Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Birding Gloucester & Rockport-December

Alan and I headed out to Gloucester today and met up with fellow blogger Steve from Shooting my Universe. Anyhow, we arrived there a little early so we decided to check out a couple of local spots where we saw a couple of White-winged Scoters including the one above.
We happened to glance across the street where there were a bunch of Rock Pigeons on top of some poor homeowners roof. Seriously, how would you like to come home from errands to see this as you are pulling into the drive way! I will never complain about my dozen House Sparrows again and that's a promise!
Of course we had to make a Dunkin Donuts stop and what do we see on top of the town hall steeple, well a Peregrine Falcon of course!!! Really interesting to get a look at this falcon and how much different it looks from the falcons I see almost every day as this one was much darker overall, especially its mustache.
We picked up Steve and the first place he brought us was to the Bass Rocks in Gloucester where the King Eider has been seen most often which offered killer views of the bird as you can see in the photo above that was undigiscoped as I was able to get a half way decent picture with just my 15 zoom camera.
Was so happy to get this as the the last time I saw this bird it was under less than ideal conditions so I never thought I would get this lucky so thank you Steve!
Next it was onto another Atlantic Avenue near the Elks Club where we scanned around with our binoculars and were delighted to see a large flock of Purple Sandpipers nearby and hanging out with a lone Herring Gull.
They looked rather miserable as the wind all day would prove to be close to unbearable at times. Seriously, I thought the wind was bad yesterday, but today nearly killed me at times as my face burned from the wind. The face on the sandpiper above sums up how I felt many times during the day, but that didn't stop us from birding of course!
Here they are resting. I seriously had forgotten how much I missed shore birds as they are very entertaining to observe. One of the funniest things they would do was land on a rock that was slippery with ice which would cause them to slide some before they caught their balance. The perils of winter!
The lone Herring Gull that allowed us to get pretty close which made for some nice pictures like the one above.
And this one that I love where its shaking itself out some. Probably trying to shake off some of the cold!
I got one lifer today which was the Black Guillemot that Alan spotted. Very cool bird to see even in non-breeding plumage. The first thing that struck me of the bird was just how chunky it looked, especially the neck.
Steve also took us to an awesome place where there were a bunch of Great Cormorants shown above.
Lousy Digicopsed picture of it handing out with the many gulls.

We hit a few other places after that with our last stop being Andrews Point in Rockport as I really wanted to see a Dovekie and that's where they were reported last. By this time, all of us were cold, but decided to brave it out one more time to see if we could spot one. The wind was so bad here that white caps were all over the water and your eyes would water after only being out there for a few moments. Nothing but Common Eiders and gulls here so we knew it was our sign to throw in the towel and go get some food. Steve took us to an awesome place in Gloucester called Passports and the food was INCREDIBLE! I had a cup of hot green tea and this wonderful fish stew with fresh shrimp, muscles and tuna served over perfectly cooked rice and cooked in one of the most tastiest broths I have had in a while. To top it off, they even serve you fresh popovers, straight out of the oven. Absolute heaven after the cold day we had today. Seriously, if you are ever looking for a place to eat in Gloucester, this is it!

Anyhow, we had a wonderful time with Steve who was the perfect host today showing us around and it was very much appreciated. Be sure to check out his blog as he does a fantastic job in showing us all the beauty and charm of Gloucester. Thank you Steve!

Take care all.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Extra Extra Read all About it: There are no Winter Finches in Royalston!

That's right folks and you heard it here first. There are officially no winter finches this year in the town of Royalston. We hadn't heard anything on MassBird or other sources so Alan and I decided to be proactive and head out there ourselves as a public service to all of you other birders who may have been anxiously awaiting news of a possible Redpoll, Pine Grosbeak or even a measly Pine Siskin at this point.

