Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Migration is ON

Since this is the first post of May, it's fitting that I can use it to say SPRING HAD ARRIVED!  We spent the last 4 days birding several Worcester County spots (never heading to the coast nor further west than south Quabbin,) and I can tell you that migration is definitely happening.  On Friday we birded the Ware River IBA (Important Bird Area) which included Rutland State Park and the Barre Falls Dam area.  Saturday we poked around Oxbow NWR.  Sunday we started out for Quabbin, but got side tracked in Spencer and ended up spending some great time at Howe State Park, Wells SP and Sturbridge.  Finally we got out to south Quabbin yesterday and confirmed that warblers were definitely moving through.  We had 18 different species of warblers in south Quabbin alone!
The beaver pond marsh on Longmeadow Brook had Wood Ducks and lots of Grackles setting up their breeding territory.
Surprisingly, we had a group of 7 Wood Ducks foraging in the road.  This is not how we usually see Wood Duck.  Yet it was the second time in a week that we had them feeding on land like Canada Geese.
At the big marsh near the prison camp site, we heard American Bittern calling.  I got down pretty close to the marsh, but was never able to get a sighting.  I had my first decent look at a Yellow Warbler though.
And we had an Eastern Kingbird put in near the brook crossing.  Since flycatchers migrate during the day rather than at night like other passerines we're not sure if this was going to stay to breed or whether he was just passing through.
We had a number of Hermit Thrushes moving through as well....some were silent and some were singing their wonderful flute-like song.
Still looking for our first dragonfly (don't ask!) we stopped by little vernal pools and small ponds.  Mark brought along his net to do some ponding and this Red-spotted Newt swan in his net.  Looks like a pregnant female, which we immediately released back into her pond.
We did some hawk-watching at Barre Falls Dam and between 9:30-10 we had a couple of small kettles of Broad-wings along with 2 Ospreys and a handful of Turkey Vultures pass over.  We also had the adult Ravens who breed nearby...probably out getting food for the young that must be almost fledged.
On Gilbert Road we stopped to check on some egg masses we had seen the previous week.  As you can see they are quite well-developed and will probably be hatched tadpoles within another week.
We stopped in one of our favorite Barre cemeteries to check for possible butterflies and odenates.  And while we did have a Cabbage White, we didn't get any elfins on the Pussytoes that were blooming all over the cemetery.
Springs flowers were definitely starting to pop up everywhere though.  We had our first Bluets....
 ...and a wonderful showing of Bloodroot in Rutland State Park.....
 ...along with a few Purple Trillium.
As we were leaving the park, I got my first photo of the year of a nice male Rose-breasted Grosbeak squeeking high up in a tree.
On Saturday we headed to Oxbow for the morning.  This is such a great place for Blue-gray Gnatchers, and we were greeted by several pairs right along the Tank Road.
 At the pond we surprised a beaver out on land, who immediately dove into the water and started to swim away....
 ...but not without giving us the customary tail slap to let us know that we were the trespassers.
Along with the gnatcatchers, Catbirds had moved back in force as well.
And we could hear Overbirds singing everywhere.  I was bound and determined to track down one of the singing Overbirds, but it was extremely difficult in that these little warblers tend to be some ventriloquial.
Common Yellowthroats had finally made an appearance as well.
We had some patches of Bloodroot at Oxbow, and along Rt. 117 near the farm fields adjacent to Bolton Flats we had another early spring wildflower -- Wood Anemone.
 One of my favorites is the Trout Lily....and we found a huge patch along Rt. 117 in Lancaster as well.
Sunday we planned to head out to Quabbin to see if warblers and other migrants were moving through the valley in force yet.  Fortunately, as we were driving out to Spencer we heard several Louisiana Waterthrush signing along some fast-running streams.  So we decided to stay really local and bird Spencer and Wells SP in Sturbridge.  As soon as we hit Howe Pond we could hear several singing Louisiana Waterthrush.  The one below sounded quite close to a path so I decided to try for a photograph.  Now if you think Ovenbirds are ventriloquial, these birds are tied.  I think the Winter Wren is probably the champ at it though.
