Steve and I set out to do some birding this Thanksgiving weekend and headed to the great salt marshes of the South River in Marshfield to once again take advantage of the new moon tide in hopes it would bring in some rails or bitterns. The weather was completely different since we did this last time last month and the waters much calmer as we set the canoe into the water to start our journey.
All would be relatively calm as we drank in the morning and Steve would give me a refresher course on how to row which would be needed as I would soon find out!
Bird activity would be slow at this point but would see quite a few Bufflehead flying by and in the water as well as TONS of American Black Ducks and only a few Mallards which was fascinating to me considering it's just the opposite whenever I bird Central Massachusetts.
After rowing for a couple of hours we'd get into the weedier sections of the marshes as the tide continued to fill the marshes. Bird activity would pick up and we'd get a look at some Eastern Meadlowlarks which was a treat considering I never thought I'd see even one in November!
After much canoeing, Steve would find the perfect spot to settle into to see what birds would appear. It's all fairly strategic and something I'm still learning but Steve has been doing this for so long that he can tell the difference between the different types of sea grasses and which types of grasses different species of birds prefer and what time to get there in conjunction with the tide waters, etc...etc.... I took his word for it and opened up the bag of Italian cookies for fuel after all that rowing. ;-). It wouldn't take long to get some birds including a lifer for me which was a Seaside Sparrow! The bird would be too quick and hunkered down in grass for pics, but I did get a good look at it which was really nice as it's such a striking bird.
We'd also hear a Sora calling for an added bonus as well as see some Common Snipe which is always nice.
After spending a considerable amount of time out in the marshes it was time to head back and this time the wind would be on our side which was nice as we were both rather tired at this point! So all in all, we would row 7.2 miles (and in some areas where the mashes were so thick it as like rowing through mud) and would spend 6.2 hours in the canoe and while we didn't get many birds with it being November, it was a fantastic way to spend on a warm late fall day and something I'm looking forward to doing again.
After that it would be off to the Daniel Webster Wildlife Sanctuary with a pit stop to Dunkin Donuts for food and coffee as we were both starving and while stuck in traffic we'd get rear ended by someone much to our horror as we still had more birding to do!!!! We'd pull over in the Dunkin's parking lot to exchange papers and would be relieved to see only minor damage to Steve's car and even the canoe seemed to be okay. I don't know what it is about the canoe, but whenever we have it something weird happens. We'd get a flat tire last month and now a fender bender. Who knows what will come next. HA ;-).
We'd finally make our way to Daniel Webster and the first thing we'd see were the numerous Canada Geese that seemed to be everywhere!!!
It would be around here that we'd see a Red-shouldered Hawk fly by which is always an added bonus! Another bonus would be a "pumpkin" Northern Harrier looking as dashing as ever with all of it's pretty fall coloring which seems rather suiting this time of the year.
We'd make our way to a certain spot to just chill and enjoy the sunset and we'd be treated to seeing numerous blackbirds flying by on their way to their roosting site as well as hundreds of American Robins doing the same as the sky continued to turn pink and it felt more like a nice day in May than a day in November!
Soon enough the sun had disappeared and it was time to head back to the car. We'd be walking along the path and could hear the Canada Geese honking away and both of us would be deep in thought and just listening. Suddenly I'd hear a noise and think it was Steve's phone even though it was to the far left of us as he has a ring tone for a Barn Owl so I'd wait for him to answer but instead he looked at me and I at him and realized it wasn't the phone but the real deal which would explain why it sounded louder to me! We'd stop dead in our tracks in hopes of getting it again, but it would be around this time that some of the f*&#*@* Canada Geese would decide to take flight and all we would hear was more hoking and the sound of wing beats as they flew by. I'll go on record and say this and admit if I wasn't a birder, and heard that call, I'd be petrified as it's not at all pretty like the Great Horned or Barred.....An amazing sound just the same and the perfect way to end a perfect day.
