Saturday, December 5, 2009

Birding Gloucester & Rockport, MA

Alan and I headed out to Cape Ann today hoping to see some of the birds that are starting to get reported via MassBird. The first stop of the day would be at Stage Fort Park in Gloucester where the skies were gray and the sea calm. Gulls were feeding on the shore as people strolled by with coffees in hand ready to start their day.
"The Man at the Wheel"

There were quite a few birds around the area as the waters were still remarkably calm so they were easy to see with a scope and binoculars. Out came my camera in an attempt to take some pictures including the famous Man at the Wheel statue above.

One of the first birds of the day would be the White-winged Scoter above. This handsome drake was pretty close to land so it allowed me to get some of the best looks of this particular scoter yet which was awesome because it allowed me a good look at the bird and some of its most notable field marks. Some of you may be wondering why it's called White-winged Scoter when you don't see any white and the answer is simple.
Because they are the only scoter with white secondaries that you can see in the photo above. Hows that for an answer!
Over on the other side of the water were some Surf Scoters including the two above. Again this was the best look of these types of scoters I have seen yet and find that I am starting to get them a little more now and how to distinguish them (at least with the males, won't even try and figure out the females until next year as that's an entire different ball game as they are more challenging than the males for ID).
Two handsome drakes doing me the honors of a side profile so I can check out their handsome bills! Such stunning birds.
We also saw a couple of Long-tailed Ducks like the one above who was part of a small flock of them.
And of course what would any trip be to Cape Ann without a picture of a Common Eider. These birds were everywhere we went today.
Our second stop would be Jodrey Fish Pier where we saw quite a few Bufflehead flocked together. Such cute little birds that I always like to see and happy I was able to get some photos of the females too.
As well as more scoters including the drake Black Scoter above. Again, awesome views and was very happy to see all three scoters in the same day and get pictures no less as I learn bird ID best with my own photos for some reason. I like all scoters but if I had to pick my favorite it would be the Surf as they are really cool with that bill of theirs.
And I just had to throw in this picture of Mute Swans as there were five of them and what would any trip where one visits water be without at least one picture of everyone favorite pond bird! ;-)
There were tons of gulls everywhere we went today, but I controlled myself because there was so much more to see. Had to include this picture of the Herring Gull though. The bird appears to be a third cycle Herring Gull to me and also somewhat advanced when you look at the lack of streaking on the breast as well as the bill pattern. If you are geeky enough to have your Gulls of the Americas book right near your computer you can see gulls that look like this on pages 165 and 169.
There were also scores of Red-breasted Mergansers here like the drake above. They were all mixed in together and at times mixed in with Common Eiders.

Another thing I noticed today is just how quick Buffleheads are while flying. I normally see waterfowl in the water and have never had the opportunity to see them take to the air much. Very interesting and different than many of the others ducks I see in flight.
Picture taken from Eastern Point I believe (you can see the city of Boston in the horizon), which I thought was pretty neat.
Another stop would be Niles Pond where we saw a large number of Great Black-backed Gulls, quite a few Mallards and some Ring-necked Ducks like the one above.

One of the target birds for the day was the King Eider that had been reported on eBird. As the day progressed the weather grew worse as sporadic rain started followed by rougher seas. We made a few stops here and there to look for other birds and at each stop it became more difficult to see with heavy white capped waters which made searching for birds a little more challenging. We stopped at Salt Island and set up the scopes on some rocks and in less than 2 minutes Alan was able to pick out the King Eider who was mixed in with the Commons which was very impressive!

I got my camera ready for digiscoping and the heavy winds were literally causing the scope and camera to shake some so I had to work hard to keep myself steady and the camera in focus. I take a series of pictures and this would be the best I would get. Sigh....Such is life. Very cool bird so I'm not complaining much as it is a lifer for me.
I got my next life bird at Old Granite Pier which is the Great Cormorant above. I absolutely love this picture because one of my favorite things to see while birding is two different species together because it can be interesting to watch them interact. I'm sure if they could converse they would be discussing the weather and how it wasn't supposed to start raining for at least another hour or two!
Next it was off to Rockport with Andrews Point being our first stop. This place made me stop for a moment to admire its overall beauty like the picture above. Absolutely breath taking views from here.
We went there for one target bird in particular and that was the Harlequin Ducks above. Another life bird for me and a sweet one at that as they are absolutely gorgeous!
And just when you didn't think it could get anymore exciting I proudly present to you a Northern Gannet. This may sound odd, but it was the highlight bird for me of the day besides the King Eider. I've wanted to see one of these birds for a while now and it was so cool to see them flying near land and doing battle with the wind. There were quite a few of them far out as well that could be seen with the binoculars that were all close together and appeared to be feeding.
As you can see they are shaped a lot differently than gulls and they don't fly like them either so it's easier than you think to separate them from gulls if you know what to look for like the gangly appearance as well as those black wingtips you see in the photo above which is a very good field mark.
The weather was getting downright nasty by the time we got to Halibut Point. The photo above is actually the entrance to the path that takes you there which was very nice and would be perfect for trail running if the path were longer as there were no rocks or roots and the earth was soft against your feet.
A quarry that was sheltered from the heavy winds where a few gulls could be spotted including the Herring and Great Black-backed gull.
Rough white capped seas.
And finally another shot of Harlequin Ducks riding the waves that were rather strong at this point. I watched them for a while in wonder as they rode those strong waves with ease and realized I had discovered another reason why I like birds so much. For such small creatures they are tougher than nails and I was reminded of that today. Take care all.


Ruth's Photo Blog said...

Wow! What a fascinating post.Most of the birds you have shown are not one which I see in our area,so this is educational as well as interesting.

Rich said...

Sounds like a great day, even with less than perfect weather at times.

Great shots. Good variety of birds.

Kim said...

Thanks so much Ruth. I love to blog but it is even more special when I know people are learning through some of my pictures and experiences.

Rich, the weather was what it was and I was just happy the majority of the rain held off some. We have snow now which is kind of nice!

matthew houskeeper said...

It looks like you had a great day.
I like the photos very much.

scott davidson said...

What an interesting blog, introduced by a thought-provoking photo. The unusual wall painting of the dwellings is also a strangely modern interpretation. Something like this hieroglyphic view of a park by Swiss painter Paul Klee,
The image can be seen at who can supply you with a canvas print of it.


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