Monday, October 31, 2011

Birding First Encounter Beach, Chatham MA

Gannet's Galore!

Steve and I decided to head to First Encounter Beach yesterday to catch the guaranteed seabird show the storm would bring in and get away from the snow which was a win/win as far as I was concerned.

We'd leave before dawn fueled by turbo and conversation and be driving along Route 6 when suddenly Steve would come to a stop, look at me and tell me we had to turn around. Okay, I say, unsure of why. I see a bird, Steve would tell me and I'd be puzzled why I hadn't seen it. It's dead, he'd tell me as he's doing a quick You Turn on what is called Suicide Alley due to all of the fatalities in the past. Of course he waited until all traffic was clear which wasn't hard as there weren't many people on the road, but it was funny just the same.

The poor bird would turn out to be a Brant. Steve would get it ready for pose and I watched and noticed the head trauma it appeared to have received and a feeling of sadness would take hold as we hadn't even gotten deep into the Cape yet and we were already seeing the effects it had on the avian population. While seeing the bird dead was depressing, it did allow for a really good look at its field marks which are rather striking and something one can't normally appreciate as they are usually so far away.

After that it would be off to First Encounter Beach which Steve thought would be mobbed but the only person there would be Blair already busy in count.

It would take a while to set up the birding station for the day as Steve went to work grabbing this gadget and that, making sure the car was set up at the right direction for best viewing, etc and soon enough he'd be done with the front part of the station where he would be at.

And then do the same in the back seat where I would be and directly behind him. After a short lesson on how to adjust the scope we would be ready to scan the already hundreds of birds that were in view.

The weather was soupy, windy and cold but despite that, viewing was pretty good and I was happy we were in the car vs. outside experiencing all of it.

An example of the conditions nearby. This would be the spot the gulls and terns would be at as most of them besides the Bonaparte's Gulls would not be flying much.

The best shot I would get of the hundreds of Northern Gannet's we would see. This was such a treat because not only was I able to get good looks at the adults but the juvenile and 2nd year ones as well. There would be times when you could look up to the sky which would be peppered everywhere with these birds which was amazing.

It would be at this point, that Steve and I put our scopes in the same area so he could describe to me what birds we were seeing and point out the field marks I should try and focus on as I had no experience with neither Jaegers nor Shearwaters so this was all new to me, but after a while some of it would click and the birds would come closer to shore.

Including these Pomarine Jaegers above.

And this little guy who I was able to get a half way clear shot of which was so cool!

We would spend five hours in the car and when Steve told me the time I thought he was joking as it truly felt like an hour or two tops. Looking for seabirds would put me in the same zone as hawk watching but its a totally different animal in weather conditions like the ones we had as everywhere you put your scope or bins, you would see dozens of dozens of birds. One minute you have Gannet's, the next Shearwaters followed by Jaegers or Boneparte's Gulls which I was really able to enjoy and finally perfectly see those black wing tips and beautiful all white primaries making for a pretty contrast. There would be many other birds that I never got a decent look at like the Dovekies or the Great Skua Blair would find which kind of bummed me out as I think the Dovekies are so adorable and after Steve told me he once saw a Skua drowned and eat a Great Black-backed Gull I was intrigued but alas, there's always next time with the weather we've been having lately.

After that we decided to do a Dunkin's run and head to Provincetown now that the skies were starting to clear. We'd decide to get out of the car and brave the very strong winds and sat on the sand and take in the day.

We'd be treated to a decent Sanderling show nearby as we watched them in awe because not only could they forage for food in these extreme wind conditions, but fly in them too!

Next would come the scoters which made me VERY happy. Scoters are another thing I need work on considering I don't see them often and we would be blessed as small flocks would continuously fly by allowing for some Scoter 101 I am in desperate need of. After a while ID'ing the Black Scoters and White-winged Scoters was fairly easy, but still continued to struggle with the Surf, but two out of three aint bad at this point! ;-). I'd also see Northern Gannet's dive bombing which would again be a first for me and was fascinating to see.

Soon enough it was back to the car with wind burned cheeks and cold toes as we headed to the center of P-town for more birds and chowder.

On our way out we'd be treated to a very nice view of this Merlin who was cooperative enough to stick around long enough for a photo!

The waters would be much calmer here but the same can't be said for the winds. We'd see birds everywhere taking it easy after the storm which allowed for some nice views and pictures including these very cooperative Common Eiders above.

And there would be gulls galore which as some of you long term readers of my blog know, makes me very happy as I love these brazen birds including this Great Black-backed Gull


A real feast for the eyes with the many Blackies and a couple of Herring's thrown in for good measure.

