Sunday, December 19, 2010

Christmas Count #2 -- Worcester 12/18

Our second Christmas count of the season is the Worcester count. I love doing a xmas count so close to close in fact that we were able to pop home for lunch! Our territory is really centered in and around the town of Boylston and includes some of Northboro. We started owling about 5 a.m. and I was able to get this shot of the tree lit up on the Boylston commons. Much like Sturbridge we ticked the four common species (Great Horned, Barred, Screech and Saw-whet) with the Great Horned putting on a great show of "duetting" which is a sign of courtship. Our goal is to be on the hill overlooking the Boylston Town Offices at dawn, so that we can get the first birds flying over...usually crows and gulls. This time the sunrise was totally spectacular.
And the gulls were flying out from Wachusett Reservoir in good numbers in the dawn light....
with some of the them actually being colored by the light. This Ring-billed Gull looked really exotic when it flew over at dawn.
We also try to hit South Bay at the reservoir early so that we can get any ducks that might have put down overnight. We were really excited to find a flock of Goldeneye...and even more excited to find a drake Barrow's right in the middle!
We've had Barrow's inland before, but this is the first time we've found one on an inland Christmas count. It was even more special since this year is the first in about 30 that Mark & I decided to formally give up doing the Cape Ann count. And that's where we usually get a Barrow's.
When we got the compilation we found ours was only 1 of 4 (the other 3 females were in Lake Quinsigamond.) When we checked on "ours" the day after the count we found that there was now a female with the male in South Bay. And a check of Lake Quinsig only turned up 2 females.

Our walk out to Scar Hill bluffs was cold and windy....and there weren't alot of birds on the reservoir.
However, we did have a pair of adult Bald Eagles perched in a tree off towards South Bay.
Tooling around the farmlands in Boylston turned up a brightly-colored Red-shouldered Hawk. It seems in the past few years we've turned up more and more of these wintering Red-shoulders in Worcester County.
And, of course, there's always the search for the more common this small flock of House Sparrows in a backyard in Northboro.
We had a good number of Red-tailed Hawks as well. But we didn't get any accipiter species at all, which was a little bit unusual for our sector.
Mockingbirds seemed to be fairly well-represented and they were defending "their" bittersweet patches vehemently.
One thing that was a little disconcerting were the numbers of USDA inspectors out in the Worcester/Boylston area checking for the Asian Long-horned Beetles. Unfortunately, they have found them spreading north-northeast from Worcester. Some of the area around near the Worcester Country Club and the Department of Correction has already been clear-cut.
However, the folks we saw looked like they were doing the poison injection instead. I spoke to Dave Small recently and he said that while it's a good alternative to clear-cutting it's very labor intensive and you have to do it more than once. All of that equals $$$ so I can't imagine most towns have the budget.
We spotted this perky Red-breasted Nuthatch near the Correctional Facility in the later afternoon....
and this White-throated Sparrow popped out when we played the screech owl tape. We also had about 3 or 4 Hermit Thrushes in the same area, along with a number of Robins feeding on the fruiting trees.
We finished the day back out at South Bay watching the gulls return to the reservoir for the evening. The numbers seemed much larger than when we watched them leave at dawn, but we didn't do a formal recount knowing that others from the count were stationed at other parts of Wachusett expressly for the purpose of counting the gulls.

We met for the compilation with John Liller (count circle coordinator) at MAS Broad Meadow Brook and got to compare notes on the full day's event. One of the highlights was that we were able to count one of the best feeder birds on any count we've ever done....Rufous Hummingbird.
This little female had been coming to a feeder in Worcester since early October, and Mark had been in touch with the homeowner. Even though she had previously taken her feeders down when we had the warmish spell back in November, the bird lingered. Finally Beth opened her garage and put her feeder inside so that the bird could feed out of the cold. We discussed with her the likelihood that the bird would survive and since it didn't seem like it was going to leave we asked her how she felt about having the bird banded.

Mark got in touch with a registered bird bander who came out to Worcester, caught and banded the bird (and confirmed it was a female Rufous) and reported that she was in very good condition and he seemed to think she was putting on weight and might be getting ready to take off. Sure enough the next day she left...and hasn't been back to Beth's feeder. So we're all hoping to get a report from down south of this banded female at someone else's feeder.

With a total of 84 species for the day, the Worcester count was indeed a very good one!


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