When I planned to do a March 21st Filed trip I envisioned a spring celebration, Tree Swallows, Phoebes, Ducks galore… But no Ice and snow prevailed
A great field trip to celebrate Spring 2015. March 21st eight members of the Athol Bird and Nature Club joined in for a trip to the Connecticut River Valley to look for waterfowl and other signs of Spring. The constant snow falling as we drove west did not deter the hearty group. Cardinals, Tufted Titmice and Song Sparrows were singing their spring songs as we stopped at the Turners Falls Unity Park. Highlights of the trip were an Iceland Gull in the Power Canal in Turners Falls and Thanks to modern networking we heard of a flock of Bohemian Waxwings at Hamilton Orchards in New Salem. We headed right over and we found the flock of 35 birds feeding on the roadside crabapples. Another treat was a soaring and calling Red-shouldered Hawk which put on quite a nice display for us at the orchard. Our day list: Canada Goose, Mute Swan, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Bufflehead, Hooded Merganser, Common Merganser, Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-shouldered Hawk Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Horned Lark, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Bohemian Waxwing, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, Red-winged Blackbird, House Finch, House Sparrow. Participants included: Don Clarkson, Lula Field, Bob Mallett, Jeannette Martin, Ann Spring, Dave and Shelley Small. Dale Monette and Jeff Spring joined us at Hamilton Orchards.
Elsewhere winter birds prevailed as 200+ Bohemian Waxwings were found in Gardner where a very cooperative Eastern Screech Owl was observed in Crystal Lake Cemetery. Many Barred Owls were reported by members throughout the North Quabbin Region. A tough time for raptors as mice and squirrels were active in the subnivean zone safe from predators under 2 feet of snow. I was pleased to get a call from a resident about a Northern Saw-Whet Owl hanging out at a feeder in Athol. Shelley and I were able to get wonderful looks at this small owl. shortly after we left (and we had gotten the word out for others) the owl regurgitated a pellet and moved on.
Still looking for waterfowl I went to our old standby Branch Bridge in New Salem on March 23rd. This site is one of the first North Quabbin bodies of water to open in the spring. The shallow water and flowing stream are often filled with Mergansers, Ring-necked, Wood Ducks and Common Goldeneye. Bald Eagles often hunt for fish in the open water. But… The whole area was still locked in a frozen sheet of ice. A couple small holes were open but not enough area to support waterfowl. My consolation prize was an Otter undulating across the ice. Maybe the warmer weather and light rain will help to unlock winters grip. We shgould be lookng for migrating frogs and salamanders now but it may be a few more weeks before the vernal pools are open for business.