Soon enough it was time to for chowder as we were both rather cold at this point. We'd make our way along the peer when suddenly Steve would get that look in his eye again which can only mean one thing. ANOTHER DEAD BIRD. He'd look at me sheepishly as I followed along already feeling sorry for the poor creature as it laid limply on the sand.

I'd be used to the procedure by now as Steve got the bird pose ready and I prepared my camera for another record shot and wondered what happened to this one. Sigh, the life of birds can be so tough that's for sure, but it is very interesting to see.

And our final destination for the day which would be the Coffee Pot which seemed rather fitting considering our caffeine induced birding frenzies the past couple of days. I'd need to use the bathroom at this point and their's would be closed so I had to use the one across the street. I could never find it so needed help from the parking lot attendant who pointed to the sign PUBLIC BATHROOMS right in front of my face and then I'd head back and I'd be locked out of the joint. Confusion would set in as I was wondering if I was at the wrong place and asked a guy nearby smoking a butt and he'd try the door and see it was locked too. I'd see Steve in there all warm and cozy and my cheeks wold turn red as I pictured myself tapping gently on the window asking him to let me in, but alas I'd be saved by the cashier who let me back in to eat my chowder. HA

Seriously a great way to enjoy the storm. Steve asked me if I was interested in joining him Saturday night and I thought he was nuts as I had the NECN on and they were talking Snowageddon so the thought of battling it seemed crazy to me. Steve would talk all about the anniversary of the perfect storm and tell me to google and and I'd remember him telling me about it on Friday and what seemed insane at first now sounded really cool so off I went and am so glad I did as it was so much fun! Thanks again Steve.

Take care all

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Birding the Cape

I decided to head out to the Cape with my friend Steve yesterday after getting an invitation to join him to search for the Townsend's Solitaire in Chatham as well as looking for Sea Ducks at First Encounter Beach and Yellow Rail's at Nauset Marsh as it had something to do with the new 11.7 moon tide, a canoe, wader boots and extra clothing in case we fell into the marsh which all sounded fascinating so off we went at first light!

The first stop we would make (besides Dunkin's for our 2nd coffee of the day) would be Chatham for the TOSO. There would already be a few birders there trying to locate the bird so we all joined forces in hopes for success. There would be many Yellow-rumped Warblers, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Song Sparrows and a lone Orange-crowned Warbler which was an added bonus but after much searching, no Towsend's so off we went to check out a few other places as the day was still young.

With one of those stops being the Chocolate Sparrow above where I had one of the tastiest coffees ever which was a cappuccino with their home made chocolate sauce which was out of this world.

After being sufficiently "lit" with all the coffee we consumed it was off to First Encounter Beach to check out the Sea Ducks. Flocks of Common Eider and Black Scoters would be in flight everywhere and I'm talking flights in the hundreds so it was almost too much to take in as once you watched one flock go by, another very large flock would do the same so it was fascinating to see. We'd also get a distant look at a Northern Gannet and despite how far out it was, you could still clearly see those black wing tips which is always a treat.

After that it was off to Nausett Marsh to take in the glorious frigid, fall air and look for rails! Canoe's would be parked in front of the marsh which was an encouraging sign, but there wouldn't be any of them in the water as who the hell would be crazy enough to be out there in 40 degree weather. US, that's who!!

We'd get in and make out way along the marsh and the first thing we'd see was an American Bittern.

And it would be in its classic pose! Now I've seen photos of this bird doing it, but to see it up close enough for a photo with my crappy camera is a totally different experience and was seriously awesome as not too many people are lucky enough to experience so its pays to be in the right place at the right time at times.

These bitterns seemed to be everywhere (I never thought I'd ever say that, HA) and we'd continue to flush them out of the marsh at Steve paddled away and I stood watch with my camera ready for pictures whenever the opportunity struck!

But soon enough I'd have to help so Steve gave me a refresher course on how to paddle considering I hadn't done it in over 10 years and I was afraid I'd screw us up and we'd somehow wind up in the Atlantic Ocean which surely wouldn't be good!

We'd finally make our way to an area with beautiful, calm water and the warm sun and poke around there in hopes for rails, but all would be fairly quiet except for a lone gull here and there.

It seemed the perfect place to get out and stretch our legs and try and pish out some seaside sparrows.

And there would even be a cute little bench nearby for resting should one chose to. We never did see any rails, but it was seriously a very neat experience. I've often wondered what it would be like to bird by kayak or canoe so was looking forward to this despite the wind and cold and I was not let down one bit. It's really neat and something I'm looking forward to doing again.

