Thursday, June 12, 2014

Last MAS Class Trip ~ Westport, Saturday, June 7th

With Mark's short MAS class on migration ending, we decided a last trip to the shore was a good choice...and it certainly turned out to be true.  We also had the pleasure of a guest participant on the trip...our good friend Kevin Bourinot (sans Becca and the two mini-Bourinots.)
Our first stop was Gooseberry Neck and you immediately noticed all the Beach Pea in bloom.
 We got there just before 7 and it was relatively empty.  Granted this is still early June, but you would have thought it was mid-July with all the beach-goers later in the day.
We had Common Terns (just a few) flying by us....
 ...and Least Terns actively catching food and bringing it nesting was in full progress.
We walked down the neck and found some nice land this Yellow Warbler which was obviously nesting in the scrub.
We also had numbers of Song Sparrow, and we had a Black-billed Cuckoo calling for about 10 minutes non-stop after it flew across the path...unfortunately not everyone got to see it fly so we waited...but it never came back.
The most obvious shorebird around at this time of the year in this area is Willet.
When he's just sitting on the ground or in this case a rock just offshore, he's a typical gray, long-legged, rather plain-looking shorebird.....but then he takes off and displays over the territory and you get to see the striking black and white pattern.  Usually I'm hoping a bird will sit still long enough for a photograph...but with Willets I'm hoping they fly.
There were good numbers of Common Eider in the waters off Gooseberry Neck, and we also had a pair of Black Ducks fly out and land in the ocean.
And this immature Double-crested Cormorant came flying in and landed right in front of us as well.
There were also small numbers of Black Scoters in among the eiders.
Mark was happy to find Fowler's Toads at the end of the neck near the tower, and we all made sure to watch our step as we took the path out to the ocean overlook, since they were in among the rocks along the path.
Besides the Yellow, the only other breeding warbler in this environment is Common Yellowthroat.
After some time overlooking the ocean (where Kevin found an immature Gannet flying) we headed over to Allen's Pond hoping to find breeding Piping Plovers on the beach.  And while there had been lots of Great Egrets in the marsh driving down Rt. 88, we had a nice close Snowy Egret fly over while at Allen's Pond.
And eagle-eye Dan Berard found a nice Piping Plover feeding outside the roped off area on the beach.  We could never find any of the birds on the nest...but with their coloration among the rocks, it's a bit like looking for Waldo...and not finding him.
Everyone in the class got great looks at Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrows though.
And there were several occupied Tree Swallow nest boxes right next to the road.
Of course, I was happy when I was finally able to get this Painted Skimmer perched.... well as this Zabulon Skipper right along the road!  We originally assumed it was a Hobomock Skipper since we've never had a Zab this early.  But in preparing for this blog, I questioned the id and Mark did some additional research and found that recently (only since 2008) Zabulon Skippers have been making early appearances in the Westport area.
And I was able to get shots of the underwing pattern confirming it was a Zabulon rather than a Hobomock Skipper.  This is our earliest record of Zabulon Skipper from the Westport area...very exciting.
We traveled over to Acoaxet and pointed out the Chicken Monument to those riding with us before stopping at the first river overlook to check on birds.  We were surprised to see that the Osprey platform right in the parking lot next to the river was occupied.  For the last 2-3 years it was empty, so this must mean that all the prime real estate was already gone when this pair starting nesting.
Even though the female was already sitting tight on the nest, the male kept bring in sticks to build it up around her.  And you can see that the male bird above is tagged.
Also had what I believe is a pruinose Eastern Forktail.  May need to do more work to confirm ID since I think this seems a bit early to have a pruinose female...that's usually in older females.
And everyone was excited to have a pair of Orchard Orioles gathering nesting material at the boat ramp as well.  This male kept close watch on the female, who at one point flew up into the bottom part of the Osprey nest.
Warbler migration still seemed to be going on in Acoaxet.  We had 11 species, including good numbers of Ovenbird, Black & White and Redstart, plus the usual suspects.  Our surprises were Blackpoll, Northern Parula and Hooded Warblers!  Unfortunately, all I managed to get photos of was this Catbird letting me know that I was on his territory.
 We also had this very cool Common Angle moth...
 ..and this fresh-looking Spring Azure.
 This American Lady, however, looked worse for wear....obviously this butterfly had either a rough winter or a rough migration.  Just notice the amount of wing wear when you enlarge the photo.
 All in all it was a great last class trip to a wonderful part of Massachusetts.  We ended the Westport part of the trip with 86 species of birds, along with a great early butterfly and some good odonates.  But we decided that driving back to Worcester we would stop for one last bird....the nesting Grasshopper Sparrows hanging on in Sutton not far off Rt. 146.  Even though it was after 2 in the afternoon, this bird was perched up and singing quite close to the road so that we all got good looks.
A very nice way to end the class.

And now to get caught up on all the other trips we've been taken.


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