Monday, April 20, 2009

Herrick's Cove IBA: April 18 & 19

This past Saturday morning (7:55 to 9:30 a.m. on the 18th) was my first visit to Herrick's Cover (photo right) of the year. A leisurely walk around the picnic area afforded an opportunity to check for early arriving songbirds and late migrant waterfowl. The morning started off sunny but gradually gave way to clouds.

In total 33 species and 123 individuals were tallied: Canada Goose, 7; Wood Duck, 3; Mallard, 7; Green-winged Teal, 2; Common Merganser, 2; Great Blue Heron, 1; Killdeer, 1; Greater Yellowlegs, 1; Solitary Sandpiper, 1; Belted Kingfisher, 1; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 4; Northern Flicker, 3; Eastern Phoebe, 1; Blue Jay, 11; American Crow, 7; Tree Swallow, 6; Northern Rough-winged Swallow, 1; Barn Swallow, 1; Black-capped Chickadee, 6; Tufted Titmouse, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 1; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 1; American Robin, 5; Savannah Sparrow, 2; Song Sparrow, 12; Swamp Sparrow, 2; Dark-eyed Junco, 1; Northern Cardinal, 1; Red-winged Blackbird, 19+; Common Grackle, 7; Purple Finch, 1; and American Goldfinch, 2. Apparently early migrant warblers (Palm and Yellow-rumped) have yet to arrive.

Sunday brought beautiful spring weather (sunny, blue sky with few clouds, and temperatures in the 50s), so I returned in the morning with the focus to digiscope birds passed up the day before. An adult Bald eagle was sighted perched in a tree on the small island at the interface of the Cove and Connecticut River and almost immediately took flight and soared downriver. An Osprey was later seen fishing the Cove and succeeded at capturing a large yellow perch. And, painted turtles were hauling themselves onto logs to soak in the sun after the long winter.

Unlike Saturday, 55-60 Green-winged Teal had moved in within the past 24 hours and were feeding in the shallow water east of the island. While taking a head count, one individual stood out from the rest: a male Eurasian Green-winged Teal Anas crecca crecca (photo below), readily distinguished from the typical carolinensis subspecies by its prominent white scapular stripe and lacking the latter subspecies' vertical white bar on the sides of the breast. A third identification field mark, the buffy head stripes extending from the base of the bill and along the upper margin of the green ear patch was not obvious on this individual; however, the same feature setting off the lower border of the ear patch was. This bird was a subspecies "lifer" for me. The sighting with documentation was submitted to the Vermont Bird Records Committee. Two years ago to the month another male Eurasian Green-winged Teal was observed by local birders Hector Galbraith, Don Clark and Taj Schottland at the Cove establishing perhaps the first occurrence record of the subspecies in the state.

Lastly, a little about Herrick's Cover IBA. This is perhaps one of the premier birding spots in the Middle Connecticut River Valley. Consisting of two parcels totalling 395 acres, the Cove consists of a day-use only recreation area with picnic grounds and a boat launch at the confluence of the Williams and Connecticut rivers. Several miles to the north is the Upper Meadows parcel. Both properties are privately owned by TransCanada Hydro Northeast. The Cove parcel offers a variety of habitats including riverine floodplain forest, cattail and phragmites marsh, alder swamp, mudflats, and the river itself. The juxtapostion of these habitats no doubt draws in migrants for resting and refueling. Over 200 species of birds have been reported from Herrick's Cove IBA including the occassional regional rarity. One never knows what will show up next...a case in point Sunday's Eurasian Green-winged Teal.

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