Monday, January 28, 2013

Superbowl (of birding) X 1/26/2013

Our birding team consisting of Dan Berard, Chuck Caron, Rod Jenkins, Paul Meleski and I left Westminster at 3:30AM on Saturday morning with the temp at 6 degrees Fahrenheit. The wind was light out of the north west but the weatherman had promised it would increase to the 15-20MPH range by the day's end.

We arrived in Ipswich, at our Screech Owl spot at 4:50AM and waiting until 4:58AM to begin imitating this species call and it immediately answered . It continued to call when the clock struck 5:00AM and our first bird was tallied for the day, we tried for Great-horned at this stop but none would answer. At 5:05AM Chuck "the time warden" Caron proclaimed ... "we're already an hour behind schedule, lets go"! Over the next 45 minutes we were fortunate to have Northern Saw Whet and Great-horned Owls answer our imitations at other locations in Ipswich and Essex.
Traffic....always a frustration while owling.

Listen for the "screechie" on this video, Paul and Rod can be heard in the background trying to entice a Great-horned to call.
View from Gardner Road in Ipswich
Our daylight birding would begin on the eastern tip of Nahant where we'd add several common species of waterfowl and a high scoring Northern Shoveler. At the Nahant Thicket we added more common species, but missed a Winter Wren we'd heard their last week, but a Northern Flicker made for a good consolation. Onto Nahant's Long Beach area and despite the tide being down, careful scanning would not produce any shorebirds. Onto the Lynn beaches where large numbers of Buffleheads and other common waterfowl species....on King's Beach on the Lynn/Swampscott border we searched carefully for a Mew Gull 9reported over the past few weeks) and struck out. Around the corner, still in Swampscott,  we added Greater Scaup but the "usual" mixed flock of Lesser and Greater Scaup could NOT be found.
Sunrise near Nahant, Ma.
Flax Pond, in Lynn, was 95% frozen, but at a small open area we found Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Black Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser and American Coot! Now, for a long drive to Jodrey Pier in Gloucester.
A bedraggled Amercian Coot at Flax Pond

The three new wind turbines, in Gloucester, were a welcomed sight, but the speed in which they turned was a sure sign of a cold outing on Cape Ann! At the pier we added Iceland and Glaucous Gulls along with a close in Razorbill, however despite carefull scanning we could not find the Peregrine Falcons that frequent city hall. At Eastern Point we'd add Northern Gannet, Great Cormorant, Gadwall and Black Guillemot. On the drive to Niles Pond a Gray Catbird was found during a roadside stop and Niles produced a female Canvaseback on a small open patch of water.
Razorbill seen from Jodrey Pier

First winter Glaucous Gull from Jodrey Pier
Near Bass Rocks we'd carefully count an impressive 82 Red-necked Grebes, but couldn't find the King Eider nor any Purple Sandpipers. At the Granite Pier, in Rockport, we added Harlequin Duck then on Andrew's Points an impressive number of Razorbill were observed flying past but the 2 Common Murres were a great surprise. We'd chosen to skip Cathedral Ledge, to save time, but later discovered another team found a Pacific Loon...and while that was painful, had we stopped there we would have missed the murres that had flown past Andrew's Pt.!
The team scanning from Andrew's Point.
 Comono Point Road (Essex) has always been a good stop for us, but the songbirds were very much lacking, we'd only add Red-breasted Nuthatch, this was a huge disappointment! However on Comono Point we'd add Dunlin (100+) and a few Bonepart's Gulls. Further along Rte 133 in Essex Dan would spot 2 Bald Eagles but the few Northern Pintails that Chuck and Rod had seen on Thursday were nowhere to be found. A Yellow-bellied Sapsucker did prove to be reliable near the end of Spring Street.

Gardner Road, in Ipswich, is another area that has proven to be productive in past years but this year....NOT! On Ipswich's Labor in Vain Road a Hairy Woodpecker flew past and later it called, but Swamp Sparrow was a no show. We had carefully scanned the sky for Turkey Vultures and accipiters all along the drive from Cape Ann to the Newburyport area, but other than Red-tailed Hawks no raptors were seen.
Dan and Paul scan while Canada Geese pass overhead.
At the end of Stackyard Road in Rowley we enjoyed both light and dark "morphs" of Northern Rough-legged Hawk along with Northern Harrier. Further down on Little's Lane 2 Snow Geese stood out among the large flock of Canada Geese and while there were a few Cackling Goose candidates we'd have to leave that species as candidates only. We were in the "home stretch" to Plum Island/Salisbury area with 70 species, way behind last year's tally at this point, but still hopeful.
Snow Geese with Canadas
Horned larks were contently feeding in the short grass near the Plum Island Airport and a Merlin was perched on a stump across the road. At Parker River NWR's lot 1 we quickly added Black Scoter and Sanderling, it took a little more work to get the Western Grebe but we eventually got it (a state bird for me!!).
A nice flock of Red-winged Blackbirds were in Salisbury and a single Brown-headed Cowbird "within" was considered a bonus for us! Salisbury State Park was our last chance for Purple Sandpiper and we left empty handed. Mudnock Road, in Salisbury, had a number of songbirds near a feeding station but all were "repeats" for the day.
With 30 minutes remaining Amesbury's Deer Island (the Chain Bridge area) was in our sights, usually out last stop. Common Merganser should be an easy bird here and thankfully it was, the semi-reliable Great Blue Heron was at its perch on the bridge and quickly Chuck spotted a Belted Kingfisher. 

