Wednesday Morning Birding Report, March 7, 2018

With a nor’easter bearing down, the second in a week, only seven of us ventured out on Wednesday to seek birds. No significant snow fell, as forecast, but the wind was rising throughout the morning. We decided to first see if birds were sheltering more than usual at Salisbury Beach State Reservation. Not much was stirring on the way over, but we did note the large flock of icterids – Red-winged Blackbirds and Common Grackles – that has been hanging around the Refuge Headquarters across the street. Otherwise we saw mostly nothing until we arrived at the boat ramp overlooking Black Creek, where the assortment of waterfowl was fairly standard. Common Eiders, White-winged Scoters, a couple of Black Scoters, Common Goldeneyes, and a few Red-breasted Mergansers were all scattered over the part of the river, creek, and marsh that we could see. A pair of Gadwall dabbled close in the marsh and American Black Ducks also were in the marsh as expected. What was different was the effort it took to hold binoculars steady, or see anything through a wind-buffeted spotting scope. Happily, my new pair of goggles, originally marketed as protection from cut-onion fumes, successfully cut the wind and still allowed optic use!

WMB at Salisbury 3-7-18 – David Moon

We stopped along the road that skirts the campground to look out at that stretch of river, where we found a wonderful cedar most of us could hide behind to view birds comfortably. The mix of birds stayed the same, with a Common Loon thrown in. It was fun to be so sheltered while watching them act as if it were a sunny, calm day, as they foraged, and rested, and – well, maybe didn’t engage in much courtship display. On the big lot at the base of the jetty, the crowds of gulls that normally stand there stood there, mostly of the Herring and Ring-billed variety. Out towards the wildly tossed mouth of the river, along the jetty, and across the beach, there were no birds to be seen. We stared at the tumult for a good while, before returning to birding.

As we slowly rolled along the access road, there was a bit of discussion about having missed Snowy Owl at Salisbury during WMB this year, a lapse in a year with so many of them. So we combed the place along the way, circling back and stopping for yet another owl-impersonating object. A few cars were pulled over where a Red-tailed Hawk has perched often this year, so we pulled in as well to see how that bird was doing. Quickly, though, Dianne Luby spotted the very light Snowy Owl below, and the empty place in our hearts filled in the most satisfying way.

Snowy Owl at Salisbury – David Moon

Next, we thought it would be best to move inland to Scotland Road where some very interesting dabbling ducks have been reported of late. As you can see, visibility was impaired, but we enjoyed the Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintails, and American Wigeons among the abundant Mallards and plenty of American Black Ducks. The storm had increased in intensity. It was time to go home.

While we ended a bit early with a small list of species, the outing felt very full. Birding with others in such conditions helped us see the power of wind and precipitation in a celebratory light, making the comfort of shelter that much sweeter as we returned.

Our list:

Salisbury Beach —
Gadwall (2) – pr.
American Black Duck (~ 35)
Common Eider (~ 20)
White-winged Scoter (~ 30)
Black Scoter (2)
Common Goldeneye (~ 15)
Red-breasted Merganser (5)
Common Loon (1)
Red-tailed Hawk (1)
Ring-billed Gull – common.
Herring Gull – common.
Great Black-backed Gull
Snowy Owl (1) – marsh, left side of entry road.
American Crow (2)
European Starling
Song Sparrow (2)

Common Pasture & en route —
Canada Goose (~ 150) – sod farms, Scotland Rd.
American Wigeon (~ 20)
American Black Duck – common.
Mallard (~ 100)
Northern Pintail (~ 24)
Green-winged Teal (~ 12)
Ring-billed Gull (~ 25)
American Robin (5)

[Red-winged Blackbird (~ 25) – Parker River Refuge HQ.] [Common Grackle (~ 8) – Parker River Refuge HQ.]

With all of Newburyport eerily dark all day yesterday, it was hard to do much in town. But the Black Cow Restaurant had a big generator going, and one could get clear, up-close looks at Common Goldeneyes and Long-tailed Ducks from a comfortable table. A Red-necked Grebe appeared briefly, and a Great Cormorant stayed sheltered from the violence further out on the coast. A tip for future outages!

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