Friday, January 6, 2012

Nantucket CBC

Steve and I set out to Nantucket via a ferry from Hyannis the Thursday before New Years to take part in the CBC that was schedule for New Years Eve Day.

Steve would take his car with him so we could drive around before hand for birding and of course to have on the day of the CBC so off the car went and into the ferry with us in tow!

The seas would be calm at first and the winds bearable for me despite my sensitivity to cold if I'm not moving around so it was nice to be outside and watch the birds go by but soon enough the wind would get my hands cold and when that happens I'm useless so off I went inside to warm up.

But not crazy man Steve though who roughed the frigid air, high winds and rough sees in his Korean army jacket in an effort to do some sea birding which is one of his favorite things to bird. I felt like a light weight in comparison as I stood in the safety of the heated ferry pathetically trying to do the same inside with my binoculars much to the curiosity of ferry goers, but I wasn't alone as there were a couple of other birders doing the same so I didn't look like the only freak.

The next morning we'd set out to do some birding but of course not without coffee so off we went to the center of town to try and find a place as there are no Dunkin Donut's or Starbucks on the island of Nantucket much to my dismay.
But we would finally find a place that served a nifty cappuccino if I do say so myself!!

Being property caffeinated off we went to do some birding with the first stop being near water of course as that's why we went to Nantucket in the first place.
The weather would be warm compared to Worcester County but not warm enough for swimming so I had to chuckle to myself when I saw the sign above as who in their right mind would swim in weather like this and in late December no less.

I would soon find out as some dude comes out of the middle of nowhere like a Baywatch star and takes a daring plunge in the frigid ocean!!!
Next we'd go to calmer waters to look for ducks, loons, etc and we wouldn't be disappointed as there would be Common Loons, Pied-billed Grebes and quite a few ducks.
Including the very handsome Hooded Mergansers above. After scoping that place out for a bit we decided to move on as we had a lot to cover in a limited amount of time.
On our way to our next destination we'd come across the Red-tailed Hawk above who proceeded to give Steve the "hairy eyeball" as he hung out of his sun roof in order to get some decent pictures of the bird.
After that it would be another coffee stop and the center of town to do some birding along the harbor.
We would not be disappointed as there would be scores of birds nearby including the very cooperative Red-throated Loon above. How cool is that! There would be many gulls nearby including quite a few Herring Gulls and a couple of Bonaparte's Gulls which was very exciting considering I'd never gotten a really good look at them so this would be a treat for me.

There would be one in particular who was not at all camera shy as Steve and I inched up closer to get some pictures at it. I would be swooning very hard at this point and could feel the feeling I get in my heart that happens when I encounter a really cool bird which causes me to feel a little light headed as I drink it all in. Sigh, I'd tell Steve this would be my favorite bird for the month of December as what could trump that!

We had to meet up with one of the CBC organizers to find out our circle and he and a falconer were kind enough to let us see the captive Peregrine Falcon near the airport they use for bird scaring and control much to my delight as I miss my Worcester ones deeply.
Swoon and here it would be eating away an not at all frightened by us being so close. Another treat but wouldn't trump the Bonaparte's due to it being captive.

Our circle included many places away from the water so we decided to scout it out a little and pish out some passerines including the MANY Yellow-rumped Warblers like the one above. Grrrr....Even in the winter they are too elusive for me to get a half way decent picture, little buggers.

After a considerable amount of time scouting that area we decided to head to the ocean part of our circle as you can see passerines anytime, so off to the water we went!

Steve would be scoping as I looked about with my bins when suddenly he located a Dovekie!!! He got me on the bird for me to get a half assed look at it as it was in the water and the waves were rough so all I could see what this fat little bird that looked as if it were drowning. He ran to his car to get his camera and by the time he had come back I had lost the bird.

There would be quite a few Sanderlings on the beach and I'd periodically take a look at them when suddenly, I could see a cute, fat little bird that looked like.....Well...... A Dovekie!!!! "What's that", I'd ask Steve, as Dovekie's aren't known to be on the shore so I doubted what I saw based solely on its behaviour. It's the Dovekie Steve would say as we both looked at it amazed that it was so close. He'd start heading down the wooden stairs to the sand where it and the Sanderlings were shouting that it must be injured as it looked as if it were struggling so off he was to go save the poor little bird. I'd follow behind with camera in tow all in an effort to document the daring rescue as who else in the blogasphere would have something as cool as this to share!!!!! The Dovekie decided to take off at that point much to our frustration as we wanted better looks but we were happy that it appeared to be okay! The picture above is a Sanderling shot I got before the Dovekie arrived as I wasn't thinking when that bird was on the sand as I was too astonished to whip out my camera. HA.

We'd be scanning again and I'd be on bin duty and the darn bird would be close to shore again so off we went back down the wooden stairs to finally get pictures of it!

