Monday, June 24, 2019

Massachusetts Highlights

After spending a night in Vermont, Jacob and I headed to Cape Cod for five nights at parents' house. It rained a couple of the days but we were still able to get out and see lots of fun birds and things.  I was intrigued by the recent reports of a Kentucky Warbler and Worm-eating Warbler mingling at Santuit Pond in Mashpee so we went to check it out.

Pine Warbler

We managed to find the right spot, briefly heard the Kentucky singing, then nothing.  A Cooper's Hawk tore through and silence ensued.  A calling Fish Crow was a nice bonus but we gave up without the target warblers.

Painted turtle, trail hazard

That evening we drove out to a spot to listen for Chuck-will's-widow and Eastern Whip-poor-will.  It turned out to be very residential and awkward, so we headed over to Crane Wildlife Management Area where I'd heard woodcock last year.  Immediately we could hear several Eastern Whips calling.

 Lifer!  Initial recordings were drowned out by toads, like this puddle singer:

One morning my dad took us to Dowses Beach in hopes of seeing Jacob's lifer Piping Plovers.  Easy peasy!

There were a bunch of young plovers running around, looking adorable.

Bleh!  Then it went back and ate it.

 Least Terns nest at this beach also.

Willets can weirdly look like lady grouse.

On the way home my dad wanted to stop at the senior center so he pointed us towards the pond behind it.  It was mellow but this Great Crested Flycatcher gave us great views:

Back at my parents' house we saw the squirrel my mom has been sending me pictures of that is weirdly colored.

 Also, they have jelly feeders which Baltimore Orioles love.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers visit their regular feeders often.

Rain was predicted to dump most of one day, with a brief dry window early on.  We decided to make another go at the warbler dream team at Santuit Pond.  This time we power walked straight to the spot and heard the Kentucky sing, then start chipping.  We got eyes on the Worm-eating Warbler first, a warbler I had been wanting to see for a very long time.  Soon after we saw its odd companion, the Kentucky Warbler.  Amazing!  It was dark and dreary and they were moving quickly through dense brush.  The trail we were on loops around so Jacob went ahead to see if they moved all the way to the other side.  I caught up and indeed, the birds were now on the other side.

I paused at an opening in the trees thinking maybe they would use it as a path.  Then they both zoomed out, surprised to find me standing there.  The Worm-eating went one way and the Kentucky landed ten feet from me.  We were both shocked, then it zipped into darkness where I managed a few horrible shots. 

Massachusetts is a bit north of the Kentucky Warbler's normal breeding range.  The Worm-eating Warbler is relatively uncommon on the Cape as well.  The real weird part of these birds hanging out together is they seem to be trying to nest.  Several folks have seen them copulating and even collecting nest materials.  Crazy kids.

Our second to last morning we visited Crane WMA for a long loop around the area. 

 Grasshopper Sparrow

Field Sparrow

We made an afternoon trip to Skunknett River Wildlife Sanctuary because I had actually seen (not just heard) Ovenbirds here last year with my dad.  Again it proved to be a good spot for them and we managed some visuals. 

It's also a great spot for pink lady's slippers.

Our last day we went kayaking around the lake my parents live on where we enjoyed several kinds of turtles.  Painted turtles were easiest to spot, but I'm still not sure who their big friend is on the right.

I submitted a couple pics to iNaturalist and hopefully I will get a response.

My best guess is a Northern red-bellied cooter, but their population in Massachusetts is limited to a different county (Plymouth) according to Mass Audubon.  These turtles are listed as federally endangered and according to Wikipedia, "the Massachusetts wildlife preserve foundation has started to repopulate the turtles by placing them in many south-eastern Massachusetts ponds."  But they only list ponds in Plymouth County.  Maybe they are trying some ponds on the Cape also? 

