Sunday, July 29, 2012

Barre Landfill and Sterling Peat

Alan and I decided to head to the Barre Landfill this morning after hearing of Mark and Sheila's multiple success with Black Vultures there so was hoping we'd have the same luck ourselves!

And this would be the first bird we'd see!!!  Seriously, neither of us have even seen a Great Blue Heron on the telephone wire before so of course we stopped as who wouldn't!  Based on the streaked throat and chest I'm guessing this is a juvenile who doesn't know yet that heron's are not phone line birds.  ;-)

We'd make our way to the area where Mark and Sheila see them most and be very happy to see over 3 dozen vultures all in the same location.

They'd be on the fencing and we'd see some pop out from the bins (what they found appealing in there I don't know)

They'd be perched on dead trees

Soon enough we'd hear the thunder of their wing beat and many would take to the air.

But wouldn't you know we couldn't identify any of them as Black Vultures no matter how hard we tried (we did get close to 60 TVs though).  Despite this it was still an incredible experience as I've never seen so many Turkey Vultures in one general location.  We're guessing we got out there too late in the day so will have to get back out there earlier to try it again which will be no problem as it was a lot of fun to observe them.

We'd make a stop at the place where Alan had the Golden-winged Warbler to check for berries and birds and there'd be plenty of wild blueberries as well as the berries above.  I'd ask Alan what they were and he'd grab and handful and tell me huckleberries I think.  Nom, nom, nom......I'd be hesitant at first but Alan looked as if he was enjoying them so grabbed some myself hoping Alan was right!  Nom, nom, nom....Pretty darn tasty but not as good as blueberries.  If I had the energy and time I would have started picking right then and there for some huckleberry jam, but think I'm jammed out until cranberry season seriously!

I'd come home and decide to lay down for a bit and would wake up at 1 and realize I slept for close to two hours which I probably needed as I've been dealing with some awful insomnia all summer that has gotten worse the past couple of weeks.  Between the birding and hiking I never nap anymore which is unfortunate because when I woke up I felt great so headed out to Sterling Peat to check on the water levels and shorebirds of course!

And this is what I'd see which made me very happy as it reminds me of the conditions a couple years back when Sterling Peat was a shorebird haven!!

The usuals would be there including a lone Solitary Sandpiper, 2 Spotted Sandpipers, 7 Killdeer and at least 12 Least Sandpipers like the one above.

As well as three Semipalmated Plovers like the one above.

I absolutely love these birds because they are so interesting to observe.  I really enjoy their argumentive chatter and their squabbles amongst one another.

Lousy shot of the plover near a Killdeer but figured I'd include it because it's easy to confuse the two so really like this as it shows now only size comparison but just how different the two are in body composition.

Another squabble about to take place!

Lousy shot of a Killdeer taking a bath which goes to prove, birds don't bathe to get clean, but because it feels good as who could be clean after bathing in stagnant pond water.  ;-).  Also want to know what the deal is w/ the 2nd band on the bird as it appears to be almost gone expect for one spot.  Molting?

There'd be other birds out including the Great Blue Heron above.

And some Canada Geese who annoyed me as they flew in close which drove all the shorebirds away  of course.

Another picture to show the low water levels.  

There'd be pockets of water that were like little rivers that a Least Sandpiper really seemed to enjoy.  ETA:  I was just reading my Dunne guide and came across a tidbit I thought interesting and true which is Least Sandpipers usually tend to stay to the side of mud flats as they don't like to get their feet wet which makes this picture even more interesting.

Especially this one as it's entire leg is almost covered in water.  Fascinating stuff I tell ya!

A picture of me I believe in the pond!!  I guess the word Muddy Pond is quite fitting now.  Word of advise, bring boots for sure. This is a good sign indeed as it reminded me a lot of the year we had all of those fabulous shorebirds and many were seen very well without a scope so let's cross our fingers we have the same luck this year!

And now for my Sunday doozy which will be the 2nd Sunday in a row that I have one.  I'd be oohing and aahing over the plovers when suddenly I could hear some Killdeer sqaabble and hide and the plovers would flee too so I looked around to see what was causing the ruckus.  I'd see a fairly good sized bird land on a tall weed and the first thing I think of before even getting the bins on it is a juvenile Merlin.  Out comes the bins and I could see what I believe was a banded tail.  Realizing its too early in the year for one, I put my camera on for a lousy record shot and this is what I'd get.

I'd take another picture and this is what I'd get.

The little bugger would be gone as quickly and quietly as it arrived.  My calm demeaner now gone as I scanned for the bird in all of the usual visible Merlin spots from this location and I couldn't re locate it.  I'd review my photo and realize it sucked so would spend about 30 minutes trying to re find it but never did.

I'd get home and do some research and based on what I saw, observed and have read it's a juvenile Merlin that's earlier than normal according to eBird (there have been no reports in MA except the coast this season that I can see either).  Now my notes, observations, etc.

1.  Medium sized raptor about the size of a Rock Pigeon

2.  All brown back and cap with a white throat and chest (chest appears to have some streaking if you blow up the picture)

3.  I saw what appeared to be some banding in the tail but the photo doesn't do a good job demonstrating this.

4.  Long, pointed wings-and the wing tips do NOT reach the tail tip

5.  Pale, buffy undertail coverts

Now for behavioral observations in the quick seconds (literally), that I saw it.  I will be using the Peter Dunne Field Guide Companion to support what I saw which you will see in the photo.

1.  "A perch-hunting raptor that commonly takes a sturdy (often low) perch looking out on a large, open area".  Yes we have a low, (not sturdy) perch looking out on a large, open area.

2.  "Particularly fond of flocking species, like shorebirds and Horned Larks".  Shorebirds for sure, but no Horned Larks that I could see ;-).

3."Merlin is less timid than American Kestrel and often allows close approach".  May be a coincidence but the bird landed right over the mud bank from me and I'm guessing saw me while it was flying in so it didn't appear that shy.  The only other bird I had on my possibility list was a Cooper's Hawk but it looks nothing like one that I saw and my experience with accipiters is they are very weary of humans and with good reason because many back yard bird watchers and farmers don't like them!

So there you have it.  Another mystery bird that I'm fairly confident of the ID, but hesitant to post it on eBird just yet hoping for comments.  In the past it's these types of birding encounters that get me frustrated and then I cut back on my birding but refuse to let that happen this year so taking a new approach and putting myself on the line and will no longer beat myself up when I ask for feedback.  I've found it's made birding so much more enjoyable and makes me really learn  about birds which is my number one bird goal this year.  Feel free to post or email if you have any feedback.  Thanks

Take care all.

1 comment:

Larry said...

Nice assortment of birds. Great count of TV's and the Merlin is a great find.


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