Monday, April 26, 2010

Sunday Birding-North of Worcester

I did some birding today in Northern Worcester County with my 1st stop being Barre Falls in hopes of getting a Purple Finch as I had get to see one this year. Plus, Barre Falls in one of my favorite places to bird so I was curious as to what would be there so off I went.

Edited to add: I Figured I would share my lousy picture of the Northern Mockingbird that was taken at Barre Falls Sunday as from what I now hear, they are not seen there much so figured this picture that was once just a boring old mockingbird picture is now kind of cool! I would see this bird flying past the field and land on a tree an immediately break into song.
I would pull up to the main area of Barre Falls and would hear a Purple Finch singing as soon as I got out of my car. The bird was high up in a tree and wouldn't respond to pishing so I had to settle for the picture above. I would run into quite a few other Purple Finches that morning and they would all be singing and teed up on the highest branches of a tree.

Another thing I noticed is how solitary they are compared to House Finches who seem to always travel in a gang. I know many people get confused between Purple Finches and House Finches and while the field marks are important to know, it also helps to know behavior. Purple Finches prefer moist and cool coniferous forests and prefers to forage on the higher and outer branches of trees and this is also the area where males like to sing the most. House Finches on the other hand will usually always forage in flocks and prefers to forage on the ground and can be found in more of an urban or city type habitat.
I decided to start off at the Mid State Trail with one of my goals being a running stream nearby where I saw a Louisiana Waterthrush last year. I would pish the area and even play its call at various places near the stream and would never get the bird. I would also run into Donna and Dave who were looking for a L Waterthrush in another area of the falls that they are known to be at, and they wouldn't see one either. Despite the disappointment I would continue further down the path and actually hear my first Ruffed Grouse drumming which was awesome! I would also hear quite a few Brown Creepers singing and get a good look at Hermit Thrush who was on a tree stump so I was able to get a really good look at it.
Another reason why I wanted to go to Barre Falls was for a hopeful Broad-winged Hawk and while I knew hawkwatching for the most part is over there, I figured it would still be a good place to get one as I have seen them there before during non migratory times. I would strike out on the Broad-winged too, but did see this Cooper's Hawk who flew by fairly close which allowed me to get a picture of it.
I was hoping the hawk would be an opportunistic hunter and grab one of the MANY Brown-headed Cowbirds that are all over the place here, including some of the deep woods as I could hear them all over the place.
While leaving, I would see one of the Common Ravens perched on a tree. I really like this shot despite the poor lighting solely for the silhouette it shows. Check out the shaggy throat and wedge shaped tail which are good field mark indicators for this bird when trying to distinguish it from an American Crow.
I would decide to go to Wachusett Meadows after that as I will normally get a Broad-winged Hawk here 9 times out of 10 so I liked my odds. Funny enough, I was getting toward the street the meadows is on, I would see a hawk teed up on some branches. I looked for a place to pull over that was safe and got a look at it through my bins and was able to confirm it as a Broad-winged. I would then roll down my window for a record shot, and the little bugger would fly away before I could even get the camera into focus. Glad the hawk flew at the angle that it did so I could see the thick white band they have on their tail which always ceases any doubt I have on whether or not it is a Broad-winged Hawk. I would also be reminded at how small they are because it was the 1st thing I noticed when I saw the hawk perched while I was driving. Despite me getting the hawk, I still wanted to head to Wachusett Meadows because I hadn't been there for a while. I would see many passerines including the Hairy Woodpecker above.

