Wednesday Morning Birding Report December 13, 2017

The word for this week’s excursion was “lee,” as in the lee of the shore. A smaller than usual group joined Dave Weaver and me in Gloucester, with strong, steady wind and gusts beyond 30 mph in the forecast. Fortunately for us, the wind came from the west, and most of the sites we were headed for faced east. We found birds huddling in the lee of a building starting in Gloucester Harbor, where the crowd of gulls normally spread across the grassy-green roof of the warehouse in town was instead crammed along the wharf beside the east wall of the structure. The biggest raft of Common Eiders that we found was not out near the wharf next to the Coast Guard station, but in the channel formed by the fish pier, right up against the eastward-facing bulkhead. Scoters, it seems, are a bit tougher, as both White-winged and a lot of Black Scoters ranged across the harbor in various configurations. One young Long-tailed Duck later proved to be our only sighting of that species for the morning.

Common Eider upright – Mike Densmore

The next stop was at the still unfrozen Niles Pond. It was dominated by Mallards, many of which are also showing up unusually on Joppa Flats. Perhaps it’s because they are finally being driven south by the approach of truly cold weather and the closing of open water in the north. At Niles Pond, there were also plenty of Ring-necked Ducks. The main flock of many cooperatively feeding Red-breasted Mergansers still contained a female Common Merganser. A tight group of Hooded Mergansers dashed across the pond at our arrival. A loose raft of Lesser Scaup seemed to welcome a lone hen Ruddy Duck. A young Double-crested Cormorant sat looking dejected on a stone, while a similarly still Great Blue Heron prepared to lurk along the shore on the far side. When we go to Cape Ann, the passerine listings usually happen at Eastern Point or Niles Pond, and the enormous shrub hedges by the pond made good cover for a few this week.

Buffleheads on Niles Pond – Patti Wood

The first thing we hope for at this time of year as we head to Atlantic Road is to find Great Cormorants on “Cormorant Rock.” There were nine there this week! The sea we observed for the rest of the day varied from smooth surface by the shore to a violent tumult far out, where ten Canada Geese, the only observed that morning, flew south. Given the conditions, surprisingly few seabirds ranged along Atlantic Road near the rocks. The usual crowd of Buffleheads bobbed in the cove near Bass Rocks, and we did find scoters and the odd loon, but it seemed odd that that shore was so barren. Perhaps it was because we were there for a particularly low tide, and there may well be places they go to forage at low-lows that we didn’t visit, or they were hanging out at better-protected spots. Now and then we saw American Crows picking around in the kelp.

Great Cormorants on Cormorant Rock – David Moon

This week we made it onto Good Harbor Beach, where we scanned up and down for the wintering King Eider, then quickly beat a retreat given the threat of hypothermia. We just fit our group into the overlook on Bass Rocks Road. Paul Sullivan met the owner of one big house there, who said he sees the King Eider “all the time.” He did not know what it was until Paul showed him some photos from iBird Pro and brought him up to speed. Joppa birders lead the way! If you go up there, please be very respectful of private property, so that birders can continue to search for this treat without conflict with residents.

American Crows foraging in the intertidal – Patti Wood

We didn’t have the luck to see the King Eider on Wednesday, but we did get great looks at sheltering scoters and Common Eiders. I shared my argument regarding the metaphysical reality of birding: disappointment after long searching, especially if conditions are uncomfortable, is required for the eventual easy discovery of a coveted sighting. The best part of this theory is that there is no clear relationship between how much suffering is required and how great the reward. Hence, those trying times are welcome as they simply put more in the bank towards eventual joy. Such musings were met with anticipated jeers and sarcasm, no matter how true this magical reality may be.

Harlequin Ducks – Patti Wood

After a pit stop at the public loos in Rockport Harbor, we moved on to Granite Pier. The view of the sea there is magnificent, and we enjoyed scattered seabirds and the awesomely frightening appearance of the far-offshore stretches of ocean. The pier was absent of Harlequin Ducks, and we guessed we probably wouldn’t be seeing them at Cathedral Ledge either. A big group of scoters off of Phillips Avenue looked promising, though, and when we did see them better from the ledge, we enjoyed beautiful drake Surf and White-winged Scoters. Happily, the big rafts of Harlequin Ducks we expect at Cathedral Ledge were indeed there, staying even closer in the sheltered cove to the north than they usually do.

Northern Gannet – Mike Densmore

At Andrews Point, the pain of exposure to the punishing gale became real for us. All morning we had certainly lingered outside only briefly, but on the point it was a struggle to remain upright! Northern Gannets flew close in as they often do there, though, and we saw more Harlequin Ducks and beautiful drake Black Scoters; most of the scoters we had seen thus far were hens and young drakes. But it didn’t take long to cry “Uncle,” and we scurried for shelter, satisfied that we had done our part to ensure a future bountiful morning of sightings for a larger crowd, hopefully during some midwinter thaw. You’re welcome, fair-weather birders!

