Bird Sightings from the North Shore & the New Hampshire Seacoast - 1/30/14

Harryman Road, Merrimac:
Eastern Bluebird, Dark-eyed Junco, Black-capped Chickadee, American Goldfinch

Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Salisbury: 
Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, Horned Lark, Bald Eagle, Snowy Owl

Washington Street, Exeter, NH: 
Carolina Wren

Various Areas on Cape Ann:
Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Horned Grebe, Common Eider, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Common Loon, Long-tailed Duck, Surf Scoter, Mallard, American Black Duck, Red-breasted Merganser, Cooper's Hawk, Black-capped Chickadee, Great Cormorant, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Harlequin Duck, Black Guillemot, Purple Sandpiper, Northern Gannet, Black Scoter 

Main Street, Amesbury:
Cooper's Hawk

Route 110, Salisbury:
American Black Duck, Mallard, American Black Duck x Mallard, Green-winged Teal, American Robin 

Rocks Village Bridge Area of the Merrimack River, Haverhill/Merrimac:
Canvasback

Upper Highland Road, Merrimac: 
Bald Eagle, Northern Cardinal, American Crow, Red-tailed Hawk

Lincoln Street, Exeter, NH: 
Turkey Vulture 

Moulton Street, Newburyport: 
Cooper's Hawk 

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island: 
Greater Scaup, Great Cormorant, Northern Gannet, Bald Eagle, Rough-legged Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Sanderling, Black-legged Kittiwake, 
Iceland Gull, Razorbill, Snowy Owl, Northern Flicker, Hairy Woodpecker, Common Raven, Horned Lark, Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler,
Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, House Finch 

Chain Bridge Area, Newburyport/Amesbury: 
Bald Eagle, Scaup species, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Great Cormorant 

Parker Street, Newburyport:
American Kestrel

Point Shore, Amesbury: 
Bald Eagle, Red-breasted Merganser, Mallard, Great Cormorant

River Road, Merrimac:
Bald Eagle

Moulton Street, West Newbury:
Red-tailed Hawk 

Argilla Road, Ipswich: 
Red-headed Woodpecker

Jordrey Fish Pier, Gloucester: 
Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Peregrine Falcon   

Erie Avenue, Newburyport: 
Red-bellied Woodpecker, American Robin, Cooper's Hawk 

Fellows Road, Ipswich:
Brown Creeper, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, American Tree Sparrow

Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester: 
Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur

Oak Hill Cemetery, Newburyport:
Red-tailed Hawk, Great Horned Owl

Pawtuckaway State Park, Nottingham, NH: 
Northern Shrike, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, Brown Creeper, White-breasted Nuthatch 

Golden-crowned Kinglet

Parker Ridge, Newburyport:
American Goldfinch, House Finch, Gray Catbird, Purple Finch, Carolina Wren, Northern Flicker, Downy Woodpecker, Tufted Titmouse, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Cardinal, European Starling, American Crow, Dark-eyed Junco, Blue Jay, Red-Tailed Hawk

Niles Pond, Gloucester:
Ring-necked Duck, Ruddy Duck

Parker River, Newbury:
Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser

New Hampshire Seacoast:
Spotted Towhee, Eastern Towhee

Cashman Park, Newburyport:
Canada Goose, Mallard, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Bald Eagle,
Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Glaucous Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, American Crow 

BALD EAGLES & THE LOWER MERRIMACK RIVER


BALD EAGLES AND THE LOWER MERRIMACK RIVER 

DATE; Saturday, February 8, 2014
TIME; 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm
INSTRUCTOR: Sue McGrath

For more information and to register, please contact North Shore Community College at 978-236-1200.

The Bald Eagle is one of our national symbols. Each winter, Bald Eagles from northern New England move south to the lower Merrimack River which provides perfect, winter habitat for these majestic birds. These spectacular birds soar high over the water and then stoop to secure prey with their sharp talons. We'll visit Bald Eagle habitat along the lower Merrimack River. Dress in layers for outdoor weather, including waterproof boots, wool socks, hat and gloves. This program will be conducted outside along the river’s edge.

