Saturday, November 27, 2010

Plum Island in late November

Plum Island, Newburyport, MA

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.]

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