Great Blue Heron seen from Deer Island.
With a 15 extra minutes we headed down river in search of Barrow's Goldeneye or perhaps a pintail or teal or wigeon or anything new! The Belted Kingfisher turn out to be our 81st and last species of the day. However, at Newburtport's Waterfront Promenade park we enjoyed a great moon rise and several attractive Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Goldeneyes feeding in the river.
The moon rising over Salisbury, seen from Newburyport's Waterfront Promenade Park
We finish up with a respectable 81 species for 174 points and while this was well off lasts years 92 species and 197 points, we felt we'd done well. With the day's (and previous week's) low temperatures high winds it this was expected. The numbers were crunched and it was a close contest, the 4th and longspurs (Steve Mirick et al) was the top team with 83 species and 182 points followed Wicked Pishahs (Tom Young et al) had 82 species and 168 points and our Burger Kinglets 81 species and 174 points.

Our list from the day :

          Red-throated Loon               Gavia stellata  2
          Common Loon                     Gavia immer  1
          Horned Grebe                    Podiceps auritus  1
          Red-necked Grebe                Podiceps grisegena  2
          Western Grebe                   Aechmophorus occidentalis  5
          Northern Gannet                 Morus bassanus  2
          Great Cormorant                 Phalacrocorax carbo  1
          Great Blue Heron                Ardea herodias  3
          Snow Goose                      Chen caerulescens  4
          Canada Goose                    Branta canadensis  1
          Brant                           Branta bernicla  3
          Mute Swan (I)                   Cygnus olor  1
          Gadwall                         Anas strepera  2
          American Black Duck             Anas rubripes  1
          Mallard                         Anas platyrhynchos  1
          Northern Shoveler               Anas clypeata  8
          Canvasback                      Aythya valisineria  8
          Ring-necked Duck                Aythya collaris  4
          Greater Scaup                   Aythya marila  2
          Common Eider                    Somateria mollissima  1
          Harlequin Duck                  Histrionicus histrionicus  2
          Surf Scoter                     Melanitta perspicillata  1
          White-winged Scoter             Melanitta fusca  1
          Black Scoter                    Melanitta nigra  2
          Oldsquaw                        Clangula hyemalis  1
          Bufflehead                      Bucephala albeola  1
          Common Goldeneye                Bucephala clangula  1
          Hooded Merganser                Lophodytes cucullatus  2
          Red-breasted Merganser          Mergus serrator  1
          Common Merganser                Mergus merganser  1
          Bald Eagle                      Haliaeetus leucocephalus  2
          Northern Harrier                Circus cyaneus  1
          Red-tailed Hawk                 Buteo jamaicensis  1
          Rough-legged Hawk               Buteo lagopus  3
          Merlin                          Falco columbarius  4
          Wild Turkey                     Meleagris gallopavo  3
          American Coot                   Fulica americana  4
          Sanderling                      Calidris alba  3
          Dunlin                          Calidris alpina  3
          Bonaparte's Gull                Larus philadelphia  3
          Ring-billed Gull                Larus delawarensis  1
          Herring Gull                    Larus argentatus  1
          Iceland Gull                    Larus glaucoides  2
          Glaucous Gull                   Larus hyperboreus  3
          Great Black-backed Gull         Larus marinus  1
          Common Murre                    Uria aalge  8
          Razorbill                       Alca torda  3
          Black Guillemot                 Cepphus grylle  2
          Rock Dove (I)                   Columba livia  1
          Mourning Dove                   Zenaida macroura  1
          Eastern Screech-Owl             Otus asio  2
          Great Horned Owl                Bubo virginianus  3
          Northern Saw-whet Owl           Aegolius acadicus  4
          Belted Kingfisher               Ceryle alcyon  3
          Red-bellied Woodpecker          Melanerpes carolinus  3
          Yellow-bellied Sapsucker        Sphyrapicus varius  5
          Downy Woodpecker                Picoides pubescens  1
          Hairy Woodpecker                Picoides villosus  2
          Northern Flicker                Colaptes auratus  3
          Blue Jay                        Cyanocitta cristata  1
          American Crow                   Corvus brachyrhynchos  1
          Horned Lark                     Eremophila alpestris  2
          Black-capped Chickadee          Poecile atricapillus  1
          Tufted Titmouse                 Baeolophus bicolor  1
          Red-breasted Nuthatch           Sitta canadensis  2
          White-breasted Nuthatch         Sitta carolinensis  1
          Carolina Wren                   Thryothorus ludovicianus  2
          American Robin                  Turdus migratorius  1
          Gray Catbird                    Dumetella carolinensis  4
          Northern Mockingbird            Mimus polyglottos  1
          European Starling (I)           Sturnus vulgaris  1
          American Tree Sparrow           Spizella arborea  1
          Song Sparrow                    Melospiza melodia  1
          White-throated Sparrow          Zonotrichia albicollis  1
          Dark-eyed Junco                 Junco hyemalis  1
          Northern Cardinal               Cardinalis cardinalis  1
          Red-winged Blackbird            Agelaius phoeniceus  3
          Brown-headed Cowbird            Molothrus ater  3
          House Finch                     Carpodacus mexicanus  1
          American Goldfinch              Carduelis tristis  1
          House Sparrow (I)               Passer domesticus 1

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Neighborhood Redpolls

Redpolls have become the most abundant species at feeding stations in my neighborhood since the start of the new year. Between 20 and 60 Common Redpolls continue to visit my neighbors thistle feeders and my black oil sunflower seed feeders. While I keep a close eye out for a Hoary Redpoll, I have yet to conclusively identify one.

Yesterday I set out a perch  for feeder birds and it didn't take
 long for  it's utilization.

Another on a lower perch

Showing its "poll"

Diving for seeds!

In our hemlock Christmas railing display.

The upper bird certainly looks like a Hoary, with its "punched in" nose,
but I am uncertain its how far its head was turned.