Monday, November 1, 2010

Martha's Vineyard & Ma., September 2010 (2)

Prairie Warbler, female Red-winged Blackbird

Modest new arrivals on the 24th, with a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, three American Redstarts, at least eight Towhees, a Prairie Warbler, a Spotted Sandpiper and great Blue Heron on the pond, and another big surge of Tree Swallows overhead (at least several hundred in a couple of hours); again, one particular bird stood out, and today's highlight was a remarkably accomodating Brown Thrasher.

Brown Thrasher

The 25th was hot and sunny with a strong southerly wind; not encouraging, and far less activity on the patch. The highlight of the morning came on the short walk back, with a flock of House Sparrows feeding on a weedy driveway containing presumably the same, striking Lark Sparrow - a rare bird on the vineyard and in Mass generally, it performed superbly down to a few metres.

Lark Sparrow

In the afternoon (hitting over 80 degrees c) I got a ride to Felix Neck Audobon preserve, further down the east coast of the island and tucked behind a belt of oak / pine woodland. A few km walk from the road and the reserve opened out, with extensive coastal habitat reached via various trails through scrub, woodland and pockets of saltmarsh. Being the only visitor was a bonus, but a distinct lack of birds wasn't, although 80+ Grey Plovers, an American Oystercatcher and the expected woodland species were brief distraction from mosquito wars.

Great Egret

The 25th was again sunny and warm, with a brisk north-easterly; not promising for new arrivals, but some quality if not quantity. An American (Buff-bellied) Pipit on the green at dawn, a Greater Yellowlegs on the pond, an arrival of Sparrows (predominantly Song, but also several Swamp) and a minimum of three Northern Waterthrushes were a pleasure. The latter are perhaps my favourite American warbler, and they gave plenty of entertainment in response to some gentle pishing.

Northern Waterthrush

A female Purple Finch in with a mixed flock was the only one of the trip, and my first yellow-variant House Finch (hello listers!) was another surprise. Ospreys, Sharp-shinned and Cooper's Hawks continued to do the rounds low overhead.

Sharp-shinned Hawk

The 27th was our last full day on the island, hence both morning and evening sessions were called for; a change in conditions - from essentially settled, hot and sunny weather over the previous days, to thick drizzle, dark cloud and mist - continued from the previous evening, and birding was more challenging as a result. However, several species once again made the effort worthwhile.

House Finch, Northern Flicker, Palm Warbler

The pick of the bunch were warblers - new additions being an elusive and eventually nailed Blackpoll, and an altogether more helpful Nashville. Also recorded were two Wilson's Snipe, five or more Cedar Waxwings, a couple of Swamp Sparrows amongst Song and Savannah, several early-ish White-throated Sparrows, plus Red-eyed Vireo, Yellowthroat, Redstart and Waterthrush. A nice selection to round off a final day on patch, and very sorry to leave.

Red-breasted Nuthatches, Red-bellied Woodpecker

Nashville Warbler - at 1250 iso, it tried its best

But the trip wasn't over just yet, and after fond farewells with new and old friends at the harbour on the mainland, Amity and I jumped on a bus to Boston, where we hooked up with Jill. The following day - our last, with an early flight on the 30th - was earmarked for a Whale Watch out of Gloucester, on the far north-east coast of the state see seperate post). But before that, I squeezed in a couple of hours urban birding from dawn before the girls woke up.

House Wren, Blackpoll Warbler

Luckily, Mount Pleasant Cemetery was only ten minutes away, and according to a brief internet search hosted a swampy, overgrown corner by the river. Which did just fine; hopping the fence and avoiding security, an area of rank woodland and unkempt vegetation kept me entertained before breakfast, with highlights being a pair of Wood Ducks, two more Waterthrushes, two House Wrens and a Winter Wren, double figures of White-throated Sparrows, a Common Grackle, a late Ruby-throated Hummingbird and five Blackpoll Warblers.

Song Sparrow, Osprey

European Starling, Northern Flicker and American Robin; Cedar Waxwing

A caterpillar, a moth, and a duck on a jet-ski