Category Archives: Birding

Wednesday Morning Birding Report, October 2, 2019

Wednesday Morning Birding this week was missing its two stalwarts, David Moon and David Weaver, and had to settle for David Larson and David Williams (if that is all clear to you, then you are ahead of the game.) Nonetheless we had a pretty good day. We started out checking the mudflats in Newburyport Harbor from the boat ramp on Water Street. Yellowlegs were everywhere on the low/incoming tide. The stars of the show were six Black Skimmers (4 adult and 2 immature) flying around and skimming in front of us, a good number of Bonaparte’s Gulls, at least one Long-billed Dowitcher, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Black-bellied and Semipalmated Plovers, and more of the usual suspects.

Greater Yellowlegs by Bob Minton
Black Skimmers by Mike Densmore
Great Egret and Bonaparte’s Gulls by Mike Densmore

Once the mudflats were mostly covered, we headed to Plum Island and the Parker River NWR. We spent a few minutes at the Parking Lot #1 boat ramp, but sparrows were uncooperative with the tide so low. Not much was happening at the main pannes and a stop at the North Pool Overlook yielded Long-billed Dowitcher, Eastern Phoebe, and Belted Kingfisher. While there, Doug Chickering passed on a hot tip about a Great Horned Owl near the Bill Forward blind so we scooted off only to find that the owl had departed. Oh well. We joined a small group in the blind and were treated to lots of Green-winged Teal, a couple of Northern Shovelers, 4 Northern Pintail, American Black Ducks s and Mallards. Among the shorebirds present were a Hudsonian Godwit, an American Golden-Plover, a few Dunlin, and lots of plovers and yellowlegs. In the pines overhead, there were several Golden-crowned Kinglets squeaking away.

Mixed shorebird flock by Mike Densmore: Semipalmated Plovers, Dunlins, Semipalmated Sandpiper, and an American Golden-Plover.
Black-bellied Plovers, Dunlin, Hudsonian Godwit by Patti Wood

We next headed to the Pines Trail, in hopes of finding that Great Horned Owl, but it was not to be. We did find more Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Black-and-white Warbler, a Nashville Warbler, a seemingly inexhaustible supply of Eastern Towhees, and general dampness.

We called it a good morning.
–One of the Daves

Gadwall – at least 2
American Black Duck, Mallard, Green-winged Teal – all common
Northern Shoveler – 2
Northern Pintail – 4
Wild Turkey – 6
Double-crested Cormorant – more than 115 (several migrating skeins)
Great Blue Heron – 2
Great Egret – 15
Snowy Egret – 2
Black-bellied Plover – 120
American Golden Plover – 1
Semipalmated Plover – 70
Greater Yellowlegs – 250
Lesser Yellowlegs – 5
Hudsonian Godwit – 1
Semipalmated Sandpiper – 40
Dunlin – 14
Short-billed Dowitcher – 1
Long-billed Dowitcher – 2
dowitcher sp. – 12
Bonaparte’s Gull – 75
Ring-billed and Herring gulls – common
Great Black-backed Gull – 5
Black Skimmer – 6
Rock Pigeon – 12
Mourning Dove – 8
Belted Kingfisher – 1
Eastern Phoebe – 1
Blue Jay – 4
American Crow – 10
Black-capped Chickadee – 2
Golden-crowned Kinglet – 10
American Robin – 15
Gray Catbird – 1
Northern Mockingbird – 1
European Starling 30
Black-and-white Warbler – 1
Nashville Warbler – 1
Eastern Towhee – 10
Savannah Sparrow – 4
Song Sparrow – 2

We will meet again next week back at Joppa Flats at 0930 for Wednesday Morning Birding. For more information about Joppa Flats programs, call David Moon or me at 978-462-9998.

Wednesday Morning Birding Report, September 25, 2019

Hello, Joppa birders!

