Monday, February 8, 2010

New England, U.S.A - Jan / Feb 2010 (1)

Day One to Day Ten - rural Western Massachusetts

Tufted Titmouse

The first foreign excursion of the year, to the interior and coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. A relatively short-notice, hastily-planned 15 days on account of family business, the trip involved ten days in rural western Mass., and the remaining five birding (mainly) along the coast - hence an ideal opportunity to soak up a pretty comprehensive selection of New England's winter avifauna.

male and female Northern Cardinals

For the first ten days I was based at the family home, out in the stark, moominesque winter woodland near Warren, Ma. - a wonderfully peaceful area with the sound of a car engine pleasingly rare, coyotes puncturing the silent nights, and nothing to do except spend quality time with the american family and walk in the countryside within a few kilometres of the house.

White-throated Sparrows and Dark-eyed Juncos

I was able to get out every day, usually for a couple of hours in the early morning, meandering along one of two or three short circuits; to two clearings in the woods with scrubby edges, and into the nearby Breezelands Orchards (with kind permission from our new friend, hunter-hater and pistol-toting restorer of classic motorbikes, Mr Bob Tuttle).

female and male Eastern Bluebirds

Most of the birds were the expected wintering and resident passerines, and many were on show either in or near the garden - with many of these visiting the feeding station, just a metre outside the living room window. The most abundant and ubiquitous species at the feeders were House and White-throated Sparrows, Dark-eyed Juncos, American Goldfinches and House Finches.

American Tree Sparrow

Other regular visitors included Tufted Titmice, White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, American Tree Sparrows, Mourning Doves, European Starlings, Black-capped Chickadees, Blue Jays, Song Sparrows and Northern Cardinals, and a surprise visitor well out of range which sneaked in twice with its larger cohorts - a Chipping Sparrow.

Cedar Waxwings

Other species in the trees close to the house included several Golden-crowned Kinglets, Sharp-shinned, Red-tailed and Cooper's Hawks, American Crows, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, a Yellow-rumped Warbler (in a heavy snowstorm), a single Hairy Woodpecker, American Robins and roving groups of Cedar Waxwings.

Mourning Doves

The orchards were filled with chattering swarms of American Robins, and the still shockingly neon colour schemes of small groups of Eastern Bluebirds were accentuated by the lying snow. A Long-eared Owl was a pleasant surprise in one of the nearby clearings.

Absentees this time included Barred Owls, Pine Siskins and Common Redpolls, but as temporary garden / patch birding goes, there are many worse ways to pass ten days in the deep mid-winter; and deep it was, with temperatures always below freezing during the day and a memorable low of minus 22 on one dawn walk (not including wind-chill)... and the full spectrum of harsh weather was on offer, with plenty of deep snow, drifts, bright sunshine, and evena day of torrential rain.

male White-breasted Nuthatch

Occasional excursions beyond the house and its immediate environs produced a Red-shouldered Hawk near the Quabbin, a Northern Harrier hunting a field adjoining a shopping plaza in the Pioneer Valley, and several Red-breasted Nuthatches in a pine woodland near Amherst.

The Mrs on the blower (with Downy Woodpecker and American Goldfinch)

Song Sparrow, American Goldfinch and House Finches

Downy Woodpeckers and American Robins

Golden-crowned Kinglet, American Red Squirrel and Northern (Yellow-shafted) Flicker