Monday, December 19, 2011

Athol CBC

Steve and I set out to Dave's house on Friday night to begin the Athol Bird Count Saturday morning with a very early 2:30AM start for owls. Dave would already have coffee prepared which much appreciated as 2:30 was mighty early for rising, even for me!

Our first stop would be a place for a potential Long-eared Owl (Asio otus (previously: Strix otus ))which would have made me very happy as it would be a life bird for me. We'd get out of the truck out in the middle of nowhere and suddenly hear the sound of some wing fluttering and annoyed calls coming from a few American Robins (Turdus migratorius) who we must have disturbed from their roost. Steve would start with his Long-eared Owl call as we all listened carefully in hopes for a response. Next he'd do his Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) call and that too wouldn't yield any results so off we went to a couple more spots before making out way to Quabbin.

It would still be pitch black as it wasn't even 5:00AM yet and the first thing that struck me was that Quabbin is just as beautiful in the dead of night as it is during the day. It would be somewhat erie though as we'd get out in chosen spots and Steve would start with his call in hopes for some owls and it wouldn't take us long to get a Barred Owl (Strix varia), which was very nice as it would be a FOY for me believe it or not.

Another stop we would make would be a spot I was pretty familiar with from Tom's Quabbin trips and that too would look lovely with the moon lighting the reservoir and the distant sound of coyotes that could be heard nearby making it all the more surreal. We'd drive a bit more and pick up one more Barred Owl as well as an unidentified mouse of some sort making a racket in some nearby leaves but that would be about it much to our disappointment. Not that I was overly disappointed of course as this would be my first time owling before a CBC and did pick up my FOY Barred and got to see Quabbin in the dead of night which is something I'll never forget because it was so cool.

Soon enough 6AM would come so it was off to Cinnamon's, in Athol for some much needed breakfast for fuel as well as more caffeine of course for the day.

Steve and I teamed up with Dave and Shelley to do circle 13 and we'd stay as one unit at first and hit some of the local bird feeders nearby which yielded some pretty impressive results as far as high counts for both Blue Jays (Cyanocitta cristata) and more American Robins as both species of birds could be seen on nearby trees as well as flying overhead.

Soon enough we'd split up and Steve and I would head out to some nearby woods to do some birding by foot. We'd do things high tech and Dave would give us one of his two way radios just in case something of interest would pop up or if we'd get lost (not that that would happen of course ;-)).

Despite it being a tad more brisk than what we've been spoiled with recently, the walk in the woods was lovely with the only sound being the crunching of leaves beneath our feet and the notable absence of any birds as we made our way along the trail.

Soon enough sleet would start to fall which seemed only fitting as what's a New England CBC especially in North County without snow, sleet or freezing rain!

We'd come to an area where we could hear some Golden-crowned Kinglets (Regulus satrapa) so Steve would do some pishing to see if we could get them in closer for a count. It wouldn't take long for other passerines to respond to the pishing with the most notable being two male Red-bellied Woodpeckers (Melanerpes carolinus), Downy Woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens) and of course the always reliable Black-capped Chickadees (Poecile atricapillus).

After pishing there for a bit, we'd do some serious bush whacking in search of owls in various evergreens and while we didn't find any, we'd come to an area where were hear more chickadees which brought in quite a few Dark-eyed Juncos (Junco hyemalis) as well as a couple of Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis).

Soon enough we'd meet up with Dave and Shelley again who'd tell us that not only did they pick up a Common Raven (Corvus corax), but a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) much to our envy as both Steve and I were hoping for a raptor while out in the woods.

We'd stop at a couple of lovely, quaint homes including one with the sign above where we would see plenty of bird activity over by the feeders so we got out of the car to investigate.

Where we would see many House Sparrows (Passer domesticus), a couple of Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) and another Common Raven.

Soon enough Dave would head back to the house to get things in order for the tally at the end of the day so Steve, Shelley and I would hit a few other places in hopes for more birds. It wouldn't take us long to realize there weren't that many birds at all, but we made the best of things and Steve would set up his scope to scan the waters for waterfowl which we'd never find.

I'd be downright chilly at this point so a Dunkin's stop for a Dunkachino was a must!!! It would be here that we'd find our first Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis) as well our first Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) of the day much to our excitement (especially Steve's), despite it not being in our circle. Steve would be so thrilled with the discovery that he would have been happy to stay there a bit longer to look for gulls (swoon), but it was getting close to lunch so off we went.

After lunch at a local watering hole that had some real nifty beers to chose from it was off to Doane's Falls in hopes for better luck than what we had at the lake.

There would once again be no birds but the scenery here would help make up for some of that.

As you can see in the picture above.

And this picture too. Seriously, one of the nicest places I've been in a while and something I'd really like to see when the weather is nicer as it seems like the perfect place to get out and canoe in.

We'd make our way back to Dave's and stop every so often as we'd see a lot of passerine activity in nearby yards with the most notable being the MANY Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) so Steve would get out his scope in hopes of finding a Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) amongst the large flock. We wouldn't find one, but did manage to get some pretty respectable numbers along this route including the regulars but also two bonus Red-breasted Nuthatches ( Sitta canadensis), which was most welcoming as it would be another FOY for me.

Soon enough we'd get to Dave's, grab our stuff and follow their car so we could head to Quabbin again and along the way we'd spot an adult male Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) in the picture above which made me very happy as I didn't have much of an opportunity to get many bird pictures so this was an added bonus.

We'd finally get to Quabbin where we'd see quite a few Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) as well as a couple of Common Loons (Gavia immer) like the one above.

One of our final stops for the day where Steve would spot a couple more Bald Eagles as well as one single Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), much to our delight as this would be a first for this bird count which was very cool.

We'd end the day by once again trying for a Saw-whet Owl, but once again it would be a "no go". This would be the first time I'd do the Athol CBC and enjoyed every minute of it so was happy we decided to attend.

Next up will be the Nantucket CBC which I am already excited about and promise plenty of pics and a blog entry so stay tuned for that and happy holidays everyone.

Take care all and I hope you enjoyed my Latin ;-).

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