Thursday, February 28, 2013

Spring! I can feel it!

Today I took a walk along the Mystic River. I will tell you this, Spring is in the air!  The Robins, Cardinals, and Song Sparrows were singing and the area around the Boston Ave. Bridge was hopping with bird activity. Much more than has been usual for the last couple of weeks. Our feathered friends must be sensing the change in the length of the days and the slowly rising temperatures.

Other than the excitement of feeling like Spring is coming, not much to mention other than a lone male Wood Duck. My first of the year.
Checklist Here

Here's a great resource for Massachusetts Arrival Dates:

Enjoy! March starts tomorrow!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Parker NWR et al.

Travis and I started the day by swinging through the industrial park at Jonspin Road. The Pine Grosbeaks were a no show which was a disappointment.

Salisbury Beach State Park was the next stop. This was the first visit for us. This place was brimming with birds. Maybe everything was headed into the inlet to avoid heavy seas coming our way with Winter Storm "Q".  The highlight here was some Razor Bills and two friendly Harbor Seas.  I will say I have been led to believe that there are always Crossbills at Salisbury. This is not true. I saw not a one. There were two Great Cormorants. This would have been a life bird for me two weeks ago but it was a life bird for Travis so there was excitement in seeing this bird for both of us. All in all a great visit and some interesting birds.
Checklist Here

The next stop was Parker NWR. This was one of our more disappointing visits. Things were very quiet and most of the Island was closed. We we're tipped off to a Great Horned Owl nesting in the area of Bill Forward Blind. This one was near to impossible to spot so thanks to some helpful fellow birders. I never get tired of seeing those big yellow eyes peering down at you. Jim Berry let us know there was Northern Shrike in there area(a target bird for me) but we couldn't track him down.
Checklist Here
Once we decided to call it a day and had headed out of the park I some how spotted these two Wilson's Snipes at Joppa flats. Travis and I had just been commenting about how we can't wait for the return of the wading birds are these guys show up. Perhaps a sign of things to come??

At the last moment we got word of a Snowy Owl sighting at Nelson's Island in Rowley. We were exhausted but those Snowys seem to cast a spell. We drove down, scoped the area, then drove to Great Neck. No luck.

Not a great day but 46 species is PGNTB(pretty good not too bad).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Gyrfalcon and Pregnancy

Thanks to the MassBird community for hooking me up with directions to see the Gyrfalcon recently spotted in the Hadley/Amherst area. Now that I have the coordinates in my hot little hand I am faced with a dilemma. My lovely wife will be 38 weeks pregnant. For those of you less learned in the ways of human gestation, this means we're 2 weeks from her due date.

So here is the question: Tomorrow, dare I drive 90 mins from my home and hospital to see the elusive Gyrfalcon? To compound the dilemma my dear wife wants to come along! Now the follow-up question: Dare I drive 90 mins, with my pregnant wife, to see the elusive Gyrfalcon?

I always play it safe but recently I've been made aware of this website that tells you, essentially, what the probability is that you'll have your baby today, or tomorrow, or any day in your pregnancy.  The probability that she will give birth tomorrow is 1.6%. I like those odds!

Thank god for the internet. How else would I justify this reckless disregard for my wife and daughter?  Come on guys; this is the kind of story you tell your kids! "Well there was this Gyrfalcon, a 90 min drive to the Berkshires, and an impending snow storm."  This short story practically writes itself! 

more info to come...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Why Massachusetts Birding is the Best...and Worst

I think it become apparent fairly quickly to most of us birders that Massachusetts offers some of the best birding in the country. We really do get an excellent mix of inland and pelagic and tropic and boreal species. Depending on the time of year and distance to the coast one has the opportunity to see an enormous range of species in a wonderful range of habitat. We've all spent those beautiful June mornings walking along the South Shore or those brisk September mornings walking the North. I believe wholeheartedly that the months of May-October cast some kind of spell on the minds of we New Englanders. Those six months somehow erase our memories of the other six. Now I know there are some who'll say, "I love New England winters," and "oh the beauty of a winter's morn."  To you I submit the following photo of myself:
This "self-portrait" was taken this past Monday, February 18th at Great Meadows NWR in Concord. Incidentally, GMNWR is one of my favorite places to bird. This my friends is New England in the winter. This is the first time I have ever been birding and thought, "What the hell am I doing right now." I thought this as I was walking down the dike between the upper and lower pools. The ground was crusty with ice and snow. The wind was blowing at least 25 mph sustained, whipping snow and ice across the frozen pond, so loud that Superman couldn't have heard a call or a song. The sun, a blessing and a curse, blazed overhead. Giving me my only source of heat(perhaps 2 or 3 degrees) while contributing to my snow-blindness. The temperature was 25 and felt like -5 with the wind chill. This is frost-bite weather.

Now, I know the old "a bad day of birding..." saying but you all have to agree, its days like these that leave us longing for those May mornings when the Warblers are singing and the Magnolias are blooming.

All this said, I really do love the seasons in New England and we're fortunate to have all the public parks and shorelines that preserve and protect wildlife. Seeing the migrations and variations in action make this a great place to live and bird.  So here's to the winters. I contest that it is these moments(see above) that make us appreciate all the rest.

+/- 40 days until the first Warblers arrive. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

#256: Great Cormorant

On a quick lunch break I ran up to Mystic Lake in Medford in hopes of seeing the one Great Cormorant seen there lately. To my surprise I found 6 there. All feeding, diving, then drying in the open area below the dam.

I'll also report for the woman I spoke with there that she had seen an immature Bald Eagle around noon today.

Life Bird #255: Le Conte's Sparrow

Thanks to Pete Gilmore's report I had the opportunity to see my first Le Conte's Sparrow.
Typically found in the Gulf Coast region this time of year, this guy is way off course. He was feeding on Shadyside Ave in Concord in the small mud/grass median along  plowed up during the Blizzard last weekend. Occasionally mixing with Tree Sparrows and Song Sparrows(who often chased him off) he foraged for what looked like grass seeds.

This bird was unbelievably tame allowing for some fairly decent shots, even with my less than great 55-250mm lens. So tame in fact it was easy to get within 10ft. Good for photos but scary when cars came along. At least 3 came within inches without spooking him.

Great patterning on this little bird and as I've said before, a little flash of yellow this time of year really grabs your attention.