Monday, November 13, 2017


MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
MacGillivray's Warbler, Honey Pot, Hadley, MA, Nov 13, 2017
What a fantastic day of birding in Hampshire County with the highlight by far being a MacGillivray's Warbler!  The bird was found yesterday by Ted Gilliland and seen by several others late in the day.  I got a few phone calls and messages about the bird but due to other non birding obligations I couldn't check them until it was too late in the day to try for the bird.  I had high hopes that I would be able to relocate the bird this morning but my hopes were tempered by the fact that unusual warblers can be quite difficult to relocate after the initial sighting.  I arrived before dawn at 'That's a Plenty a Farm' and started listening and looking for the bird.  After just a few minutes I heard it call just a couple times down the road from me but I could not relocate it at that point.  A few other birders (Mary, Scott and Mike) arrived and we all started looking for it.  It called a few more times but still would not show itself.  After quite a bit of time Mike got a brief look at the bird and then the bird started to show itself a bit more and started calling more regularly and loudly before it flew across the road into a small green patch were it stayed largely out of view and silent for quite some time, offering just fleeting glimpses.  After a patient and quiet wait in the cold, the bird finally showed well (if briefly) before disappearing again.  I managed to get a few photos and some recordings of the call but it required a high level of patience.

The MacGillivray's Warbler becomes the 33rd warbler species in Hampshire County this year for me (which makes 2017 the highest total I have ever reached for warbler species in the county).  It also becomes warbler species #35 I have ever seen in the county (after the Yellow breasted Chat got demoted from warbler status).  This leaves me with just four warbler species that have been sighted in the county that I have not seen, with those species being Black throated Gray Warbler (seen in Westhampton in Oct 1973), Townsend's Warbler (seen and photographed in Amherst in Nov 2013...thanks to Scott for the update on this species), Hermit Warbler (seen in Amherst in Nov 1995) and Yellow throated Warbler (seen and photographed in Hadley in Oct 2010).  As you can see the best time to find a western (or southern warbler in the case of Yellow throated Warbler) is in the fall so perhaps another rarity will show up before 2017 ends?

I also managed to find two Yellow rumped Warblers over the course of the morning while out and about including one at Arcadia and another in Belchertown.

MacGillivray's Warbler is quite rare anywhere east of the Mississippi River with most of the handful of records being on the coast (where rarities tend to stop before flying out over the ocean and take advantage of whatever habitat they can find).  Checking eBird records for the last ten years shows perhaps just a couple dozen records anywhere east of the Mississippi River.  The closest breeding population is way out in the Dakotas so any bird making it east has flown a long way off course from their typical range.  For the current year this is just the fourth record in the eastern side of North America with the other records coming from Florida (currently being seen near Naples), one in Rye, NH in early September and another early September bird in Orleans, MA (Cape Cod).

Friday, November 3, 2017

Warblers at the end of October into the beginning of November

Palm Warbler 'yellow', Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 28, 2017
Yellow rumped Warbler, Aracdia, Northampton, MA, Oct 22, 2017
Now that October has come to an end and November begins the warblers have largely vacated the area to points south.  October featured above normal temperatures through most of the month which resulted in some warblers sticking around longer than usual into the later parts of the month.  Overall for the month I had a total of 17 species of warblers (most in the early part of the month).  By the end of the month I could only turn up three species (Common Yellowthroat, Palm Warbler and Yellow rumped Warbler).  There are still a few warblers lingering around here into November with several Yellow rumped Warblers as well as a yellow Palm Warbler (seen this morning at Arcadia).  There is always the chance of a late rarity showing up but that is far from certain.

Friday, October 20, 2017

A few lingering warblers

Nashville Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Oct 20, 2017
Palm Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Oct 20, 2017
Orange crowned Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 19, 2017
Common Yellowthroat, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Oct 20, 2017
Yellow rumped Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 19, 2017
Our warmer than normal fall conditions have continued into this week with highs getting into the 70's on multiple days.  The warmer weather has certainly enticed a few species of warblers to stick around a bit longer than usual including a Nashville Warbler and multiple Common Yellowthroats and Palm Warblers this morning.  I also got some great looks and photos of an Orange crowned Warbler at Arcadia yesterday.  This species can be very tough to find at times and even tougher to get decent photos of so I was happy with what I was able to get.  Yellow rumped Warblers also continue to show in good numbers.

