Sunday, January 24, 2016

Plum Island & vicinity (or Birding Ducks in a Barrel), January 23, 2016

Being on the brink of the Blizzard of 2016, a few ambitious birders made the journey north to Plum Island for what turned out to be a shortened day of birding. We started birding from parking lot one. The ocean was roaring with full tube waves crashing onto the beach just north of us. A scan of the ocean, produced little in the way of birds. A few Scoter specie types, probably Black, were seen all but briefly in between the waves. A few members of the group did manage to see some Sanderling(?) down the beach.

With a temperature in the low 30's and an in your face wind of 30 mph, the low to mid teen wind chill made conditions for birding difficult. Being prepared, I wore a face mask, which typically does not work too well for me. I can't hear what others are saying, my eyes water and my optics fog up. I consider this one of the worst ways to bird.

We continued down the island, stopping and scanning the marsh for non existent birds of prey and owls. (We were later told of a Rough-legged Hawk, but we never caught up to it). The frozen panes, were long since abandoned. The Warden's produced just two Song Sparrows. Typically, it is a place to get something of interest during the winter. Not this non-finch year. Onward and southward, we next stopped at Hellcat, to walk the wind exposed dike.

We met with two birders coming off the dike. They reported see a variety of ducks in the sound. But our goal here was to see the previously reported Lapland Longspurs. The other birders did not report seeing any. I subconsciously didn't think we would see anything and had left my scope in the car. So I scanned the sound with my binocs and found little in waterfowl. Even with the wind to our backs, it was somewhat uncomfortable, standing exposed, just past the watchtower. Returning to our intended goal, I looked northward and found a flock of nine birds in the dike path just before the do not enter fence. Getting Christine Whitebread's scope on the birds, we determined we had found our goal. Eight Longspurs and a song sparrow. Steven Whitebread, with camera in hand, crept closer to get a few pictures.

Lapland Longspur, photo by Steven Whitebread

Having achieved our goal, we continued down the island again scanning for any signs of life. We found flocks of Black Ducks, with a few Northern Pintails mixed in and a group of Mallards a Stage Island. At this point, the decision was to turn around and get away from the coast.

We headed a half hour inland to Haverhill's Kenoza Lake, where a variety of birds had been reported over the past several weeks. Our goal here was Tufted Duck, which up to recently had been moving from pond to pond as each was frozen out. What we found was AMAZING!!
With the exception of a tiny corner of the lake, the remainder of the lake was frozen. But in this tiny space were hundreds of ducks, coot, geese and swans. It was like birding ducks in a barrel.
Assorted waterfowl, photo by Steven Whitebread
It took a few minutes, but we found the Tufted Duck. It was often diving near the ice edge spending what appeared to be more time underwater than on the surface.
Tufted Duck, photo by Steven Whitebread

There was 15 species of waterfowl, one of which, Eurasian Wigeon, was identified after the fact from photos taken.

Eurasian Wigeon, photo by Steven Whitebread

Below is a summary of the birds seen during the trip.The first number is for Plum Island the second is for Kenoza Lake.

Canada Goose                     150       110
Mute Swan                                         12
Eurasian Wigeon                                 1 (Found later via photo above.)
American Wigeon                               5
American Black Duck        300           2
Mallard                                 50       100
Northern Pintail                      4
Tufted Duck                                         1
Redhead                                               1
Ring-necked Duck                           150
Greater Scaup                                      2
Scoter Sp. Black??                  1
Bufflehead                              8           6
Hooded Merganser                              7
Common Merganser                            2
Ruddy Duck                                       25
Common Loon                       2
Red-tailed Hawk 1 going to Kenoza Lake
American Coot                                   20
Sanderling                            ??
Herring Gull                          X          26
Great Black-backed Gull       X
Rock Pigeon                         12
American Crow                    12            6
American Robin                   10
European Starlings             300
Cedar Waxwings                  15
Lapland Longspurs                8
American Tree Sparrow        5
Song Sparrow                        8
Dark-eyed Junco                    3
Northern Cardinal                 2 

Mike Emmons   

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Death March, January 9, 2016

Did we march this year? - Yes we did!

Overcast, calm day at Race Point, ideal conditions to study gulls, alcids, shearwaters
and even some shorebirds. Photo by David Clapp

It was the calmest, dare I say balmy, day on Race Point beach in the memory of  our longtime leader Wayne Petersen as well as our veteran members and no one thought of this year's wonderful stroll on the beach as a "Death March".
Still the 2.5 mi walk each way on a sandy beach adds up and makes your legs feel like you really, really walked five miles!

Razorbill, photo by Steven Whitebread
The day had started at Head of the Meadow with great looks at Razorbills, diving Gannets and Kittiwakes galore as well as all the usual suspects. However the chilly wind made us  move on quickly. At Race point we were surprised by the incredibly calm conditions described above and walked "just a bit further - lets go to see round the corner - I think I saw some shearwaters" and so on and so forth until we actually reached Race Point lighthouse. And yes we did see the promised shearwaters - final count was 16 Manx Shearwaters! We also had exceptional looks at Razorbills and Dovekies close to shore. The murre's were unfortunately a little harder to find, but both species were seen by most of the group of 13 SSBC members. Still to be determined is a mystery gull - possibly a Thayer's.
Dovekie, photo by Steven Whitebread

Looking from Hatches harbor toward Herring Cove. Photo by David Clapp

The day was not done however by the time we returned. While all the passengers in the 4 cars gobbled down some very late lunch, the drivers took us over to Corn Hill Lane to find the Townsend Solitaire which has been hanging out there for the last few weeks. Success! We heard it give it's soft call as we arrived. It responded to a little pishing, popped up and posed for a back view and then flew off showing his lovely buffy bands at the base of his flight feathers.

map to illustrate how "lost"
 this bird is here on the East Coast
Townsend Solitaire, photo by Steven Whitebread

Below are the complete checklists from Race Point and Head of the Meadow.
Thanks to Wayne Petersen for once more leading this traditional trip, thanks to Glenn D'Entremont for keeping the bird list and to Steven Whitebread and David Clapp for the bird and birder photos.

Race Point Beach, Provincetown, Barnstable, Massachusetts, US
Jan 9, 2016 10:00 AM - 2:30 PM
Protocol: Traveling
2.5 mile(s)
Comments:     SSBC trip, Wayne Petersen leader
23 species

Brant (Atlantic)  4
American Black Duck  28
Mallard  1
Green-winged Teal (American)  2
Common Eider  600
Common Merganser  2     interestingly female in the ocean, male in Hatches Harbor
Red-breasted Merganser  10
Common Loon  5
Red-necked Grebe  2
Manx Shearwater  16     continuing group
Northern Gannet  25
Great Cormorant  1
Sanderling  46
Dunlin  85
Dovekie  5
Thick-billed Murre  3
Common Murre 1
Razorbill  350
Black-legged Kittiwake  150
Ring-billed Gull  X
Herring Gull (American)  X
Iceland Gull (kumlieni)  15     9 ad, 6 1W
Great Black-backed Gull  X
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (

Head of the Meadow Beach, N. Truro, Barnstable, Massachusetts, US
Jan 9, 2016 9:30 AM - 10:00 AM
Protocol: Stationary
Comments:     SSBC trip, Wayne Petersen leader
9 species

Common Eider  50
Surf Scoter  500
White-winged Scoter  200
Red-breasted Merganser  40
Red-throated Loon  1
Northern Gannet  50
Razorbill  600
Black-legged Kittiwake  100
Iceland Gull (kumlieni)  2     1 ad, 1 1W

Christine Whitebread