WMB’rs can take it – David Moon

Our list:
Canada Goose (10) – well out to sea off Atlantic Road.
Mute Swan (2) – juvenile, Niles Pond; ad, Rockport Harbor (not looking in
very good shape).
American Black Duck (5) – Good Harbor Beach marsh.
Mallard (~ 35) – Niles Pond.
Ring-necked Duck (~ 11) – Niles Pond.
Lesser Scaup (15) – Niles Pond.
Common Eider – common.
Harlequin Duck (~ 42) – ~35, Cathedral Ledge; 7, Andrews Point.
Surf Scoter (~ 8) – Cathedral Ledge.
White-winged Scoter – common.
Black Scoter – common.
Long-tailed Duck (1) – Jodrey Fish Pier.
Bufflehead – common.
Common Goldeneye (3) – 1 hen, E. Point Blvd; pr, Niles Pond.
Hooded Merganser (7) – Niles Pond.
Common Merganser (1) – hen, Niles Pond.
Red-breasted Merganser – common.
Ruddy Duck (1) – hen, Niles Pond.
Red-throated Loon (2) – Cathedral Ledge.
Common Loon (5) – various.
Northern Gannet (5) – Cathedral Ledge & Andrews Point.
Double-crested Cormorant (1) – juvenile, Niles Pond.
Great Cormorant (10) – 9, “Cormorant Rock,” Atlantic Rd; 1, Granite Pier.
Great Blue Heron (1) – Niles Pond.
Herring Gull – common.
Great Black-backed Gull – common.
Rock Pigeon
American Crow (~ 7) – various.
Black-capped Chickadee (2) – Niles Pond.
Tufted Titmouse (2) – Niles Pond.
American Robin (1)
European Starling
Northern Cardinal (3) – Niles Pond.
House Sparrow – many, Niles Pond.

Wednesday Morning Birding Report – December 6, 2018

The word for this week’s outing is “crescendo.” Barred from the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge by the annual hunt to cull the deer herd, our group headed up the coast to the north, beginning at Salisbury Beach State Reservation. The Wild Turkey herd of Ferry Road loitered in a driveway. An immature Red-tailed Hawk perched in a spreading tree along the state reservation entrance road. Real action started at the boat ramp, where Red-breasted Mergansers, a young male Surf Scoter, Red-throated Loons, Common Eiders, and at least one Common Loon foraged in around the mouth of Black Creek. A Northern Harrier flew so far away across the marsh that only one of us saw it. We found one Common Goldeneye out on the wide river, a very low number for this time of year. Long-tailed Ducks jetted about in singles and pairs. Many of us noticed, as the temperature dropped and the wind rose, that we had not dressed properly for a cold, gray, and windy day.

White-winged Scoter – Mike Densmore

At parking lot #1, at the foot of the north jetty, we found White-winged Scoters, some loons, and lots more eiders scattered around. A big flock of sandpipers nestled in the rocks almost at the end of the jetty. After a long period of staring through scopes while toughing out the wind and enduring various speculations and name-calling (of birds), Dave Weaver and I decided it was time to put our heads together We agreed that those sandpipers looked most like Dunlin, even though they should have been Purple Sandpipers. See the list below for our final decision. While the parking lots at Salisbury had good contingents of roosting gulls of our three common species, there were none of the species we had gone over in the lobby as quiz birds for the week (gulls with light wing tips). One must pause with respect, however, for birds that find comfort sitting in the middle of a parking lot in a stiff north wind. Once the frigid temperatures arrive, we’ll find gulls still hunkered on the freezing asphalt, a real demonstration of survival chops.

Glaucous Gull at Seabrook- David Moon

A birding trip leader worries when not very much happens at the first two stops: “uh oh, maybe this will be one of those.” But we must keep an open heart and mind, and remember that things can change while out and about. With that attitude, we headed north and scanned in vain all the dull surfaces between the state reservation and a special spot in Seabrook, where we were hoping for the easy gull “get.” Indeed, we found the loyal Glaucous Gull — one of those gulls with light wing tips – in its customary perch on the bathhouse cupola on the inland side of the road in Seabrook. According to Steve Mirick, this gull has been perching there each winter since November 2008, when Steve identified it as a 2nd- or 3rd-year bird, making it now 10 or 11 years old. What fun, an uncommon species that was not far out on some mud flat! That was the break we needed for the floodgates of birding to open!

Common Loons – John Linn

At the inlet of Hampton Harbor, the light improved, and the water was a fascinating intersection of waves and current. Among the many eiders, scoters, and loons, we found a Red-necked Grebe. On the north jetty navigational marker, a young Great Cormorant sat showing us its whitish belly and gray bill. Up until that moment, not one little ground bird had flitted or hopped from one bare patch of dead grass to another, and even here we saw none. But the abundant birds in the choppy water, spiced by two less-common ones, had us feeling buoyant enough to zip over to Cherry Hill Reservoir for the morning’s conclusion.