We took the task of investigation very seriously as we headed outside with a wind chill that literally took your breath away, but being a hearty New Englander, I figured I could handle it by dressing in many layers as you can see above. It actually took me 10 minutes to get dressed today but all in all, I was pretty toasty except for my face.
The first thing that struck me when I first got out of the car (besides how cold it was of course), was the lack of bird song coming from any direction, as well as the New England charm that oozed from every corner of this quaint New England town. The photo above will give you a glimpse of it but do apologize for getting the sun in the shot (a photographer no-no,), but there was no way I was going to turn around for another view as that's the direction the wind was blowing.
This super quaint street lamp that were all around the center of town. The only place where we would see street lamps and the side streets must be eerily dark at night.
All of the buildings in the center of town are white which made everything so pretty being contrasted against the snow and blue skies. Despite the cold, one couldn't help but drink in the overall beauty that surrounded you.
A sign that caught my eye. If they had one for Florida I would have headed there in a heart beat!
Anyhoo, back on topic. We got out of our car and walked the streets keeping both our eyes and ears open in hopes of hearing any birds of interest. It didn't take long to realize the birds had other things on their mind besides entertaining us and the only thing we did see was a flock of over 50 Blue Jays which was very interesting as they were all traveling together.

We did hear one finch call that caught our interest so Alan played his Redpoll tape and while it resembled it somewhat, it may have been one of the bizarre calls of a Goldfinch. We scanned tree tops and feeders to see if we could get a visual on the bird in question, but that would prove to be a "no go".
We also saw Rock Pigeons on the top of the steeple that you can see above. Who'd of thunk Rock Pigeons would live in Royalston. You learn something new every day!
And a flock of Wild Turkeys eating seed from the ground. The highlight birds of the visit and that says a lot.
We decided to hit Saw Mill Pond in Fitchburg on our way back from Royalston and I was happy to see that some water had opened up since the last time we were there and the place was filled with gulls. The wind was fierce at this point, but I jumped out of the car for a look hoping we could see a couple of Iceland Gulls mixed in as I really want a good picture of one.
As you can see, the gulls were facing the wing which meant we could never get a good look at their tails which would have helped tremendously in ID'ing these birds. As far as we could tell the only gulls that were there were the usual Herring, Ring-billed and Great Black-backed Gulls.
And a digiscope shot to show you just how miserable it was outside, just look at that face. Not a happy camper that' for sure. The highlight was seeing a lone Great Black-backed Gull by itself on the ice. It finally couldn't take it anymore and had to join the others for body heat. You could tell it didn't want to, but resigned itself to the fact that it was just too chilly to be going solo today. There were also a couple of gulls who would often slip on the ice and almost land on their butts which was amusing to see. Yes, winter birding at its best!!

We made another stop at New Braintree to see if you could get the Northern Shrike and Rough-legged Hawk again from yesterday (see post below this one), but both were a no show.

Will be headed to Gloucester tomorrow with Alan and will be doing some birding with another New England blogger (guess who!!), so stay tuned as I am sure I will have tons of photos.

Take care and stay warm all!

Monday, December 28, 2009

White-winged Dove and Another Lifer from up North

Alan and I did a little birding today with our first stop being The Bird Store & More to see if we could find the White-winged Dove that has been spotted there. We waited patiently outside for about 20 minutes or so and then decided to go in to see if it had been spotted recently and low and behold it decided to grace us with its presence. It was first seen perched in some brambles but soon enough it landed on the ground for photo ops.

The bird is by no means shy and jumped right into the flow of things for some lunch, pushing aside the other birds as if to say "out of my way you, I am a celebrity around this neck of the woods and all of this food is for me, not you common birds". Here it is giving a nice pose to its fan base who were inside watching its every move.

A shot of it in the branches where it was first spotted today by us.
There were also scores of other birds here as The Bird Store & More has an impressive feeder set up in back with abundant food that the birds appreciate like the Blue Jay above. Check out the face on this one, it looks as if someone had a little too much Christmas cheer the past few days!
And this very handsome Hairy Woodpecker who was there with some Downy Woodpeckers too.
A shot of a Red-tailed Hawk taken on our way to the Winimusset Wild Life Management area in New Braintree. These hawks would be everywhere today and I saw 6 of them in total including this one.
While we didn't get any snow in the Millbury area, there was enough in New Braintree to make everything so pretty so it was nice to get out there. I have decided to thumb my nose at Old Man Winter and no longer complain about it for the time being. I have found that I really enjoy winter hiking as it is so peaceful because most other folks won't venture out in it. How can one not be drawn to venture outside when you see the photo above. Talk about a winter wonder land.
Another photo that shows the snow capped pines. So pretty
Micro photography of an icicle that I thought was pretty cool.
And last but not least the Northern Shrike above. We were scanning the area for signs of life when Alan told me to be on the lookout for shrikes and voila, I found one in that instant! Hows that for luck???
Another picture. Wish I could have gotten better shots but this bird was rather elusive and only decided to sit still long enough to ID it and get a couple of shots before it ventured off. We also saw the Rough-legged Hawk fly above overhead long enough for ID, but it decided to go into hiding much to our dismay. Will be headed back there again tomorrow on our way to Royalston to see what is out there so stay tuned! Take care all.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

I did the Westminster CBC and I survived!

