Date: 5/11/18 1:57 pm
From: Josh <opihi...>
Subject: [MASSBIRD] Valley seabirds and shorebirds; wren fledglings; etc.
Hi MassBirders,

Last night’s cold front apparently dropped a few seabirds into the Turners Falls area despite the generally pleasant weather. Right after I dropped my kids off at school in Gill, I checked FaceBook and saw that Mark Fairbrother had reported a Black Tern on Barton Cove, just a block and a half from the school. I zipped over, spotted it, and digiscoped a couple of photos, then posted an update to FaceBook… and it vanished while I was looking at my phone to type the update. But then an immature Bonaparte’s Gull came drifting down the river. A scaup - I assume the Greater about which Bill Lafley posted here recently - swam across with a pair of Ring-necked Ducks. Several Northern Rough-winged Swallows flew around, and a couple of them landed at the edge of the lawn just 10 meters or so from where I was standing. Two adult Bald Eagles soared over while being harassed by a crow. I had actually intended to just stop by for a few minutes and then drive to Hadley, where my friend and birding mentor Barbara Drummond was visiting, but it took me an hour to pull myself away from the action…

After determining that Barbara was going to call it a day and head back home before I reached her location, I decided to check out the power canal before leaving Turners Falls. A drake White-winged Scoter was there. Josh Layfield had photographed one on Barton Cove about a week earlier; I had to wonder whether this was the same bird, which somehow had lurked in the area for a week without being noticed, or a new one brought in along with the tern and gull. Probably no way to know for sure.

On my way home, I stopped at Mill River Lane in Hadley, a spot which just recently became a public eBird hotspot: <>
Was mildly surprised to find a junco there. The species breeds in the county, but as far as I know, only around high elevation spots. Looking at eBird now, it appears that there was a scattering of reports around the Valley through May 3, but this is the only report showing in a week-plus since then away from Mount Tom or Mount Holyoke. It’s the first I’ve seen since the last one cleared out of my yard back on April 23.

Got home to east Amherst and noticed a just-fledged Carolina Wren sitting on one of our windowsills. As I got out of the car I noted at least two more bumbling around our front yard. A couple still had little fuzzy wigs of down atop their heads. I know lots of local birds have laid eggs or hatched them by now, but was a bit shocked to see fledglings already out of the nest.

Had a couple of other mild surprises yesterday. I drove through Hadley between errands, hoping to relocate the Cattle Egrets which had been around the previous few days. No luck there. I drove down a gravel driveway to a solar farm in the middle of a big cornfield. As I neared a small puddle, not much bigger than my bird bath at home, a tiny bird moved at the water’s edge. My first thought was that the local Killdeer had hatched a few chicks already. But when I lifted by binoculars, I instead saw a fully adult Least Sandpiper!

Just around the bend from there, as I parked and ate some of my lunch, I saw a Spotted Sandpiper. Less surprising, I’ve run into them in cornfields before. But then one flew up, calling, and landed on the very upper edge of one of the solar panels; then a second one joined it up there, followed by a third! I’ve seen a few other species perching on those panels, but the trio of Spotties seemed out of place. Managed to get a photo of two of them together up there.

Some unusual-seeming sightings from other people this morning, via Western Mass Birders:

Mourning Warbler in Amherst near Larch Hill (former home of the Hitchcock Center for the Environment) (Scott Surner)
White-eyed Vireo near the Fort River Trail (a.k.a. the Silvio Conte NWR tract in Hadley) (Mary McKitrick)

Good birding!


Joshua S. Rose, Ph.D.
Amherst, MA

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