A textbook late fall Plum Island day. Snow buntings and northern harriers in the air. Ducks of all kinds feeding in the icy water. Red-breasted nuthatches in the pines. Eiders and loons riding the waves. Sandpipers on the rocks.
First, the red-breasted nuthatches, which I don't get to see nearly enough. They and the black-capped chickadees were making a commotion in the pines--so much I was sure there was a small owl about, though I failed to see one.
Then the sandpipers. The target bird of the day, judging from overheard plans among birder types, was the purple sandpiper. The tide was low so I was able to walk out onto the rocks. I saw a group of small round white and gray things assembled near the end. There they are! Snapped the photos, confident I'd succeeded getting the bird of the day. And when I got home--hey these look like DUNLIN! What the heck? Oh well, charming anyway. They just kept standing on those rocks until their platforms finally disappeared under the water.
Finally a mystery duck (though I stupidly labeled it a redhead and told at least one other person. Boo! At least I didn't post it to ebird...) This one was hanging with the pintails. You can see it in the back. Dark head and wings, body a little lighter. Isolated below, you can see a yellow bill and yellow eyes. The head, except for the eyes is rather mallardish (yellow bill, a greenish tinge). So I was thinking maybe mallard x black duck. But that doesn't account for the eyes... (BTW, color-blind me had to have my daughter help with the colors, so I'm not terribly reliable here). [UPDATE: pretty sure it's mallard x black duck (I saw another one close up recently.]
It's been a while since I've dropped by Squantum Point Park. Today I was drawn by the prospect of a boreal chickadee, a rare vagrant to these parts. Ugh. Remind me not to chase any more rare vagrants.
You may recall my dismal failure at finding a boreal chickadee in a certified boreal zone, where they are common. I don't know what made me think I would be able to find a single individual in a large scrubby property on a cold, blustery day with merlins in the air. Not that there weren't plenty of eyeballs on the scene--lots of prominent birder types at every corner.
I thought I had it. I turned a corner where the chickadee had been reported, saw a small gray bird plunge into the brush. I waited and a few moments later heard a weird "chicka-dee-dee." That's it! But I was unable to see it again.
And it turns out that the weird "chicka-dee-dee" might very well have come from a fellow birder on the other side of the brush playing recorded chickadee sounds off of his iPhone. In fact, he wasn't the only one creating a virtual chickadee soundscape. Elsewhere a tape player hung from a tree branch simulating an angry chickadee mob. These attempts at drawing the boreal chickadee out from the brush (it was definitely there today) seemed to be in vain. They did succeed in driving me from the park, though. I am very much an ear-oriented birder; that kind of thing just drives me crazy.
Here's the consolation, though. I got the chance to explore Squantum Point more thoroughly than I've had in the past. One thing that stands out--an extraordinary density of bird nests, all low down on the stunted cherry trees. I was finding three and four nests on single trees.
And it's an interesting place to take photos--juxtapositions of urban concrete and scrubby bird habitat. Hello, mockingbird.
Also, a tree sparrow (first decent photo of the season)
And a nice yellow-chinned goldfinch.
And I got my life bird anyway--an American pipit that pipped loudly and flew off overhead. (Thanks, prominent birder types!)
Scoters, Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Salisbury, MA
I had a taste for snow bunting, so I headed up north to Salisbury Beach, where they are very reliable this time of year. I spotted them immediately in Parking Lot 2, drove in and watched as they flew away. Yes, they are reliable at Salisbury Beach--in the air, flying from spot to spot....
But Salisbury Beach on a chilly November morning, right after sunrise--there are few more beautiful spots. (Please excuse my landscape indulgence below. These will fill your screen if you click on them).
The bird of great abundance today was the scoter--white-winged and black, no surf scoter that I could see. Lots of females and youngsters. And a bufflehead for good measure. I like the elegance of the jet black scoter in the lower right corner.
Other sightings, in addition to our common loon below--long-tailed ducks, red-breasted mergansers, common eider. The winter seascape has arrived.
I've embedded the video account of my visit below.
The skunk-eating crow footage is probably in bad taste, but Lily thought it was very funny that anything would eat a skunk.