Sunday, September 25, 2011

Birding Sutton, Westborough & Grafton

I did some local birding Saturday morning and decided to hit Purgatory Chasm first as I still have yet to get the Red-breasted Nuthatch. I'd be driving through Millbury and make a quick stop to take a look at the Turkey Vultures on top of a house. I don't know why they prefer this house to the others, but I've seen them here on occasion since I started birding. The house was vacant the past two years and now occupied so I was curious if they would perch here considering they may have to interact with people and it appears as if they have no problem with it. I am curious to know what the new occupants think of their guests though.

After that it was off to Purgatory. The place was would be quiet and of course, no nuthatch so decided to make the best of it and just explore. I had forgotten how technical some of the trails can be at Purgatory until I came across this one. It actually felt good to just hike them instead of run them which is saying a lot considering the trail above were the trails I loved to run the most. The hiking allowed me to take my time and just enjoy everything. I came across a few pockets of birds, including one I believed was a vireo doing a scolding call. I stopped and thought it sounded like a Blue-headed, but gave up after some failed pishing because it was coming from a location where I'd see a large wasps nest hanging from a tree and I didn't want any part of that.

The most interesting thing at Purgatory were the Pine Warblers in various locations and still calling from tree tops. I'd hear the call at the entrance of Purgatory and get a visual ID to make sure I had the song right and sure enough, it was the Pine. I went about 2 miles into the woods and would hear 3 other Pine Warblers doing the same. With all of that calling, I'm wondering if these are the regular breeders vs. migrants, but would think the locals would have started migration already.
The leisurely pace I was taking allowed me to spot things I may not have including these really cool shrooms like the ones above.
Very cool and was happy to use my camera to do some micro photography. How I've missed my camera!
The next stop would be the Assabet Conservation area in Westborough. My hunch told me to work my way backwards this time and start off at the end of the main trail and work my way back. I'd be happy I trusted my gut because there would be a few birds here being lead of course by the Black-capped Chickadee. The first bird I'd see was a Yellow-throated vireo, so out came the camera for a record shot. The problem would be that other birds would start flying in and out and confusing the hell out of me as I would be curious what the new bird was so out would come the bins for confirmation so I spent a lot of time wresting with both my bins and my camera and deciding which I preferred to bird with, especially with all of this rapid activity when you only had a few seconds to get a look at the bird. The pocket continued to grow as other birds flew in and I tried to keep up with them all.

Including this Black and White in the photo above. Seriously, I don't know why I had classified the Pine and Black-and-white Warbler as low probability because it seems as if I get them everywhere I go. In fact, I'm getting a lot of warblers everywhere I go, but it's a lot more challenging to ID them this time of the year as they look different and are not singing and I bird better by ear than I do eye, hence the low probability as I've never actively looked for warblers in the fall before as it still makes me uncomfortable.

Next it would be a quick stop to St Philips to find a Black Duck and guess what?? I did!! Finally!! There were two of them and they were very well behaved which allowed for a nice binocular view. I started scanning in the same location of the Black Ducks when I could sense some movement a little closer to me.

I get my bins on it and this is what I see. Hmmmmmmmm. Can it be.........Yes, I see the green on its wings and yes its a tiny duck, but something doesn't seem right.
And this is what didn't seem right. The little duck stood still and didn't seem at all bothered I was close to it which made me second guess my ID because my experience with Green-winged Teal have always been the following.

Scenario One: Alan and I at Bolton Flats for our first of the year Green-winged Teal and hopefully others. We make our way slowly down the path and give each other a knowing look when we get to a certain location and the look means to be extra, extra quiet as one wrong move will result in panic and bad birding at Bolton Flats. Every move is cautious and I wince when I hear a leaf crunch under my feet in fear I've blown it. Finally we get to said location as we quietly get the scopes settled and hold our breath hoping we weren't too loud. Everything goes as planned as we breath a sigh of relief that our cover wasn't blown. The scanning starts when Alan tells me he has a Green-winged Teal. Where? I whisper. To the left of the 3 Mallards and 2 Canada Geese Alan responds. I finally make my way to it and then it happens..........HONK!! A Canada Goose getting all riled up about something and we tense up hoping it doesn't cause a chain reaction but it does. Suddenly dozens of geese are honking which causes dozens of Mallards to quack which causes every duck and goose to take flight in a panicked chain reaction. #*@*&#@ Canada Geese Alan says as I nod in agreement.

Scenario Two: Spring time Bolton Flats Forbush Field trip-Enthusiastic Forbush members make their way down the path with their knee boots and mittens as it's still really cold out. We all get to the certain location and give each other the look which means to be very quiet because one wrong move could create a panic which would mean bad birding at Bolton Flats. As we inch a little closer, we hear it-the sound of dozens of heavy wing beats coming together to create the sound we dreaded most-the sound of them leaving. Suddenly binoculars take to the sky in a desperate attempt to identify some of them as they flee in various directions. Suddenly John shouts "I have 12 Green-winged Teal headed to the left". Flustered members try and get a look at them before they're gone and I always manage to not be able to pick them up until the very end and all I ever see are their tail feathers which is their own way of giving me the bird.

And last but not least, and most preferable scenario which is scenario three.

Scopes set up at Bolton Flats and all waterfowl are relatively calm. Alan spots a Green-winged Teal and we take a look at it, but not a leisurely look because scenario one could happen at any time, so it's best to continue to scan in hopes for a Blue-winged Teal or something better. The poor Green-winged Teal gets forgotten once an ID has been made for something better to add to the annual bird list like a Northern Shoveler for example.
But alas, it was a Green-winged Teal and there would be three others too. I just love the picture above because it gives you a good idea of the size difference between them and the Mallards. I have found that I really love this little duck and is actually dare I say cute! That's saying a lot as I've never considered any duck cute before (except for the Ruddy and Bufflehead of course but that's just a given). I would watch the ducks for a while and enjoyed it tremendously as it was a nice break from passerine birding which has turned into a pain in the neck (literally).

Oh, and the highlight of my Saturday would be Saturday night as I was in front of my computer. I had the windows open because it was warm, when suddenly my ears picked up on something and that something would be an Eastern Screech-owl. It would take a second for my brain to register what I was hearing but once it did I rose from my chair like a bullet grabbing the batteries for my camera for some video. Sure enough the owl stopped calling and I couldn't get it back, despite the Droid. I'll be on the lookout for it because it was seriously one of the coolest sounds I think I've ever heard. Funny that I would get a life bird in front of my computer considering all the time I've tried to chase this bird in particular.
Take care all


Chad said...

Enjoyed the post. Turkey Vultures have always fascinated me especially with their sometimes odd selections of roosting areas! Also, I love Green-winged Teal so any post that mentions these awesome birds becomes an instant hit with me!

Kim said...

Chad, I love Turkey Vultures and find them very fascinating as well. I always look forward to seeing them the beginning of every year when I long for something new besides the back yard birds at my busy feeders.

I had never given too much thought to the Green-winged Teal before as they've always been so timid so this was the first time I'd get a really good appreciation for them and you are right they are awesome!


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