Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 19 - Raptor Sweep - Halifax/Middleborough/South Boston

This year's (2012) SSBC Raptor Sweep trip started at the main entrance to the Cumberland Farm Fields in Halifax on Feb. 19th. Fourteen participants enjoyed favorable weather conditions, with comfortable temperatures and calm wind. Immediately 2 pairs of Red-tailed Hawks were spotted on a tree in the manure pit area and across the way on another tree in the hedgerow to the west. Red-tailed Hawks are amongst the earliest breeders in MA save for Great Horned Owls.

Several participants were treated to close, but brief views of a Cooper's Hawk as it winged by at eye level. The group then headed up the main road to the old manure pit area to get a more expansive view of the main field. Two or three Northern Harriers were spotted low over the fields exhibiting their typical coursing hunting behavior, relying on a combination of sight and hearing (more so than in other hawk species). We had nice looks at an adult male N. Harrier, aka "Gray Ghost" (always a crowd favorite with it's black, white, and gray plumage). This Harrier then flushed a Sharp-shinned Hawk off of a tree at fairly close range.

Next the group was able to get on a Rough-legged Hawk (light morph) perched on a distant tree. On our way out of the manure pit area there was a large flock of Blackbirds on one of the trees. The majority were Red-winged Blackbirds with several E. Starlings and about 30 Brown-headed Cowbirds.

We then headed over to the fields on Fuller St. and had a Rough-legged Hawk in the air showing it's typical hovering hunting style. The other highlight here was that all Canada Geese, Mallards, & Am. Black Ducks suddenly flushed and among them were a pair of Northern Pintails and an American Wigeon. Here is our complete list:

Canada Goose 350 Majority on Fuller St.
American Wigeon 1 Fuller St.
American Black Duck 20
Mallard 75 Majority on Fuller St.
Northern Pintail 2 Pair, Fuller St.
Northern Harrier 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 5 2 sets of birds perched side by side.
Rough-legged Hawk 1 Light morph
Great Black-backed Gull 1
Mourning Dove 9
Great Horned Owl 1 Calling @ dawn - Wood St.
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 4
American Crow 30
Horned Lark 35 distant flock, NW corner of field.
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 1
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 2
Eastern Bluebird 2 Wood St. @ dawn.
American Robin 24
Northern Mockingbird 1
American Tree Sparrow 70 Conservative number. Majority were near abandoned house along Rte. 105.
Song Sparrow 6
Swamp Sparrow 1 heard only @ dawn. South end of field.
Northern Cardinal 4
Red-winged Blackbird 980 Several flocks flying over the fields @ dawn.
Common Grackle 12 In with a flock of RWBBs @ dawn.
Brown-headed Cowbird 30 Most were seen at manure pit.
American Goldfinch 2

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)

After we covered the Cumberland Farm Fields, part of the group continued on to Dry Dock Ave. in South Boston to scan Logan Airfield. This can be a good location to spy a Snowy Owl, a specie that regularly hunts this large, open expanse from November to March. No luck with any Snowy Owls today. It looks like Norman Smith, director of the Blue Hills Trailside Museum and Snowy Owl researcher, has been effectively removing them from here. To date this season, he has captured and removed 34 Snowy Owls from Logan and relocated them to points north and south. Other species out on the airfield included 2 Red-tailed Hawks, a Northern Harrier, and an American Kestrel (getting tough to find in recent times). Another highlight for the trip were 2 Razorbills in the vicinity of Castle Island in Boston Harbor. These plump, black and white seabirds are more often seen in open ocean. Here is the list:
American Black Duck 4
Common Eider (Atlantic) 45
Surf Scoter 7
Bufflehead 20
Red-breasted Merganser 15
Red-throated Loon 4
Common Loon 1
Red-tailed Hawk 2
American Kestrel 1 Logan airfield.
Ring-billed Gull 2
Herring Gull (American) 15
Great Black-backed Gull 5
Razorbill 2 Out towards Castle Island. Large black & white alcids with long, upturned tails. Large, thick bills. Apparently they been around for quite a while.
Rock Pigeon 7
European Starling 1

Vin Zollo