Steve Walch and I led today’s edition of Wednesday Morning Birding out of Joppa Flats Education Center and on to Plum Island. With high tide around 9:00 a.m., we headed immediately to Sandy Point and were fortunate enough to find parking for our caravan. Skies were partly cloudy; temps in low to upper 60s; and winds NW-SW/5-10 mph.

By the time we arrived at Sandy Point, the tide had fallen a bit, enough so that we did not find any roosting shorebirds before the bend to the beach. Around the bend, other birders were intent on shorebirds present around and in a muddy inlet. There was a good mix, including many Semipalmated Plovers and Sandpipers, along with some Sanderlings and a few Dunlins, the latter two species in their nonbreeding, winter plumage. A few of us were able to pick out a single Western Sandpiper, evident by its russet scapulars and crown. No doubt, there was another species or two as the shorebird migration winds down. Being careful not to disturb these energy-conserving birds making their long movement south, we were able to creep fairly close without alarming them. However, the bane to all shorebird-watching birders, a Peregrine Falcon, made its presence known as all of the pipers and plovers took flight — there had to be a good 200 to 300 birds in the air all at once after the falcon made its strafing run and then continued on its way north out over Stage Island Pool. Of course, these birds expended a lot of energy with their falcon alarm, which, needless to say, offered us some spectacular views of jinking and swirling shorebirds — amazing stuff; lots of “Oooos and ahhhhhs!” How do they do that?! All very nice, but that Peregrine episode meant the end of our shorebird watching on Sandy Point as they all eventually flew off after several passes and potential landings. Initially, some of us thought that Turkey Vultures soaring above were the reason some shorebirds spooked and took off, but then, the real culprit showed up . . . .

Semipalmated Sandpiper & Plover – John Linn
Dunlins, Sanderlings, & Semipalmated Sandpiper – Mike Densmore
Peregrine Falcon (adult) – Mike Densmore
Semipalmated Plovers & Sandpipers, & no doubt more – Tom Schreffler

A number of gulls were loafing at the edge of the beach, including a number of Ring-billed Gulls, some Herring Gulls, and a few Great Black-backed Gulls. We looked in vain for the Lesser Black-backed Gull and Black Skimmers seen a few days earlier. And, nary a tern did we see . . . . there was a Caspian Tern seen in the last day or two.

Great Black-backed Gulls (adult & 1st winter; looks like they come a purpose!) – John Linn

From Sandy Point, we made a brief visit to Stage Island Pool, but saw very little of interest and continued on to Hellcat. Scattered about in the marsh along the way, a few Great Egrets were still present. At Bill Forward Pool, the young Gadwalls we have been watching over the past couple of months, now fully grown, were looking very spiffy in their juvenile plumage. Also present were a number of juvenile Green-winged Teal, the smallest of the dabbling ducks. Their size is an excellent aid to identification, especially when they are near a larger species like a Gadwall — remarkable size difference. While we were looking at yellowlegs and dowitchers in the North Pool from Hellcat Dike, Susan Yurkus alerted us to the bird of the day, a Whimbrel! It turned out to be a very accommodating bird as it foraged for insects on the Bill Forward Pool dike just south of the observation tower. This curlew, genus Numenius, was in the crisp, uniform plumage of a juvenile. It’s a member of the large shorebird family Scolopacidae. According to Wikipedia, it is one of the most widespread of the curlews, breeding across much of subarctic North America, Asia, and Europe as far south as Scotland.

Gadwalls & Green-winged Teal – Bob Minton
Yellowlegs – Barbara Merrill
Greater Yellowlegs & Short-billed Dowitchers – Tom Schreffler
Whimbrel – Bob Minton

As we readied to head back to the parking lot and then on back to Joppa, a Snowy Egret flew into the North Pool. Surely, this must be one of the only Snowies, if not the only one, remaining on Plum Island. We could tell that it was a juvenile from the color of its legs — yellowish-green on the back and black on the front.

Snowy Egret (juvenile) – Tom Schreffler

Next Wednesday is October 2 – yup, already! I hope that you will join us for another fun morning of birding . . . .