Bald Eagle by Phil Brown

Canvasback & Wild Celery 1/27/14

The Canvasback reported in the Merrimack River at the Rocks Village Bridge today by the Buxtons was in nearly fresh or just slightly brackish water.  Wild celery [Vallisneria americana] is commonly called freshwater eelgrass or water celery and is particularly favored by Canvasbacks [Aythya valisineria].  I've seen water celery in that area of the river while kayaking there.  Canvasbacks will also eat mollusks, aquatic insects and some small fish.

Male Canvasback by Jeremiah Trimble

On Saturday, I searched this freshwater area of the river for the Canvasback after seeing the 1/24 report that Steve Mesick saw a Canvasback in Newburyport harbor.

Good birding,
Sue

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island - 1/25/14

Canada Goose
American Black Duck
Mallard
White-winged Scoter
Black Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Red-breasted Merganser
Wild Turkey
Red-throated Loon
Common Loon
Horned Grebe
Northern Harrier
Bald Eagle 1
Red-tailed Hawk
Rough-legged Hawk
Sanderling
Dunlin
Ring-billed Gull
Herring Gull
Great Black-backed Gull
Rock Pigeon
Mourning Dove
Snowy Owl 4 [1 released by Norm Smith - 3:00 p.m.]
Northern Flicker
Merlin
American Crow
Common Raven 2
Horned Lark
Black-capped Chickadee
American Robin
Northern Mockingbird
American Tree Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Northern Cardinal

Birders Meeting 2014

The 22nd Annual Mass Audubon Birders Meeting will be held on Saturday, March 8th at Bentley University in Waltham. This year's meeting will explore the theme Extinction is Forever: What Have We Learned?

The meeting is cosponsored by the Harvard Museum and Comparative Zoology and Harvard Museum of Natural History. In addition to a catered lunch, attendees will have the opportunity to win exciting bird-related raffle prizes and participate in silent auctions. A variety of vendors ranging from optics specialists and outdoor equipment retailers to artists and book-sellers will also be on-hand to showcase products and answer your questions.

Meeting details and registration information is available at:
 http://www.massaudubon.org/birdersmeeting

2014 ADOPT A GOURD PROGRAM - PURPLE MARTINS OF PLUM ISLAND

Purple Martins

Adopt one or more Purple Martin gourds for the 2014 breeding season. These birds at Plum Island have been studied and monitored for years. Adoption fees are $40/gourd. Purple Martin gourd adoptions would make great gifts for members of your family or friends this holiday season.

With each adoption of a Purple Martin gourd for the 2014 breeding season, you will receive:
  • A photo of your gourd,
  • As the season progresses, updates on breeding biology at the colony ~ nest building, egg laying, hatching and fledgling activities via email,
  • A final tally of the colony's reproductive success,
  • An invitation to renew your adoption the following year.
Your adoption allows you to:
  • Partake in a scheduled round of nest checks with a Purple Martin landlord,
  • Know that you are helping provide housing for this human-dependent songbird.
Please make your check out to Friends of Parker River and mail your adoption fee to Sue McGrath, 44 Moulton St., Newburyport, MA, 01950.

The Friends of Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the conservation of the natural resources of the Refuge and fostering public understanding and appreciation of the Refuge. 



Thanks so much,
Sue

Essex County Bird Sightings - 1/23/14

Hanover Drive, Newbury:
Red-tailed Hawk, Carolina Wren

Salisbury Saltmarsh:
Great Blue Heron

River Road, West Newbury:
Northern Flicker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Bald Eagle

Point Shore, Amesbury:
Bald Eagle, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser

Ferry Road, Salisbury:
Great Horned Owl, Red-tailed Hawk

Hampton Beach State Park, Hampton, NH:
Snow Bunting, Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur

Various Areas in Nahant:
King Eider, Snowy Owl

Elm Street, Amesbury:
Red-tailed Hawk

Lower Artichoke, Newburyport/West Newbury:
Common Merganser, Bufflehead

Kenoza Lake, Haverhill:
Peregrine Falcon

Ash Street Swamp, West Newbury:
Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Marsh Wren, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, European Starling, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler

Tuxbury Pond, Amesbury:
Eastern Bluebird, Carolina Wren

Salisbury Town Pier:
Bufflehead, Red-breasted Merganser, Rock Pigeon, Long-tailed Duck, Great Cormorant

Emery Lane, West Newbury:
Eastern Bluebird, Common Merganser, Red-tailed Hawk

Cashman Park, Newburyport:
Fish Crow, Rough-legged Hawk, Bald Eagle, Snipe species

