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DVOC Field Trip Report
by Adrian Binns

February 19-21, 2005
New England

Day 1: Groveland – Veasy Park; Salisbury Beach; Newburyport – Cashman Park, Chain Bridge, Buck St, Seawall, Plum Island (Parker River NWR)

Not too far away from Newburyport, a Red-shouldered Hawk had been overwintering in a park near Groveland. A walk up and over the crest of a hill and Deborah soon spotted the adult sitting along the edge of the woods, well camouflaged at the base of the hill. At one stage it flew a short distance into the woods to hunt before flying out and landing on a lone stately tree on the hillside. In the woods, Tufted Titmouse, American Goldfinch and Cardinal could be heard along with Dark-eyed Junco’s and Black-capped Chickadees at the feeders in a backyard that backed up to the woods. From here we went straight to Salisbury Beach State Park; drove straight into campground site F12 and low and behold what was staring at us only 20 feet away low in a pine tree, but a Short-eared Owl! Once everyone had seen it well we backed out and had extraordinary views of it through the scope, at times seeing just one yellow eye peering through the needles. Thanks Scott. Our first look at the Merrimac River produced the usual gulls, Ringed-billed, Herring and Great Black-backed, Gadwall, Common Eider, Bufflehead, Greater Scaup, Red-breasted Merganser and half a dozen Horned Larks. Looking over the jetty, eiders were in a large raft and four Common Loons were sighted. Frank picked out a 1st year Iceland Gull amongst the gulls and we soon had a wonderful study of young Iceland and Herrings as they stood side by side in the car park.

In Newburyport we began at Cashman Park where the light was perfect for viewing. Sorting through the numerous Common Goldeneye’s, Bill found a male Barrow’s, which was a life bird for several in the group. Common Mergansers were on the far side of the Merrimac and a Red-necked Grebe worked its way up river. At the Chain Bridge, Great Cormorants were common in flight, showing their white flank patches. Colin spotted a Double-crested and a juvenile and adult Bald Eagle put on a nice show. In town we had no luck with the Varied Thrush, but will no doubt try at a better time of the day. The seawall was crowded with other birders, but we soon located Iceland Gulls - an adult with very dark primaries along with one with lighter primaries and at least 2 other young birds. It has been a good year for Iceland’s here in Massachusetts. Our last stop was at Plum Island, where we searched for Snowy Owl. First we came upon a group of raptors that consisted of 6 Northern Harriers and a Red-tailed Hawk. At Hellcat we walked out to the tower and under calm conditions, for once, scanned and scanned. Frank soon shouted, “I have one”, and indeed he did have a Snowy, the only problem was that it was in another county. Atop the tower Butch followed with “I have one”, and indeed he did have one, the only problem was it was in another zip code. What eyes those two have! I should rephrase that, but those that know me know what I mean. At least this one we could get closer to by driving. Scopes views near the maintenance building showed that it likely was an adult male. From here we headed down to Stage Island Pool and Emmerson Rocks. By now it was probably too late to locate the Northern Shrike that was seen a half hour earlier. On the beach we watched as a young Grey Seal ( a rare sight at this time of year) was making his way back into the surf as a photographer took pictures. All three scoters along with a Horned Grebe were seen just beyond Emmerson Rocks. Just before exiting the refuge, we watched a close Snowy Owl sitting on the ice at the Salt Pannes for a short while before taking off and landing on an ice float in the marsh. A fitting way to end the day.

Day 2: Newburyport - Buck Street, Little’s Lane; Rowley - Cross Street; Cape Ann - Gloucester Fishing Pier, Rocky Neck, Niles Beach, Eastern Point breakwater; Rockport granite pier; Hallibut Point

