Monday, October 26, 2009

Race Point Pelagics

A non-birding trip from my beach house to provincetown, on the tip of cape cod, brought me to race point beach. I had been reading the reports of hundreds of shearwaters being seen there, and there had even been a sabine's gull the previous day. My expectations were not for hundreds of anything or any rarities, but I thought that I might see a couple birds.

From the visitor's center, I could scope a greater shearwater and lots of terns. Some were probably roseate, but I still can't tell them apart, especially from over a mile away. Still, the shearwater was my first from land. A whale was spotted, right next to a whale watch boat, but I didn't see it.

I hurried down to the beach, and set up my scope.

By the way, my scope is not great. It is a $60 scope on a $15 dollar tripod. It has gotten me some cool birds I wouldn't have seen otherwise (Barnacle Goose, Harlequin Duck, etc), but in terms of magnification and quality, it isn't great.

As a result, I didn't get great looks at any of a couple shearwaters that flew by. But I had had my great shearwater looks in July (see earlier post), so it was no problem.

My dad spotted a bird flying fast toward us. Really fast, with really strong wingbeats. Gull size, chasing a tern. Any guesses?

Yep, it was a jaeger. And luckily, it was a light adult, so id was not impossible. Too dark for long tailed, to small for pomeraine. Long, pointed central tail feathers. Parasitic Jaeger. Lifer.

In an amazing display of acrobatics, it and the tern dove, spun, twisted, and did pretty much everything to get away or keep up. I'm not sure who won, but I think it was the jaeger. It flew off and landed on the water, next to another bird. The second bird- my second ever jaeger. I can only assume it was parasitic. I didn't get a good enough look to be sure.

Really awesome birds.

A close up seal was the next prize, and we headed home.


Oh, and I realized why there hadn't been hundreds of shearwaters, etc. That report had been from 5:30 in the morning. I prefer my method.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Supurb Summer for Birding- Part 2- Wild Dove Chase


Another Friday, another Friday Morning Birders trip. This time, we set off to chase down a rarity- a White-winged Dove being seen in Manomet, Plymouth. It was the 7th record in Massachusetts.

The drive was probably 30-40 minutes, and when we arrived there were two birders already leaving, having seen the bird earlier. Ian Davis, the birder who had found the dove at his feeders, was outside. He reported that it had been seen recently, but flew across the adjacent pond and hadn't been seen since. We waited in the road and scanned the other side of the pond, hoping that it would fly back. It didn't. Our leaders, David and John, exchanged cell phone numbers with Ian, and we left for Manomet Point, hoping that the phone would ring to inform us of the dove's whereabouts.

The point was decent, but not great. We found turnstones, red-breasted mergansers, some eiders, and some not-bonaparte's gulls (we tried to make a few laughing gulls into bonaparte's, but they weren't.) On the way there and back, we drove slowly through the neighborhood across from Ian's house where the dove had flown to. On the way back, we searched extensively.

Below- The View From Manomet Point

Our group was in three vans. We could communicate with radios that we had in each. At one point, the first car, with David driving, stopped. After a minute, we began wondering what they were looking at. But we were sure that if the WWDO was actually in view, they would radio us. Then a bird flew off the wire and into a wooded area behind someones house. It had white wing patches.

The first van pulled up, and David jumped out. "Do you see it?" "That was it!" "Why didn't you back up?" "Is your radio on?" "We were trying to radio you to tell you to back up so the car doors opening wouldn't scare it." Turns out our radios were fine. His was broken. We had gotten a look at it, but not a very good one.

For some reason, the owner of the house that we were parked in front of was watching this whole thing. It was also his yard that the bird had flown into. David hurried over, and explained the situation. The guy probably thought we were crazy (we probably were), but he let the 15 or so complete strangers into his yard to see the bird. Thank you to that guy.

So we were staring into a tangle of vines and dense brush and trees. A redstart was distracting, but only for a millisecond. Then we got back to work. I was the first to spot it, a distinctive dove with a bright blue eye-ring and white on the side of its wing. We all admired it for 15 or 20 minutes, through a scope and with binoculars. The trees were so close together that there were only 2 spots were you could get a good look at it, but good look we got. Great bird. After stopping by to tell Ian of our success, we headed back, but not before stopping to get solitary sandpiper and rock pigeon, the 3rd dove of the day, at Damon's Point on the north river.

Above- The thicket where the Dove was found.

The dove was a great bird, and the story is good too. It was the first time the Friday Morning Birders saw the bird it the 21 year history of the group/walk/trip. It even had to be written onto the Field Card we used for our checklist. Somewhat ironically, this was the one FMB trip where I did not see a life bird. I had seen the dove before in florida. But this was a much better, longer, and more definite view, and it was in MA, so it was rare. Definitely one of the better FMB trips.

Eamon Corbett

Supurb Summer for Birding- Part 1- 3 at 3rd Cliff


First off: I am way way behind on these posts, so I am going to have a few from the summer, and then one from recently, and then I will be caught up.

On July 31 I joined Mass Audubon's weekly Friday Morning Birders bird walk, where we take a van to various birding spots on the south shore ( I have gone 7 times by now, and gotten a life bird on 6 of them. This time, we went to Scituate, just north of where the trip meets, in Marshfield. Our first stop was 3rd cliff, a beach that is at the mouth of two rivers, right where they join the ocean. The ocean side was reletively empty, but the river mouth had shorebirds. There were a few points of land that had just been exposed to the tide. The first was sand, and we picked out turnstones, semipalmated and black-bellied plovers, terns, gulls, and many sanderlings and semipalmated sandpipers. One bird looked different- smaller than the gulls and larger than the sandpipers. Its bill was hidden, but after we got closer it began preening, and the long, decurved bill of a Whimbrel was obvious. Life bird!

The next spit was covered in small rocks. It turns out only some of them were actually rocks. There were hundreds of Semipalmated Sandpipers covering the whole area. It was amazing, because you could hardly tell there were any until you looked closely. By this time, we were nearing the Piping Plover and Least Tern nesting sites on the beach, and we spotted adults and chicks of both species. Taking another look at the shorebirds, one of the leaders found a black tern, my second lifer of the day. 15 minutes later, when we tried to relocate it, we discovered that there were actually 2 black terns.

Some other good birds included a Savannah Sparrow, Horned Lark, and a flock of 6 whimbrels that I spotted.

The next spot was a muddy parking lot at a public beach. In the puddle, there were semi plovers, semi sandpipers, and my first White-rumped Sandpipers!

The last stop was a lighthouse, where we scanned the sea to find a handful of moving black specks- Wilson's Storm-petrels.

All in all, a very good morning of birding, with 3 lifers, a few more cool birds, and 13 shorebirds (20 if you count gulls and terns)

Eamon Corbett