Cheers and warmest regards!
Dave Weaver

Our list:

Gadwall (5) – Bill Forward Pool (BFP).
Green-winged Teal (~ 15) – BFP.
Double-crested Cormorant (~ 6) – various.
Great Blue Heron (3) – BFP & North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Great Egret (5) – various.
Snowy Egret (1) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Turkey Vulture (12) – overhead, Sandy Point.
Semipalmated Plover – common, Sandy Point.
Greater Yellowlegs (~ 25) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Lesser Yellowlegs (~ 8) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Whimbrel (1) – BFP dike.
Sanderling (~ 5) – Sandy Point.
Semipalmated Sandpiper – common, Sandy Point.
Western Sandpiper (2) – 1, Sandy Point; 1, North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Least Sandpiper (1) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
White-rumped Sandpiper (1) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Pectoral Sandpiper (1) – Sandy Point.
Dunlin (3) – Sandy Point.
Short-billed Dowitcher (9) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Ring-billed Gull (~ 20) – Sandy Point.
Herring Gull (~ 15) – Sandy Point.
Great Black-backed Gull (6) – Sandy Point.
Peregrine Falcon (1) – Sandy Point.
Blue Jay (1)
American Robin (~ 10) – Sandy Point & roadside.
Northern Mockingbird (3)
European Starling
[Cedar Waxwing – several, Joppa Flats Education Center.]
Savannah Sparrow (1) – Sandy Point.
Song Sparrow (5) – Hellcat.
Northern Cardinal (1)

Wednesday Morning Birding Report, September 18, 2019

David Moon and I led today’s Wednesday Morning Birding program out of Joppa Flats Education Center on to Plum Island. Skies were clear to partly cloudy; temps ranged from 59 to 63 degrees; and winds were ENE/10-15 mph. With the tide low around 9:30 a.m., we headed immediately to Emerson Rocks off of parking lot #7. En route, we spied two Gadwalls and eight American Black Ducks on the Main Panne. The lead vehicle of our once-again sizeable caravan had a couple of Northern Flickers cross the road in front of it. The weather conditions and school being in session meant fewer “beach creatures” vying for parking on the refuge. We had no trouble parking at lot #7. Disappointingly, birds were sparse on the beach and the ocean. Ring-billed Gulls were in and among Emerson Rocks; a few Herring Gulls here and there. About 20 Sanderlings chased about doing their “wave running” thing; several Semipalmated Sandpipers were among them. On the water, some Common Eiders, mostly subadult males, were in among the ocean-end of the rocks. Some of us saw a small raft of Black Scoters. Hmmm, can the cooler temperatures of autumn be far behind??

Sanderlings – John Linn

As we exited the lot #7 boardwalk, a couple of Northern Mockingbirds made their presence known. On to Stage Island Pool, where we parked in lot #6 and walked the cartway to the water control structure. On the bay side of the structure, we had a fabulous show of five Greater Yellowlegs doing their running, chase-about behavior going after little fishies. As often happens, a Snowy Egret got into the act and did its part in stirring up prey and foraging. A Great Egret graced us with its presence providing an excellent comparison of size and structure with the Snowy. We checked out the bay-side shrubs from atop the small hill in hopes of roosting night-herons, but to no avail. As we straggled back toward the parking lot, David Moon called out, “Raven!!” Sure enough, the unmistakable hulking shape of a Common Raven flew over the road and out over the marsh. Nice! A few Tree Swallows lingered, but the tens-of-thousands seen earlier had moved south from their Plum Island staging area.

Greater Yellowlegs – Tom Schreffler
Snowy Egret – John Linn
Great Egret & Snowy Egret – Bob Minton
Common Raven – Mike Densmore

We spent the rest of our morning on the dikes of Hellcat, being totally entertained by the variety of shorebirds and duckies present. Really, a good time was had by all! On the flats of North Pool seen from the dike, were loafing yellowlegs, nice comparisons between Greater and Lesser, along with a few Short-billed Dowitchers. Several other Short-billed Dows fed there in the shallow waters in their characteristic sewing-machine-like behavior. Two juvenile Green-winged Teal also were in the mix, and appearing seemingly out of thin air, were two shorebirds feeding in the center of the vegetated flats — a Pectoral Sandpiper and a Spotted Sandpiper. A second Pec was seen for a brief moment before it was off.

