Donna Cooper and Dave Williams led the intrepid Wednesday Morning Birding group out onto the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge. While the weather was overcast and temps were in the upper 40s, there was no wind, so the conditions were comfortable. A stop at parking lot 1 provided everyone with wonderful looks at the nesting Purple Martins. There were at least a dozen birds coming and going and staking out nest sites. A distant view of two Osprey nesting platforms with birds on them was good to see as was a perched Red-tailed Hawk that was buzzed by a Northern Harrier.
At the salt pannes, folks enjoyed observing Tree and Barn Swallows foraging over the pannes. Willets, Killdeer, and a Greater Yellowlegs presented well, too. At the southern reaches of the pannes, the group got splendid views of a male Northern Shoveler. Gadwall, American Black Ducks, and Great Egrets were well seen there as well. We were also treated to the beautiful song of a Field Sparrow.
The S-curves were quiet with the occasional Eastern Towhee heard singing variations of its “drink-your-tea!” song. North Pool Overlook was also quiet with a Northern Mockingbird dashing about.
Parking at Hellcat, we walked the road in search of migrating birds. Everyone saw and heard Eastern Towhee and Purple Finch while some of the group was able to get fleeting views of Yellow-rumped Warbler, Blue-Gray Gnatcatcher, and Ruby-Crowned Kinglet. A Hairy Woodpecker showed itself nicely for everyone, and Carolina Wren and Northern Flicker were well heard.
As we were leaving the Refuge, some of the group saw five Great Egrets in a tree by North Pool Overlook. One lonely Wild Turkey wandered alongside the road and everyone got one more look at a Northern Harrier working the fields.
Thank you for coming out. Remember in the month of May, we have three bird walks on Wednesdays, one on Friday, and one on Saturday.
The complete trip list is below. Canada Goose – 10 Mute Swan – 2 Gadwall – 8 American Black Duck – 3 Mallard – 2 Northern Shoveler – 1 Bufflehead – 20 Wild Turkey – 1 Double-crested Cormorant – 4 Great Blue Heron – 1 Great Egret – 10 Osprey – 4 Northern Harrier – 2 Red-tailed Hawk – 1 Killdeer – 5 Greater Yellowlegs – 3 Willet – 4 Herring Gull – 1 Belted Kingfisher – 1 Hairy Woodpecker – 2 Northern Flicker – 1 Blue Jay – 1 American Crow – 1 Purple Martin – 12 Tree Swallow 60 Barn Swallow – 3 Black-capped Chickadee – 1 Carolina Wren – 1 Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1 American Robin – 5 Northern Mockingbird – 3 European Starling – 4 Yellow-rumped Warbler – 3 Eastern Towhee – 6 Chipping Sparrow – 1 Field Sparrow – 1 Song Sparrow – 3 White-throated Sparrow – 1 Red-winged Blackbird – all about Common Grackle – Common Purple Finch – 2 American Goldfinch – 2
The amazing Ben and Clarice have been volunteering with us for 21 years––way before we opened the Joppa Flats Education Center in 2003. Their initial training as volunteers happened at the Newburyport Police Station! Over the years, they’ve contributed in many different ways, including delivering educational programs from the back of a van in Essex County marshes, fashioning fishnets from a kitchen strainer and a pole to show kids what lived in the marsh, staffing the front desk, and designing and running the wonderful shop table every year at the Eagle Festival’s Newburyport City Hall location.
We’re endlessly grateful to them for all their contributions and for sticking with us through thick and thin over the decades, especially since Lisa accidentally left them behind on the refuge one time during a school program. Luckily a birder drove by, noticed them trudging up the refuge road, weighed down with backpacks, buckets, nets, and other materials, realized they weren’t out walking for fun, and gave them a ride.
Look for them most Tuesday afternoons at Joppa Flats and ask what they’ve been up to: between arts and crafts, travel, and gardening, they always have a good story to tell.
Susan Yurkus and I sallied forth from Joppa Flats Education Center with 20
or so game Wednesday Morning Birders. Skies were overcast with a hint of
sun here and there; temps were in the mid to upper 20s; and, most importantly,
winds were light and variable. How many times of late have we had such
benign conditions? Pretty nice!
Our first stop was Salisbury Beach State Reservation. Along the entry
road out in the marsh, sharp-eyed (dare I say, eagle-eyed?) Kim spotted a large
juvenile Bald Eagle perched on an upright of some sort. By its size, this
was probably a female (remember, female Bald Eagles are about 25 percent larger
than males) and the white triangle on its back made it a 2- to 3-year
old. Then, lo and behold, a binocular field’s width to the right, a pair
of adult Bald Eagles were perched side by side on a nesting platform.
That was a nice start to the morning!
