Monday, January 31, 2011

Winter Show at the Worcester Airport

With so much snow flying around this winter, much of our birding has been closer to home. The Worcester Airport has been consistently good for great looks at Horned Lark and Snow Buntings. It hasn't seemed to matter whether you go early in the morning or later in the afternoon -- we've had flocks of up to 100 of each species. Most of the time we pull into the parking lot just east of the terminal building past the rental car lots. With the snow piles starting to grow, often the birds are just perched on their man-made tundra.
They can be out on the edges of the runway or right in the parking lot, but if you wait for a few minutes you'll definitely have birds fly in and feed.
This snow bunting was right in the parking lot 5 feet in front of our car.
And while the larger groups tend to be in specie-specific flocks, there's lots of mingling going on when they starting feeding in the parking lot. So it's a great chance to study the various plumages of both species....and the adults vs. some of the younger birds as well.
The Horned Larks definitely seem less skittish and allow for closer approach, which is great for photography.
On the bird below you can actually see the tine "horns" showing on either side of his head.
The Horned Lark is a rare breeder in Massachusetts; the Breeding Bird Atlas shows only 24 blocks where this bird is a confirmed breeder.....and only two of those are in Worcester County. So spending time with flocks of these birds is really quite enjoyable.
I'm looking forward to seeing how long they stay at the airport into spring (oh wait, maybe I'm just looking forward to spring!)
We've had other species in the vicinity around the airport as well -- a Rough-legged Hawk and a small flock of Common Redpolls being the most notable.

One evening at dusk as we were coming down from the airport on the Mill Street side, we had a flock of Turkeys which had obviously just put up in the trees to roost for the night.
Living in the city, it's always nice to reaffirm just how much wildlife can still exist.


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