Saturday, September 7, 2013

Fairhaven - 8/25/2013

Green Heron

On August 25th I was joined by ten South Shore Bird Club members on a spectacular late summer day of birding at Sconticut Neck and West Island in the town of Fairhaven.  Our day started off with a surprise group of three Green Herons flying over the meeting spot in the parking lot of a local supermarket.  These would not be our last Green Herons of the day!

    The first stop on our trip was a walk out to the flats that are exposed at low tide on the east side of West Island.  We were not dissapointed by the shorebird diversity in this area.  Our group was entertained by a frenetic gang of seven Greater Yellowlegs actively pursuing minnows in the shallow water remaining in this area.  There were also many Semipalmated Plovers, some Semipalmated Sandpipers, a few Ruddy Turnstones, and a single Spotted Sandpiper at this location.  We were treated to a variety of shorebird vocalizations as we watched the birds actively feeding.  Subsequently, we walked the beach and observed a number of Least Sandpipers picking at insect prey in the wrack line.  At times, these diminutive shorebirds allowed for close approach.  This species can be incredibly confiding and the birds we encountered today were no exception.

Greater Yellowleg

    After walking the beach and enjoying close looks at many of the shorebirds, we decided to walk the saltmarsh side of the dunes back to the parking lot.  On our way to the saltmarsh, we stopped briefly at the flats that were rapidly disappearing with the rising tide.  We were fortunate to see two Green Herons standing at the edge of the water at this location.  The saltmarsh usually produces Saltmarsh Sparrows throughout the summer.  We were all pleased to observe three birds as they teed up for unobstructed views in great light.

    Our next stop was Edgewater St. on Sconticut Neck.  As soon as we got out of the vehicles, two Snowy Egrets flew over our group, a lone Green Heron was perched like a sentinel in a cluster of cedars in the middle of the saltmarsh, and Barn Swallows swooped low over the Spartina grass.

    After enjoying the birds at Edgewater St., we travelled to Egypt Lane in Fairhaven.  Our group carefully negotiated the rocky dike that leads to the freshwater pond nearby.  Instantly, we were rewarded with views of several Black-crowned Night-Herons.  There were several immature birds present and at least one first summer bird.  We also observed a rattling Belted Kingfisher as it alighted on a post in the middle of the pond.  On a fence just feet away from our group, we observed begging young being placated by a pair of parent Barn Swallows.  Four Great Blue Herons gracefully stalked their prey in the saltmarsh on the south side of the dike.  Ospreys soared above us and gave their distinctive chip calls.  

    By late morning, we felt the need to see some forest birds and decided to check out the Little Bay Conservation Area on the northeast side of Sconticut Neck.  Shortly after entering the woods, we saw and heard a Northern Flicker, an Eastern Phoebe, a Red-eyed Vireo, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker (among other species).  Another interesting sighting in this area, albeit non-avian, was a Swamp Darner buzzing about the road and zipping in and out of patches of shade.  This is one of the largest dragonfly species in Massachusetts.  I was lucky to catch (and then release) this monster of an ode and our group was able to see the intricate ringed pattern on its abdomen.  Later, as we walked the bike path, we observed several more Swamp Darners flying overhead.  This migratory species appeared to be on the move today.

Swamp Darner

   As we approached early afternoon, the bird activity waned with the rising temperatures.  However, we decided to make a stop at the north end of the island before calling it a day.  Several Ruby-throated Hummingbirds flew past us while engaged in their metallic chatter.  It appeared that they had been visiting a feeder at a nearby house.  These birds were two of seven that had been observed in other locations earlier in the day.  Clearly, a number of these birds were migrating today.  Out on the saltmarsh, a number of Snowy Egrets crouched in the grass, their upper bodies distorted by the heat shimmer. A single fly over Least Sandpiper called out "breeep" before disappearing on the horizon.  The day was as beautiful as when it started, but it was now augmented by memories of all things avian at West Island and Sconticut Neck.

7 Canada Goose
5 Mute Swan
20 Mallard
1 Common Eider
1 Common Loon
33 Double-crested Cormorant
9 Great Blue Heron
7 Great Egret
8 Snowy Egret
4 Green Heron
5 Black-crowned Night-Heron
5 Osprey
3 Cooper's Hawk
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
1 Red-tailed Hawk
2 Black-bellied Plover
79 Semipalmated Plover
27 Killdeer
2 Spotted Sandpiper
7 Greater Yellowlegs
1 Willet
3 Ruddy Turnstone
1 Sanderling
35 Semipalmated Sandpiper
19 Least Sandpiper
3 Short-billed Dowitcher
4 Laughing Gull
7 Ring-billed Gull
49 Herring Gull
4 Great Black-backed Gull
11 Rock Pigeon
12 Mourning Dove
7 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
1 Belted Kingfisher
2 Chimney Swift
1 Red-bellied Woodpecker
3 Downy Woodpecker
3 Northern Flicker
1 Eastern Phoebe
1 Red-eyed Vireo
6 Blue Jay
10 American Crow
35 Tree Swallow
4 Bank Swallow
22 Barn Swallow
4 Black-capped Chickadee
4 Tufted Titmouse
1 White-breasted Nuthatch
5 Carolina Wren
1 Marsh Wren
8 American Robin
9 Gray Catbird
1 Northern Mockingbird
23 European Starling
4 Cedar Waxwing
2 Common Yellowthroat
4 Yellow Warbler
3 Saltmarsh Sparrow
14 Song Sparrow
9 Northern Cardinal
20 Red-winged Blackbird
1 Brown-headed Cowbird
2 Common Grackle
9 House Finch
15 American Goldfinch
24 House Sparrow

Jim Sweeney

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