And there right before our eyes was this very handsome Merlin that was soaking in the rays and looking for a little breakfast.
We carefully got out of the car and Alan set up his scope to get a better look at the bird so I decided to get some pictures as one can never have enough close up shots of a Merlin!
He continued to look around for breakfast but would occasionally look our way to see what we were up to.
The bird didn't seem at all disturbed by our presence and it soon became clear why the trees were bare as all of the birds were either in hiding or decided to venture off somewhere else!
Last shot that I got while we were driving away on the other side. Sigh, such a gorgeous bird.
We got our scopes out and decided to scan the waters and were thrilled to get this Red-throated Loon above. Lifer! Notice the grainy neck as well as the white face and undersides. Also notice the loon appears to have something in its bill, but don't know what it is. Very interesting and a great bird to get for the year.
The next notable birds we saw where the Snow Buntings like the one above.
We decided to head to the Warden's Station to see if we could spot the Snowy Owl and I could spot two birds that blended in very well with their surroundings which of course were the Snow Buntings. Not really a lifer per say, but I didn't put them on my list until now as I saw them vaguely the last time I was at Plum and didn't get the look I wanted to get them on my list until now.
There were also scores of Northern Harriers where ever we went at both Salisbury and Plum Island like the one above.
LOVE this shots as it really shows how long the harriers slim wings and tail are.
We soon ran into Tom W and asked him if the Snowy had been spotted today and sure enough it was so off we went in search for it. We search trees, brush, and everything else around us and all we can see are remaining snow banks and ice forms along the frozen marshes like the one above.
Or at least that's what it looked like to me with my binoculars until Alan tells me that the owl is in fact in with the snow banks as his eyes were sharp enough to spot it with his scope which by no means was an easy task!!! Check it out all! My first lousy photo of a Snowy Owl! Pictures came out real lousy due to many factors including the distance of the bird to us, a camera that is really not made for digiscoping and the fact that the bird is all white so unless you have a real fancy camera, contrast can be a challenge.
After that we headed to the beach to search for waterfowl and saw many including Black Scoters, White-winged Scoters and tons of Common Eiders. We also came across this hut above. I'm thinking it's the official Plum Island Dog House where many birders have spent a night or two due to spouses fed up with all of their Plum Island birding ! Looks rather comfy though if I do say so myself for all of you in that situation!
On our way back from the beach we ran into raptor expert Paul Roberts who told us of a Rough- legged Hawk he and two other gentlemen had spotted. My pulse quickened as excitement took over as this bird was on my target list for the year. Yes I know I say that about all of the birds but this one was on the high priority target list which trumps all other target lists you see. We went off to search for the hawk where we met up with Paul and the other two again as they had re-spotted the hawk! Out came the scopes in an attempt to get a look at it as well as a record shot before venturing further trying to get a little closer just in case we may spook it away.
The hawk decided to take off just as we all were making our way a little closer and while this was discouraging we were able to witness what appeared to be hover hunting or kiting which was a thrill for me as I had never seen it before. Both photos are poor but am glad I got record shots including the one above as you all know my fondness for lousy raptor flight photos because this is often how you see birds when hawkwatching! Special thanks to Paul and his two friends as this bird made my day besides the Snowy Owl of course!
While leaving we could see a photographer we had met up with earlier at Hellcat and we could tell he was onto something as he appeared to be "in the zone". If you look to the left of the two signs to the right you will see a tiny white form which was again the Snowy Owl!
Another lousy shot but was happy to see this bird again as it is a beauty. All in all, a fantastic day with 4 new life birds to add to my list!
Will be getting up in the wee hours tomorrow for my first Christmas Bird Count which is the Sturbridge one. Very excited to do this and am very happy the Dunkin Donuts in town is open 24 hours as I have a feeling I will need a lot of coffee for some intense birding. Take care all!