Sunday, January 29, 2012

Superbowl of Birding IX 1/28/2012

Our team "The Burger Kinglets" (Including Dan Berard, Kevin Bourinot, Chuck Caron, Rodney Jenkins and myself) enjoyed another fun-filled day of birding Essex county during the Superbowl of Birding 2012. This was the first time without Captain Paul Meleski (another commitment) but were fortunate Kevin could join us. Due to recent massbird reports and some scouting from Nahant/Lynn and Swampscott, we expanded last year's route to including this southern section of the county, "banking" on offsetting the extra travel time with some high scoring birds.

We began Owling in Ipswich, were we picked up Eastern Screech Owl and later added Great Horned  in Essex, but could not find Barred nor Saw-whet Owl. The next stop was Flax Pond in Lynn where key species such as Hooded Merganser, Amercian Coot and Ruddy Duck were easiy found then moved onto Swampscott. Here a mixed flock of Lesser and Greater Scaup where just offshore and a few Bonepart's Gulls (which has always presented a problem for us during this event). Lynn Beach produced a Red-throated Loon, all 3 Scoter species and Purple Sandpiper.

Early morning owling in Essex.
Rodney maintains carrying good vehicular speed reduces the effect of pot holes!

Dawn in Swampscott.
 On Nahant we headed to Forty Steps Cove, were a female Northern Shoveler had been present for much of January, the cove was empty except for more common species. Off to Bailey Hill and the nearby golf course, we could not find the previously reported Snow Goose nor the Ameican Pipit, but at the base of the hill (east side) a Yellow-breatsed Chat put on a nice show, upon leaving Bailey Hill a group of Canada Geese flew onto the golf course, a Snow Goose was with them! Coming out of Nahant we couldn't find the previously reported American Kestrel from the causeway, nor could we find shorebirds on the beaches.  Now for the long drive out to Cape Ann :(
Perhaps my most gradifying bird of the day, only the 2nd Yellow-breasted Chat
sighting for me! My only other sighting was in my parent's yard in 1984 (in Leominster), when I'd
first begun to bird. Little did I know it would be 28 years until I'd see another!
On the way to Cape Ann we added Blue Jay and Red-tailed Hawk. Typically Blue Jay is not worth a mention, but later in the day we find out 4 teams missed Blue Jay. Jay numbers are "down" this winter and we'd only have a few all day! At Gloucester's Jodrey Pier we scored on Iceland and Glaucous Gull, Peregrine Falcon and Double-crested Cormorant. At Eastern Point we added, Gadwall,  Black Guillemot, a single Northern Gannett and Razorbill. In some nearby thickets Hermit Thrush and Northern Flicker (flying overhead) were good additions. Niles Pond had more Iceland Gulls, Ruddy Ducks and American Coot; new species added were Northern Pintail and Ring-necked Duck.
Most frustrating was a large Gull, that Dan spotted across Brace Cove that gave the impression of a Slaty-backed Gull. It was distant, sleeping, facing straight on and content to be and STAY were it was...on a normal birding day one would simply wait the bird out...but time-lines are essential during a 12 hour birding competition and "robbing from Peter to pay Paul" can be very costly with missed species (and points) later on...we HAD to press on! (Later a Slaty-backed Gull was reported from Gloucester Harbor, Ouch). Three soaring Turkey Vutures over rte 128 while leaving Cape Ann helped ease the "Slaty-backed pain"...a little.
Hermit Thrush in an Eastern Point Thicket, Gloucester.
A rather plump and content looking Harbor Seal at Brace Cove, Gloucester
 Along Atlantic Ave., in Gloucester, a King Eider was spotted way offshore, then we headed for Rockport where Harlequin Ducks were easily found from the Granite Pier. Near Loblolly Cove a Northern Shoveler, that was so easily found last week was a no-show, but a nearby feeding station had a Dicksessel that the majority of the team saw before a Cooper's Hawk scattered the feeder birds. We stopped were a rare Spotted Towhee had been discovered a few days before, while it had been seen earlier in the day it had slipped back into a thicket. We had the feeling waiting could be a "fatal time trap" so we moved on.
 Key species added along Comonno Point Rd. were Yellow-rumped Warbler and a croaking raven from the Point was a nice surprise. A key afternoon stop was for a Townsend's Warbler that Jim Berry had been hosting at his feeding station, in Ipswich. Lady luck was with us on arrival, as Cedar Waxwings were present nearby, unfortunately we discovered the Townsend's Warbler had just left....after waiting 10 minutes this pretty female returned, not only was this a 5 point bird for the team, but a lifebird for me. Thank You Jim! On Labor-in-vain Road, Ipswich, a Swamp Sparrow was present but a yellow-bellied Sapsucker that had been seen on Thursday would not and did not respond to our screech owl imitations or spishing.