That's right folks another CBC to check off for the year and this time it was the Westminster CBC which is notorious for being......well..........rather dull in terms of bird species and numbers are concerned but that didn't stop Alan and I from getting out there to help our friend Paul in need out with his section of the CBC as that's what friends are for right?? We started off the CBC with a spring in our step and a positive attitude because after all, it certainly couldn't be as bad as people told us!!!!! The picture above is of some sumac I took a picture of while Alan was playing his Black-capped Chickadee tape. We sat there waiting patiently as our toes got a little numb eagerly awaiting our first bird for this stop so I decided to take a picture while waiting as there really wasn't much else to do.
Another picture of more berries at another stop where we waited for birds. These ones were purple and very nice under the gray skies. I was praying a bird would land on them for some breakfast but the only thing we got here were three Blue Jays fleeing past us almost to say "so long suckers".
A picture of a river we decided to stop at. Notice the interesting ice island in the middle of the river. Was hoping a sparrow would land on it to sample some of the weed seeds but we couldn't even get a Rock Pigeon here.
Barren roads with pretty mail boxes was another thing I decided to photograph as we waited for a wave of birds to land on nearby trees. That never happened so we decided to go to Dunkin Donuts for more caffeine. Allright, allright, I am yanking your chain some here as you will see below that yes we did indeed get some birds.
Like these two domestics we couldn't' count, but we could count the Mallard of course! And these three American Crows on the side of the road. I was so happy to have spotted them!!! Woo Hoo, another new species to add to the list.

And of course no bird count would be a bird count without the ever so lovable Black-capped Chickadee, even the Westminster CBC! ;-)
We were lucky enough to come across these gulls in the late morning near a condominium complex in Fitchburg. Good thing they were spotted as they were not there in the late afternoon which was when we were going to go back thinking they would be there and they weren't. Great birds to get and made getting out there in the cold much more worth it.

One of my favorite birds the Golden-crowned Kinglet. This little bird actually landed really close to me and I didn't have my camera ready which was a bummer as it would have been a really cool shot.
Mourning Doves eating grit from the side of the road where we parked. There were quite a few of these birds today.
Another highlight were the Wild Turkeys we saw in someones yard.
They were all under a bird feeder for a free meal and some were displaying which was nice.
A flock of over 90 Cedar Waxwings that were all siting on bare trees surveying the day.
And an equal sized flock of European Starlings right along side of them. Funny thing was you would expect to see some American Robins mixed in here as well but we only got one of those today which was odd compared to other bird counts. Another noticeable thing was the ratio of Black-capped Chickadees to the Tufted Titmouse. Usually that ratio is 3:1 which means three chickadees for each titmouse but this one was much closer which was very noticeable while observing.

I hope you realize by now, I am being sarcastic and the Westminster CBC was actually very enjoyable and a lot of fun. Despite what we heard, we did manage to get a lot of cool birds that were just a little harder to find. Will be doing it again next year and am looking forward to it. I also want to add that the folks in Westminster and Fitchburg have by far the best bird feeder set ups of any of the CBC's we have done thus far. Talk about fancy, they are like the ones you see in the Birds and Bloom magazines and take good care of their backyard birds. Very impressive.

Oh and just proof that the three of us did do some owling for at least one of the CBC's as you can see above. Check out the owl folks. What do you think, Great Horned?? Also notice the Pink Flamingo, another bird!!!
But of course, Christmas is not about birds as much as it is family and I had a fabulous Christmas with my children, my mom, sister, brother in law, and everyone else. A picture of my mom and I in Providence Wednesday night at dinner after picking up family.
And me and my two boys I still call kids even though they are 17 and 22. To me they will always be my babies.

Take care everyone!


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