Saturday, November 21, 2009

Saturday Central Massachusetts Birding

I got out bright and early this morning with Alan to take advantage of the warm weather to hit some of the local spots to see if there were any new waterfowl around. The above average temperatures we have been having recently is both a blessing and a curse because the local ponds really need some freezing here and there to make the ducks easier to see as they have less room to roam around in but on the other hand I don't want frozen ponds because that means snow, cold and ice and I am really liking the warm weather. Sigh, the trials and tribulations of being a New England birder.

Anyhow, one of the first birds we saw today was the Cooper's Hawk in the picture above. This bird was seen in another part of Millbury than where I live so I'm not sure if it's the female that lives near my neighborhood or not. Am kind of hoping it's a different one because the more Cooper's Hawks in town the better of course. Love the shot above as it really shows off some of the Cooper's Hawk most notable field marks (note the hawk doesn't look as though it has a neck though which is more in line with a Sharp-shinned Hawk). Accipiters are so inconsistent!
We also made our usual stop at Lake Singletary to see what would be there and what was there were the usual Ring-billed Gulls as shown above.

After that we hit a couple of places at the Wachusett Reservoir including Scar Hill Road where we saw almost a dozen Common Goldeneye, a Common Merganser and Horned Grebe and the most notable sighting were the 250+ Common Grackles we saw. We could hear a noise coming from the woods that was so loud it sounded human made so decided to get a little closer to see if we could investigate. Suddenly we realized what we heard were their calls (like the squeaky wheel), combined with the sound of their wings flying from the tree tops to the ground for feeding. So cool to see and it's a sound I will never forget.

After that we headed to Mile Hill Road where there were 4 Common Loons and quite a few American Crows. Next it was onto Coachlace where we saw over 70 Greater Scaup and 3 Lesser Scaup. The picture above is of a drake Lesser Scaup. Notice the peaked head on the male which is different from the Greater Scaup whose head is more rounded which you can see very well in the picture below of the female Greater Scaup.
While we had scopes on the Scaup a bird came flying into view and landed in the water and we were delighted to see a true-blue American Black Duck join in on the party. So funny to see him appear as he did it so nonchalantly and got right to work preening along side all of them. Check out how different in size both species appear next to each other in this picture. Very interesting.
Such a handsome duck.
And a close up to highlight that gorgeous yellow bill the drake American Black Duck has.
After Wachusett, it was onto the boroughs with Marlborough being our first stop and Bartlett Pond in particular. The first birds we see are the 7 Mute Swans shown below. It seems as if everywhere I go lately there are many of them. While taking the train back from Boston yesterday at about 1:30 PM or so, I saw 12 of them on the pond near the Assebet Conservation area in Westborough. I understand many readers are fond of these birds, and can understand their appeal as they are pretty birds, but numbers as large as this are not good for other wildlife that rely on local bodies of water for a food source as the Mute Swans are also voracious eaters and often leave nothing for others, add to that they become very defensive during nesting and drive our native ducks out of those ponds and you can understand why many states are trying to control their population some as they are an invasive, non-native species in the first place. Spoke with a local in that area who said that the two adults have 5 of them every breeding season and you kind of get the point! The two American Wigeon and the Pied-billed Grebe made up for it though (well kind of) ;-).
Since we were on a roll at that point, we set our sights on Westborough and Lake Chauncey.
I decided to practice some of my micro photography some while there and spotlight some of the pretty fall flowers and out of the box foliage.
Not a great shot of a Pied-billed Grebe but I liked it just the same. I find silhouette pictures are very useful because your eyes are forced to focus on the overall shape of the bird vs. the colors and this type of identification is a great way to learn your birds. Notice the stout bill and thick neck.
We made a couple of other stops that were not that notable so we decided to head to St Philips Cemetery in Grafton where we saw quite a few birds including the Eastern Bluebird below.
One of the prettiest birds out there with that vibrant colors of theirs.
We also had 4 Green-winged Teal which was a first for me this fall. Take care everyone.

Some of the checklists for today:

Location: Boylston' Scar Hill Wachusett Res
Observation date: 11/21/09
Number of species: 9

Common Goldeneye 11
Common Merganser 1
Horned Grebe 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Blue Jay 3
Song Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 2
Common Grackle 250

Location: Clinton, Coachlace Pond
Observation date: 11/21/09
Number of species: 9

American Black Duck 1
Mallard 25
Greater Scaup 77
Lesser Scaup 3
Hooded Merganser 3
Belted Kingfisher 1
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 10
Black-capped Chickadee 3

Location: Northborough, Bartlett Pond
Observation date: 11/21/09
Number of species: 9

Mute Swan 7
American Wigeon 2
American Black Duck 1
Mallard 45
Pied-billed Grebe 1
American Crow 6
Black-capped Chickadee 2
Tufted Titmouse 1
Song Sparrow 1

Location: Grafton, St Philips Cemetery
Observation date: 11/21/09
Number of species: 10

Green-winged Teal 4
Great Blue Heron 2
Red-bellied Woodpecker 1
Downy Woodpecker 1
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) 1
Blue Jay 5
American Crow 2
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Eastern Bluebird 3
Song Sparrow 1


Chris Petrak said...

Good list for a November day, and isn't it great to see the bluebirds. People always seem surprised when they see them in late fall and during the winter, but there is not a month of the year that they are not around - somewhere. You have to like birds that hang through a NE winter.

A Scattering said...

We're still having very mild weather as well, not sure how long it will last. Saw a Great Blue Heron on a pond today, usually gone by now.

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