Female Townsed's Warbler in Ipswich, Ma.
***Often times 1st year males and females are very similar, it was determined later in the
season, when this bird began is spring molt, that it was male (fide Jim Berry)***
We were heading toward the Newburyport area with a fine total of 81 species, in Rowley we added Northern Harrier at Stackyard Road. At the Chain Bridge in Amesbury we picked up Common Merganser, Bald Eagle and Great Blue Heron in "short order". Off to Salisbury for backbirds, it took a "bit" but we did score Brown-headed Cowbird and Red-winged Blackbird.
 Now onto out final leg, Plum Island, after a few stops a distant raptor was spotted and with a little scope work we'd added Northern Rough-legged Hawk. Within seconds Dan spotted a Snowy Owl in flight and it perched atop a post on the salt marsh for us all to view. We dashed to the end of Plum Island and scoped Stage Island Pool to add high scoring Redhead Ducks. Our last full stop was Hellcat Marsh, Rodney found a very distant Short-eared Owl, unfornately no one else got this bird before in dove into the marsh, a consellation was "flyby" Horned Larks, our final additonal species of the day.

Rod "the foot" Jenkins once again did a great job of "approximate" legal driving, hauling the team over the route.
We headed for the compilation with a fine total of 92 species, 4 better than our team's previous high of 88 back in 2007; and 197 points, 6 better than our 191 points also in 2007. We had crossed path's with Strickland Wheelock's team a few times during the day and with brief exchanges we knew they'd scored some key species and gotten bonus points on 3 species (3 points each). When the final result was annouced "Strick's" team had 202 points to our Maxwell Smart would say..."it was that close"! Our total of 92 species turned out to be the highest species total of the day, earning us the Director's Award.

Thanks to Kevin, Dan, Chuck and Rod for another great Superbowl. Massachustt's Audubon's Bill Gette, Dave Larson and staff (of Joppa Flats) once again put on a great event...many thanks!

Our total list (with points):
Red-throated Loon ...2
Common Loon...1
Horned Grebe ...1
Red-necked Grebe...2
Northern Gannet...2
Great Cormorant...1
Double-crested Cormorant...4
Great Blue Heron...3
Turkey Vulture...5
Snow Goose...4
Canada Goose...1
Brant Branta...3
Mute Swan...1
Gadwall ...2
American Black Duck...1
Mallard ...1
Northern Pintail...3
Ring-necked Duck ...4
Greater Scaup...2
Lesser Scaup...3
King Eider...4
Common Eider...1
Harlequin Duck...2
Surf Scoter...1
White-winged Scoter .... 1
Black Scoter ...2
Common Goldeneye...1
Hooded Merganser ...2
Red-breasted Merganser...1
Common Merganser...1
Ruddy Duck...4
Bald Eagle...2
Northern Harrier...1
Cooper's Hawk ...3
Red-tailed Hawk...1
Rough-legged Hawk... 3
Peregrine Falcon...3
Wild Turkey...3
American Coot...4
Purple Sandpiper...2
Bonaparte's Gull...3
Ring-billed Gull...1
Herring Gull ...1
Iceland Gull...2
Glaucous Gull...3
Great Black-backed Gull...1
Black Guillemot...2
Rock Dove...1
Mourning Dove...1
Eastern Screech-Owl ...2
Great Horned Owl ...3
Snowy Owl ...3
Belted Kingfisher...3
Red-bellied Woodpecker...3
Downy Woodpecker...1
Hairy Woodpecker...2
Northern Flicker...3
Blue Jay...1
American Crow...1
Common Raven...4
Horned Lark...2
Black-capped Chickadee...1
Tufted Titmouse... 1
White-breasted Nuthatch...1
Brown Creeper...3
Carolina Wren...2
Golden-crowned Kinglet ...2
Eastern Bluebird...3
Hermit Thrush ...3
American Robin...1
Northern Mockingbird....1
European Starling...1
Cedar Waxwing ...2
Yellow-rumped Warbler ...3
Yellow-breasted ... 5
American Tree Sparrow ...1
Song Sparrow...1
Swamp Sparrow...3
White-throated Sparrow...1
Dark-eyed Junco...1
Northern Cardinal...1
Red-winged Blackbird...3
Brown-headed Cowbird... 3
House Finch ...1
American Goldfinch...1
House Sparrow....1
Townsend's Warbler.... 5

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