Where there would be a Downy in the tree right next to it.
I would decide to take a rest for a while on a bench at the wetlands to give my feet a rest and could see two raptors in the air. I would initially see one, but then another came into view fairly quickly and at first I thought I was going to be witnessing an attack of some sort, but it would soon turn into a form of synchronized flying as they would both mimic each others flight pattern. I would turn away for a minute to see yet another buteo and I was praying for a Red-shouldered, but alas it was another Red-tailed who was up much higher than the other two. After a while they would all take off in another direction but soon be replaced by yet another Cooper's Hawk looking for some lunch. I would finally think I got my Red-shouldered Hawk because I was convinced I could hear on in the woods, but would soon find out it was a Blue Jay doing an incredible imitation of one.
On my way back, I would stop at St Philips where I would see the two Northern Flickers perched in a tree and gazing into each others eyes. I would take out my bins and see that they were the two males again. :-p. I guess the Coops got the female last week and these two have formed some kind of male bond or something because they didn't appear to be fighting with each other this time. Interestingly enough though, I would count three flickers while there so maybe the one who "got it" last week was not part of the normal love triangle I see whenever I am there.
My final stop would be some local powerlines in town I am going to because it is a sure spot for a Rose-breasted Grosbeak so am keeping my eyes and ears out for it. I would never get the grosbeak, but would see this Red-tailed Hawk above that caused me to questing my initial call as soon as it changed its body some which would cause its tail to look longer than I am used to seeing. I would also be taken aback at how the plumage looked with the lousy lighting as you can also see in the picture above.
I would watch the bird and be mesmerized by its flight, to be brought back to reality thinking I heard a House Wren calling so would stop looking to the skies and focus on where I thought the sound was coming from. I would suddenly hear the sound of a Goldfinch and would leave wondering how the heck I could confuse the two of them.
I would take off to Bolton Flats with Alan in the evening where we saw the Three Greater Yellowlegs again and also see our first of the year Spotted Sandpiper who was flying really close to the waters edge and had a real distinctive way of flying that I had never noticed before so it was really neat to see it and recognize it.

I would go back to the powerlines again this morning wondering if I did in fact hear a House Wren yesterday and would hear them as soon as I got out of my car. I had to navigate through some scrubby brush to get to it and would realize they were in someones yard. I would keep a respectable distance and would get a look at one, but wanted a record shot so started pishing like mad hoping to get them a little closer to me. I would glance over near the side of the road where I would see a man walking his dog who was just standing there and staring at me as if I were some kind of freak or something. :-p. I sheepishly explained to him that I was trying to attract a bird I hadn't seen all year a little closer to me and he would proceed to tell me he lived in the house where the wrens were (how embarrassing!). Anyhow, I apologized and he told me not to worry as he too looks forward to the House Wrens return as he has them in his yard every year and they have been back for two weeks now. Sigh, you just gotta love spring.

Take care all.

Barre Falls List:

Canada Goose 1
Mallard 2
Ruffed Grouse 1
Turkey Vulture 1
Cooper's Hawk 1
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Mourning Dove 2
Downy Woodpecker 2
Eastern Phoebe 1
Blue-headed Vireo 6
Blue Jay 4
American Crow 2
Common Raven 1
Tree Swallow 18
Black-capped Chickadee 6
Tufted Titmouse 4
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
Brown Creeper 5
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher 2
Eastern Bluebird 2
Hermit Thrush 1
American Robin 5
Northern Mockingbird 1
European Starling 2
Yellow-rumped Warbler 9
Pine Warbler 1
Eastern Towhee 1
Chipping Sparrow 8
Field Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 2
Northern Cardinal 2
Red-winged Blackbird 4
Common Grackle 12
Brown-headed Cowbird 15
Purple Finch 4
American Goldfinch 3


Marc said...

I saw a Broad-wing soaring over Best Buy, Millbury at 10:30am Saturday. Great looks...definite ID. It was flyin low perhaps looking for some deals at the Best Buy grand opening!
Also saw an Osprey last wednesday "hover-hunting" along the blakcstone roughly adjacent to bikepath parking lot. Had seen Osprey in this same general area last summer on three occasions. Have a nice nite.

Kim said...

Hey there Marc. I will be on the lookout for Broad-wings whenever I head to the mall, especially during migration as it is high enough so you can see them. LOL about the Best Buy grand opening!

I think I have seen the same Osprey as you have as I had one hover hunting over the Blackstone near the Central Cemetery. 1st sighting I have ever had of one in town and am glad to hear it's been here in previous years!

Ina said...

Thanks for blogging, Kim! As a novice birder in Central MA I'm finding it very useful. Your list was helpful - now I know who's already here. This weekend will bring many more arrivals - I am psyched! Hey, I had a Carolina wren at my feeder all winter - back in March another showed up. I see them a couple of times a week. Guess they're not going to nest here, but it is really cool they survived the winter. Best wishes, Ina


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