Following a hearty breakfast we were back for another crack at the Varied Thrush, with the same results as yesterday. At Little’s Lane there was little snow covering the fields and no longspurs or buntings to be seen. We did however see a pair of Downy Woodpeckers drumming! At Cross Street, the Screech Owl hole remains as enticing as ever but where is the bird? Here a Flicker and Blue Jays were the most vocal birds. On Cape Ann, we dropped off Frank for a surprise visit with his daughter and grand daughter. Did she know that she had Iceland Gulls for yard birds? I don’t think she cared. So much for the influence her father had on her. After a visited to the police station for the annual booking, we stopped at the fishing pier. Here Red-breasted Mergansers were numerous along with a few Greater Scaups and one Lesser Scaup, Common Loon and Horned Grebe, but it was the Iceland Gulls that kept us busy. All but one was a 1st year bird, and there lots of them, probably too many to get an accurate count, but well over a dozen, maybe 20 plus. Never had I seen so many. White ones, cream ones and coffee colored ones allowing us to see what a range of color they can come in. Also of interest here were the displaying Great Black-backed Gulls pairing off and giving an eerie crying call. Continuing around the coast, Rocky Neck was relatively deserted and the mythical Eared Grebe as elusive as Jimmy Hoffa. At Niles Beach Frank had a good look at a Glaucous Gull, but no one else could get on it as it vanished over the mansions towards Niles Pond. Once we reached the pond a dog flushed the gulls standing on the ice, making it impossible to see if it was amongst them. At Eastern Point Lighthouse a good breeze and bright sunshine made for tough viewing conditions but we did manage to find a Black Guillemot several hundred yards out at sea. It took a little while but everyone except for one person who will go nameless (for a few seconds) got to see it. Butch spotted one even closer and much to everyone’s relief Frank saw this one. A Common Loon was also at sea and a pair of Gadwall worked their way around the coast line towards the jetty. Colin, who was hunkered down just beyond the jetty had a Red-throated Loon fly over. From here it was onto Rockport where we had great success at the Granite Pier. As a couple of birdwatchers were leaving, they told us that they had a Red-necked Grebe and Thick-billed Murre, but no King Eider. Well, we also had 2 out of 3, not being able to find the Murre. However we had great looks at 2 Black Guillemots, 7 Harlequins, Common Eider and the bird of the trip, an almost fully breeding plumaged King Eider that was resting on the rocky island just off the pier. After a short while it took to the water and proceeded to ride out not too far, preen, bathe and work its way back in, all the time his inner scapulars were raised forming 2 prominent points on his mantle. What a show and sight through the scope. At the northern tip of Cape Ann is Hallibut Point. Here, no doubt due to the westerly winds, there was little to be seen despite a great deal of searching. Harlequin’s again were close to the shore and the only other bird of note was an extended view of a Razorbill that flew close by and around the point for everyone to get in the scope for a good long look and this chunky alcid – not bad at all. After the obligatory stop at Friendly’s for Vienna Mocha Chunk, by now everyone’s favorite, we finished up at Plum Island, searching in vain for a Northern Shrike but settling for a Snowy Owl in flight and perched on an ice float, thanks to Butch and finishing the day at dusk with all 3 scoters at sea.

Day 3: Snow and more Snow

The promised snow storm was well under way by the time we awoke and after watching it continue to fall and visibly deteriorate while we were at breakfast, we decide to abandon any idea of birding the Maine coast and instead headed south out of the storm. The idea was to bird Sandy Hook where we expected the conditions to be a great deal better, but Deborah’s condition worsened the further south we went and the journey took longer than expected and in the end birding was out of the question. There will be a next time.
Adrian Binns