Turkey Hill Road, West Newbury:
Red-tailed Hawk

Plum Island Turnpike, Newbury/Newburyport:
Snow Goose, Snowy Owl, Turkey Vulture

Newburyport Harbor:
Bald Eagle, Common Goldeneye, Long-tailed Duck, Red-throated Loon, Horned Grebe, Common Loon,
American Black Duck, Red-tailed Hawk, Canada Goose

Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Salisbury:
Merlin, Snowy Owl

Broad Street, Merrimac:
Gray Catbird

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island:
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Green-winged Teal, Bald Eagle, Cooper's Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Razorbill, Northern Shrike, Common Raven, Horned Lark, Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird, Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Common Eider, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter,  Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Wild Turkey, Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Northern Harrier, Sanderling, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Razorbill, Rock Pigeon, Snowy Owl, Short-eared Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Blue Jay, American Crow, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling

New Hampshire Seacoast:
Mute Swan, Hooded Merganser, Red-throated Loon, Red-necked Grebe, Great Blue Heron, Bald Eagle, Sanderling, Purple Sandpiper,
Thick-billed Murre, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Snowy Owl, Lapland Longspur, Yellow-rumped Warbler

Way to the River, West Newbury:
Bald Eagle, Canada Goose, White-breasted Nuthatch

Merrimack River, Amesbury:
Great Cormorant, Bald Eagle

Cashman Park, Newburyport:
Wilson's Snipe

Annisquam River, Gloucester:
Turkey Vulture

River Road, West Newbury:
Bufflehead, Bald Eagle, Downy Woodpecker, Common Merganser, Mallard, Red-bellied Woodpecker

Various Areas in Cape Ann:
Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great Cormorant, Canada Goose, Brant, Mute Swan, Gadwall, American Wigeon, American Black Duck, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Common Eider, Harlequin Duck, Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Black Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Red-tailed Hawk, Peregrine Falcon, Wild Turkey, Purple Sandpiper, Dunlin, Iceland Gull, Glaucous Gull, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Eastern Screech Owl, Snowy Owl, Common Raven

Nelson Island, Rowley:
Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Bald Eagle, Snowy Owl

Merrimack River - Gillis Bridge to the Whittier Bridge Area, Newburyport:
Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, American Black Duck x Mallard, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Common Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser, Great Cormorant, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull,
American Crow, Common Raven

Three Ways to Report Bird Bands


Snowy Owl Food

Snowy Owls on Plum Island are feeding on meadow voles, Norway rats, sea ducks, Horned Grebe and Eastern Cottontail.

Eastern Cottontail

Snowy Owl Poem

The Snowy Owl invasion has been extraordinary this winter!  We've been blessed to have opportunities to observe, appreciate and identify these nomadic Arctic visitors!

I came across this poem and I hope you appreciate as much it as I did.




Snowy Owl Near Ocean Shores
By Duane Niatum
A castaway blown south from the arctic tundra
sits on a stump in an abandoned farmer’s field.
Beyond the dunes cattails toss and bend as snappy
as the surf, rushing and crashing down the jetty.

His head a swivel of round glances,
his eyes a deeper yellow than the winter sun,
he wonders if the spot two hundred feet away
is a mouse on the crawl from mud hole
to deer-grass patch.

An hour of wind and sleet whips the air,
nothing darts or passes but the river underground.
A North Pole creature shows us how to last.
The wind ruffles his feathers from crown to claw

while he gazes into zeroes the salt-slick rain.
As a double-rainbow before us arcs
sky and owl, we leave him surrendering
to the echo of his white refrain.

Copyright © by Duane Niatum



Good birding,
Sue

Buffleheads on the Merrimack River


Buffleheads on the Merrimack River

I've been watching a small flotilla of hen Buffleheads in the Amesbury section of the
Merrimack River this week.

It's Butterballs' diving that forces me to stop and linger,to observe for understanding. 
I watch the thrusts, leaps, propulsion and buoyancy.  Their plumage is pulled tight into
their body; then, with a thrust of power and a slight, forward, nearly upward leap,
they plunge. Their pink legs and feet force this propulsion. Upon surfacing, they bob
cork-like on the surface like a tiny toy used to lure a reluctant toddler to its evening bath.
The smallest of the diving ducks native to North America. They are sexually dimorphic
both in plumage and in size. Drakes just exceed a pound in weight, and the hen, even smaller, weighs in at three-quarters of a pound. They're agile swimmers and divers.  On land, they're awkward with legs set well back on their bodies.

