Saturday, August 21, 2010

Birding Quabbin-Gate 35

Alan and I decided to head to Quabbin, Gate 35 today and meet up with Donna and Bart hoping that the lucky streak we have had with first of the year birds lately would continue and with water levels as low as they are around the reservoir, it was the most logical place to be, second to Sterling Peat, but we will get to that later. ;-). Anyhow, we set off fairly early with a definite chill in the air and we could actually see our own breaths (thank God I wore a light jacket). The first birds we would see as we made our way toward the Worcester County portion of the Quabbin would be a bunch of Wild Turkeys directly ahead of us that Bart would first spot.

We would continue with our walk and come across a very good looking Canada Warbler and it was around that time that I discovered my camera wasn't working (batteries dead!), so once again it would be birding with no camera, which is something I am getting used to, but it makes blogging a little more difficult. While I was a little bummed, it wouldn't take me long to get over my misfortune when we heard a Yellow-billed Cuckoo (score for Alan as he didn't have one this year yet!). The sound gave me the same chill I got when I got the bird a couple of weeks ago as I think of Chris whenever I hear one and to get one at Quabbin no less!! Anyhow, not only would we hear it, but see it eventually as this bird wasn't shy.

My heart would stop as I looked at its handsome face and that beautiful yellow bill. I was so blown away that I couldn't help but to gasp "what a frickin gorgeous bird", as I was so caught up in the moment that I forgot my manners but didn't say the full blown F word, but that's what a good bird does to you sometimes, especially when you see one for the first time. ;-) All of the cuckoos I have gotten so far in my short time birding has been by ear, but nothing could prepare me for actually seeing it. Sigh, one of the highlights of the day, especially with it being seen in Worcester County!
We would finally make our way to the place where you can best see the tiny island, and I had to resort to desperate measures which was to take pictures with my Driod and I was convinced I had the camera pointed to the island, just so you can get an idea of what the island looked like, but as you can see there is no island. :-p. It was around this time that I was really missing my camera. We would all be hoping for a tern of some sort (or better yet a Ruddy Turnstone as Bart had gotten one at Wachusett on Friday), but we were not that lucky. We did get some Least Sandpipers, Spotted Sandpipers and Semipalmated Plovers though.
Eventually we were at the end of the trail where all of the phragmites are and that glorious, warm sun started to finally warm us as it was still a little chilly. The water levels here would be very low which allowed us to access parts we normally wouldn't be able to get to. The drainage must have been very recent as there were shorebirds EVERYWHERE here (taking advantage of a fresh and new food source) so between that and that beautiful sun, we all decided this was the place to be for the remainder of our stay as not only could we look at all of the shorebirds nearby, but we could also see the island with the scope so it was a win/win situation.

The first set of birds we would see nearby would be a Semipalmated Plover, some Greater Yellowlegs as well as scores of Least Sandpipers, all of which were not the least bit shy and very close and I would once again kick myself for having a camera that wasn't functioning as the pictures would have been really sharp and nice. So you will all just have to settle for the one above as I can't zoom with my driod for some reason (probably has to be because I'm over 40 and don't have that gene when it comes to cell phones).
But being the optimist that I am, I figured I could still manage a couple of cool shots here and there and saw Alan's and Bart's scopes nearby and thought that may look pretty cool and then realized somehow my finger got in the picture. It wouldn't take long after this for more peeps to make their appearance and it was there that I would finally get my nemesis Semipalmated Sandpiper! SCORE-FOY. These birds were so close that I could finally see the differences between them and the Least Sandpipers (very dark bill and very dark legs and not as warm in color as a Least) so it was quite the treat and a better view than I would have probably ever gotten at Sterling Peat so it would be another highlight of the day. Bart and Alan would be on scope duty as Donna and I looked at all of the nearby shorebirds and soon enough they would discover a Black-bellied Plover which was a 1st of the year in Worcester County for both Donna and Bart, so all in all it was a very productive morning for all of us and we all got some FOY birds!
Basking in the sun with my Vibram Treks my newest pair and I LOVE them. They have a thicker sole for trail running which means I no longer have to suffer with bruised feet when out on the trails like I had with my KSO's. I ran 4 miles with them yesterday on some pretty rough trails and they worked perfectly and hiked 5 miles with them today so they are all broken in so I can really start putting the miles on them now. Are they not cool looking or what!
Alan and I decided to leave early and make one quick stop to Sterling Peat just in case of course as there have been quite a few just in cases lately and I was shocked to see even more drainage there compared to last Wednesday when I got the Wilson's Phalarope. We would bump into Gary and Anne as we scanned the flats and were disappointed to see that the Glossy Ibis must have taken off along with the Wilson's or course. There would only be one Great Egret and that would be the one who favors the other side, so there appears to have been a mass exodus of the really good birds over the past couple of days. The regulars would be there and one cool thing we would see is one Greater Yellowlegs in the midst of some Lesser Yellowlegs which really showed the size difference in these birds and also allowed me to differentiate on how they feed and if you look at them long enough, they both do it differently. It will be interesting to see if I can figure it out on my own next time I see them as I normally go on bill size as well as the overall shape of the bird, now I have more clues and hope it stays in my brain.

All and all a really good day with perfect weather, good company and of course more adorable shorebirds!
And with the end of August nearby there are other things to look forward to like nighthawk watching for example! Call me a dork, but I have thought about this since the end of June and how much I couldn't wait for it again this year. There is nothing better than looking at nighthawks after a long days work or even on the weekends. I am convinced looking for birds in the sky uses parts of your brain you don't use when regular birding because they are so far away, you need to look at size, flight behaviour, etc and it is such a challenge that it puts you in a different zone, you just can't get when birding normally (do get it with gulls though and hoping ducks this year). Anyhow, we would get 19 Common Nighthawks last night including 3 that would be flying fairly low, but my camera (which was working by the way), just couldn't focus on it quick enough.
And last but not least, this very cool photo I got of a cicada Friday afternoon when I went to go fill up the Hummingbird Feeder. Here it is gazing into my camera as my camera gazes back at it in return. Is that not cool or what!!!

Take care all.

1 comment:

Larry said...

I made it up to Gate 35 this morning for dawn but not much in the way of shorebirds. Just a few Spotted and Semipalmated Sandpipers. A Barred Owl calling at the gate and lots of vocal loons made up for the lack of shorebirds.


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