Sunday, December 4, 2011

Good Birds!

After a fairly low-bird late October and early November, the past few weekends I my luck has turned, and I've seen some really cool birds.

 The first was two weeks ago, when I decided to chase the young female Rufous Hummingbird that has been hanging around at feeders at the Lenoir Preserve, just 15 minutes from my house. My dad and I headed over to the preserve, arrived that the garden where it had been seen, and within five minutes the bird showed up, drinking sugar water at the feeders and feeding at pineapple sage flowers as well. We got great looks at my first lifer since August, making this my first ever successful hummingbird chase (after the miss of a different Rufous in Connecticut a few weeks earlier, and the miserable failure of an Anna's Hummingbird chase last winter in Pennsylvania). 

Then last weekend, I headed up to Watertown, MA for Thanksgiving, and got a fair amount of birding time in. On Friday, I went to Fresh Pond, in Cambridge. I missed the Eastern Screech-Owl that nests there, but saw lots of waterfowl- Common and Hooded Mergansers, Ruddy Ducks, Ring-necked Ducks, Canvasbacks, American Coots, and Pied-billed Grebes. 
Ring-necked Duck
On Saturday my extended family all headed down to Green Harbor, on the south shore of Massachusetts, to visit my Grandma. While we were waiting for lunch at a the Venus II Restaurant, I headed across the street to the water, and quickly found many common (and less common) New England wintering birds. There was an out-of-place and cold looking Great Blue Heron perched on Brant Rock, alongside Dunlin and Sanderlings, and in the water were Common Eiders, Surf and White-winged Scoters, Red-throated Loons, Great Cormorants, and many Red-breasted Mergansers. Best of all, a small, whitish bird with a distinctly white patch on the wings buzzed by-- a Black Guillemot. A quick stop by my beach house, after lunch netted me a few more winter waterbirds, including Common Loon, Bufflehead, and Bonaparte's Gull. 

The real birding target of the trip was a bird that everybody in my family was at least somewhat interested in, so eleven of us piled into two cars and drove out along Duxbury Beach, scanning the dunes and marshes for the Snowy Owls that had been seen there recently. We reached the end of the beach having seen Black-bellied Plovers, lots of Bonaparte's Gulls, a few Great Cormorants, and even four seals, but no owl. On the way back, however, people in both cars similtaneously spotted a white shape in a distant part of the marsh. I jumped out of the car, raised my binoculars, and saw the white blob raise its head and look in my direction-- it was the owl! We all got good, if distant looks, before a few other birds stopped by and spotted the bird, and let us use their scope, which gave us quite good looks at a really excellent bird. Since this seems to be shaping up to be an "irruption year" for Snowy Owls, it seems possible that I will see more of them before the winter is out, which would be awesome.
And you thought the Rufous Hummingbird photo was bad...
You just have to use your imagination on this one.

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