new birds for the year nor had I really seen anything rare. As I wrote last week, I planned on going up last week but couldn't bring myself to take the 200 mile round trip. I knew I'd have to go up there one more time to get some winter target species. I always have Fridays off from work, but the weather forecast for this Friday (as of this writing, tomorrow) was for heavy rain in the morning. However late Wednesday afternoon I was told I would have Thursday off (today). The weather was much better. The daytime high was about 55. I knew it would be overcast with a SE wind of about 15 knots. Not too bad, so off I went.
I had a few "target"species for the day. They were in no particular order
Snowy owl (seen at Salisbury St. Beach yesterday)
Long Tailed Duck
Red Throated Loon
These were birds I drove there to see. Of course, any and all other cool species were welcome to join the party.
I started off at Salisbury Beach looking for the owl. After a few minutes at the beach, I thought my prospects for the day were sort of bleak. I didn't find the owl. I went to the beach with my spotting scope. There were birds out the mouth of the Merrimack. I could tell a lot of them were Common Eiders and Scooters. The only problem was they were really far out. With the wind, my spotting scope wouldn't stay still. Because of the scope shaking in the wind, on high power, it was tough to identify the birds. I could tell some of the scooters were black, while some of the others were white winged, but the ones that were to far out, I could merely guess.
The highlight of my time at Salisbury was the seals on the rocks inside the river. There are some rocks about 100 yards out that the seals haul out on. I counted at least sixty seals. This is a low ball estimate, because I am sure some were behind large boulders and other seals out of my line of site.
|American Black Duck|
difficult thanks to the wind. Still, I was hoping to see some of my target species. I decided to drive to the end of the road at Emerson Rocks and work my way back towards the entrance. At Emerson Rocks, I saw some black scooters that were not too far out. They are a common bird. Even though they are on my target list, it was only because I did not identify any my last two times at Plum. I was still happy to see them.
I then went back to Parking Lot 5. There I saw some loons. In the winter, loons have a completely different plumage than they do in the summer. Gone is the black head and black body with white dots. In the winter all species of loons are a much more drab grey and white. There are subtle differences. The loon we have summering in the northeast is the Common Loon. The Red Throated Loon lives in the far north by the Arctic. In the winter, it will be off many coastal areas of New England. The surest way to tell the two species apart is, the Red Throated swims with its beak in the air slanted toward the sky. The common loon swims with its beak perpendicular to the water. I saw a loon with its head tilted, and am happy to report I saw a Red Throated.
Next up, by the Stage Island Pool I saw a bunch of birds on the ground. They would rise up in a flock circle around the area then land back in the same area. They were showing a lot of white. I was pretty sure right away they were snow buntings. I got my scope on them and watched them for ten minutes.
After I left the buntings I went to the Bill Forward Pool. This is always a good area for ducks (and shorebirds in early autumn). The pool did not disappoint. There were five species of ducks. I saw mallards, black ducks, green wing teal, pintails and American widgeon. I also saw a great blue heron and a Northern Harrier (one of four for the day)
I also saw two falcons today. One was certainly a Merlin. I was at Lot 1 hoping to see a long tailed duck when the falcon came buzzing past. It landed on a plastic pipe about 30 yards away. I put my scope on it and watched it for a minute before it took off again.
The second falcon, I assume was a Merlin, but didn't see it very well. I was standing outside my car looking at some ducks in a marsh. The falcon blew right by me heading north. I jumped in my car and tried to follow it. It was using the roadway as its highway. I followed it up to 40 mph and it still was distancing itself from me. Since the speed limit is 25 mph, I decided to give up the chase.
My last good bird was at the maintenance area known as the Wardens. I saw an American Tree Sparrow in the berry bushes. It had a rufus head and two distinct wing bars. I probably missed long tailed duck for the year since I have decided to do other daytrips between now and the New Year. I might do a van trip to the Great Bay on Dec 4, and I want to explore the North Shore past Boston, so maybe I will see some
About 2 pm, I headed home determined to miss the rush hour traffic. All in all I had a great day. I didn't bother tallying up the number of species for the day. I was content just to see some really great birds. If you are into birding at all, and I assume if you read this far, you probably are, this is a good time to go to Parker River NWR. There are a lot of ducks around and many birds on the ocean.