Friday, July 6, 2012

Birding Glacial Montague Sandplains IBA

Shivers were running down my spine. I was standing on the very sand deposited some 10,000 years ago, as a delta at the mouth of a melt water stream into the giant ice age lake, glacial Lake Hitchcock. Eventually as the climate warmed the glaciers disappeared and the lake shrunk back into what is now the Connecticut River bed.

The sand delta forms the heart of the Montague Sandplains IBA. The almost impenetrable thicket of scrub oak, intermingled with pitch pine, covering the plains. forms a haven for several bird species, among them Prairie Warblers,  Eastern Towhees, Brown Thrashers, Field Sparrows and Whip-poor-wills. It's a unique habitat, even for the insects and turtles many of which would be more at home on Cape Cod.

I had arrived late in the evening and stayed till after dark to hear the Whip-poor-wills, but no such luck. However from all directions Prairie Warblers were singing.
Several of the Prairie Warblers were banded. I saw them on separate occasions, and don't believe they were the same bird.
A Prairie Warbler singing his heart out


Eastern Towhees were popping up from the vegetation to survey their terrain.





Male Eastern Towhee with brood patch

The females were staying out of sight. This one quickly scrambled into the undergrowth when she saw me.

Field Sparrow


That evening I saw at least 4 Brown Thrashers but none stayed long enough or come close enough for a good picture.


Sand, scrub oak and pitch pine
Here you can read more about the habitat, the ice age, and the glacial geology of the Connecticut River Valley, and glacial Lake Hitchcock.

This is my first post on Birding is Fun and I would like to thank Robert Mortensen for asking me to become a contributor. It's an honor for, as we all know, this is the best birding blog on the planet.

28 comments:

  1. Looks like a really neat place Hilke, where every scraggily tree and crack in the earth tells its own story.

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  2. Welcome! That does look like a beautiful place to explore! Love the vibrant colors of those Prairie Warblers!

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  3. Welcome to BiF! Hilke!!! So honored to have you here. I just love that Prairie Warbler. I've not seen one yet. What a cool sound it makes too. That spectogram really shows what it sounds like. I think those spectograms is the new wave of birding. Have a great weekend!

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    1. Thanks, Robert. I saw the article on 10,000 Birds on a spectrogram app for the iPhone and iPad. It would help me identify a bird, if I have an idea what bird is making that sound. I could save it and compare it to the spectograms for that species on xeno-canto.org. I have used Raven Light to translate my recordings into a spectrograms. It's great fun.

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  4. Welcome to BiF Hilke, wonderful post! It has me interested in the Glacial Montague Sandplains IBA

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  5. Welcome to the BiF team, Hilke! Glacial Montague Sandplains IBA looks like a lovely place to go birding. How lucky you were to see many Prairie Warblers. I have had the pleasure of viewing one before and I was so taken by its beauty. Wonderful post!

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  6. Love the beautiful bird pictures. Different birds than we usually see in Kansas.

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  7. Hilke, interesting place and a great day of birding. I enjoyed the photos and all the beautiful birds. The Prairie Warbler was one of my favorites.

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  8. Hilke, this just beautiful! I WANT to go here! Is it open to the public?

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    1. P.S. Great pictures and welcome to the team! I love the towhee photos!

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    2. Yes, it's open. Look for Plains Rd off Turner Falls Rd, Montague, MA on Google Maps and park your car at the intersection with the high voltage power lines.

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  9. Gorgeous shots, Hilke! Warblers are skittish little birds. That one is wearing several bands. I wonder how many times they are banded before some have to be removed?

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  10. Beautiful series!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  11. Lovely little birds, Hilke!

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  12. Great post, - lovely colours of the birds!
    Have a nice evening!

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  13. some very smart birds. The Praire Warbler is very distinctive and would be a lovely bird to brighten up anybodys day

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  14. I really like that Praire Warbler. Stunning colours.

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  15. some magnificent photographs and interesting scenery; thanks for sharing

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  16. Great photos. The landscape and vegetation is fascinating and the birds of course are beautiful.

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  17. Great pictures you show. Hanne Bente

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  18. Fabulous images....I especially like the Towhee, but.....I'm amazed at your sparrow photos [I've tried so many times to get a good sparrow photo here in my backyard, but they flit around so much it's a challenge]

    Wood Stork

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  19. A wonderful informative post Hilke! Congrats on your addition to the BiF team! What a super group of birders and bird photographers! I hope to see Prairie Warbler some day ;-)

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  20. What a great set of pictures! There is no shortage of colour (color?) in your birds.

    I thought I’d let you know that I stepped into the void caused by Springmans decision to close down World Bird Wednesday by setting up Wild Bird Wednesday (!) on my photoblog at Paying Ready Attention – Photo Gallery.

    Feel free to visit and link.

    Stewart M - Australia

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  21. I want to thank you all for your kind and thoughtful comments and your warm reception on BIF!

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  22. Great photos! An Environmental Conservation graduate student at UMass Amherst has been researching prairie warblers in the Plains for years: https://www.umass.edu/umhome/feature/keeping-song-alive. He's responsible for the bands on you saw on the birds!

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  23. I love birding in the plains. Lots of prairie warblers as already mentioned and towhees but I've also seen black and white warblers on the pines and also chestnut sided warblers. That was a nice sight to see since I hadn't seen one of those since I visited the Bashakill Swamp in NY state. That is a great place for warbler migration.

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  24. I love birding in the Plains. There are lots of prairie warblers and towhees but I've also seen black and white warblers in the pines and chestnut sided warblers which I was really happy to see. I haven't seen chestnut sided warblers since I was at the Bashakill Swamp in NY state. That place is phenominal for warbler migration.

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