Waterfowl on Cherry Hill Reservoir – David Moon

We were pushing the boundaries of time in adding Cherry Hill to the trip, so it seemed important to find a bunch of birds instead of an empty lake. Pulling up to the lookout, we could see big flocks of multiple species arrayed on the surface, and right there in front of us were four Hooded Mergansers. Our arrival precipitated movement of a great group of Ring-necked Ducks from the north shore, in which we eventually found a few Buffleheads and a pair of Lesser Scaup. Ruddy Ducks were everywhere, scattered singly and in pairs as well as in large rafts. At the south end of the lake, a long line of 54 Common Mergansers stretched across the water, as they often do.

Ruddy Duck on Cherry Hill Reservoir – David Moon

On the way to the reservoir, Susan Balser had speculated that we might see a Bald Eagle. Not only did an eagle soar over us in a sky that had turned clear, but a Red-tailed Hawk took the rare opportunity to be the smaller bird harassing the larger predator, and thus we witnessed one of those jaw-dropping spectacles of the birding world. Wednesday Morning Birding sometimes ends with a crescendo, where a multitude of birds shows us how powerful and extraordinary our living world is, and why we can never fail to celebrate and protect nature. This was one of those outings, and all of us went on with our week with spirits renewed.

Bald Eagle and Red-tailed Hawk – Mike Densmore

Bald Eagle attacked by Red-tailed Hawk – Mike Densmore

Our List:
Canada Goose – various.
Mute Swan (3) – Upper Artichoke Reservoir.
American Black Duck – common; Salisbury.
Mallard (~ 15) – Upper Artichoke Reservoir.
Ring-necked Duck (~ 50) – Cherry Hill Reservoir.
Lesser Scaup (2) – pr., Cherry Hill Reservoir.
Common Eider – common; Salisbury & Hampton Beach.
Surf Scoter (2) – Salisbury.
White-winged Scoter (~ 25) – Salisbury & Hampton Beach.
Long-tailed Duck (~ 15) – Salisbury.
Bufflehead (6) – 1, Salisbury; 5, Cherry Hill Reservoir.
Common Goldeneye (1) – drake; Salisbury.
Hooded Merganser (4) – 2 pr., Cherry Hill Reservoir.
Common Merganser (~ 60) – mostly hens; Cherry Hill Reservoir.
Red-breasted Merganser – common; Salisbury & Hampton Beach.
Ruddy Duck (~ 65) – Cherry Hill Reservoir.
Wild Turkey (~ 12) – Ferry Road en route Salisbury.
Red-throated Loon (~ 10) – Salisbury & Hampton Beach.
Common Loon (~ 8) – Salisbury & Hampton Beach.
Red-necked Grebe (1) – Hampton Beach.
Great Cormorant (1) – Hampton Beach.
Great Blue Heron (1) – Joppa Flats.
Bald Eagle (1) – ad.; Cherry Hill Reservoir.
Northern Harrier (1) – Salisbury.
Cooper’s Hawk (1) – Seabrook.
Red-tailed Hawk (2) – 1 juv., Salisbury; 1 ad. harassing Bald Eagle.
Dunlin (~ 35) – Salisbury jetty.
Ring-billed Gull (~ 15) – Salisbury.
Herring Gull
GLAUCOUS GULL (1) – presumably returning ad., Seabrook, atop bath house cupola on Rt 1, just south of Hampton Harbor Inlet bridge.
Great Black-backed Gull (~ 20) – Salisbury; mostly Hampton Beach.
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Belted Kingfisher (1) – Cherry Hill Reservoir.
Downy Woodpecker (1) – W. Newbury.
Blue Jay (5) – various.
American Crow (~ 10) – various.
American Robin (1)
Northern Mockingbird (2) – Seabrook.
European Starling
Dark-eyed Junco (1) – Seabrook.
Northern Cardinal (1)
American Goldfinch (2) – Cherry Hill Reservoir.
House Sparrow – Cherry Hill Reservoir.

Upcoming Excursions & Trips – 12/5/2017

Upcoming Local Programs and Excursions

The Arts and the Experience of Nature with Dave Davis and friends
Wednesday, December 13, 7:30-8:30 pm
Join poet laureate of Joppa Flats Dave Davis and other invited artists for a dleightful evening of words and images celebrating nature. Bring a piece of your own to share during the open mic portion of the evening! No registration required. Learn More >

New Year’s Madness with David Moon and Bill Gette
Monday, January 1, 8:30 am–4:30 pm
No bird will be left unwatched with this group of avid leaders, and you can begin your new Year List with a big tour of the north shore coastal hotspots from Salisbury to Gloucester. Call us at 978-462-9998 for more information. Register Online >

Joppa Trips Further Afield

Birding Bosque del Apache with Bill Gette and Alison O’Hare
January 9–15, 2018
Want a chance to feel the rush of thousands of Snow Geese flying over your head? Come on this trip! We’ve filled eleven seats, but we can take four more. Call us or download the brochure for more information. Download the brochure >

New England: Leader’s Choice Getaway with Dave Larson and Dave Weaver
January 18–19, 2018
What a treat to go to the spots that the Daves deem the best for winter specialties of this New England winter! Do not worry that you will have to bird at midnight on Mount Washington, as Dave Weaver keeps the reins on any overenthusiastic ambitions dreamed up by our birding “machine,” aka Dave Larson. Call us at 978-462-9998 for more information. Register Online >