We decided to head back to Chatham to look for the TOSO and there would once again be birders there. We'd spend a considerable amount of time searching for it and were just about convinced we heard it a little before dusk, but never got a visual on it so who knows! The coolest thing would be seeing an immature Red-tailed Hawk who had captured a rabbit and was just preparing to eat it for dinner. It first I couldn't watch as the poor bunny was still alive and I'm too much of a softie for that, but soon enough, the bird was able to end its suffering and enjoy it's meal which was very interesting to see and a great way to end the day.

And speaking of dinner, we would be pretty cold by now and very hungry as all we had all day were rice crackers, pomegranate juice and coffee so we'd end the day at the Lost Dog Pub in Orleans where we had great beer, fresh shell fish and lobster bisque which really hit the spot after a nice, long day of birding.

Take care all

Monday, October 24, 2011

Forbush Field Trip-Wachusett Reservoir

I decided to attend the Forbush Wachusett Reservoir Field trip Sunday which was led by Kevin but decided to hit a couple of places earlier in the morning as it was a noon time trip. The first stop would be Sterling Peat where there wouldn't be much, but did manage to flush 4 Green-winged Teal and three Hooded Mergs which was nice and of course the Pied-billed Grebe is still around and I also found a Gray Catbird which has been rare recently so thought it was note worthy. After that I'd hit Kristoff where there would be sparrows and butter butts everywhere but not much else.

I'd finally meet up with club members where we would once again see tons of Yellow-rumped Warblers and this lone Common Loon above.

It would then be off to Sterling Peat in hopes for the Teal and Mergs but alas, there would be a few kayaks around which appeared to have scared the birds away.

Next it would be off to West Waushacum Pond in search for the Ruddy Duck's which were birds I was really looking forward to seeing so was hoping they'd still be around.

And to every one's relief they would be as there would be no one on boats here, just ducks.

We would also see 2 American Wigeon at the Quag which is always a treat. The foliage is really starting to peek and with the crisp weather we had, it would be a reminder of what's to come soon enough much to my sorrow.

After that it would be the Sterling Rail Trail in hopes for some Rusty Blackbirds. We would again be inundated with the many Yellow-rumped Warblers everywhere which was starting to get annoying but they did lead us to pockets of other birds including one with both Kinglets and lone Hermit Thrush which is a welcome addition to the list.

The Sterling Rail Trail is a really cool place with water on both sides of it that dabbling ducks really seem to enjoy so throughout the walk Forbush members would discover many Mallards, a lone American Black Duck and a striking drake Wood Duck decked out in its glorious plumage.

But alas, no Rusty's were to be found much to our disappointment.

But we did manage to get quite a few Red-winged Blackbirds like the silhouette photo of the one above. So funny to see this common bird now because I realize I will start eagerly awaiting its return next March when the winter blues will be in full swing and any hints of what's to come will be most welcoming.

Next it would be Wachusett Reservoir-Gate 36 in hopes for some Sea Ducks! We'd notice quite a few Common Loon's here as well as some Horned Grebe which was a nice addition as it would be a FOY for me. While others scanned the waters, I'd have my bins nearby in search for an American Pipit which I haven't seen this year so was hoping I'd have some luck. Kevin would have his scope on a lone bird that would be too far to get a positive ID on from this gate so we moved onto gate 37 to see if we could see it better there.

The view would be just as lousy here, but we would get more grebes, loons, etc so it would be off to Gate 39 as this was officially driving our trip leader nuts so off we went.

It was starting to get a little late at this point so we'd see the many Ring-billed Gulls pass by on way to their roosting site but this area would be flush with birds including a dozen Surf Scoters which would be a welcome surprise. This spot would also allow a better view of the lone sea duck which would turn out to be a single female White-winged Scoter so in the end, she did us a big favor as we may not have stopped at Gate 39 if she hadn't been so far away so thank you miss wherever you are tonight. ;0).

Our last stop would be Coachlace for the Scaup which are always a given here and I was thrilled because it's another bird I don't have for the year. The problem would be there would be nothing around and the pond would be bare. We desperately scanned the empty waters hoping for a miracle but it would never happen much to my dismay as it means another trip to Coachlace for me in the near future, but I was very happy with the 5 FOY birds I got on the trip so I was hardly complaining.

