Date: 10/23/17 8:42 pm From: Josh <opihi...> Subject: [MASSBIRD] HBC 6th annual Halloween birding trek (late report of an early trip)
The weekend closest to Halloween was shaping up to be way too busy for me to spend a day birding, so I moved up my annual observation of the season by a week this year, leading the trip on Sunday October 22. Six club members joined me at sunrise at the Turners Falls Power Canal, where we peered through almost pea-soup conditions at hundreds of geese and much smaller number of ducks, including 7 Common Mergansers, on the water, along with a Belted Kingfisher and Great Blue Heron. Looking away from the water and fog, we managed to spot a Cooper’s Hawk and heard an American Pipit call as it flew over.
We tore ourselves away from there and carpooled up to Northfield, and Hell’s Kitchen. One of the Sawyer Ponds that bracket Old Vernon Road harbored at least 16 Wood Ducks. The Kitchen itself was dryer than usual, exposing even more mud, where we saw a quartet of Pectoral Sandpipers (the third straight year we’ve found the species during this trip) and at least 9 Killdeer. Continuing into Satan’s Kingdom WMA, we encountered a really impressive number of Golden-crowned Kinglets and a few other landbirds including Red-breasted Nuthatch, Brown Creeper, and one bird that eBird flagged as unusual for the time and place, a Common Yellowthroat. That was our only warbler of the day that wasn’t a butter-butt…
Our next stop was on River Road, just east of Satan’s Kingdom. The area was dull at first, but then Mike Locher spotted a Sharp-shinned Hawk soaring up over the trees. Mike subsequently noticed a more distant raptor flying far across the river from us, which I scoped and found to be a Peregrine Falcon. Meanwhile, David Peake-Jones returned from walking the edge of the adjacent cornfield and reported finding a Lincoln’s Sparrow along with a Swamp amid the crowd of Song and White-throateds.
A stop at Pauchaug Brook WMA was poor in bird diversity but rich in calories, as we brought a picnic lunch from the Northfield IGA and enjoyed it on the bank of the river. A subsequent drive through the Northfield Meadows was almost devoid of birds, and I was starting to wonder if the best part of our birding day was over. Then I took a quick look at FaceBook, the Western Mass Birders group, and saw Thom Bullock’s post about his finding the Cattle Egrets in Gill, only 10 minutes’ drive away from us! We all agreed to adjust our itinerary and head there next, and the birds cooperatively were still present. An impressive flight of American Crows, 145 birds by my conservative estimate, flew over while we were there. Interestingly, the field where Thom found these egrets is the same one where James Smith found a Northern Shrike a few winters ago, prompting me to wonder how many pastures have had both Cattle Egret and Northern Shrike make appearances…
After quick and unproductive surveys of Barton Cove and the TF Rod & Gun Club, and with sunset approaching, the group dispersed. I decided that I couldn’t leave Turners Falls at that time of day without one more check of the power canal. While I failed to observe any new bird species - we finished the day with 51 - it was impressive to notice that, since our sunrise visit, Canada goose numbers had roughly doubled from close to 300 to over 600, and Common Mergansers had increased from 7 to 63 by the time I left.