SYSTEMATIC LIST OF SPECIES SEEN - NEW ENGLAND Feb 2005


BIRDS
Red-throated Loon - Colin had 1 flying over the Eastern Point lighthouse
Common Loon - Up to 6 a day
Horned Grebe - Up to 5 a day
Red-necked Grebe - 1 on the Merrimac at Cashman Park and 1 at Granite Pier
Double-crested Cormorant - 1 on the Merrimac
Great Cormorant - Numerous, especially near the chain bridge
Great Blue Heron - 1 near the chain bridge
Canada Goose - Up to 100 a day
Brant - 9 flying over Gloucester fishing pier
Mute Swan - Up to 10 a day
American Black Duck - Up to 20+ a day
Mallard - Abundant
Greater Scaup - Up to 20 a day
Lesser Scaup - 1 at Gloucester fishing pier
King Eider - 1 at Rockport Granite Pier
Common Eider - 500+ on day 1 and 100+ on day 2
Harlequin Duck - 36 between the Granite Pier and Hallibut Point
Surf Scoter - 1 at Emmerson Rocks; 12 off of the 1st parking lot at Plum Island
White-winged Scoter - The most common scoter though seen in very low numbers. 30-50 daily!
Black Scoter - Up to 6 daily
Long-tailed Duck - Up to 3 on the Merrimac at off of Plum Island
Bufflehead - Up to 12 a day
Common Goldeneye - 50+ daily
Barrow's Goldeneye - 1 male at Cashman Park
Hooded Merganser - A pair on the river at Ipswich
Common Merganser - Up to 15+ daily, mainly on the Merrimac
Red-breasted Merganser - 40+ daily with close views at Gloucester fishing pier
Bald Eagle - An adult and 2 immatures near the chian bridge on the Merrimac
Northern Harrier - Up to 6 seen daily at Plum Island; 1 at Salisbury Beach
Sharp-shinned Hawk - Singles at Salisbury Beach; Gloucester
Cooper's Hawk - 1 near Cape Ann
Red-shouldered Hawk - 1 at Veasy Park in Groveland
Red-tailed Hawk - Up to 6 seen daily
American Kestrel - 1 in Newburyport by the airport
sandpiper sp - Just north of the Salt Pannes on Plum Island a 'lesser yellowlegs' sized bird was seen flying in, though we could not locate it
Ring-billed Gull - 100+ daily
Herring Gull - 200+ daily
Iceland Gull - 1 at Salisbury Beach; 4 at Newburyport Seawall; 2 in Gloucester; 15+ at Gloucester fishing pier
Glaucous Gull - Frank saw one flying over Niles Beach
Great Black-backed Gull - Up to 30+ daily
Razorbill - Great looks at one in flight at Hallibut Point
Black Guillemot - 2 at Eastern Point Breakwater and 2 at Granite Pier
Rock Pigeon - Seen daily in small numbers
Mourning Dove - Up to 15 seen daily
Snowy Owl - 3 on Plum Island on the 1st day and 1 on the 2nd day
Short-eared Owl - 1 at Salisbury Beach campground
Downy Woodpecker - 1 at Salisbury; 2 at Little's Lane
Hairy Woodpecker - 1 at Gloveland
Northern Flicker - 1 near the Chain Bridge; 1 heard at Cross Street
Blue Jay - Up to 10 seen daily
American Crow - Up to 40 a day
Horned Lark - 6 at Salisbury Beach seen from the boat ramp
Black-capped Chickadee - Up to 16 a day
Tufted Titmouse - Up to 17 daily
White-breasted Nuthatch - 2 at Salisbury
Carolina Wren - Heard at Veasy Park
American Robin - 15 around Newburyport / Plum Island; 2 on Cape Ann
Northern Mockingbird - A total of 3 seen
European Starling - Up to 60 seen daily
Cedar Waxwing - Connie and those at her table at breakfast, saw a group of about 20
Yellow-rumped Warbler - JoAnn picked up one at the feeders adjacent to Veasy Park
American Tree Sparrow - About a dozen seen daily
Song Sparrow - 1 on Cape Ann
Dark-eyed Junco - A dozen seen daily
Northern Cardinal - 3 seen in all
Red-winged Blackbird - 1 near Groveland
Common Grackle - 1 near Salisbury Beach
Brown-headed Cowbird - 1 near Groveland
House Finch - Up to 20 near Newburyport and 4 on Cape Ann
American Goldfinch - 40+ at Veasy Park; 4 on Cape Ann
House Sparrow - Up to 40+ daily


MAMMALS
Red Squirrel - 1 at Veasy Park in Groveland
Eastern Gray Squirrel - Up to 3 seen daily
Harbor Seal - 1 at the Merrimac and 1 at Rocky Point
Grey Seal - 1 at Emmerson Rocks on Plum Island