Steve running toward the cute little Dovekie!!
The cute little Dovekie!!!!! Let me tell you the waters look calm in this picture but they were far from it. I would sit there with my breath held in as I'd see it get sunk by large folding waves and furiously scan the waters to see if it made it back up and after a few tense moments it always did. Add to the fact there were a couple of Great Backed-backed Gulls flying overhead and I'd be a nervous as a mother hen as I'd developed quite the bond with the bird in the brief time I saw it. Steve would be in his element at this point and actually be sprawled out on the sand and in the zone as he furiously took pictures. Id' watch him as the ocean continued to get closer and closer to him and I'd warn him to be careful as the water was getting getting near. Steve would be in the zone though and get wet which caused him to do a back somersault to escape the water assault!
But it would be no use as you can see in the photo above. HA
There would also be other birds around including this adult Iceland Gull above. Sigh, what a fantastic experience this would be and yes the Dovekie would trump the Bonaparte's Gull as my favorite bird for the month of December as how could it not!
We'd end a wonderful day by a crow roost Steve had located. American Crows would be everywhere as the sunset which was so nice.

We'd be famished at this point so off we went to the center of town for a bite to eat. Let me tell you Nantucket is quaint enough with the cobblestone streets, but the Christmas lights made it almost magical! Off we went to get some sleep as we'd have an early start tomorrow as one of Steve's favorite things to bird for are owls!

We'd set off at about 4AM and to my horror there would be nothing open for coffee, so I'd try and caffeinate myself with some chocolate covered espresso beans. No matter how many I ate though, I wasn't getting my jolt and my stomach kind of ached due to eating about 15 of them :-p so Steve would go outside and do his calling as I sat in the car with the window unrolled listening and realizing just how useless I am in the wee hours of the morning without a hot cup of strong coffee. It was still nice to get out there and we did manage to get two Northern Saw-whet Owls so getting up that early was worth it in the end.

Finally, the coffee place would be open as I ran in there like an alcoholic running to the liquor store and would get myself a triple cappuccino. Probably not the wisest thing to do considering I had eaten all of those espresso beans, but when have I ever been one to shy away from extremes. ;-)
We'd make our way to a ball field Steve had mentioned would be worth checking out the day before and sure enough he'd be right as SCORES of gulls would be everywhere. The majority of gulls would be the Lesser Black-backed Gulls and second would be Iceland Gulls followed by Herring and a couple of Great Black-backed and it would almost be too much to take in. An added bonus would be a good look at a Glaucous Gull which would be a life bird for me so I'd be very happy. There would be so many Lesser Black-backed that we'd be questioning the ID even though they were clearly the right bird but it just didn't make sense as how could there be so many of them in comparison to the Great Black-backed???? We'd soon find out that Lesser Black-backed Gulls are more common in Nantucket than Great Black-backed Gulls. How cool is that!!

Anyhow, back to topic. Steve and I would both be transfixed at this point, as my coffee had now kicked in and I could actually concentrate. Add to the fact that gulls are my second favorite breed of bird (raptors being first of course), and I was in my element. Steve loves gulls too so we sat in his car like a couple of under cover cops doing a beat as we stalked the gulls and passed around the biscotti and washed it down with some Starbucks Frapacinno's (yes, more caffeine, HA)
We eventually pulled ourselves away from the gulls and headed toward the place we had the Dovekie the day before hoping we'd spot it again for the count. There would be no cute little Dovekie, but we would get many gulls including more Lesser Black-backed and Iceland. There would also be scoters, loons and others but the most notable for me would be the many Northern Gannet's which I was happy I could now ID even far away just by flight behaviour by all the sea birding Steve and I have done over the past couple of months.

After that we'd hit a really cool place and decide to get out of the car to see if we could flush anything out of the sea grasses, with rails being top on the list as Steve's passion is rails and whenever he sees sea grass he has to investigate so off we went!
We'd see no rails, but we did get a good look at the juvenille Cooper's Hawk above which was nice considering the only raptor we had for the count were a couple of Red-tailed Hawks.

We'd end the day by the crow roost again to do a count of them for the count. It would be pouring rain at this point so windows would be rolled up with the sound of heavy rain drops beeting against the car, but Steve would look at the radar on his phone and pin point the exact time it should stop. I'd be eating again at this point and smile at him thinking, "sure, whatever you say honey" ;-) and then suddenly, one minute after his prediction, the rain would stop and the sun would come out. Hmmmmmmmmm.....Maybe I should learn how to interpret radar after all. HA
It would be so nice to get out of the car despite the crow roost now being a bust compared to the night before as the weather was warm and we were greeted to a beautiful rainbow!

We'd walk around after that and I heard something I thought was an American Robin which had us all excited as we hadn't gotten one all day. Steve would start running to the general location as I followed suit as the sun was setting fast, and we really wanted that for the count so time was of the essence! We'd never be able to confirm if I did in fact hear a robin, but we did manage to pick up a Northern Cardinal which was nice as that would be the first one we'd have all day believe it or not.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend and nice to do a bird count outside of Worcester county and experience the birds that at one point were foreign to me. I couldn't think of a better way to end the year and begin the next one and with better company than Steve.

Take care all


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