Buffleheads

I'll never tire of these buoyant, petite ducks ~ the ones that fly low over water and then higher
over land.  These black and white ducks are fast in flight with rapid wing beats without even a whistle.  They are one the fastest waterfowl and are easily recognized by their small size, large head and flight cadence.
 
While a flock is diving for food, there's almost always at least one sentinel on the surface alert to danger.  I see them divide their time between shallow dives and rest periods on the surface.  I've timed their dives ~ they stay under 10 - 14 seconds.  After the dive, they surface, and their bills are prey less since they consume their prey while underwater. On freshwater, they eat mostly insects, and in waters of salinity, they feed predominantly on crustaceans and mollusks. Aquatic plants and fish eggs are often on the menu too.  Once during the shorter, harsher days of winter, I saw some foraging even after dark.

On the water, when lighting permits, Buffleheads create stunning reflections of symmetrical beauty.  They have dark-chocolate, brown eyes.  Drakes are white with a black back, and their black head has a greenish to purple iridescence and a large, white patch from behind the eye to the top and back of the head. The dark hen sports a single, almond-shaped, white patch behind the eye.   Buffleheads have a woodpecker and boreal forest connection. Buffleheads nest almost exclusively in cavities excavated by Northern Flickers and Pileated Woodpeckers.  The breeding range of the Bufflehead is restricted to the woodlands of North America. The vast majority of Buffleheads breed in boreal forests and substrates studded with aspen.

The Bufflehead is shy and mostly monogamous, often remaining with the same mate for several years - an admirable trait in today's world of short-term commitments. The hen lays eggs at a slower interval than most other ducks, commonly with intervals of two or three days between eggs.  I think of the importance of the Northern Flicker and the Pileated Woodpecker and their skills as excavators as I study Buffleheads in local rivers, sheltered waters of Ipswich Bay or the Plum Island estuary area.

The intertwined threads in nature continue to amaze me.  When one pulls one thread, others unravel...

Harlequin Ducks - January 2014


We meandered along Maine's craggy coast to get our annual, stunning looks
at  Harlequin Ducks enhanced by sunlight. And rewarded we were as they loafed on
rocks in the churning sea.  They preened at low tide, and their gray-blue feet
were easily seen.  Behind and above them on an enrobed rock, 60 Purple
Sandpipers were asleep, having found refuge out of the wind.  We enjoyed our
winter picnic at Perkins Cove.

Rugged are the Harlequins!   They're torrent dwellers of swift flowing, rocky streams
and rivers in spring and summer and of the wildly jagged coasts in winter.  I think
of them as compact clowns in choppy water.


Harlequin Duck by Jeremiah Trimble


They have long-term pair bonds; most of the adults are paired prior to leaving
the sea.  In mid-April, these Harlequins abandon the rough coast and head to
nest near rushing rivers.  The female cares for the young.  Harlequins are
strongly philopatric [faithful to site] to their breeding, wintering and molting
sites.

These bouyant swimmers bob their heads while paddling forward. Their fondness
for rough water makes them exceptional among waterfowl. As surface divers,
they feed on some fish, crustaceans, mollusks and aquatic insects.  Harlequins
can pry mollusks from rocks, a feat which other sea ducks are unable to accomplish.
This extravagantly colored, small, sea duck is named for the character in early Italian
pantomime.  At the Cliff House, these jesters are playful and hop from rock to rock.
The drakes' white markings on the glossy finish of their blue-gray plumage is outlined
in black.  The flanks are a rich, chestnut color.  The short bill is gray-blue with a faint
yellow, small nail.  Their forehead is sloped with a round crown.  The stubby tall is
tilted upward.  A white collar encircles the lowest portion of their neck.

From a distance, when swimming in dappled waters, males often can be overlooked.
They ride high in the turbulence, and their hind third seems to ride lower.
   
