 -- Quabbin

I imagine many people think "wow, getting a key and driving in Quabbin for a Christmas Count, that must be great". can be....but not this year. The snow of a week ago made it impossible to get to the two best places for birds in our sector (Gate 40) -- Grave's Landing and opposite Mt. Zion. In fact the road was only plowed to Dana Commons, about 2 miles in from the gate. We did try to do some owling, but most of the owls were in the section outside of Quabbin. We did have a total of 2 Barred, 2 Sawwhet and 1 Great Horned Owls -- all calling, no visuals.
We met the rest of the "inside" crew at the gate at 7 for the morning's birding....we had no idea just what a short morning it would be. Bill Cormier and Ian Lynch were going to walk the road to Dana Commons, while Kevin Bourinot & Rebecca Cibrowski-soon-to-be-Bourinot (in a jeep) tried to get a bit past the plowed area at the Commons. Mark, Simon Hennin and I would follow them if the road seem okay.
Since my Escape just doesn't have the weight or torque of a jeep, we had trouble climbing a small incline on a curve, so after several attempts we gave up and returned to the safe ground around Dana Commons and proceeded to poke into the fields and some of the unplowed roads heading out of the Commons. Mark stayed put listeneing for fly-overs.
It seems that Dana C. had been the staging area for disbursing and consolidating the port-0-lets used during the deer-hunting season inside Quabbin. You know it's a slow birding day when I start photographing portable johnnies!
And it was....after Kevin & Rebecca returned (they had gotten to the end of our territory opposite Mt. Zion) we were shocked to find out they had A LIST!
After a mere 2-1/2 hours inside Gate 40 we compiled our huge list of 19 species and decided to call it quits. The "showers" forecast for the morning were keeping whatever birds (and I don't think there were many) that were inside Quabbin down. In fact, Mark & I thought of going back home and just calling in the results to the compilation. But first we contacted Kathy Mills who was heading up the two teams doing our sector "outside" of Quabbin. Cellphone coverage is always spotty in this section of the state so we had to move to higher ground in Hardwick before we reached her. We asked her to call us in mid-afternoon when they were finished so we could consolidate all the numbers and phone it into Scott Surner (one of the Quabbin CBC co-leaders).
After dispersing the inside team and making arrangements with the outside team, I convinced Mark to make one more run to Dana Commons since it looked like the rain might be lifting. Desparate for photos, I took this fungi conglomeration on a broken tree branch. We sat in the pouring rain for 90 minutes at Dana Common waiting for something to put in, since I was bound and determined not to leave the Quabbin CBC without a picture of a bird!
Finally, as we were on our 3rd round-trip to the Commons, we spotted a small flock of chickadees working some bushes along the road and I was able to get a shot!
And then more success....a junco at Dana Commons (actually there were 5). I wondered if our luck had changed along with the downpours turning to drizzle.
Mark suggested we check the nesting box for signs of wintering white-footed mice....
It was clear than someone was living inside the box.....
So when these 2 little guys popped out to see who had disturbed their warm snooze, I was ready and waiting with my camera.
We had 1...then 2 mice leap out of the box and run away. One almost jumped straight at Mark. But the third decided to sit on the post and pose before she took off.
Finally as the third one scampered down the post and jumped into a nearby bush at the base of a stone wall, we heard at least 2-3 more moving around inside the box, so we quickly closed the door and left them alone. Once we left we knew it wouldn't take long for their box-mates to we gave them a big piece of multi-grain sandwich roll. A feast to make up for the disturbance we had caused.

Frankly, that was the highlight of our day!
After spending 6-1/2 hours driving back and forth a 2-mile stretch of road we, too, decided to call it quits. (We had added only 1 species (White-breasted Nuthatch) to the inside-Quabbin list.)
As the rain let off and the temperature rose, the surrounding farmland snows started to give way to fog! This Red-tailed Hawk in Kathy's territory definitely seemed to have had enough of the wet weather as well.

We got back to Worcester around 3, compiled the results that Kathy forwarded for the outside part of our sector and emailed in a grand total of 40 species for this count. Kathy's team did have a late Eastern Phoebe, but all-in-all not what I would call a stellar CBC.

Now it's on to the 5th and final Christmas Bird Count for this year -- Truro. Always one of my let's hope we end of a high note!
More to come....Sheila


  1. Hi Sheila,

    I have been reading your blog for awhile now and really enjoy it. I am a fairly new birder - just a couple years.

    I was thrilled to find the Sturbridge Bird and More store (from your blog). Last year I watched in sadness as the Northboro Birds Unlimited store closed, and just a couple weeks ago a nearby Grafton Bird store closed, due to the economy. I was forced to hit Home Depot for seed. :(
    I was relieved to find the Sturbridge store and will now make that trek regularly!

    Sorry to see the numbers so low for the CBC this year but certainly our NE weather was a factor - not even the birds ventured out much with that ICE!!!

    Thanks again for the great blog, photos, and information!

  2. Hi Barbara...glad you found Bill & Nancy's store in Sturbridge. It's a great place, and so much nicer than Home Depot! Also glad you're finding my blog informative. Thanks for checking it out.....Sheila