Thursday, June 29, 2017

June 25th Westover AFB andkinner SP - or Some days you just get lucky

Some days you just get lucky.

Our luck didn't kick in right away, and although we had good views of American Kestrels, Grasshopper Sparrows, Bobolinks, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows, it took some effort before we found the usually
obliging Upland Sandpipers at Westover AFB. Today they were not so obliging. The first views were of a very distant head just barely visible over the grass, and we only had 2 other birds, both of which were seen in flight when a Red-tailed Hawk flushed them. We had similarly mediocre luck with Eastern Meadowlarks and Horned Larks, seeing them, but only poor and distant views. We did have a cooperative adult Cooper's Hawk that flew around and perched up on a pole and a building for a while. 

Male Cerulean Warbler feeding a chick, photo by Steven Whitebread 

Our luck really kicked in at our next stop however. As we pulled into the parking space at the top of Skinner State Park, there was some movement just 10 feet above the windshields. Amazingly, this was the main target of the entire trip, a Cerulean Warbler! We all had great views of a male feeding in the trees around the cars, at times almost at eye level! Soon we noticed a juvenile bird up in a tree, and while trying to figure out what it
was, the male Cerulean came in and fed it, answering that question for us. We watched the male feed the juvenile a few more times before continuing to the summit house. There we had a Junco and a family of
Indigo Buntings, as well as a female Scarlet Tanager that posed in the open just 30 feet away. Walking back down the road from the parking lot, the juvenile Cerulean had moved, but the male was still in the same general area collecting more food. A bit further down the road, while listening to Yellow-throated Vireos, Worm-eating Warblers, and a Pileated Woodpecker, we came across a female Cerulean gathering food
over the road. We all got to see the female at close range before she moved off into the woods, presumably to feed another juvenile.

The merry birders atop Skinner SP
 Next, we drove through the actively farmed Honey Pot area of Hadley looking for Vesper Sparrows. We were rewarded with at least three singing birds, two of which we saw while dodging cars, dust, and pesticides being sprayed from trucks (how are the birds able to cope with that?).

Since we had not seen a Yellow-throated Vireo yet, we went to the Notch visitor center for the Mount Holyoke Range SP where we eventually found a nest with the parents swapping incubation duties. It was here that we had probably the most unexpected species of the trip. Right after we arrived, three Black Vultures flew over the
parking lot with some Turkey Vultures, and then as we were leaving, we noticed a Black Vulture perched on a tower halfway up neighboring Bare Mt.

 Yellow-throated Vireo on Nest and Black Vulture in serious molt, photos by Steven Whitebread

From there we headed to Quabbin Park. Shortly after entering, we heard a Least Flycatcher calling away from right along the road. After briefly stopping at the tower where a Broad-winged Hawk flew right over our heads, we continued to the Enfield lookout. There we had good looks at Chestnut-sided and Blackburnian Warblers, and had an immature Bald Eagle fly by. We also watched a heavy rain squall move toward us over the reservoir giving us a beautiful view, but leaving us wondering how wet we were about to get. While trying to beat the rain to our next stop, we spotted 2 Porcupines in the trees alongside the road, so we pulled over and looked at them, though they were more interested in sleeping than noticing us. Beating the rain to the parking area for the Goodnough Dike, we decided to stay near the cars in case it started pouring. Here some of us had very good looks at a male Black-throated-blue Warbler as well as a pair of Black-and-white Warblers feeding on and just over the ground in front of us. We also heard a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker calling from here. As we were leaving (still dry), a Pileated Woodpecker flew at, and then over us fairly low giving everyone a good look at another fun bird.

Broad-winged hawk and Porcupine at Quabbin SP, photo by Steven Whitebread

From there we continued on to our last stop of the day, a bridge in the Three Rivers village of Palmer. Here we had great views of Cliff Swallows, Rough-winged Swallows, and Chimney Swifts all flying around at eye level and lower.

Cliff Swallow, photo by Steven Whitebread

We ended the day with a surprisingly high collective total of 90 species before a drive home that was much longer than any of us would have liked.

1 Wild Turkey (drive by)

1 Common Loon
1 Double-crested Cormorant
4 Great Blue Heron
3 Black Vulture
38 Turkey Vulture
1 Osprey (drive by)
3 Cooper's Hawk
1 Red-shouldered Hawk
2 Broad-winged Hawk
6 Red-tailed Hawk
4 hawk sp.
2 Killdeer
3 Upland Sandpiper
1 Spotted Sandpiper
13 Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)
33 Mourning Dove
1 Black-billed Cuckoo
18 Chimney Swift
2 Ruby-throated Hummingbird
2 Red-bellied Woodpecker
1 Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
1 Downy Woodpecker (Eastern)
6 Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted)
2 Pileated Woodpecker
2 American Kestrel
7 Eastern Wood-Pewee
1 Willow Flycatcher
1 Least Flycatcher
8 Eastern Phoebe
2 Great Crested Flycatcher
4 Eastern Kingbird
5 Yellow-throated Vireo
2 Blue-headed Vireo
7 Warbling Vireo (Eastern)
33 Red-eyed Vireo
8 Blue Jay
8 American Crow
9 Common Raven
4 Horned Lark
12 Northern Rough-winged Swallow
10 Tree Swallow
2 Bank Swallow
10 Barn Swallow
8 Cliff Swallow
8 Black-capped Chickadee
2 Tufted Titmouse
27 White-breasted Nuthatch (Eastern)
2 House Wren
6 Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
1 Eastern Bluebird
3 Veery
2 Wood Thrush
36 American Robin
12 Gray Catbird
3 Northern Mockingbird
25 European Starling
22 Cedar Waxwing
13 Ovenbird
2 Worm-eating Warbler
10 Black-and-white Warbler
3 Common Yellowthroat
23 American Redstart
3 Cerulean Warbler
3 Blackburnian Warbler
11 Yellow Warbler (Northern)
5 Chestnut-sided Warbler
3 Black-throated Blue Warbler
12 Pine Warbler
7 Grasshopper Sparrow
17 Chipping Sparrow
1 Field Sparrow
1 Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored)
4 Vesper Sparrow
3 Savannah Sparrow (Savannah)
9 Song Sparrow
5 Eastern Towhee
8 Scarlet Tanager
5 Northern Cardinal
2 Rose-breasted Grosbeak
7 Indigo Bunting
13 Bobolink
13 Red-winged Blackbird (Red-winged)
5 Eastern Meadowlark (Eastern)
8 Common Grackle (Bronzed)
20 Brown-headed Cowbird
6 Baltimore Oriole
4 House Finch
17 American Goldfinch
18 House Sparrow


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