Birdathon 2013: Pictures from 24 hours of birding in Holyoke

Last weekend marked MassAudubon’s 30th-annual ‘Bird-a-thon‘ fundraiser. The idea: log as many species as possible within a 24-hour period. The event runs from 6 p.m. Friday through 6 p.m. Saturday.

I set a goal of logging 50 species within walking distance of Holyoke’s downtown neighborhoods. Friday evening and Saturday morning were promising — but despite the good weather, new sightings slowed down Saturday afternoon. My little team, which also included Holyoke resident and fellow blogger Sonia Barrera, ended up logging a total of 45 species. Not bad, considering most of the habitat we surveyed included urban parks and industrial tracts.

A few highlights included my first-ever Yellow Warblers in Holyoke; a Killdeer (also a Holyoke first for me) that landed near my feet by an electrical substation on Water Street; a Ruby-throated Hummingbird that paid a visit as dozens of shad fishermen tended to their hobby nearby; and an Eastern Kingbird, seen at a distance, that briefly confounded us until Sonia nailed the ID.

In addition to a multitude of Yellow Warblers, we spotted a Black-and-white Warbler, a few Yellow-rumped Warblers and an American Redstart. There were a number of Warbling Vireos out, too, as well as a male and female Baltimore Oriole out behind the paper mills near the river.

Missing from the list were the woodpeckers (mostly Downy and Red-bellied) that I often see, as well as the Belted Kingfisher that’s almost always a sure bet out near the river.

While we didn’t hit my 50-species goal, sticking so close to home reinforced the idea that you don’t have to go anywhere fancy to see really interesting birds. At one point, a Yellow Warbler perched on a utility line right by Water Street. Any kid living in the Flats could see that bird, and that’s awesome.

Below, a slideshow of photos I shot during our time in the field. I’ll post the full list in the days ahead.

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