Saturday, November 29, 2008

Friday in Fairhaven

So yesterday I posted the Purple Sandpipers from Fairhaven which, for me, were exciting since I've never been able to get really good photos before. But we did have a simply wonderful day stopping in lots of different spots in Fairhaven and having good looks at some typical birds on a beautiful very late fall day. We started on Shaw Road combing over the flocks of geese (more than 550) looking for a Cackling or White-fronted. We got good looks as they dropped in out of the sky...but no luck. We did have a flock of shorebirds take off first thing in the morning and later in the day we stopped back and had a nice flock of Dunlin and 5 Black-bellied Plovers mixing in with the geese. We're assuming they were the same birds since the flock size was similar. The field also contained several pipits and Horned Lark until a Merlin came along and buzzed the group.
One of the birds I always count on in this area is Carolina Wren. Even on the coldest of January days, when this bird starts singing you feel like spring isn't really all that far off.
Robins were everywhere......
And there was a small group of Swamp Sparrows working the marsh out at the end of Dogwood Road on West Island. We searched this area, in vain, for Snowy Owl.
There was a good group of birds working a thicket on Grandview Avenue (off Sconticut Neck Rd.) and several Carolina Wren and Cardinals kept flashing through the bushes. Unfortunately I was shooting this bird when Mark caught sight of a Yellow-breasted Chat and we worked to get the bird back out...but to no avail. There were tons of White-throats (none of which I could photograph!) and some Golden-crowned Kinglets working the same thicket.
And several Mockingbirds as well.
At the end of the causeway going out to West Island is a landing -- Hoppy's Landing -- which always provides great comparisons of the common gulls. Mainly because it is used as a clam dump or something. And, boy, are you lucky that my camera doesn't shoot in smell-a-vision!
At the beach at West Island (which was very quiet) I got this nice comparison of Ring-billed and Herring Gull.
On the way home we stopped at the Swansea Town Beach (at Ocean Grove) to see what ducks might have put in already. There were large numbers of Brant (more than 500) and there were also two hunters right off the everyone was a little nervous.
A few rifle shots in the air, and the Brant took off....
obviously feeling safer (which I'm not sure why) heading off to the broader open waters of Buzzard's Bay.
So we ended a great day birding, much like it began....with lots of geese in the sky.


Friday, November 28, 2008

Purple Sandpipers in Fairhaven

The photographic highlight of the day for me was getting so many shots of Purple Sandpipers at the end of Sconticut Neck Road in Fairhaven. The birds were picking through the rack line off the west side of the point just where Nelson Road makes a 90 degree turn. I've never been lucky enough to get so close to these shorebirds before, so it absolutely made my day.

I'll post more from the trip to Fairhaven and West Island either later tonight or tomorrow morning before we head out...but I wanted to share these sooner vs. later.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

A quick Thanksgiving morning trip to Quabbin to truly appreciate the natural world was very quiet....beautiful, but not many birds. Of course, right off the bat we were greeted by the not-so-traditional Thanksgiving turkey -- only this one was stuffing himself in a tree. He gobbled quite a few crab apples before jumping down and sauntering away.
He joined a group of about 6 others and they casually walked down the road near the Administration Building... clear unaware that the reason there were so few people at Quabbin was due to the many, many turkeys being cooked at this very moment.

Since Quabbin was so quiet, we headed back to Worcester via Rutland State Park looking for crossbills. Instead we were greeted by a young Barred Owl sunning himself right by the big pulloff near the spruces on Coldbrook Road.

He stayed for a few minutes and then flew off deep into the spruces having had enough of people interrupting his sunbath!

An absolutely special morning reaffirming how thankful I am to share these special moments birding with Mark.

Happy Thanksgiving and get out and enjoy the birds!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Indoor & Outdoor Birding this weekend

Saturday found us doing "gallery birding" with the New Haven Bird Club at the Worcester Art Musuem. Last winter they had contacted Mark because they had heard about his lecture on "Birds in Art" so we travelled down to New Haven for one of their club meetings. Some of the folks were very intersted in coming to WAM to experience the gallery birding Mark talked about, so on Saturday Mark performed his docent role at the museum and led a small but enthused group of gallery birders on a tour. It's always interesting to get people excited about "finding" birds and the Antioch mosaics provide a wealth of opportunity to do this. Including the Purple Swamphen and Ruddy Shelduck along the edges of the KTICIC (pronounced ka tis sis) mosaic.
The highlight of the tour for me were the following two pieces in the Japanese gallery that haven't been up for quite a few years. Just like in real birding, there can be some controversy over bird identification and that's true even in gallery birding. Mark feels the bird depicted on the back of this kimono is likely a phoenix rather than the elaborate chicken (Onagadori) as identified on the label. Sounds like research will be undertaken momentarily!