After that it was the drive back with a stop at the grocery store as both of us were still starving. We'd grab more food than we could eat including a whole loaf of bread and a block of cheese and inhale most of it, but heck we needed it after all of that rowing! ;-)
The next day we'd head out to Lakeville for more birds, coffee, company and of course great weather! Our first stop would be the Oceanstate Cranberry corporate headquarters where we'd be treated to the most cooperative Great-blue Heron I've ever encountered! The bird would be perched on top of the bridge as we made our way near and we both expected it to fly but it didn't which caused us to stop dead in our tracks and get the cameras ready for pictures. Soon enough it would fly to the water with the Mallards and start hunting which allowed for some "killer views" and half way decent pics like the one above. We'd spend about 1/2 hour here watching it and in that time I realized, I really think heron feet are pretty cool!!
Soon enough it was off to Little Quitacus pond to scope for ducks and the first thing that struck me was just how pretty it was. We'd get quite a few birds here including quite a few Ring-necked Ducks, 5 Pied-billed Grebe and of course the always adorable Ruddy's!
And what would Thanksgiving weekend be without Santa of course!!! Seriously, this guy must have been sweating something fierce as it was already toasty outside. Wish we could have this weather all winter!
After waving to Santa it was off to Great Quittacus Pond in hopes for some Scaup which still continue to intimidate me. Steve and I would do the same thing as we did when we were sea watching which was set up our scopes on the same birds so we could discuss, compare, etc. After some scaup 101, I started getting the hang of it again and started being able to distinguish between the greater and lesser which was much appreciated as its something I really need to do every year but have been slacking lately.
87 Greater Scaup
14 Lesser Scaup
1 Pied-billed Grebe
6 Horned Grebe
2 Common Goldeneye
6 Hooded Mergansers
The day would still be young so we decided to head to Assawompset Pond for hopeful loons, grebes and coot!
And it wouldn't take us long to realize we picked the perfect time to get there as there were quite a few birds and many were so close you could get killer looks at them with just the bins like the female Common Goldeneye above!! Seriously, I never realized how gorgeous these birds are until I saw them as close as I did. Even the female is striking and I love that golden eye!
There would also be one lone American Coot nearby that you could see with the naked eye which was very welcoming considering my experience with these birds have always been so so views and lousy pictures, but not this time as you can see in the picture above.
When we first got there, Steve would remark that it was odd we hadn't seen any Bald Eagles yet and I would nod in agreement but it wouldn't take us long to finally spot one and I'd be lucky in that my camera was already out as I stalked the goldeneye which allowed for this half way decent picture.
After spending a considerable amount of time here, we realized all of the birding we had done the past couple of days had tuckered us out so we plopped down right in the middle of the path to rest our legs some. Steve would be on his Blackberry doing our bird tally and I would still be stalking the goldeneye and I'd realize at that point just how lucky we were to be sitting there as comfortable as we were in late November with the temps as warm as they are. It makes for some lazy but very nice birding instead of freezing my a** off which is how I'm usually birding this late in the year!
3 Common Loon
7 Horned Grebe
12 Pied-billed Grebe
38 Common Goldeneye
27 American Coot
1 Double-crested Cormorant
6 Common Mergansers
8 Hooded Mergansers
1 Adust Bald Eagle
We'd make one more stop for passerines and we'd see one more Red-shouldered and Steve would roll down his sunroof for better looks and pics, but all of mine came out lousy. I still can't get over all of the Red-shouldered we had seen those two days as I usually get one or two a year tops so it was most welcoming.
Our final stop would be Cumbies which would be very quiet except for some model airplanes and a few hunters. The highlight would be another Northern Harrier perched upon a hay bale which made me happy as I'm so used to seeing these birds in flight that its not often I see them which allowed for views I normally don't see with this type of bird.
All in all a wonderful way to spend Thanksgiving weekend and better than shopping any day as far as I'm concerned!!!
Take care all.