We have two waterthrushes here in MA, and this guy is the earlier arrival.  We ended up with a total of 12 birds for the day.  This is our best daily count ever of Louisiana Waterthrush.  We also had great numbers of Yellow-rumped and Pine Warblers moving through....and more Ovenbirds.  Our first Baltimore Orioles were chattering high up in the trees along Cranberry Meadow Road.  And most birds were feeding and moving through at a good pace.
Being in Spencer we decided to check out the nesting Ravens to see if the nestlings survived all the torrential rains of the last week.  There appeared to be two birds in the nest (there could be a third tucked down low) and one of the parents was sitting nearby making sure I wasn't doing anything untoward.  A few quick shots to document the successful nesting and I left these guys along.
With so much focus on songbirds during migration, it's important to remember that shorebirds are moving back north as well.  This Solitary Sandpiper was walking along a beaver dam in a small pond in Spencer.  There was another one in the back of the pond, along with a pair of Ring-necked Ducks....probably the last of those birds we'll see this spring.
With all the fishermen out in boats at both South Pond and Quaboag we didn't have any unusual waterbirds at the bigger bodies of water.  We did have this male Eastern Bluebird near Rice Pond in East Brookfield.
We also had two Painted Turtles trying to cross the road after laying eggs near the same pond.  Unfortunately, we found a Banded Watersnake that didn't make it across the road in the same spot...along with a dead turtle.  The snake wasn't quite dead so we moved it off the road so it could die in a more natural spot.  I don't know why people have to speed along so they can't let these animals make it safely across.  We found another dead turtle and a dead Garter Snake in the area as well.  All Mark kept muttering was "too many people."  Once the wind picked up incredibly we had to call it quits since anything that was in the area was laying low.
On Monday we headed out early to Quabbin, knowing that the wind was going to be a problem again, and we wanted to see how migration was progressing closer to the Connecticut River as well.  As soon as we entered Quabbin Park (south Quabbin) from the easternmost entrance we could hear Ovenbirds calling everywhere.  We also had lots of Pine Warblers, but they had been back from a few weeks and this is prime breeding habitat for them.
At the parking area near the road down to Goodnow Dike we had our first wave.  We had Blue-headed Vireo, Magnolia, Black & White, Black-throated Blue, Pine and Nashville Warblers.  We also had a number of Northern Parula Warblers feeding so high in the treetops I could never get a shot.  We made several stops and found this nice male Blackburniuan Warbler moving through the trees just below Enfield Lookout.  Then things got quiet.  The wind had started to pick up a bit and from Enfield, up to the Tower and down the western slope things were pretty spotty.  We certainly heard Ovenbirds and the occasional Black & White and Yellow-rump.
At the Winsor Memorial things started to pick up again.  I think it was a bit protected from the wind and they birds seemed to be moving crossing the road and moving up slope from the water.  There were lots of Yellow-rumped Warblers moving through...
...and Black & Whites...
...and we had a number of Black-throated Blue Warblers, including this male bird who put on quite a show for my camera.  That is until a male Black & White Warbler chased him up slope.
Near the area where DCR has cut down the dead red pines, we had this Prairie Warbler moving through.  He only sang once but was actively feeding in the small trees left standing near the pine grove.
All in we ended up with 18 species of warblers in Quabbin Park...not bad for a morning's work.
At the fish hatchery we had one Killdeer and this Veery who stayed perched on the fence the entire time we were stopped there.  He must have migrated in the night before and was just exhausted.  In fact when we drove by 20 minutes later after checking out the WMA he was on the ground feeding just a few feet from his fence perch.  We had these nice Marsh Marigolds at the stream in the WMA.
Having the chance to bird 4 different areas over the last four days has been great to see how birds are migrating through on several fronts.  Now if only someone would tell the dragonflies that spring is here!



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. http://woodsaddle.tumblr.com/post/98356609974/lorine-niedecker-four-poems

    i used your picture to accompany one of my favorite poems, i hope you don't mind. it's a perfect picture. it's the first picture that comes up if you search google for "veery fence," or one of the first