Short-billed Dowitchers – Tom Schreffler
Spotted Sandpiper (l.) & Pectoral Sandpiper (r.) – John Linn

The grand attraction of the Hellcat show was located by David Salt — in the dry, vegetated flats of Bill Forward Pool, not more than 50 to 60 yards away, was a molting adult American Golden-Plover! As compared to the Black-bellied Plover, the American Golden-Plover is smaller, slimmer, has a darker cap contrasting with a white supercilium, and its bill is smaller. This bird’s undertail coverts had molted to mostly white, but some black remained from its breeding plumage (a Black-bellied’s undertail coverts are totally white in all plumages). We place this plover in the category of “grasspiper,” because of its favored habitat . . . . Other shorebirds also seen in Bill Forward Pool were: many Semipalmated Sandpipers, a few White-rumped Sandpipers, a number of Semipalmated Plovers, and more Short-billed Dowitchers. Some of us briefly picked up on a Western Sandpiper. Rounding out the birds of Bill Forward Pool this absolutely beautiful Wednesday morning was a nice gathering of Green-winged Teal, most collected toward the south end of the pool.

American Golden-Plover – Tom Schreffler
Juvenile Green-winged Teal – Mike Densmore

Next Wednesday, I hope that you will join us as the autumn migration continues. Also, please be aware, if you are interested, following Wednesday Morning Birding (1:00 – 2:00 pm), I will be giving my lecture, “Botswana Wildlife & Wild Spaces,” which I presented as a part of Joppa’s Wednesday Evening Lecture Series this past Wednesday evening. Y’all come, and bring your brown-bag lunch.

Cheers and warmest regards!
Dave Weaver

Our list:

Canada Goose (~ 20) – Bill Forward Pool (BFP)
Gadwall (2) – Main Panne.
American Black Duck (8) – Main Panne.
Mallard – some, mostly BFP & North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Green-winged Teal (~ 25) – mostly BFP; 2, North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Common Eider (~ 10) – Emerson Rocks.
Black Scoter (7) – seven ocean.
Double-crested Cormorant – common.
Great Blue Heron (2) – Stage Island Pool (SIP).
Great Egret (~ 40) – various.
Snowy Egret (2) – 1, panne n. SIP; 1, North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Turkey Vulture – common.
Black-bellied Plover (4) – 3 in flight n. SIP; 1, BFP.
American Golden-Plover (1) – ad. in molt; BFP.
Semipalmated Plover (~ 35) – mostly BFP.
Spotted Sandpiper (1) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Greater Yellowlegs (~ 27) – 7, SIP; ~ 20, BFP & North Pool from Hellcat
Lesser Yellowlegs (5) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Sanderling (~ 20) – seven beach.
Semipalmated Sandpiper (~ 100) – 3, seven beach; ~ 25, SIP; ~ 70, BFP.
Western Sandpiper (1) – BFP.
Least Sandpiper (2) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
White-rumped Sandpiper (5) – BFP.
Pectoral Sandpiper (2) – North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Dunlin (1) – BFP.
Short-billed Dowitcher (~ 20) – BFP & North Pool from Hellcat Dike.
Ring-billed Gull (~ 8) – Emerson Rocks.
Herring Gull
Northern Flicker (2) – S-curves.
Common Raven (1) – flyover, lot #6.
Tree Swallow (~ 30) – SIP vicinity.
American Robin (~ 10) – roadside.
Gray Catbird (1) – roadside.
Northern Mockingbird (2) – vicinity lot #7.
European Starling
Song Sparrow (~ 5) – mostly vicinity Hellcat Dike.
House Sparrow (1)