In Chris Leahy's "The Birdwatcher's Companion to North American Birdlife", he states
that the male Harlequin Duck is "arguably the most strikingly patterned duck in
existence."
Good winter birding,
Sue

Parker River NWR Sightings - 1/16/14

Canada Goose 
American Black Duck 
Common Eider
Surf Scoter 
White-winged Scoter 
Black Scoter 
Long-tailed Duck 
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye 
Hooded Merganser 
Red-breasted Merganser 
Wild Turkey 
Red-throated Loon 
Common Loon
Horned Grebe 
Red-necked Grebe 
Northern Harrier
Sanderling 
Ring-billed Gull 
Herring Gull 
Great Black-backed Gull 
Razorbill 
Rock Pigeon 
Snowy Owl 
Short-eared Owl
Peregrine Falcon 
Northern Shrike 
Blue Jay 
American Crow 
American Robin 
Northern Mockingbird 
European Starling

Bald Eagle Tour Schedule

LEARN TO LOVE BALD EAGLES

Date: Friday, February 14, 2014
Time: 3:00 pm - dusk
Fee: $25.
Meeting Location: Newburyport's Cashman Park Boat Launch at the end of Sally Snyder Way which is off Merrimac Street
Join us as we search for Bald Eagles, our national symbol. Each winter, Bald Eagles from northern New England move south to the lower Merrimack River which provides perfect, winter habitat for these majestic birds. We'll discuss the field marks, bill size and shape, cere and talons, eyes and their hunting style, flight speed and altitude, their plumage and more. We'll be along the Merrimack River's edge, and we'll be walking on snow and unimproved surfaces. Dress in layers for outdoor weather, including waterproof boots, wool socks, hat and gloves. If you have binoculars, please bring them; if not, we have loaners. Bring along friends and introduce them to the joys of birding.  We will carpool to a few sites if needed. 

AFTERNOONS WITH BALD EAGLES
Dates: Saturday, Feb. 15, 2014
             Sunday,  Feb. 16, 2014          
Times: 3:00 pm - dusk

Fee: $25.

Meeting Location: Newburyport's Cashman Park Boat Launch at the end of Sally Snyder Way which is off Merrimac Street.


Join us as we search for Bald Eagles, our national symbol. Each winter, Bald Eagles from northern New England move south to the lower Merrimack River which provides perfect, winter habitat for these majestic birds. We'll be along the Merrimack River's edge, and we'll be
walking on snow and unimproved trails. Dress in layers for outdoor weather, including waterproof boots, wool socks, hat and gloves. If you
have binoculars, please bring them; if not, we have loaners.  Some carpooling may be required.



PRESIDENT'S DAY WITH BALD EAGLES
Date: Monday, Feb. 17, 2014
Time: NOON - 3:00 pm
Fee: $25.
Meeting Location: Newburyport's Cashman Park Boat Launch at the end of Sally Snyder Way which is off Merrimac Street
The Merrimack River provides perfect, winter habitat for these majestic birds. We'll be along the river's edge at high tide, and we'll be walking 
on snow and unimproved trails. Dress in layers for outdoor weather, including waterproof boots, wool socks, hat and gloves. If you have binoculars, please bring them; if not, we'll loan you a pair.  We'll likely carpool to a couple of viewing locations.

Essex County Bird Sightings - 1/16/14

Cashman Park, Newburyport:
Iceland Gull, Common Goldeneye, Red-tailed Hawk

Nelson Island, Rowley:
Snowy Owl, Short-eared Owl

Water Street, Amesbury:
Peregrine Falcon

Stage Fort Park, Gloucester:
Ruddy Duck, Greater Scaup, Snow Bunting 

Parker Street, Newburyport:
American Kestrel

New England Biolabs, Ipswich:
Marsh Wren

Newman Road, Newbury: 
Hermit Thrush

Jodrey Fish Pier, Gloucester:
Thick-billed Murre, Glaucous Gull, Iceland Gull  

Fellows Road, Ipswich:
Cedar Waxwing, Sharp-shinned Hawk, American Tree Sparrow, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, American Robin, Blue Jay, Carolina Wren 
Brace Cove, Gloucester:
Sanderling 

Scotland Road, Newbury:
Great Horned Owl, Snow Goose

Route 133, Essex:
Snowy Owl, Red-tailed Hawk 

10th Street, Plum Island:
Snowy Owl

Candlewood & Chebacco Roads, Ipswich:
Eastern Towhee, White-throated Sparrow, Red-tailed Hawk 

