Tuesday, October 19, 2010

New England Coast

Wednesday, Oct 14

Plum Island area - I was up way early and on Plum Island when the sun came up. First goal was drive all the way to the south end where Sandy Point Reserve is located. It's just outside the Parker River NWR, but is open to the public. Parked at the lot there, walked east to the beach along a small inlet, then more south following the wrack line which was where the bird had been found according to the one detailed report I found on-line. Walked most of a half mile to the sandy tip, and scanned everything I passed, and at the end it was there, a long billed, a little droopy, slightly larger than peep shorebird with a distinctive white rump patch. Relaxation, since it was the goal that had flogged me along in the three day driving effort. I talked to another birder when I got back to the lot and was steered to a wooded area where there were a couple of Summer Tanagers, an uncommon find in Mass. Actually got several other good state tics, including Bonaparte's Gulls in the actual Parker River inlet. The one that really surprised me was a Yellow-rumped Warbler, which I paid no attention to until I was entering stuff in the computer. I took it for granted that I'd seen it everywhere.

New Hampshire shoreline - I was poking around looking at some sites I'd tagged on the GPS, when I turned a corner in a state park and saw a few obvious birders, binocs and scopes, so I stopped to get the news. One turned out to be Lauren Kras, a young NH super-birder. She had the highest year list for the state when she was like 22(?) years old. So I was asking her about sites, and finally asked her if I could just ride along with her for awhile, and she said yes! Great good luck. We stopped at about a half dozen places in the next ninety minutes, and she pulled out two Scoters, Gannets, a Short-billed Dowitcher and a couple of other shorebirds at a little inlet behind a marina, plus giving me hints on ID-ing several other species, and showing me some sites that didn't pay right then. Invaluable in the next few days. Also sold me the current version of the NH Coast bird-finding booklet, $5, a bargain considering the instruction that it came packaged with.

Maine, rained out - I headed further north but the weather was closing in and I needed to get to Freeport to fill in the gap in my wardrobe where the warm jacket or vest should have been. Tried Northface first but then ended up at LL Bean. I put it off cause it's pricey, and it was, but after poking around I went upstairs to the hunting and fishing section, a different world from the yuppie downstairs, and there was the perfect vest, goose down, waxed canvas, good pockets and hardware, $90. Mine. Back out in the weather to a local state park, but I decided against it when I realized how lousy it was getting to be. I had hoped to get some good fall seabirds along the coast, similar to the NH finds, had in fact stopped at Rachel Carson NWR but felt too squeezed for time. Ended up getting nothing in Maine but the vest. Drove back south to the weigh station as the rain set in hard. For some idiot reason didn't close the driver's window quite all the way, open just a crack.

Thursday, Oct 15

Plum Island reprise - So it was a pretty classic Northeaster, heavy rain and high winds all night. Guess which side the cracked window was on? Front seat soaked, but no particular damage except a cold butt most of the day. Got to McD in the rain for Wifi, then out to Plum Island again as it was getting light. The rain was just a mist but the wind was still relentless. The new vest was magnificent, actually comfortable in 30mph wind right off the ocean at the north end of the island. I walked out with the scope wrapped in a plastic bag and was ablle to get two Scoters and a Gannet there as well, plus a Common Loon. Took some doing since they kept disappearing in the swell, which was about five feet even in the sheltered area by the river jetty. I had one more place to try, a small reservoir where some diving ducks had been reported, and was able to find Lesser Scaup and Ruddy Ducks in more sideways rain. There were others along the far edge staying out of the wind, but viewing conditions were truly lousy, I was using the scope in the car, hand held looking through a slightly lowered window for as long as I could stand to have the rain blow in.

Rhode Island - Enough of that, got back on the Interstate and drove without stopping all the way around Boston and into Rhode Island. The rain let up during that time, but not the wind. My first stop was Sachuest Point NWR near Newport. It's a barren point right out in the ocean and the wind was pretty awful for the whole 1.5 mile loop walk along the sea-cliffs. I hoped for Scoters, but the only sea-ducks were plentiful Common Eiders hiding in the lea of the rock piles. The truly amazing thing though was a pair of Great Shearwaters being blown south, and I figured out the flying Red-Throated Loon with the lowered head and neck, and then finally a perfect and close in Male Black Scoter with a beak so orange it looked like it had a light in it. The two females beside him seemed impressed. Back in the Visitor's Center I was told of a private reserve very close by, The Norman Bird Sanctuary, so I drove over there. Still was way too windy to bird in the woods, but they had an excellent sightings list from the ABA conventioneers the previous weekend. Need to go back there in the fall but with decent weather. Same for Block Island which I once again missed. Did have some luck on a couple of little inlets along the road to Norman.

I had hoped to make a jaunt to Block Island on this trip, and then had also hoped to go birding with Dan Finizia and his partner Susan Talbot who I'd met in NH three years earlier. He's the top lister in RI, but I'd just had an email saying they couldn't make it until Wednesday, several days off. They had just spent a week on Block Island, and had to do some catch-up. The wind made a trip offshore senseless, especially without a good guide, and I was feeling time-pressed as well. So I crossed Narragansett Bay to the south shore on the west side, Trustom Pond NWR. That was where a nice selection of puddle ducks and some fall sparrows made 16 RI tics for the day, and 106 for the state total, and the end of the hundred-species-per-state project. That's a whoopee, but I was beat from the cold wind all day and didn't really have much of a response except to drive on into Connecticut and stay at Hammonasset State Park where I had arrived late, but thought I'd try some birding in the morning.

Friday, Oct 16

Connecticut to New Jersey - Didn't work out that way, up way too early to wait around, and there was a Barnacle Goose north of New Haven that was calling me insistently. It was located about fifteen miles northeast, or at least the reservoir was, but the only geese were Canada. It was small enough that I could see all of it, including the ripped up northern end where they were deepening it. After driving around it once I went back to my original sweet viewpoint, and there met a local guy, whose name I didn't retain, but may he be blessed. He told me where the geese went to graze after leaving the lake, and we drove about a mile uphill to harvested Corn fields. Must have looked over a couple of thousand geese, but couldn't find the one with a white head. Did get a Red-tailed Hawk for CT. Back at the viewpoint we found a Greater White-fronted Goose, which was new for my guide, so one of us got a lifer. The Barnacle was re-found the next day, and so on for at least a week. Tough luck.

I went into New haven and checked out a site my buddy had told me about behind a power station on the inlet, and it did have some shorebirds and gulls. From there it was on to Milford Point Audubon Center, an almost always great place. The marsh behind the center was good, but the tide was coming in and covering the mud-flats, and when I tried the beach, the wind was still a problem. I crossed the river there and headed south where it was possible to get an ocean view, and patiently waited for my Connecticut Northern Gannet, which I'd learned, again, from Lauren in NH. Once I was clear of Milford I got on the Interstate again, and just blew through New York and on into New Jersey, and after a while ended at Cape May. Gas was 30 cents cheaper there than it had been in New England, and there was always a person to pump it for you.


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