From the boat ramp, we had excellent views of many sea ducks. There
were a number of White-winged Scoters with great comparisons between adult and
juvenile drakes. The juvs were evolving into their colorful adult bills,
but had not yet attained the white commas through and behind their eyes.
Several groups of 10 to 20 Common Goldeneyes could be seen along with small
groups of Long-tailed Ducks. Many of our group commented on how these
looks were the best that they had ever had, especially of the Long-tails.
With the somewhat windless conditions, we spent a long time watching these
duckies, enjoying the views and courtship behavior going on among a major share
of them. And, commonly seen in and along the edges of the marsh were many
American Black Ducks and Canada Geese. We were unable to pick up Brant
that had been seen earlier by a fellow birder. A few Red-breasted
Mergansers and Buffleheads were also seen along with a lone hen Black Scoter.
From parking lot #1, in the river channel were
more White-winged Scoters and several rafts of Common Eiders. Three
Common Loons were fishing there, too, and a few more Common Goldeneyes and Red-breasted
Mergansers were seen. Another Harp Seal was on the beach, being protected
by a warden. Several Turkey Vultures were lilting above us as we departed
the parking lot. On the way out of the reservation, we had another look
at the juvenile Bald Eagle and picked up two Red-tailed Hawks perched in trees
looking into the marsh as these “perch hunters” do with their
phenomenal eyesight. We spied another Red-tail en route to Plum Island,
this one on a nesting platform along Ferry Road.
While on the Plum Island Turnpike heading for PI, yet another Red-tailed Hawk was seen perched on the chimney of “the pink house.” Approaching Plum Island Bridge, the astronomical high tide generated by the “super snow moon” was at its peak and seemingly about to lap over the roadway — it was really high! Surely there would be many marsh rodents going to higher ground and readily available for predators like Northern Harriers, Rough-legged Hawks, and Snowy Owls. As we searched for the owls in the marsh, there was a critter with ears out in mid-marsh. One of our group was thinking owls like the rest of us, and thought “Great Horned Owl”?? Those ears were resolved into a furry kind of animal and not a feathered animal — a rather large Coyote! And just to the right of it, there was another smaller Coyote. They were just sitting there, getting their feet wet, I am sure, watching us from afar. They, too, were no doubt taking advantage of scurrying voles and other rodents. It’s been a while since Wednesday Morning Birding has had a Coyote to add to the list …
Approaching The Warden’s, I saw a flock of small birds fly overhead and
toward The Warden’s. Turning into the parking lot, we found 17 Snow
Buntings perched on the roof ridge of one of the maintenance buildings.
They afforded us outstanding looks before flying down to the ground to feed on
seeds near the pines. The photographers among us were able to approach
reasonably close for some photos. While there, a dark-morph Rough-legged
Hawk was spotted by one of us sitting atop the “lollipop” cedar on
the North Pool dike. Through a spotting scope, its relatively small head
and bill could be readily seen. In the same direction, “eagle-eyed”
Kim came up with a harrier that had perched low down in the shrubs just this
side of the dike. This beautiful adult female Northern Harrier soon took
flight and gave us a showy flyby at eye level through and behind the
pines. What a gorgeous bird!
Getting into overtime, we headed back to Joppa. Our list was not
overwhelming, but the quality of the birds and mammals (!) seen was satisfying
. . . .
David Moon and I hope to see you next week back at Joppa Flats Education
Center ready for another edition of Wednesday Morning Birding. Y’all
Cheers and warmest regards!
Canada Goose – common.
American Black Duck – common.
Mallard (4) – boat ramp.
Common Eider – common.
White-winged Scoter (~ 40)
Black Scoter (1) – hen.
Long-tailed Duck (~ 25)
Common Goldeneye (~ 35)
Red-breasted Merganser (~ 10)
Common Loon (3)
Turkey Vulture (3)
Bald Eagle (3) – 2 ads, 1 2-3-yr old.
Red-tailed Hawk (2)
[Red-tailed Hawk (1) – perched on nesting platform, Ferry Rd.]
Great Black-backed Gull
American Crow (1)
Plum Island —
Canada Goose – common.
American Black Duck – common.
Mallard (~ 6) – hay marsh.
Bufflehead (4) – from The Warden’s (PI River).
Common Goldeneye (1) – from The Warden’s (PI River).
Northern Harrier (1) – ad female; The Warden’s.
[Red-tailed Hawk (1) – atop chimney, Pink House, PI Tpk.]
Rough-legged Hawk (1) – dark morph atop N. Pool dike “lollipop”
Great Black-backed Gull (1) – hay marsh.
Rock Pigeon (~ 25) – on lines n. refuge gate.
American Robin (3) – S-curves.
Northern Mockingbird (2)
European Starling (1)
Snow Bunting (17) – The Warden’s.
Coyote (2) – in astronomical high tide, mid-marsh, sw Main Panne.