New Hampshire Seacoast:
Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Common Loon, Iceland Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Greater Scaup, Snowy Owl, Red-tailed Hawk, Snow Bunting, Green-winged Teal, Northern Pintail, Horned Lark, Lapland Longspur, Snow Bunting, Golden-crowned Kinglet, Brown Thrasher, Red-winged Blackbird 

Plum Island Turnpike, Newburyport/Newbury:
Merlin, Red-tailed Hawk, Snowy Owl

Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Plum Island:
Black-legged Kittiwake, Snow Goose, Peregrine Falcon, Common Merganser, Common Raven, Surf Scoter, Razorbill, Northern Flicker, Northern Shrike, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, American Black Duck, Mallard, Common Loon, Northern Harrier, Rough-legged Hawk, Bald Eagle, Sanderling, Dunlin, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Snowy Owl, American Crow, Horned Lark, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Snow Bunting, American Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow 

Good Harbor Beach, Gloucester:
Lapland Longspur, Horned Lark   

Salisbury Beach State Reservation, Salisbury:
Short-eared Owl, Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Common Eider, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Common Loon, Northern Harrier, Red-tailed Hawk, Ring-billed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Pigeon, Snowy Owl, Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, American Robin, European Starling

Parker River, Newbury: 
Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Red-breasted Merganser, Blue Jay

Water Street, Newburyport:
Snow Goose, Canada Goose, Red-breasted Merganser, Long-tailed Duck, Scaup species

Methodist Church, Ipswich:
Peregrine Falcon

High Road, Newbury:
Wild Turkey, Red-tailed Hawk

Pleasant Valle Road, Amesbury:
Red-tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle 

Various Areas on Cape Ann:
Canada Goose, Gadwall, American Black Duck, Mallard, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, King Eider, Common Eider, Harlequin Duck,    
Surf Scoter, White-winged Scoter, Long-tailed Duck, Bufflehead, Common Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, Red-breasted Merganser,  
Wild Turkey, Red-throated Loon, Common Loon, Horned Grebe, Red-necked Grebe, Great Cormorant, Red-tailed Hawk, Purple Sandpiper,   
Herring Gull, Iceland Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Thick-billed Murre, Razorbill, Black Guillemot, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Snowy Owl, 
Downy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, American Crow, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, American Tree Sparrow, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, House Sparrow  

Powwow River, Amesbury:
Common Merganser

River Road, West Newbury:
Yellow-rumped Warbler, Bald Eagle

Rocky Hill Road, Amesbury:
Carolina Wren

Refuge on Plum Island - 1/14/14

Refuge - Plum Island

Snowy Owl - 6
Northern Shrike - North Pool Overlook
Snow Goose -  1, Lot 2 area on marsh near P I River
Black-legged Kittiwake - ocean Lot 1

Snow Goose by Phil Brown


Winter Birds

Observe the Hooded Merganser. This small sawbill is indigenous to North America. The drake has handsome plumage with geometric patterns and a black and white crest, and the hen has a crest that is buff to chocolate brown. They're found diving in open water.

Appreciate the Red-bellied Woodpecker. This narrowly barred, black and white zebra patterned woodpecker is found anywhere in a tree. In flight, it shows off its white patches on the rump and wing.

Identify the Snowy Owl, a miniature snowman on the marsh, in its world of ice. This nomadic, white bird of prey perches and can be a challenge to see; so scan the structures.



Snowy Owl by Phil Brown

Northern Shrike - Plum Island - 1/11/14


Northern Shrike

For decades, I've been enchanted with Northern Shrikes.  Today, I enjoyed another encounter while searching
for winter raptors.

The Latin name for the Northern Shrike is Lanius excubitor, meaning "the butcher, sentinel or watchman".  Shrikes are usually observed alone on a prominent, lofty perch ready, waiting and watching.  A few years ago in Cambridge, I attended a presentation on migration by Dr. Reuven Yosef, Director of the International Birding and Research Center in EilatIsrael.  Dr. Yosef's doctoral research was on shrikes.  I was delighted with the opportunity to chat with him about Northern Shrikes after his presentation.  In the trusted Princeton Field Guide's Birds of Europe, the Northern Shrike is referred to as the Great Grey Shrike.  Is that because the upright posture of a perched Great Grey Shrike on the edge of a field is similar to that of the Great Grey Owl?  

