[Karl Lukens reports from Sunday: "The Barnacle Goose was at the field behind Strawberry Lane at 8:00 am and later (10:45 am) at the Batts Lane/No Frills Farm field. Both times the flock contained the Canada Goose with the white head and neck. George, Steve, and I (with Ken and Jean Lukacs) had 2 Red-headed Woodpeckers, and the drake Redhead at Villas WMA this morning. " Photo by Karl Lukens.]
Wouldn't you love to go to a place where, on your first scan, you hit Red-necked Grebe after Red-necked Grebe, punctuated by a few Horned Grebes here, a few Razorbills there, and way more than a few Common Eiders over there? Not to mention plenty of loons (both species) and two dozen or so Black-legged Kittewakes dancing over the water and occasionaly smashing into it with apparent glee?
That would describe my first scan off Plum Island, MA on Saturday. Having missed the recent Cape May Black Guillemot and Dovekie, I had planned a spur-of-the-moment venture to points north for a bout of winter birding to make up for those misses, and soak up white-winged gulls, Snowy Owls, and the like. By the last day, the deal had been sealed - the Cape May School of Birding will go on the road next year for a Winter Birding Workshop, details TBA.
Among other Plum Island highlights, mostly within the Parker River NWR, were three Snowy Owls, 5 Rough-legged Hawks, 4 Northern Shrikes, and 4 Lapland Longspurs. A Dovekie has been hanging around the public fish pier in Gloucester, and we saw that easily and at length. Unfortunately we dipped on the Slaty-backed Gull that's been reported in Gloucester, but 8 Iceland gulls in varying plumages, plus 2 Glaucous Gulls were nice consolations.
The Massachusetts highlight, surprisingly, came from birds we can see relatively easily in or near Cape May. It was a calm, sunny, 50ish day at Rockport's Halibut Point on Sunday afternoon, with a glassy sea and low tide - I don't expect those conditions again anytime soon! A few Black Guillemots could be found by scoping in the distance, but the best birds from my persepctive were much closer: Purple Sandpipers scrambled about over the rocks, and Harlequins bobbed up from dives like corks, making their rubber-ducky squeaks. It was a tranquil moment with birds in their normal habitat just doing what they do - sometimes that trumps rare and exotic species, and it did this time.