Full lists from the last couple mornings with additional photos attached below:

Silvio Conte NWR

Friday, October 13, 2017

A detailed look at various warblers this fall compared to previous years

Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 10, 2017
Tennessee Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 17, 2017
Cape May Warbler, Amherst, MA, Sep 11, 2017
Bay breasted Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 12, 2017
Now that mid October arrived and the warbler migration is largely over (although there is always a chance for a rarity to show up through the late fall into winter).  The fall warbler migration season (mid August-October) produced a total of 28 species.  The fall was especially great for warblers associated with spruces (Tennessee, Cape May and Bay breasted Warblers) in addition to Connecticut Warblers.  I will delve into each of the above mentioned in greater detail below (prepare for major bird geeking).
Tennessee Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 1, 2017
This fall was easily my best ever for Tennessee Warbler by a long shot with at least 76 individuals starting in late August and ending in early October.  The peak of this species occurred in early to mid September with less numbers later in the month into October.  I looked at the number of individuals seen the last five previous fall seasons and came up with the following:

2017     76
2016     12
2015     2
2014     4
2013     40
2012     18

To illustrate just how good a fall it was for this species I had 13 at just one spot on September 11th...more birds on a single day then I have gotten in entire years!
Cape May Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 2, 2017
Cape May Warblers were also around in greater than typical numbers but this year fell just short of setting a fall record for me with a total of ten individuals.  I also looked at the previous five autumns for this species and came up with the following:

2017     10
2016     1
2015     1
2014     1
2013     11
2012     5

As you can see from the above numbers this year was well above normal with the last three years featuring just a single individual sighting.
Bay breasted Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 12, 2017
Bay breasted Warbler were seen in above numbers this fall with a total of 13 individuals seen with a number of them photographed.  The peak numbers for this species showed up in mid September and then quickly trailed off.  Numbers from this year and the previous five fall seasons below:

2017     13
2016     1
2015     1
2014     2
2013     15
2012     2

It will be interesting to see if the increase in numbers seen this fall corresponds with a larger number of these species next spring.  My data clearly shows there was another big influx of these species back in fall of 2013 and the following spring featured above average numbers of all three species so get ready.  Here are the spring numbers if one is interested in more numbers.

2017     5
2016     17
2015     8
2014     16
2013     6
2012     8

Cape May-spring
2017     3
2016     1
2015     1
2014     3
2013     1
2012     0

Bay breasted-spring
2017     3
2016     4
2015     3
2014     9
2013     1
2012     1

Connecticut Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 10, 2017
Now on to Connecticut Warblers which I once again had some incredible luck with this fall.  I managed to find a total of ten, possibly eleven different individuals spanning the dates of August 29-October 7 (my first year of ever getting one in August).  I only managed photos of one individual this year but did get recordings of six.  I thought my luck of finding ten last year was an anomaly but this year produced about the same number so I think it may just be a matter of spending lots of time looking and knowing what to look and listen for.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Warblers during the first part of October

Northern Parula, Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 12, 2017
Yellow rumped Warbler 'myrtle', Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 12, 2017
Black throated Green Warbler , Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 12, 2017
Palm Warbler 'yellow', Quabbin Park, MA, Oct 12, 2017
Tennessee Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 6, 2017
Blackpoll Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Oct 6, 2017
Common Yellowthroat, Herman Covey WMA, Belchertown, MA, Oct 5, 2017
Palm Warbler 'yellow', Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Oct 5, 2017
As the middle October rapidly approaches the numbers and diversity of warblers continue to drop but there are still some to be seen.  A Northern Parula this morning at Quabbin Park is getting late for that species and there are still a few Tennessee Warblers moving through too.  The vast majority of warblers now are Yellow rumped Warblers but it is still worth going through them all to try to find something different.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

September ends and an update on the impacts on warblers in the Caribbean

Northern Parula, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 28, 2017
Magnolia Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 28, 2017
Tennessee Warbler, Silvio Conte NWR-Fort River, Hadley, MA, Sep 28, 2017
Pine Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 27, 2017
Blackburnian Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 27, 2017
Black throated Green Warbler, Quabbin Park, MA, Sep 25, 2017
Common Yellowthroat, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 24, 2017
As September comes to an end there are still a number of warblers around with 19 species still around for the last week of the month.  Tennessee Warblers and Connecticut Warblers continue to be around in decent numbers (more about these species over the course of the entire fall in a later post).  A total of 26 species of warblers for the month was fairly decent.

