Monday, March 10, 2014

Winter Raptors - 3/9/2014

Can you identify this blurry speck?
   Eleven of us gathered at the Cumberland Farm Fields in Halifax/Middleboro at dawn to start our search for winter raptors (birds of prey). Weather conditions were clear with light winds, great for scanning the fields and listening for birds as they came off their roosts. We started early with hopes that we could observe Short-eared Owl and hear Great Horned Owl, but alas, no sign of either! In most years at this date, American Woodcock is usually found displaying here. This early migrant was not seen or heard either, probably related to the prolonged, cold weather that has extended into March.
   Diurnal raptors however were in evidence. Red-tailed hawks were perching, Northern Harriers coursing low, and Rough-legged Hawks (2 light and 2 dark morphs) hovering. Nice to see 3 different hunting techniques in action. Other highlights from the fields included a couple of thousand Canada Geese arriving and dropping onto the open ground with lesser numbers of Am. Black Ducks and a half dozen Northern Pintails among them.  A few thousand blackbirds were "working " the corn stubble which has sustained the flock since back in the fall season.

   In an effort to add  to our hawk diversity we planned on making several stops at inland locations in Plymouth County. This brought us over to Lake Assawompsett in Lakeville where we recorded our target: Bald Eagle. This is one of only a couple of sites in Southeastern Massachusetts where these "big boys" nest.
   Probably the raptor of the day was an American Kestrel  that was seen at the Boyden Colony Rec. Area, a little known location in Raynham. Over the past several years I have recorded Am. Kestrel here during the Taunton/Middleboro Christmas Bird Count. I'm guessing this could be an individual that has overwintered regularly here, given the scarcity in recent years of kestrels at other open habitats in MA.

American Kestrel

  Our big loop included stops at the Model Airplane Field in W. Bridgewater, Burrage Pond WMA in Hanson, Monponsett Ponds in Halifax, Sawchuck Farm Field in Plympton, and a second look at the Cumberland Farm Fields. Along the way we added a Cooper's Hawk, 2 Red-shouldered Hawks (very distant looks), and a couple of Turkey Vultures.
  The last raptor of the day was an accipiter perched in a tree at close range. As is often the case, many field marks were noted and opinions made, but ultimately no consensus as to Sharp-shinned or Cooper's Hawk. Maybe you have hear that one before!

3209 Canada Goose
5 Mute Swan
164 American Black Duck
151 Mallard
7 Northern Pintail - Cumberland Farm Field
42 Ring-necked Duck
1 Lesser Scaup
6 Greater/Lesser Scaup
7 Bufflehead
7 Common Goldeneye
5 Hooded Merganser
17 Common Merganser
2 duck sp.
15 Wild Turkey
2 Great Blue Heron
2 Turkey Vulture - Cumberland Farm Field
5 Northern Harrier
1 Cooper's Hawk - Burrage Pond WMA
1 Accipiter sp.
3 Bald Eagle - Lakeville
2 Red-shouldered Hawk - Plympton
12 Red-tailed Hawk
5 Rough-legged Hawk - 4 Cumberland Farm Field, 1 Plympton
239 Ring-billed Gull
614 Herring Gull (American)
1 Great Black-backed Gull
3 Rock Pigeon
15 Mourning Dove
2 Red-bellied Woodpecker
2 Downy Woodpecker 
1 Hairy Woodpecker
4 Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 
1 American Kestrel - Boyden Colony Rec. Area, Raynham
7 Blue Jay
102 American Crow
2 Fish Crow
100 Horned Lark
4 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Tufted Titmouse
2 White-breasted Nuthatch
1 Carolina Wren
1 Hermit Thrush
85 American Robin
3 Northern Mockingbird
40 European Starling
150 Snow Bunting
1 American Tree Sparrow
9 Song Sparrow
2 White-throated Sparrow
25 Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)
12 Northern Cardinal
3200 Red-winged Blackbird
6 Eastern Meadowlark - Cumberland Farm Fields
15 Common Grackle
250 Brown-headed Cowbird
1 House Finch
12 House Sparrow

This trip summary was created using the BirdLog app for iPhone and iPad.
See BirdLog for more information.

Vin Zollo

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