After a long afternoon of birding Kevin would drop me off at my car and I have to drive by Gate 28 to get home and I'd see a jeep I thought looked like his. Nah, I thought....Maybe I should stop just in case........I looked at the water while driving and the thought of the hot chili awaiting for me in the crock pot took hold and figured it was someone else's jeep so headed home. I'd check my Facebook and yes it was Kevin and he was looking for those dang scaup and never did find them but did manage to spot an impressive number of Black Scoters and some Red-necked Grebes. @$&&@@!!!!!!! Lesson learned, always follow your gut. No scaup there either as they were probably on their way back to Coachlace, little buggers.

So in the end I managed to bird an entire 8 hours which is the longest I've gone all year and thought it would wipe me out, but didn't. In fact, I went home in a fabulous mood and didn't even yell at the kids for leaving dishes in the sink. They told me I should do it more often and I believe they may be onto something so it's a win/win for everyone. ;-)

Take care all

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Red-headed Woodpecker Westborough Success

I headed out to the Westborough Commuter Rail station this morning after seeing Nickilas's posting of finding a juvenile Red-headed Woodpecker there on Rick's site. I was glad it was spotted here as it's a spot I've often wondered about when I take the train into Boston as the train passes by Sueasco and a whole host of other areas that always appeared "birdy" to me so figured this would be the perfect opportunity to do some discovery.

I parked in the commuter rail parking lot and looked around with no sign of the Red-headed Woodpecker so decided to do some exploring and it wouldn't take me long to run into Bruce who was there for the same reason. We'd join forces in search for the bird and decided to think like a woodpecker so off we went to search the many dead tree snags that are all over the general area.

And Bruce would also introduce me to the areas I'd often wondered about as I depressingly sat on the train headed to work only to wish I were outside instead, but this time I would be!

We stopped at a place to try and get pics of a Sharp-shinned Hawk sitting on a pole and of course the little bugger would fly away before the cameras could even be turned on but were rewarded with two Common Ravens nearby who were calling and flying around like the one above.

And we'd also check out a closed bridge that offered great views of the train station and the trains going by as you can see. I was so happy I wasn't on that thing!

Anyhow, it would be sporadic with not much happening although I do want to note we relocated the sharpie who was actually chasing after a Belted Kingfisher and both were in flight which was fascinating to see as I'd never seen a sharpie engage in that type of behaviour before so it was a treat to see. The kingfisher escaped unharmed and the sharpie went off to pursue easier targets I'm guessing.

After a little more exploring I started getting a little concerned about my car being parked at the train station as I didn't pay my $4.00 fee so decided to get it and bring it to the small gravel parking lot Bruce had his at. We exchanged cell phone numbers and made a deal that if he found the woodpecker he'd contact me and vice versa. I'd be on my way to the car lost in thoughts of my coffee sitting so lonely in my little cup holder in the car and I was wondering if it was still hot when suddenly I snap back to reality when I see a bird fairly close almost behaving in a creeper like fashion. No......It can't be, I think as this would be far too easy.....Out comes the bins for confirmation and then out comes the camera for a quick record shot.

SCORE!!!!! OMG, I think. Must get Bruce here before the bird flies away...I shut off my camera and start running toward his general location as I knew shouting for him would scare the bird away and desperate times called for desperate measures and yes my PT told me no more running but heck this was an emergency. I'd be running frantically while keeping my bins and camera close with my arms so all I'd be using were my legs and figured I looked like one of the Peanut characters and was using totally wrong form but hey, I'm not supposed to be running anyway so who cares!!! Bruce sees me running and he starts running toward me with his "honkin" camera, lens and tripod and neither of us are talking but now using hand signals and head nods to communicate where the woodpecker is.

The bird showed us some mercy and stayed on that pole long enough for Bruce to set his camera up and then it would fly across the street and onto another pole for a better look and better pictures. FYI: Bruce has a much better photo that can be found here.

So there you have it-SUCCESS! HA! What would be funny is after the thrill of the chase was over with I realized all I needed to do was call Bruce and tell him I got the bird as that's why we exchanged numbers in the first place, but I was so thrilled to get it, I lost my common sense and was happy I got gotten a little endorphin kick so it's all water under the bridge at this point. ;-)

After that we'd explore more and he would show me all kind of nifty places nearby that offers great views of the reservoir and other birdy places including an area where we would see over 25 Mute Swans ( OMG), quite a few Mallards and 16 American Coot like the ones below.

And speaking of American Coot, I finally got the ones Alan had spotted at St Philips last evening and was happy I did. The photo came out as lousy as the ones I got of them today, but thought it was kind of neat and almost reminds me of a painting so figured I'd share as I've never been one to shy away from using lousy shots if that's all I have.

