THANK YOU to those of you who $upported Dano Weisbord and me in yesterday’s birding effort benefiting The Hitchcock Environmental Education Center in Amherst, Mass. Your contributions were motivating and know that every dollar matters!
We birded from 4:30am to 9pm, covered 120 miles by car and over 12 miles on foot. Our goal was to positively identify 90 species and we tallied 89. Darn! If we counted the distant gulls we saw at one point but couldn’t absolutely specify, or added the moose (a true rarity)…oh well. Given that we were limiting ourselves to Hampshire and Franklin Counties in central Massachusetts (i.e. basically no water birds like sandpipers or ducks to pad the list), our total was pretty respectable.
By 7am we had listed 30 species, including the elusive Bobolink, despite an intermittent drizzle. The Silvio Conte River Trail produced many colorful birds like Orchard Oriole, Blue-winged Warbler and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks by the handful. It was worth walking to the summit of Holyoke Mt (almost 1,000 feet) as we saw the rare Cerulean Warbler and uncommon Worm-eating Warbler. At 11am our total was 57 and we hadn’t yet seen the ubiquitous house finch or pigeon!
Groff Park, Norwottuck Rail Trail, and Quabbin Reservoir were a bit too quiet so we hit recommended spots on the Connecticut River hoping to boost our total during the mid-day birding doldrums. We combed the “Honey Pot” and located single Vesper and Savannah Sparrows. A solo Bufflehead (I’ll admit publicly that I swore it was a Hooded Merganser and was proved wrong by Nina’s brother:)…and a Bald Eagle resided in Turners Falls as we hit 80 species at 5:45 pm. Rock Dove (aka pigeon) made 81. 90 species was still possible but iffy given the sun sets at 8pm.
The nearby Montague Plains (elevated glacial sandflats) quickly offered up a Ruffed Grouse, Pine Warbler, Field Sparrow and a Tennessee Warbler. A careful summation of the bird list showed 87 species….I had forgotten to add the Mockingbird and Bluebirds seen earlier. 90 was now better than “iffy”. We double backed to the big body of water in Barton’s Cove with hopes of squeezing out a gull and a cormorant in the fading light…but none were in sight.
We returned to the eerie Montague Plains and it showered us with Whip-poor-will calls from every direction at dusk. A bonus were several Woodcocks “peenting” at our feet. 89. No hoped-for owls were heard as we headed home; exhausted and satisfied that we had tried our best and completely enjoyed this birding marathon.