The shrike is not a vegetarian nor a master of grains.  It's aided by a cutting or tomial tooth on the upper bill which severs the spinal cord, partially paralyzing its prey. Then the shrike carries the prey, sometimes as heavy as itself, in its feet.  Smaller prey items are transported in its bill.  It then retires to a spot to dismember and to impale its quarry on a thorn or to skewer it on barbed wire or to wedge it into a forked branch.  They kill more prey than they can consume.  It was thought that this roving bird was a malicious, heedless killer; however, careful observation revealed that they store excess prey to eat later.  Their larder for future use is an adaptation for surviving a time of scarcity of prey or days when weather conditions aren't favorable for hunting.  They have an excellent memory and are able to retrieve prey items many months later. 

Northern Shrike by Phil Brown


Descriptions of Northern Shrike:

Pete Dunne uses an American Kestrel or a Northern Mockingbird as an example of their size.  The pale, pearly gray backed passerine has a stripe above the eye. The cheeks, chin, throat and chest are white.  The mask is a deep, black streak that extends from the forehead through the eye to the ear coverts on its large head.  The bill is nearly black with a pale area at the base of the lower mandible.  It's a hooked bill with a tomial tooth.  There are rictal bristles at the base of the bill, aiding them in capturing insects.  In Chris Leahy's The Birdwatcher's Companion, bristles are described as "...hair-like feathers that project over the gape from above".  Their wings are blunt, short and black with a white patch and white wingbars. The scapulars are white, and the wingspan is 14 inches.  The tail is long and black with white outer feathers.  David A. Sibley's field guide states their weight  at 2.3 oz!  This is a fierce, predatory, robin-sized passerine that hunts like a hawk; its legs, feet and claws are black and powerful.

On Plum Island, I've seen Northern Shrikes hover like a kingfisher, then undulate like a flicker.  I've witnessed them jerking their tails most probably to help with balance in the wind.  It seems that they also twitch just prior to taking flight.  I've observed them pounce on their prey.  With my scope maxed out, I've scrutinized tree perches looking for the shrike's favorite branch, its watchtower, hoping to find the nearby, hidden storeroom or a regurgitated pellet on the ground below 
with no success.

Dr. Yosef shared so much about shrikes with me.  He encouraged me to invest the time observing them in winter  ~  where else but at my favorite outdoor classroom on that Essex County barrier island that brims with lessons on birds and their behavior. I hope I'll be fortunate enough to see a shrike's deep, bulky nest in a boreal spruce, an alder thicket or a creek-side willow in Canada or Alaska in some future breeding season...  

Good birding,
Sue

Winter Raptors - 1/11/14

Winter Raptor Fans,

I'm so glad we went forward with the outing yesterday!  Here's the summary, written by our highly skilled leader, Paul.

Our Newburyport Birders' Winter Raptors Field Trip led by Paul Roberts limited itself to essentially Plum Island because of all the raptor activity we found there. It was 100% overcast, temps 33-59 degrees, winds from S/SW 10-30 mph, gusting to 36+ and often heavy fog and occasional mist and rain. A warm and wacky day in this weird month of January...

Bald Eagle       3  (2 ad, 1 sub; the subadult was white-bellied with an Osprey-like facial pattern)
Northern Harrier   5-7 min, inc 1 ad male and 1 ad female
Cooper’s Hawk     2-3 juveniles
Red-tailed Hawks   2   (from Cashman Park)
Rough-legged Hawk   1 imm light morph at Grape & Stage Islands
Merlin   1 (across from airport)
Iceland Gull  (1W, Cashman)
Snowy Owl       6 on island
Northern Shrike    1 adult at the Warden’s


Rough-legged Hawk


Iceland Gull


We had three, juvenile Cooper’s Hawk sightings on the island, two of which could have been the same bird. The other was pursuing a meal in American Robin flocks, roosting on the dune side near Stage island.

All Snowy Owls except one were in the marsh. We did not hike any dunes, boardwalks or go to the beach or Sandy Point to look for owls.

The adult Northern Shrike was perched low and close at the Wardens, offering one of the best and longest views of an adult Northern Shrike we've ever had.


