Monday, January 28, 2013

Plum Island & vicinity - 01/27/2013

Today's trip was a challenge for the group of five hearty souls who endured low temperatures, with a windchill in the teens to start and most likely dropping into the single digits the early afternoon. As a result, the trip was cut short, forgoing a journey up the Merrimack River.
The trip, as always, started on Plum Island with our first goal of see the ongoing Western Grebe. Despite receiving a negative report, we scanned the ocean from the parking lot #1 overlook. After several passes, up and down the beach, we concluded the bird was not present.
We made the slow journey down the island, scanning the marsh for ducks, hawks, owls and eagles. Did I say it was slow? Aside from a few American Black Ducks, the winter doldrums had set in.
When we got to the Wardens, we finally had some activity, with a few Horned Lark.

Photo by Steven Whitebread

From here, the activity picked up. We had two Rough-legged Hawks, one light and one dark phase and an immature Bald Eagle from the Bill Forward Bird Blind.
We made our way to the end of the island, picking up a few birds here and there.                                     On the way back up the island, we stopped at parking lot #3 for another look at the ocean, in hopes of finding the Western Grebe; still no grebe.
However we did watch several feeding frenzies, first started by Herring Gulls, who were joined by a few Bonaparte's Gulls, Black-legged Kittiwakes and soon there after by groups of Razorbills.
Upon returning to Parking Lot #1, we decided to give the ocean another look for the Western Grebe.
While scanning the ocean, we watched as a couple passed us on the deck, walk down the beach, disrobed down to their bathing suits and walk, then dive into the ocean. And I thought birdwatchers were crazy!!!!
Upon their return to the deck, I gave then an clapping ovation. They said they do it every week.
Meanwhile, Glenn d'Entremont asked me to take a look at bird in his scope. This bird was quit a ways down the beach, probably somewhere between parking lots 2 and 3, with nothing nearby for comparison. We debated and just continued to watch. Slowly, the bird moved closer to our position and finally Glenn was able to positively identify the bird as the Western Grebe. Success!!!
With that we headed, to Salisbury, stopping for some warmth and lunch. When we reached the Salisbury recreation area, we parked and started walking the camping sites. It started out quiet, not even a red-breasted Nuthatch, which has been in abundance this winter. After about 10-15 minutes, we found the flock, Red and White-winged Crossbills, Common Redpolls
and the RB Nuthatches. A couple of times, we were strafed as the flock flew from tree to tree. At one point, we watched, as a couple of crossbills and Common Redpolls were on the ground eating snow.

Photo by Steven Whitebread

Photo by Steven Whitebread

By this time, the wind picked up. After a quick look at the harbor and mouth of the river, it was time to call it a day. 

Here is a summary of the day's tally, numbers recorded by Glenn d'Entremont:

S-Salisbury, rest at Plum Island unless noted.

Common Loon 7
Red-throated Loon 2
Red-necked Grebe 5
Horned Grebe 7
Mute Swan 2
Canada Goose 30
Mallard 10-S
Black Duck 245 (20-S)
Gadwall 7-S
Lesser Scaup 2-S
Common Goldeneye 6 (2-S)
Bufflehead 32
Long-tailed Duck 2
Common Eider 160 (150-S)
White-winged Scoter 7 (2-S)
Black Scoter 8
Red-breasted Merganser 9 (4-S)
Cooper's Hawk 1-Newburyport
Red-tailed Hawk 1
Rough-legged Hawk 2 (1 dk, 1 lt)
BALD EAGLE 2 imm (2 or 3 yr)
Northern Harrier 3
Sanderling 28 (6-S)
Great Black-backed Gull ***
Herring Gull ***
Ring-billed Gull ***
Bonaparte's Gull 5
Black-legged Kittiwake 4
Razorbill 77 (2-S)
Rock Pigeon *** -Newburyport
Horned Lark 11
Blue Jay 1
American Crow 6 (2-S)
Black-capped Chickadee 4-S
Red-breasted Nuthatch 5-S
Northern Mockingbird 6 (2-S)
American Robin 9
Starling ***
Savannah Sparrow 1 (this was at lot 1, just as the group was meeting.  It was what I was chasing just before we went to the boardwalk).
American Tree Sparrow 3
Song Sparrow 3
White-throated Sparrow 3
Dark-eyed Junco 3-S
Northern Cardinal 2
Common Redpoll 10-S
House Sparrow ***

50 species
Mike Emmons 

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