Take care all

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Birding Week of October 16th

Figured I'd give an update of sorts considering I haven't blogged in a couple of weeks and after my last extended vacation, I've vowed to at least blog every other week even if birding slows down due to life and other unavoidable things that leaves less time for blogging.

Anyhow, I decided to hit Broad Meadow Brook in Worcester this past Sunday, for no goal birds in particular, but rather a nice long hike to clear the mind and revisit some of the trails I used to call home late last year when I was doing a lot of trail running. My goal was to do the entire 8 mile loop but hike it this time vs. running it to see how I'd do.

Bird activity would be surprisingly quiet compared to the last time I was here when there were a lot of warblers, but the sparrows made up for it including the Song, White-throated and many Swamp Sparrows I saw in various places along the hike.

It's funny because I wasn't sure if I'd remember this loop since it's been close to a year since I've been there, but instinctively knew which way to go and then came to the trail above and stopped for some reflection. I looked at those rocks and remembered running them (even through snow) and the first thing that came to mind was my sanity as I was just asking for injury, but I think the potential danger was part of the fun and maybe some sort of mid life crisis I was going through as what woman in her 40's would be crazy enough to run that....Me of course! HA

And then came the ultimate test which where the power lines. I'd sit down and eat an apple and drink some water and stare at them remembering the runs and the endorphins and while I missed it somewhat, the thought of hiking them was just as appealing so off I went.

The wind was HORRIBLE so bird chatter was hard to get but was determined just the same. I'd get to the uphill of the powerlines and be searching aimlessly for my favorite friend and be dismayed he wasn't there to greet me like he always was.

And then I'd see him. My favorite trail running buddy, the Red-tailed Hawk. You see he and I had a little game going and I honestly believe he enjoyed it just as much as I did. I'd be huffing and puffing along the trail when suddenly I'd spot him. Off he would fly and I would follow until he was no where in sight so it was up to me to relocate which I always did. It was a game of sorts and made it all the more enjoyable and the same would be true of Sunday when I hiked up the hills. He would be waiting patiently a few hundred feet away and fly once I got close enough for a photo. Some things never change.

And then I'd get to an area I was hoping I'd remember and that is where I got my last life bird of the year last year which would be the very handsome Fox Sparrow. It wouldn't take me long to find the spot and do some pishing knowing he wouldn't appear but did it just for practice. Suddenly something did indeed appear long enough for me to ID it and take out the camera for a quick shot. It wouldn't be the Fox Sparrow of course, but this very curious Field Sparrow. Photo came out lousy and the poor thing looks like Igor but figured I'd share.

Another lousy shot and one I wish came out nicer as it would have been a pretty nifty photo.

And finally a shot of the oh so cute Wooly bear caterpillar. He was in the middle of the trail but figured it would be okay where it was as no one was there but me and with the winds I figured it would stay that way.

So in the end I did my 8 mile loop solely hiking it and enjoyed every minute of it. Can't wait to get back there in November for the Fox Sparrow!

After hearing about the Gadwall's Nickilas had found earlier this week and Alan's spotting of the American Coot, I figured I'd hit St Philips in Grafton after work today in hopes of both. The first and most welcome thing I'd notice is how many leaves are off the trees which makes views of the wetlands so much easier.

The next thing I'd notice were the 10 MUTE SWAN's and my heart would sink. Hmmmm..Last time I was there I saw only 6 and now 4 more. My experience with these birds is that they are bullies and harass our native waterfowl so wasn't happy to see them. The funny thing would be that they seemed to be in harmony with the many Mallards and Green-winged Teal who had no problems being close by. Funny getting a view of a teal and M Swan at the same time through the bins as the size comparison is dramatic. There would be at least 25 Green-winged Teal and they were feistier than I'm used to seeing as they fought amongst one another. Nancy had come for the Coot too and she and I watched them as they held their own amongst the larger ducks and swans and we were both very happy to hear their call as this would be a first for me when they were not in flight. So cute!

She and I would be there for a while with no Gadwall or Coot but both of us decided to stick it out as surely one or both were there but in hiding. It wouldn't take too long for me to spot the Gadwall only to have it go back into hiding much to my frustration. We decided to go to another area for the coot and when we came back all of the ducks were getting in roosting mode and it would be then when we would see both drake Gadwall's. Such handsome little creatures.

No coot of course, but will be back searching for them as I need them for my Worcester County list. And last but not least a shroom picture. You all know my love of shrooms and this one was too cool not to get a picture of. It reminds me of the shrooms from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Very neat.

Take care all


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