Thankfully some good news coming out of the storm battered Caribbean with word that at least some Barbuda Warblers survived the 185 MPH winds of Hurricane Irma.  A survey team from Birds Caribbean made a one day survey of the island and found eight individuals.  The hope is there are others surviving in different sections of the island.  Although eight is a tiny fraction of the population before the storm at least the species avoided extinction.  A link to the article from Birds Caribbean: Barbuda Warbler survey trip
No word yet from Puerto Rico on the two endemic species there but hopefully good news will come from there at some point.
Blackpoll Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 20, 2017
Tennessee Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 25, 2017
Tennessee Warbler, Home, Belchertown, MA, Sep 26, 2017
At home I have managed to capture two new warbler species on the motion camera at the water feature bringing the water feature list to ten species.  The two new ones were Blackpoll Warbler (9/20) and Tennessee Warbler (9/25 and again on 9/26).

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Hurricane devastation in the Caribbean from Hurricanes Irma and Maria

Hurricane Maria and Hurricane Jose, Sep 19, 2017
I figured I would do an update on the recent hurricanes that have devastated a number of islands in the Caribbean and what impact these storms had on the various warbler species that call these islands home.  As I mentioned in a previous post Barbuda was absolutely destroyed by a direct hit from the powerful Category 5 Hurricane Irma.  Satellite images show the complete denuding of all vegetation on the island with the previous tropical green color replaced by a dingy brown.  The entire islands human population was evacuated immediately after the storm as the damage was that extensive (the first time in over 300 years that no humans were on the island).  Before the storm the endemic Barbuda Warbler population was thought to number between 1500-2000 (about the same as the human population on the island).  A brief return by a few researchers to the island found no warblers at all.  The hope is that some were able to ride out the storm but the road ahead for them will be difficult with no vegetation left to provide cover and the all important insects the birds depend on.  Certainly there is hope but it is not good news for this endemic.  Thankfully the island just avoided more major hits when Jose veered off to the north a bit and Maria stayed south.  This is one warbler species I have never seen and one I had plans to catch up with in the next couple years...hopefully I will still get a chance.
Elfin Woods Warbler, Bosque Estatal de Maricao, Puerto Rico, Dec 3, 2016
Adelaide's Warbler, Ceiba-Roosevelt Roads Naval Station, Puerto Rico, Dec 2, 2016
Hurricane Maria developed quickly and reached Category 5 status before landing a direct hit on the small, mountainous island of Dominica, home to the Plumbeous Warbler (found also on the nearby island of Guadelope).  The damage on the island sounds like it is just as extensive as in Barbuda.  Hopefully the mountainous terrain protected a few pockets of birds.  I have plans to be down there in a few months and I hope the birds, the people and the island recover enough to allow the trip to go forward.  After hitting Dominica the storm continued northwest and struck Puerto Rico directly on the southeast coast and traveled across the island bringing strong winds and heavy rain island wide.  There are two endemic warbler species on the island, Adelaide's Warbler and Elfin Wood Warbler.  The Elfin Woods Warbler is the rarer of the two and is considered endangered.  I'm sure the population took a hit but hopefully a decent number pulled through.  I was down in Puerto Rico last year and managed to find both warblers and I hope to make a return visit there someday to see them once again.  Post from my visit there: Puerto Rico Dec 2016
Hurricane Maria should continue off to the northwest and then north hitting the Turks and Caicos and southern Bahamas which may impact a number of migrant warblers including the endangered Kirtland's Warbler that winters in the area.

The hurricane season is not yet over and there is certainly a chance of additional storms to impact the area but hopefully the worst is behind them.  The birds here have evolved with the existence of hurricanes but the difference is that habitat destruction and reduction due to human development and a variety of other human involved issues have moved ever smaller populations into smaller areas making the birds less able to recover from the storms.  In addition the storms have continued to become stronger and more frequent as the climate continues to change due to global warming.

What can you do to assist? can always make a donation to Birds Caribbean to assist those that will be on the front line assisting the birds that made it though.  Link here:  Birdscaribbean-Hurricane-Relief