Monday, March 25, 2013

Fieldfare, MA

Fieldfare is a large Turdus thrush that's common in Europe and that I'm familiar with from winters in Britain.  However it's a great deal rarer in the USA, so when one turned up in MA and stuck around for a few days it was too tempting - only just within the radius drivable within one day, but just doable via a 4.5 hour pre-dawn trek, much like last fall's Little Egret on Cape Cod.

Despite a lot of nocturnal driving and a 2:40am departure, I still got there after it put in its first post-sunrise appearance, but the Fieldfare reappeared every 30-45 minutes to feed on a berry bush (barberry?) at the back of a local residence in Carlisle MA.  The homeowner was very amenable and let us birders view it from the back of their garage.  (It was busy on Friday - dread to think what it might have been like on Saturday).  Even with a scope the bird was frequently not all that cooperative - you could detect it flying in and out via the white wing linings but it spent most of its time feeding hidden in the bush.  The white underwings are actually an ID mark when the bird is seen well in flight.  Finally at 10:30-ish the bird popped up on a branch before flying north in the typical heavy lumbering style that is characteristic of Fieldfares (and the related Mistle Thrush) and quite different than American Robins.  Notwithstanding flight style they are quite accomplished long-distance migrants in Europe.

This bird was USA #681.  I was a little fortunate with this one - it was seen the previous weekend, and I saw it on the 22nd with the last sighting being the 23rd, disappointing at least a hundred birders on the Sunday.

Other birds at this location included: Eastern Bluebird, Carolina Wren, Black-capped Chickadee and Hairy Woodpecker.

On the way back into NJ I encountered predictably heavy traffic and then spent some time waiting out the worst of rush hour by watching a Red-necked Grebe fishing in a local park pond in Harrison NJ (right at the border with Kearny) - a little incongruous for an urban setting but the grebe was fishing successfully and this is fairly close to both the Meadowlands and the Passaic River (it's also pretty close to downtown Newark).

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