Also lurking in the pond was a giant snapping turtle I could not manage to photograph.  On our way back the big red turtle had disappeared but this muddy creature was hanging out in the same area:

While we were visiting I convinced my dad to set up a light outside to attract moths and I had a couple cool ones.

Black-and-yellow lichen moth (pretty sure)

 Agreeable (or similiar) tiger moth

That's about it.  We had a great time visiting with all my family plus seeing lots of birds and wildlife.  I picked up three lifers and Jacob had fifteen!  Many thanks to parents for taking good care of us while we were there.  Good times!!!

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

New Hampshire/Vermont

Last week Jacob and I flew out to New England to visit my brother at his house in Vermont, and my parents in Massachusetts.  Jacob had never been to New Hampshire so when we drove through part of it to get to Vermont I looked for a birding hotspot close to the highway.  That's how we ended up at Ballard Pond in Derry, home of the Taylor Mill Historic Site.  Also home to this snapping turtle that seemed stuck but was not:

We walked part way around the pond as mosquitoes attacked and Jacob unknowingly acquired five ticks.  Birding was mellow but our first pink lady's slippers of the trip were sweet:

New Hampshire's state wildlfower, Cypripedium acaule

We picked up 15 New Hampshire bird species here with the last being the only photographable one, an Eastern Bluebird perched above its nest box.

Surprisingly this was the only bluebird of the trip.

We finally reached my brother's house but he was finishing up a hike with my nephew on the mountain that can be seen from his deck.  The first thing I saw when we arrived at the front door was this rosy maple moth, a lifer moth!

My sister-in-law gave us a tour of the place before setting us up outside with some cold water and chips and tasty Vermont salsa.

Mt. Ascutney in the distance

A Broad-winged Hawk showed up and perched in a tree, angering many birds nearby.  It took off after a few minutes so we had nice views of it flying too.

 There was a lot of singing in the trees next to the house and it took us awhile to sort out who was singing what.  Several Indigo Buntings were around, though not easy to photograph.

Male and female Indigos

There was a Chestnut-sided Warbler singing for a long time but I only barely managed a picture of one.  Perfect lighting, if I do say so myself.

After an hour of watching two Eastern Phoebes catching bugs around us we realized they were probably nesting under the deck.  Jacob confirmed this later.

Around the house are miles of trail systems so we set off on a nice big loop with my brother and sister-in-law and their dog, Willow. 

Eastern red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis)

Garter snake in their wood pile

Later that evening my brother took us up the mountain the easy way, by driving.  We stopped as close to the top as the road goes, then hiked out to a hang glider launch deck.  I forget hang gliding is a thing.

 Painted trillium and yellow clintonia

That ramp might be part of the running start for hang gliding

The launch pad

Vermont views.

The next morning we decided to visit Quechee Gorge, a spot my brother had taken me on my last trip in the pouring rain.  Before we left Jacob noticed the Broad-winged Hawk had returnd and was chilling in another tree.

 Best views I've had of this species.

 Willow says more walking, less hawking please

Turns out Quechee Gorge is even better when it's not raining.  We quickly found a pair of American Redstarts in one area.  The male was singing away and the female bounced around the low shrubs, leading us to her nest!

The nest is in these ferns somewhere:

So cute!
We walked back north along the gorge to the other side where a strip of land divides Deweys Pond and the Ottauquechee River.  This area was pretty birdy. 

I want to call this a Least Flycatcher.  

 Eastern Kingbird nest

 Another flycatcher, that could be a Willow or maybe something more interesting.

We finished our walk with 28 species, viewable on our eBird checklist here

Later after lunch my brother and I went for another hike with Willow the dog around the trails near his house.  Again no bird pics, but lots of Jack-in-the-pulpits (Jacks-in-the-Pulpit?):

Also lots of toads.

After that it was time to head south to my parents' house.  Many thanks to my brother for buying a house in such a birdy area!  They have it on Airbnb if you need a sweet spot to stay in Vermont. 

Good times!!!!