One of my favorit pieces in the museum's collection is the Japanese crane screen. I hope someday to travel to Japan in winter and see the large gatherings of cranes.

One of the nicest things about birding at the Worcester Art Museum is getting the trip list in advance....not something you get to do all the time with real birding.

After Saturday's "exotic" birding, on Sunday we took a trip to the Windsor area to look for any signs of winter finch invasion. We had high hopes of White-winged Crossbills and Boreal Chickadees simply dripping off the trees. Secretly, though, I feared the worst -- no birds but instead the dreaded SNOW! I have to admit I'm still not quite ready for that! Luckily in most places we were confronted with just a dusting...both of snow and birds unfortunately.
A new area we found when doing our atlasing this past summer included a wonderful group of spruce trees along Flintstone Rd. off of Rt. 9 (just west of where Rt. 8A turns north to the Moran WMA.)
This was one of the few areas where we had good numbers of crossbills and found our only Boreal Chickadee of the day. While there were lots of birds here, things seemed rather quiet in most of the other spots we checked. It seemed the forested areas were getting ready for winter.
Windsor Jambs (in the Windsor State Forest) proved to be another spot where we came across some birds... but not in any great numbers as we had hoped.
We left the area with some nice sightings of White-winged Crossbills and one territorial Pileated Woodpecker.
On the way home we stopped off in Amherst and met Val Miller for lunch. A quick stop at the Worcester Airport (hoping for Snowy Owl) turned up nothing so we called it a day and headed home to the cats.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sandhill Crane in New Braintree!

Coming home from Quabbin we decided to take back roads. The reason was Mark felt it would be a perfect day to look for a Sandhill Crane. Damn if he wasn't right!!! Sure enough along Hardwick Road in New Braintree (just west of Winimusset Meadows) at the back side of a mowed cornfield was an adult Sandhill Crane. He/she was trying to stay out of the wind so hopefully it was going to stay for a little while, since we called as many Worcester County birders whose numbers I had programmed into my cellphone.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Barrows Goldeneye at Wachusett Res

This morning (in between downpours) we found a beautiful male Barrows at Wachusett. The following photos were taken quite a ways off (under not-so-great conditions) so I do apologize for the lack of crispness. We sent out notices in between the two visits to the reservoir, so I hope other birders got out to see the bird. BTW the flock was in South Bay (along Rt. 140) near the eastern end. There were fishermen around, so the birds were moving a bit. The first flock we had there had 22 birds, when we went back 2 hrs. later, there were only 9 males -- some of the other males and all the females were gone. We also had a nice flock of 7 Horned Grebes from the Scar Hill bluffs.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Another Westport Weekend, but first.....

Saturday morning was spent checking out blocks from our section of the Breeding Bird Atlas that were still not taken. We poked around in some areas of Southbridge (and Sturbridge) right along Rt. 84 and found some areas with which we were just not familiar. Not many birds, but definitely some promising areas.....little known facts....
a new Osprey nest that we definitely hadn't heard about...

and other interesting sightings!
On Sunday, we were torn between going all the way out to Provincetown to look for the Black-tailed Gull and trying for Cave Swallows in the Westport area. We chose Westport....but we did not get Cave Swallows. Our walk out Gooseberry Neck proved to turn up some of the same species that we had on our last two trips over the past month.

Yellow-rumped Warbler is always a cinch to spish in and allows the satisfaction of knowing you'll get at least one good shot.
We had several Palm Warblers -- which we had not had on our previous 2 trips. And a Prairie and Magnolia Warbler, both of which weren't very cooperative for me in terms of photography.
But the male House Finch obliged....
and most surprisingly was the very photographic Grasshopper Sparrow we had the week before. It was exactly in the same area as last week, so I'm not sure what's going on with this bird.
And we wondered whether the Downy Woodpecker zipping around near the end of the Neck was a breeder or a migrant.
Other interesting sightings in Acoxet and the Westport area in general included a group of Yellow-bellied Sapsucker chasing each other around a small group of trees near the new store/cafe near the turn off to Adamsville.
And the ducks, as ususal, proved to be challenging subjects for photography. This female Greater Scaup was actually on the ocean with a small group of female Black Scoters.
If you click on the photos to zoom in you can see the characteristics of this adult female Black Scoter and this juvenile female Black Scoter.
However, the White-winged Scoters we saw for the most part tended to be in all-male flocks.
Shorebirds tended to be as expected, with some lingering yellow-legs and Black-bellied Plover, along with the larger flocks of Sanderling. This lone BB Plover allowed a fairly close approach.
While nowhere near the gull show that the Cape has been experiencing, the Ring-billed Gull flocks seemed to be building. So it's always worthwhile keeping an eye out for the rarity.
Sunday night came too soon yet again.....