Good birding,
Sue

Newburyport Birders' Update January 8, 2014

Happy New Year, Birders, 

I'm certain you've heard Snowy Owls are being seen at so many locations - participants on our outings have had 
tremendous looks at these awesome Arctic breeders.  This breeding season was successful; lots of prey items for 
the owls - lemmings.  The year's young that were raised on lemmings are now in our area. 

    
Lemming on the breeding grounds 

The invasion of Snowy Owls is well explained with an illustrated map by the eBird staff at the Cornell Lab:
http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/gotsnowies2013/                               


Enjoy this Snowy Owl video [filmed several years ago] by Shawn Carey 
of Migration Productions: 
http://shawncarey.zenfolio.com/p414081867/h199a36f8#h199a36f8 

To see more of Shawn's talented works, go to www.migrationproductions.com. 


EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS 

Snowy Owl Conservation - Presentation by Norman Smith
DATE: Saturday, January 25, 2014
TIME:1:30 pm
LOCATION: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge's Visitor Center Auditorium at Headquarters
As birders and nature photographers already know, this is turning out to be a banner year
for Snowy Owls on the Refuge. These magnificent birds come here in winter.  Why is their 
seasonal occurrence so variable from year to year?  These compelling questions and many more will 
be addressed by Massachusetts' Snowy Owl expert Norman Smith as he presents a narrated slide 
presentation.  He’ll share what he has learned during the decades of working with Snowy Owls. 

Arrive early as Norm always draws a crowd... 


5th Annual Cape Ann Winter Birding Weekend
DATE: January 31 – February 2, 2014
 


 
The Harlequin Ducks have returned to Halibut Point and are awaiting the arrival of our hearty 
participants.  This year’s program includes bus tours of Cape Ann’s birding hot spots led by some 
of the state’s best birders - Ipswich's Jim Berry and I will be guiding one of those tours!  

There are lots of activities: an entertaining slide show on Winter Birds of Cape Ann by Jim Berry; Eyes on Owls 
- an opportunity to get up close and personal with these spectacular, fascinating creatures with Mark and 
Marcia Wilson; and a Sunday morning boat trip on the Seven Seas Whalewatch boat Privateer IV which will 
be skippered by Jay Frontierro. 

As in past years, the venue is the Elks Club at Bass Rocks in Gloucester where you can bird in comfort from the 
picture windows, enjoy a variety of exhibits, try out the best birding optics on the planet, or just step outside 
and scan the Atlantic ocean with expert birders. For a detailed schedule, information and registration, go to: 
www.capeannchamber.com - click on EVENTS and SIGNATURE EVENTS, then on the Harlequin Duck icon. 
Register on-line now 
because space is limited.
 



BALD EAGLE ON THE MERRIMACK - ONE DAY COURSES OFFERED BY TWO OF OUR LOCAL COMMUNITY COLLEGES 
BALD EAGLES AND THE LOWER MERRIMACK RIVER DATE; Saturday, February 8, 2014
TIME; 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm
INSTRUCTOR: Sue McGrath 
For more information and to register, please contact North Shore Community College at 978-236-1200.
The Bald Eagle is one of our national symbols. Each winter, Bald Eagles from northern New England move south to the lower Merrimack 
River which provides perfect, winter habitat for these majestic birds. These spectacular birds soar high over the water and then stoop to 
secure prey with their sharp talons. We'll visit Bald Eagle habitat along the lower Merrimack River. Dress in layers for outdoor weather, 
including waterproof boots, wool socks, hat and gloves. This program will be conducted outside along the river’s edge. 


 

The Merrimack River and Bald Eagles     
DATE: Sunday, February 9, 2014 
TIME: 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm 
INSTRUCTOR: Sue McGrath 
For more information and to register contact Northern Essex Community College at 978- 659-1237                                   
The Bald Eagle is one of our national symbols.  Each winter Bald Eagles from northern New England move south to the lower Merrimack River which provides 
perfect winter habitat for these majestic birds. In this outdoor class you will learn about field marks, bill size & shape, cere & talons, eyes and their hunting 
style, flight speed and altitude, and their plumage and more.  Class will take place along the Merrimack River’s edge and we will be walking on snow and 
unimproved trails.  Dress in layers for outdoor weather including waterproof boots, wool socks, hat & gloves. If you have binoculars, bring them.

Good birding in 2014, 
Sue